avoid reading?

If you had grown up surrounded by books, if your parents had read to you and made up tales for you, if your grandparents (sick and tired of reading aloud to a three-year-old) had taught you how to read, if your mom had taken you to the town library to sign you up when you were six, then you’d take reading for granted and feel constantly deprived because there are so many books and so little time. You’d also be at a loss if you need to advocate reading. That’s how I felt while trying to explain the usefulness of reading to a student who believes that now that we have modern technology, the Internet and TV, reading has become obsolete, especially because it is a rather laborious and difficult endeavor.

At first, our conversation made me sad as I imagined this student’s future. Then I decided to try again and again and realized that I might need to turn into a crusader for reading. While taking a shower, I went deep into the issue and brought together seemingly unrelated phenomena. As usual, I thought I would need time to research, think, write, but I realized that there is no time for 16-17 years old students who believe they need to go to college. Thus, I decided to answer a couple of questions as soon as possible.

Can we avoid reading?
It depends on the way you plan to earn your living. If you want to use your brain rather than your hands and legs, then you’ll need to read a lot.

Pragmatic people know that reading provides you with access to information. What else can you gain from it?
It could help you grow smarter as practicing it requires using your imagination and reasoning a lot.

Why is reading harder than watching TV?
Look at the answer to the previous question: in order to get anything from reading, you have to think and imagine. TV does most of the thinking and almost all the imagining for you.

Can reading be completely substituted?
I don’t know. Reading is part of language. Even if you don’t read (the active side), but just listen (the passive side), you actually use language again. Some TV programs might use the difficult language you try to avoid by refusing to read.

Can difficult language be avoided? If you need to explain / understand difficult ideas, you’ll need to use / understand difficult language. Sometimes complex ideas are not amenable to oversimplified explanations. As Einstein said, “Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.” Thus listening to complex explanations is not much easier than reading them. Try watching some university level video lectures on the Internet.

Can language be avoided altogether? Could we use pictures, video and non-language sounds to express ideas some old-fashioned people used to express through words? Why not? We could use gestures, inarticulate sounds, visual signs and symbols. Yes! As long as blind people do not use letters in order to read, as long as deaf people do not hear words, as long as dumb people do not pronounce words, we could make it! I wonder why, then, some autistic people are taught how to communicate through language? Shouldn’t we learn their ways instead? Isn’t it going to be easier if we are to avoid reading altogether?

Can we learn how to read?
If autistic people can learn how to communicate through language, then my students could too.

Should I teach my students language skills?
Perhaps yes, as their parents pay me to teach them language skills, as my students are going to take language tests and go to colleges, where studying is done through language for the most part, and finally these young people are hoping to do well-paid jobs, and most well-paid jobs rely heavily on competent use of language skills – reading, listening, writing, speaking.


4 responses to this post.

  1. reading and books will never become obsolete in my opinion. i mean, the internet may have become the urban individual’s staple, but you can’t use it if you can’t read!

    i believe anyone can cultivate the joy of reading, provided they are given freedom to choose the sort of literature they want to read and at a pace they dictate. but sadly in english or literature classes the choice of texts and time frame cannot suit a non-reader’s wants.



  2. Posted by spicegirl on February 25, 2007 at 7:43 pm

    The explanation is actually very very simple, I think – if you want to be a big ass you must behave like one! What’s that mean? – to be cool in every situation! You know the saying “when things go hot, only the hottest survive!” Is it possible to learn how to react in soooo many milions of situations? Can you experience them all in one human’s life? Nooo, but you can see them trough others people view point – reading books! 🙂


  3. Reading is a way of learning through observing. And if we perceive life as a series of episodes, books would be the episodes that we cannot observe at that moment (including the present one).


  4. after all we cannot get all our experience through experience 😉


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