Last night at our Thanksgiving get together, I got into a long conversation with a family member who is a long-time high school English teacher and who has begun dipping his toes into the Read/Write Web. (I had nothing to do with it, I swear…almost.) While he has been impressed with the work that his students have been doing on the blog, he’s said he is feeling conflicted at many levels about the ways in which traditional literacies are changing, lamenting the fact that by and large, his students have no interest in reading traditional texts. At one point, he looked at me and said, “You know, it’s like reading is dead to them.” As two people who grew up loving books, I know we both found that statement unsettling. But I’ve gotten to the point where I rarely look at these changes as being anything more than just different at this point, that labeling them “bad” or “good” denies the complexity that goes with the discussion.
We talked at some length as to whether reading for our students is much different than reading was to us. Whether they are reading in different ways, specifically through video or other media, and whether those reading literacies are equally as important as text literacy. Whether we are just chained to our old definitions of what reading should be because that’s how we’ve experienced it. Whether now that we can connect to so many different texts we shouldn’t be surprised that most students find Of Mice and Men irrelevant and uninteresting. Whether we should be rethinking what reading literacy means.
I watch my own kids developing as readers and I believe in my heart that it’s a crucial step toward their literacy. But I wonder how much textual literacy they are going to need in their futures when so much more of what they create will be done in non-textual terms. And to be honest, my brain is still very muddled about all of this. But it could be an interesting discussion…
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