The Radical Impact of Reading

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As children, we begin to develop a firm understanding of grammar, spelling and phonetics; the “nuts and bolts” of language. Growing into comprehensive readers, we learn to assemble and dissemble the collection of words and symbols which make up sentences. After practicing alternative methods such as letter recognition and memorization, we eventually stop going through “only the motions of reading” and begin to understand the message behind the words (X1). Once we can understand the written theories and experiences of others, we are better equipped to add to or challenge them, and to construct our own arguments. The consequence of the above process is that if someone does not pass through these stages of learning to read, they are not seen as qualified to enter into national conversation. In an essay called “Reading as Counterculture,” we are told that a student claims to read because he wishes to “enter the great debates” (Coleman 21). It is true that in order to take part in significant aspects of Canadian life and thought, an aptitude for reading is often a pre-requisite. In this essay, I will argue that while reading has many practical benefits, the fact that literacy is so central in Western society isolates those who take little interest in reading written texts. The dominance of literacy in our culture threatens to devalue other types of intelligence. Similarly, the standard form of scholarly writing represses the creative voice, and threatens to inhibit the understanding and interest of the consumer. In “Learning to Read,” Malcolm X stressed that it was essential for him to learn to communicate more effectively. While trying to write a letter to someone he admired, Malcolm thought that the language he used in everyday life... ... middle of paper ... ...t have the blessing of books. Reading is an integral part of our cultural practices because it can also be the means by which we change the attitudes and opinions in our culture. Works Cited Brant, Beth. "Writing Life." Brant, Beth. Writing as Witness: Essay and Talk. Women's Press (Cdn), 1994. 105-123. Print. Daniel, Coleman. "Reading as Counterculture." Coleman, D. In Bed with the Word: Reading, Spirituality, and Cultural Politics. U of Alberta Press, 2009. 21-32. Print. Eagleton, T. “The Rise of English.” The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism (2nd Ed.) W.W. Norton & Company Inc. 2010. Print. Tompkins, J. “Me and My Shadow.” New Literary History, 19.1. John Hopkins University Press. 1987. 169-170. Print. X, M and A Hailey. "Learning to Read." X, M and A Hailey. The Autobiography of Malcolm X: As Told To Alex Hailey. Random House, 1989. 1-6. Print.
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