One of my favorite books is the short ode to reading entitled The Little Guide to Your Well-Read Life by Steve Leveen, the founder of one of my favorite stores to window shop, Levengers. I have listened and read this book several times over the past few years because it constantly inspires me to re-start my readerly life when I feel it begins to fade into the banality of everyday life.
Leveen devotes a chapter to the listening of books and the inability of our vocabulary to express the difference between reading with our eyes and reading with our ears. Is listening to a book "cheating"? As a classroom teacher, I've been posed this question many times by parents and pre-service teachers.
But, what is reading? In my mind, it is understanding and making personal meaning of a text composed by someone. Do I have to have eyes on the text to classify it as reading? Or, can I wrestle with the ideas presented by the author through listening to it?
I would agree that I tend to focus a little closer when I'm eyes-on reading, as I can't really be doing anything else but focus on the text to be able to decipher the letters. But, I can be just as easily distracted by the TV or a phone conversation and lose the sense of the text. When I'm ears-on reading, I could be physically doing something else, driving, ironing etc., but my mind is more focused. Though, I will have to admit, much of my ears-on reading takes place right before falling asleep, or at 3 am when I'm trying to get back to sleep.
Though I sometimes wondering if listening to books will turn out like an old Disney movie entitled The Monkey's Uncle in which high school students listen to their history lessons read in a female voice, to learn the facts. But when they have to recite the lessons, the woman's voice comes out, rather then their own. When I encounter the printed version of books I've listened to, I can only read the text with the actor's voice in my head.
With limited choices in my local digital library, I've been trying titles of books that I might not otherwise read with eyes-on. Many times I've been pleasantly surprised by these titles - many of which have appeared on this blog.