July 19, 2011

Are You a Reader?

Part of being a writer involves having a large vocabulary available without having to keep looking up other ways to say something. I think it's part of being a reader, too.

There are different levels of reading. I am not making fun of anyone's ability or choices, just observing facts as I see them; in other words, stating my personal opinion without judgment of any individual. I've noticed these groups:

1. People who cannot read because of limited mental capacity or physical impairment. For example, a man I know has MS. Reading is painful for him because of the difficulty of moving signals along his nerves.

2. People who cannot read because they have never been taught how. People who cannot read in the dominant language of the country they live in because they do not speak the language well enough.

3. People who can read, but do better when reading aloud, tracing with their finger, or sounding out words aloud or silently. This includes people new to reading or a language. It also includes those with a mental or physical reason for not reading well; such as dyslexia or the host of problems lumped together as "learning disabilities".

4. People who read well, but only for learning. They read assigned materials for school and work, and no more.

5. People who read fiction and non-fiction for fun. They usually have a larger vocabulary than any other group. They are also generally well-versed in historical and cultural references, so they understand inferences faster than others.

Notice that the difference between groups 4 and 5 is based on choices; not education, practice, or physical or mental conditions. I call the group who reads because they enjoy it "readers". I know ten year old children who are readers, and adults who are not. I've found I prefer the company and conversation of readers. Not all of the readers I know are people who would be considered of "normal" physical or mental capacity.

The man with MS I mentioned before was never a reader, even before his illness made reading painful and nearly impossible. Because of his physical impairment, he now spends most of his day watching television. The lack of historical and cultural references he could have picked up by reading limits his full enjoyment of the programs he watches. He sometimes has to have the plots explained to him.

By contrast, I know a young woman of limited understanding who loves to read. Just from surface association, I wouldn't expect her to be capable of understanding the nuances of plot. Because I see her several times weekly, I got multiple updates of her progress as she read Tanella's Flight. She enjoyed the book immensely, and from her commentary, I could tell she had no problem grasping all the layers of the plot. She's now joined the crowd demanding the sequel. I think she really just wants to find out what happened to Liammial and whether he gets away with murder.

Are you a reader?