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National Editorials & Columns

Take a closer look: how satisfied are you with your own literacy?

The Daily News has been filled with information about reading and libraries, so it must all be very important.  How satisfied are you with your own literacy? 

Sometimes I’m very satisfied, and sometimes I’m not.  When someone tells me something and I can link it to what I’ve read, I feel good. The opposite is true when I can’t link what is said to something I’ve read. 

There are dimensions of reading satisfaction that we get from all reading materials.  We could even compare these satisfactions with psychological stages. 

The first stage might be “unconscious delight,” a process of “losing yourself in a book.”  Unless a child finds a “good read” book, they often won’t read willingly.  Exposure to various materials and types of reading help each find his or her own “good read.” 

Due to my need for organization, I actually make out a file card for each book I read and, at the end, put my reaction which may vary from “try author again” to “good read” or “recommend”.

The second satisfaction stage is vicarious experiencing and getting new information.  I love that word “vicarious.”  It keeps me out of trouble because “vicarious” means I experience something intimately without doing it. 

I don’t need to act dangerously because I can read about it and experience it vicariously.  There is an atmosphere of excitement and wanting to read what happens next and I can let the author take me as far as my imagination will go. 

The third satisfaction stage is seeing yourself in books and recognizing that the characters experience much of what you experience and getting ideas for solutions. 

The fourth satisfaction stage is exploring psychological and philosophical problems of being alive.  We wrap our thoughts around unsolved human dilemmas and the conflict of one’s own conscience and the conscience of one’s culture. 

Through reading, we can explore various kinds of relationships, various kinds of conflicts — even those conflicts within ourselves.  We can explore what it is to have freedom of will and what aging, time, and change means.  We can explore choice and consequence and whether we can retreat from our choices? 

We can explore what justice is and when we do we will explore a multitude of reasoning.

The fifth satisfaction stage is aesthetic.  There is a sense of harmony within us and we enjoy its beauty.  It is like looking at a painting, not just seeing it.  Each time we look we view different aspects of it.  The artist didn’t just give us a picture, but gave us ways to connect to our memories, our thoughts, even our dreams.  Literacy allows us to explore and discover things beyond what we could ever experience.  We progress and we remember as we read the words of others.

  How do you encourage the adolescents that you know to see through the words of others?   If we aren’t careful, we stop seeing what is there or not there.  I note that when a house is “too clean,” it often means it is uncluttered of books, newspapers and magazines. 

Or, sometimes material is there, but it is not fresh material.  Do you ever take time to compliment when a waiting room has material no older than six months?  Our homes need to reflect literacy freshness.

Sometimes the problem is a lack of time being balanced where there are too many spectator events and not interactive events like reading. 

Sometimes extracurricular activities, jobs, etc., rob too much time, so there is no chance to read.  Adolescents need at least two hours a week for pleasure reading.  Sometimes a house is simply too noisy, so where could one go and read in a quiet, comfortable place?

Does the whole family read regularly together in the same place and does the family visit libraries and browse in book stores?  Do one or both parents discuss with the adolescent what he or she reads and listens to what she says and to his opinions?  It is important to periodically discuss with your adolescent’s friends about something they’ve read?  You learn much from their choices.

When you go to a movie that is based on a book, does the family take time to read the book before or after the movie and discuss it? 

Discuss how the book is better than or worse than the movie. Do you read aloud periodically to your adolescent and vice versa? Do you show by your actions that reading is a necessary part of being an adult? Do you follow up an interest the adolescent has read about with a museum visit, a trip or a talk?    

(Some ideas gleaned from “Helping Your Adolescent with Reading:  Tips for Parents” from “Reading Today” June/July l994 issue.) Until next week…  Christine Pauley

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