Tuesday, August 31, 2010

November 16, 2009 - What does it take to build a nation of readers?

I haven't been to school in a while but it's not because I'm playing hooky. This past Thursday and Friday, I attended the TD National Reading Summit. The theme of this summit, held at the ROM, was Reading and Democracy. The purpose is to create a reading plan for Canada. We heard from a lot of speakers (almost too many, to be brutally honest - since I found that during the Q&A time at the end, more people were interested in commenting and pontificating than on questioning or clarifying). The best line came from Brazilian Ana Maria Machado, who said "We read because life is not enough." My favourite speaker was Cory Doctorow, who made me think hard about my notions of copyright. David Booth was witty as usual and Raymond Mar's research on the relationship between reading (fiction) and social processing sounds like something I'd like to investigate.
The people that attended brainstormed and discussed the vision, the outcomes and potential blocks we see in building a national plan but I'm not sure how much further we were in this goal by the end of the summit. I know one thing I definitely want to see in any national reading strategy but one that may be controversial - I want ALL types of reading to be accepted or valued and I want elitist attitudes to be shelved (pardon the library pun). I was truly dismayed to see people who still scoff at comics (one of the speakers even said something like "poor students only read comics") and one of the audience members took the microphone and went on a long diatribe that included the line "and Twilight is just garbage". As you might assume, that brought a strong reaction from me. (I'm debating whether or not to describe what form this reaction took to you, my blog audience. How about you just guess?) How could this woman diss hundreds of thousands of readers both young and old in one condescending swoop? At least I have my advanced screening ticket for New Moon purchased; between that and my Twilight Club at school, I will receive some consolation. We'll see what happens with the summit and the noble goal. Wish the steering committee luck.

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