Wednesday, June 08, 2005

So, Is It Reading or Not?

The New York Times for May 26th, 2005 had a story on listening to books. I would link to it, but NYT is one of those newspapers you have to register in order to read anything. I got a hold of it through Lexis-Nexis Academic. The story is written by Amy Harmon, and its title is "Loud, Proud, Unabridged: It Is Too Reading!" The story discusses how listening to books on tape (or CD or IPod or MP3, etc.) is on the rise. It also discusses the debate of whether listening to the book is the same as reading. Some will argue that reading takes more concentration than listening to a book while on a treadmill, so therefor you may not be really reading while you workout. Others will say that the format does not matter and that there is the pleasure of being read to. If you ask me, I think the only catch is the book has to be unabridged. It has to be all of the text, not the abridged shorter version. That seems to me like reading the Cliff Notes. Other than that, sure, go for it. When I took my Readers' Advisory class in library school, we had to read books in various genres, and one of those genres was an audiobook. I chose to read Stephen King's memoir On Writing. I have to say, the man has an engaging style; it seems like you are sitting with someone who tells it like it is in a relaxed, easy going style. But it did not feel like I was missing anything out. The book was unabridged (this was a class requirement). Having experienced it, I can strongly recommend audio books. Additionally, one of my colleagues here at work has an interest in audio books. She says that the reader makes a difference. A poor reader can easily ruin the reading experience. The article also mentions this issue of narrators. One point that I liked about the article, and that I find very significant as an educator, is the one about different people learning in different ways. A woman in the article says her husband remembers more of the books he listens to, "perhaps because he's simply wired that way." This seems like a little more evidence of multiple intelligences. Some people learn better by listening, and audio books can serve them better. And then, of course, there may be readers who may need audiobooks due to disabilities (not mentioned in the article, but something to be considered). Overall, whether you read it yourself, or someone reads it to you, go forth and read. It's all good.

On the other hand, under the "micromanagement department," The Sacramento Bee for May 27th, 2005, features a report on legislation in the California Assembly that would "ban school districts from purchasing textbooks longer than 200 pages." Yes, that is the effect of the ban they voted on. If it is longer than 200 pages, it won't be allowed in classrooms. The consolation, if one can look at it that way, is that they can supplement with materials from the internet. Of course, this brings the whole argument of what is on the internet and how to evaluate it. The legislation, AB 756, "would force publishers to condense key ideas, basic problems and basic knowledge into 200 pages, then provide a rich appendix with Web sites where students can go for more information." The vote was approved 42 to 28. The bill also states that this measure could reduce cost and weight of textbooks. The article does present many of the questions this bill raises: can you really cover what you need in 200 pages? Can't publishers simply make books multivolume to get around the requirement, then charge more for them? What about kids without internet access? The title of the article is "Assembly Says Shorter Books Would Help Kids," and it is written by Jim Sanders. I had to pick it up on Lexis as well since the Bee is another of those register to read newspapers.

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