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Reading is a social act

April 4th, 2004 · 1 Comment

David Weinberger wrote:

Reading to a kid flips reading – our paradigm of what you do when alone – into a social act. And it opens the book up in a new way. But reading into a microphone for public consumption is something else again. It’s like taking the book out for a spin: You’re always looking ahead for dangerous curves.

I liked his description, the elegant way he captured what I was trying to write last week about speech synthesis. But I realized that I don’t see reading as “what you do when alone”. Perhaps it is indicative of the stage of life I find myself, with three small children.

Reading is a social act for our family. It’s how we spend our time. My three daughters and I share books together throughout the day. Going to library story time is our big social event of the week. After dinner Ted or I will often read to the girls. Elisabeth will toddle over to us, bringing a book, following the example of her big sisters. When the girls go to sleep, sometimes Ted and I will read to each other. Often we’ll share blog posts or web sites, one of us visiting the other’s desk, peering over a shoulder as we read. Ted and I talk, but often our conversations center around book chapters, newspaper articles or blog posts. Even if we read, at times, it is still social: sitting together on the sofa with laptops or books. We pass new acquisitions between us and share what we are each learning.

I hope reading stays social for our family even as the girls get older. “it opens the book up in a new way.” It’s powerful. It changes the taste of the text, challenging the old flavors with new ones, when words emerge from the mouth before entering into the mind. It builds relationship. It’s also an easy and excellent way at this stage of life to check with our children as we read to them: What do you think? What is the story about? Why did that happen? And I ask Ted and myself those questions when we are reading too.

Reading is what we do when we are together. Writing is what I do when alone.

Tags: books

1 response so far ↓

  • 1 Kris Hasson-Jones // Apr 5, 2004 at 11:33 am

    My husband and I go out to lunch together to read together. We take turns sharing choice bits or talking about ideas raised by the reading material.