‘How We Read’

Our reading group on 22nd December 2022 was chaired by Mirjam Haas. Our discussion was based on the ‘How We Read’ episode of the Arts and Ideas podcast – but you don’t need to listen to the episode to join in the conversation. Mirjam has prepared the following prompts:

“Reading. That’s what it is, the subject tonight: reading. It’s a process: it’s page, words, eyes, brain – and, in my case right now, mouth. So, although I’m trying to sound like I’m just, you know, plucking this stuff from the air, I’m not, and particularly not that bit where I put the words in the wrong order. It’s (rustling of paper in the background) it’s all on a piece of paper. We spend so much time reading, don’t we? Thanks to our phones, some of us even do it while crossing the road. Some even do it standing up in the gents – yes, sorry, but but that’s true. Reading is a process so commonplace and familiar that we barely give it a thought…” (Matthew Sweet)

The episode thinks about reading from the perspective of dyslexic/hyperlexic readers, based on the input of two poets (Debris Stevenson – the poem she performs at the beginning of the episode is amazing! – and Anthony Anaxagorou) and two academics, one of them also dyslexic (Louise Creechan, her field is Victorian literature). They share the trouble they have with “conventional” reading methods and methods of learning to read, but also the chances that lie in reading differently and learning according to your own thinking processes vs. a ready-made, one-size-fits-all system. I don’t think you need to listen to the episode to be part of the conversation next week, but it’s really inspiring and thought-provoking.

What the episode did for me was to make me reflect on how I read – and that’s what I’d like to talk about next week: not only my personal reading, of course, but also yours. What are the strategies you use for different kinds of texts? How do you read academic writing, student writing, play texts, objects, performances, emails, feedback (that seems to have been an important part of the writing workshop last week, right?) etc.? Do you have strategies for reading aloud – e.g. when teaching or giving papers? How do our way(s) of reading influence our way(s) of writing (and vice versa)?

Maybe, like me, you are not even sure you are using any strategies at all – or, at least, you are not aware that you do. I’m also wondering where and when I learned these techniques of reading, how I teach them (by example, reading guides, tasks), whether there are different ways of approaching reading I don’t yet know about, and whether I can (and should?) un-learn the way I read in order to be able to see new things?

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