Tuesday, January 15, 2008

21st Century Reading Habits

The BBC News article in this week’s issue asks, “Do you need to read books to be clever?” The emphasis in the article is on the word book. Fewer people actually read books these days, the article reports. They may read other texts, but they are less likely to read a complete book than in the past. The question is, however, does it really matter? Probably not.

Honor Wilson-Fletcher, project director for the National Year of Reading in the UK, explains that “because the cultural landscape is changing so much we need to recognise every variety of reading and acknowledge being able to read has never been so important. In other words, it’s not what you read, but how you read and that you read that matters.

While teachers usually realize this fact, do students? The literacy demands that students face today have changed greatly from those which students met even five or ten years ago. NCTE’s Professional Communities at Work Topical Resource Kit, Engaging Media-Savvy Students: Exploring Multimodal Literacies through Popular Culture and Technology explains:

Classrooms are rapidly moving beyond traditional notions of text. For years, teachers relied almost completely on books and other print texts—especially in terms of the texts that students were asked to compose. Because of the changes in technologies available to us today, however, texts in the classroom frequently include a much wider range of modalities—systems that people use to make meaning. In fact, a single text often engages more than one way of making meaning.

Today’s media-savvy students compose and read texts that include alphabetic- and character-based print, still images, video, and sound. They listen to podcasts, watch animations on the Internet, film their own videos, and compose visual arguments on paper and online. Reading and composing for these students includes such features as visual design, nonlinear organizational structures, and oral storytelling techniques.
(“Framing Text” 3)
Students interact with this wide range of texts using ever-expanding strategies for making meaning; yet they do not always recognize these many resources as legitimate texts or the act that they are doing as reading. By exploring the ways that they read and write in the classroom, students can extend their understanding of their own 21st century reading habits. An easy way to get started is to adapt the ReadWriteThink lesson Defining Literacy in a Digital World for your classroom. For an even quicker start, try my 21st Century Reading Habits Survey with students. After students complete the survey, tally the votes and invite discussion on what the findings mean about the way they read. You’re bound to learn more about students’ habits that can shape the activities that you complete in the classroom and students can explore why reading matters in the context of their own habits.


Anonymous said...

YALSA (Young Adult Library Services Association of ALA) did a podcast early this month as a result of the NEA report that indicated teens are reading less. Michael Cart, Francisca Goldsmith, and I talked to the author of the report about teens and their reading habits and the fact that they are reading more: with their ears, online, and in other media formats.

The ALA awards were announced a few days ago and included the first ever audiobook award and a wonderful list of graphic novels. Teachers who want to include 21st century materials and skills might want to see these lists.

I see teens reading more and more, just not within our traditional definitions all the time. And, of course, they do read books and other materials in which they have a vested interest.

Thanks to Traci and to NCTE for paying attention to these shifting paradigms.


Stacy said...

As a lover of books, I'd like to think so. I do, however, wonder if that question is dividing the phonetical reading of a text from the actual comprehension of a text. Comprehension seems to be the more challenging task for the body of people that "Do we need to read books to be clever?" applies. Comprehending a task through reading or listening consititues literacy . . . I think . . .

Stacy Goldberger