Your Reading Life

When we talk about reading in an English classroom, we’re usually talking about one subset of one mode of discourse: fictional narratives in novel form. This is a limited view of reading—important, of course, but also limited. You read far more in your daily life than novels like The Invisible Man or Of Mice and Men. You read Facebook feeds, Twitter feeds, emails, newspapers, magazines, textbooks, text messages, advertisements, and handouts, to name only part of the total list. We can start the discussion with a question:

What does your reading life look like?

Answer this in your compendium, and then, as we discuss your thoughts in class, transfer the conversation into the comments section of this post. This will be adversarial work. To begin, you might consider your reading life as a kind of diet. There are as many types of texts out there as there are types of food, and as many approaches to reading as to eating. Some people believe you need a balance to be healthy; others promote one particular approach over others. This isn’t to suggest that the novels you’re assigned in English class are healthy, while Twitter and text messages are junk food, however. It’s simply to point out that you are consuming text constantly and in many, many different forms.

The basic definition of reading is the act of processing letters and words to construct meaning. You can read more about the process here, and I’d pay careful attention to the following concept (paraphrased from that article):

Rates of reading include reading for memorization (fewer than 100 words per minute [wpm]); reading for learning (100–200 wpm); reading for comprehension (200–400 wpm); and skimming (400–700 wpm). Reading for comprehension is the essence of the daily reading of most people. Skimming is for superficially processing large quantities of text at a low level of comprehension (below 50%).  The average wpm at age 14-15 when reading for learning is 150 wpm.

The spectrum between skimming (e.g., when you read Wikipedia for two hours, then forget everything you read) and reading to memorize (e.g., when you study for a test in a history class) is important to this discussion. You need a sense of how quickly you consume information, what you do with that information, and how long it stays with you. It might help to know that 150 words look like this:

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Sed vitae libero a felis condimentum bibendum id aliquet tortor. Donec vitae tortor a massa scelerisque ornare quis in nibh. Aliquam ornare lacinia cursus. Sed id enim sit amet tellus faucibus commodo ac nec augue. Aenean eget nulla nisi, ac suscipit leo. Nulla a vestibulum ligula. In sit amet nibh dui, vitae elementum dolor. Duis varius dapibus mauris vel dictum. Donec lobortis velit a lectus convallis quis blandit felis aliquet. Sed mollis placerat semper. Nunc ut massa eu dui iaculis eleifend pellentesque non ipsum. Fusce tellus urna, tincidunt nec mollis ac, blandit pretium ante. Ut imperdiet tellus sed lacus convallis et adipiscing urna porta. Etiam sagittis varius sapien, sed pharetra nibh pulvinar nec. Curabitur ornare ornare quam eu auctor. Vivamus quis ante vel dolor suscipit blandit. Ut gravida tempor porttitor. Nunc nec velit magna, in auctor orci. Curabitur ultrices, ipsum eget dignissim.

That’s longer than most text messages and Facebook updates, and it would take seven tweets to post it. How does it compare to the average email you read? The average article on a website? The average textbook chapter? You read all of those things regularly—websites, textbooks, text messages—and it’s time to start thinking about how much you’re reading, what that means to your life as a reader, and the extent to which it affects your thinking and writing.

Note in your compendium (and again in the conversation in class and online) whether you are skimming, reading for comprehension, reading for learning, or memorizing the texts you consume; note also how your reading diet changes over the weekend, on breaks, or over the summer. Focus, however, on your average day. Describe your reading life in terms that make sense to you.

Final question: Can you discuss your reading life without also discussing your writing life? When you write, you also read; when you edit or revisit your writing, you read again. How does that realization change your answer?

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23 thoughts on “Your Reading Life

  1. my reading life is mostly social media like twitter. I barely read books because I find them boring. I’m not saying that all books are boring but they just don’t get my interest. I think Twitter is more interesting because its recent 99% of them time(refresh news feed). Depending on your interest, you follow who you want.

  2. Each day I read a lot but not in terms of books and other literature but within my surroundings. Basically, I read everything that is legible that happens to cross my path. I, along with many others are constantly reading.

  3. In general I read a lot. I read everyday. whether it’s a book or the numerous texts i receive and send I really enjoy reading.

  4. My reading life is rather interesting I think, I say this because depending on the time I read different things and for different purposes. Lets take History for example, if I have an assignment where I have to read a chapter in my textbook, I may read to memorize or to learn, rather then skim through everything and not be able to paraphrase or reiterate what I read, Especially because for AP World, it is important to remember what you read, or to learn about what you read.

  5. twitter is deffenitly more intereseting than anything we read in school, but twitter doesnt really help us out much. it mostly starts fights with poeple, i mostly read and tweet things on twitter more than ever reading a book; or texting and reading my recieved text messages. that just what most of us do in hs. its just more interesting

  6. My reading starts each day on my phone. Twitter acts as a new paper for me. I check my news feed and read what everybody has posted. Through out the day I check my phone on estimation over 100 times each day. Sheets handed out by teachers I simply skim through because they nothing that interests me. As for reading books I do not read many book but on a snow if I begin to read a book that interests me I wont put it down until I finish reading.

  7. I also came to the realization that I text and do meaningless reading much more then I read textbooks or novels, But I spend just as much time reading a textbook lets say once a week then it takes me to read texts. I say this because I would skim through texts and not take my time, but I would spend much more time reading less words in a textbook because I need to memorize or learn about it.

  8. i text over 600 or 700 times a day, every single classs and form when i wake up, untill i fall asleep. so i realized that i text and read my messages more than ive ever read anything else

  9. I read mostly on my phone I read texts all day and twitter. I check my news feed on twitter almost every period during the day. I rarely read books unless i need to or i find a book that im really intrested in

  10. It seems like we do so little reading, but now that we now we read literally all the time we realize how reading can be fun. This is kind of like the ¨How Teachers Make Children Hate Reading¨, but now that we know that we read so much, it makes us find the joy in reading and inspire to read more or for me at least.

  11. My reading life is like every basic teenager i read text messages and go on to social networking sites and read what other people have to say, and really just skim through what they have to say

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