Thursday, January 24, 2013

Reading is Fundamental~ A commentary

Have we been raising generations of nonreaders? Or dummy down readers?

I spent years writing scholarly texts and technical writing. I also read that way. When I wrote my first fiction, I was shocked to read the average grade level for fiction was an eighth-grade reading level. I was insulted that I had to dummy down what I had written for mass consumption or the average reader.

When I was growing up reading was fundamental to succeed in life, for enjoyment, and to educate. I spent hours in libraries. When we moved constantly, about every 18 months, the first thing found was a church, but the second thing was a library. Growing up with a librarian grandmother didn't hurt either. She helped instilled in my young mind, the wonders of reading.

Yeah, I'm an old fart, but still when it is mandatory for school children to spend thirty minutes a day reading and you have to bribe them with free pizza, there is something wrong with this picture. Even now, you'd be hard pressed to pry a book out of my hand, or even an e-reader.

I remember when for a short time, my children were taught word recognition as a reading tool instead of phonics. Words like "turnkey" and "turkey" were often misread. Imagine you are going to buy a business. You read the ads.
"A turkey operation." That makes a whole lot of sense, doesn't it?

 I taught my girls phonics at home. They are better readers because of it. They sounded out words just as I did as a child. When teachers called me on it. I simply told them that their teaching methods were wrong and they were creating a generation of illiterates. Yes, I was opinionated back then too. I asked them how they were taught to read...phonetically was their answer. Just because something is easier doesn't make it right. These kids are now adults and can't read because nothing makes sense to them.

I learned to read in six different languages. I know, I'm abnormal, but I am better read because of it. In translating text from one language to anyone the meaning and beauty of the words written gets muddled.

I have an author friend who read that China is the hot market for readers. He wanted to use a translation gadget the change the language of his books from English to Chinese. I stopped him. 1) Many Chinese people read English better than most American, and 2) There was no guarantee that the translation would mean the same thing. There are many nuances to foreign languages. I told him his best route was to hire a person well versed in both languages.


But back to reading English...English is a third language for me, but I claim it as my own and since my stroke, I am only fluent in the one language so I'm normal again. Wohoo! I'm normal at something. That's a first.

The joy of reading is lost on today's generation, or maybe two generations. That's a terrifying thought for all us authors out there. Society keeps dumbing down the language so more people can read it, what's next? The average reading age will be fifth-grade or maybe second? Just to get people to understand what they are reading? Horrors! Perish the thought!

I read a survey once, the results are in the chart below.
Now that's even scarier! One percent read books outside of "Twilight" and "Harry Potter." While I've read both series of books and enjoyed them, there's more material that's readable and enjoyable. Thirty-four percent are not recreational readers that's a percentage my mind cannot wrap itself around! I read almost two hundred books a year not including magazines, and articles online. It's about 50/50, fiction to nonfiction.

So where do you stand?

Keep writing, reading, and loving the Lord.

2 comments:

S.P. Bowers said...

Because of young kids and trying to find time to write I'm down to around 100 books a year. That does not include the picture books I read to my kids. They both love to be read to and I intend that they will both know how to read before going to school.

J.L. Murphey said...

Sara the difference between you and four million other moms is you know the importance of reading because you were brought up that way. Somewhere along the way that love has gotten lost. Reading is now a chore children have to do instead of want to do.