Saturday, March 20, 2010

Reading Matters: What the Research Reveals about Reading, Libraries, and Community by Catherine Sheldrick Ross, Lynne (E.F.) McKechnie, and Paulette M. Rothbauer

I've been perusing this book for the past couple of weeks and found a fount of information that is meaningful for me. I took notes as I was reading and here are the points that I'd like to share.

Why we read:

We read to learn

We read to assimilate what we read

Without reading we are in an intellectual wasteland

“We read to know we are not alone” (C. S. Lewis)

What contribution does imaginative literature bring to our lives?



Instruction/ practical knowledge/ mastery

Increased literacy/ vocabulary

Awakening/ mind opening

Cultural understanding

Insight into others’ lives and thoughts

Empathy for others/ understanding

Increased self identity

Insight for facing problems

Gives courage, sense of control, hope

Vicarious experience supplying pro/con application for our own lives without the risks

“It is a very efficient way to acquire valuable experience while keeping us relatively risk-free”

“We can map the insights gained from the experience of reading onto the terrain of our own lives.”

Help to make decisions

Insight into the world

Connection to the world – both historical and present-day

“Reading gives us vocabulary and insight for discussing moral, political & humorous issues” (Byatt, 1992. The Irreplaceable importance of Reading)

Reading gives a much greater internal world and richer imagination

(All of the above information was the type of list I had expected to find in The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. See my blog posting from March 3rd.)

Types of Readers

Non-book readers usually see reading as hard work; they may read newspapers, Internet, or articles without extensive length

Book readers view them as having a smaller frame of reference

"Type A Readers: (p 175)

Read faster; don’t absorb or recall

Read for escape

Select highly formulaic material to meet their need for safety and predictability

Type B Readers:

Read more slowly for absorption

More discriminating in book choice

Read to enlarge experience

Read to heighten consciousness

Read to solve real-life problems

Read to live intensely

Negatives of Reading

Readers can distance themselves from non-readers

Retreat to their own world of books

Read rather than socialize with others

Good (“Quality”) vs. Bad (“Trash”) Literature

Some critics say:

We used to have consensus in order for a book to become a classic

Expansion of publishing; mountains to choose from today

Standards are lower

Anxiety over mass culture/ mass-produced/ mass-read books

“Threatens to cretinize our taste and brutalize our senses while paving the way to totalitarianism”

Created by the entertainment industry and sold for profit

Elitist intellectuals think that others do not have the proper cultural mastery to select the best books

Others reply:

“good literature” is whatever opinion-makers happen to think is worthy at the time

Book of the month clubs are created by publishers who are pushing their own titles

Best Sellers

Titles become best sellers because they resonate with the values of their readers

Book Discussion Groups

Quote from Florida librarian Sally Bissell on book discussion groups:

“It never ceases to amaze me how willing people are to open up in a group of strangers. This is the beauty of literature, isn’t it, that we find a common ground on which to meet?”

The advent of the Internet has provided a venue for reading groups to share their lists and their reactions with a wider audience. There are an estimated 500,000 book groups in the USA; approx 50,000 in the UK.

We "make sense of extended text in the context of interpretive communities… sharing a set of norms and procedures for making sense of the text".

The majority of reading groups today read ‘literary fiction’ – not westerns, romance, mysteries, science fiction, and seldom ‘the classics’.

Not all best-sellers make for good discussion.

An empathetic character is a high priority for a book that will allow for engaging discussion. The readers’ response to characters “become a prism for the interrogation of self, other selves, and society beyond the text.”

What is the draw for people to belong to a book group?

  • The people involved
  • It gives status to the act of reading
  • It validates your time spent reading and your choice of materials
  • It gets you out of the rut of your own reading choices
  • It helps you stretch and get a deeper understanding of the book
  • It helps you to read in a more reflective way
  • It provides diversity of perspective and opinions
  • It allows you to learn about the other people involved (and yourself)
  • It strengthens the bonds of friendship
  • It stimulates the mind and the senses
  • It provides social, intellectual and spiritual growth

How adults choose books:

Here’s a breakdown of the criteria adults use for choosing what to read when browsing:

1. Mood

familiarity vs. novelty

safety vs. risk

easy vs. challenge

upbeat vs. hard-hitting

reassuring vs. frightened/stimlulated

personal beliefs reassured vs. challenged

2. Sources


Recommendations from acquaintances

Review sources in newspapers, magazines, Oprah, etc

Viewing dramatized versions in film, tv, plays

Recommendations in blogs, publicity blurbs, lists, etc.

3. Elements





physical size of book

4. Clues on the book




sample page



Genreflecting for kids: (using tools that provide lists of recommended books within various genres: NoveList,,


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