What is reading, anyway? Novels, comics, graphic novels, manga, e-books, audiobooks — which of these is reading these days? Are they all reading? Only some of them? What are your personal qualifications for something to be “reading” — why? If something isn’t reading, why not? Does it matter? Does it impact your desire to sample a source if you find out a premise you liked the sound of is in a format you don’t consider to be reading? Share your personal definition of reading, and how you came to have that stance.
Although these are not all things that I like to read, they are all reading. Personally, I stick to novels and non-fiction physical books, as well as whatever audio books I can get for free on Librivox. That doesn’t mean, however, that things like graphic novels are not reading. Heck it says ‘novel’ right in the name! I certainly would not want to argue that “Persepolis” is not really reading.
If you had asked me this question 4 years ago, I might have come up with a different answer. “Comic books?” I might have sneered at you, “comic books aren’t really reading.” That changed when I taught 2nd grade in a high-crime, low-income area on the South Side of Chicago. Most of my kids were non-readers. As in they were barely able to read. Motivating them was often difficult as well. Many of their parents were too busy trying to feed and clothe their families to read on their own or with their children. Many of the parents were probably illiterate, or had very low levels of literacy, because they were failed by the same neighborhood school when they were growing up. TV was the babysitter, and kids tended to be more worried about navigating their way safely around their neighborhood than about reading and math. They needed to learn how to survive in their environment, who had time for school?
In this environment, I was desperate to get my kids to learn, and even more desperate to get them to love learning, reading in particular. The name of the game was finding ANYTHING that interested and engaged them. We had “DEAR” (Drop Everything And Read) time in the mornings, during which many of the kids would simply stare blankly at their books as I made my way around the room to try to read with all 25 of them. When some of my boys brought in comic books that enthralled them and kept them reading intently all through “DEAR” time, and even sneaking peaks during the day, do you think I counted that as reading?
Of course I did! With pleasure! If they are engaged enough to push themselves through comic books that sometimes were slightly too difficult, that meant that they were honing their reading skills. Once they had greater command of language, they were more likely to want to pick up other books in the library that before had been too difficult. They were also finally able to read the instructions on worksheets for other subjects, thus boosting their overall achievement.
If there are words, it is reading. Anything you can read, even cereal boxes, can be a stepping stone. I hope that comic books become the gateway drug of choice leading millions of children to a life-long book addiction.
Note: BTTer’s, check out my big giveaway to celebrate my upcoming 100th post!