Thursday, February 6, 2014

I've Been Ristening

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.

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