or, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Fear and Loathing at a Public Library Reference Desk

What is the Point of Reading?

   July 9th, 2009

kids sharing a bookSome interesting comments on my last post got me thinking about reading, and why we encourage kids to read.

I know reading is vital for learning and personal development. But beyond that, is reading just for the benefit of the reader?

I wonder: is reading without sharing the experience akin to amassing a tremendous fortune and doing nothing with it? Society tends to paint as "greedy" people who accumulate wealth just for the sake of having more money than they know what to do with. At the same time, we reward philanthropists with awe and gratitude for "giving back" and sharing their excess wealth to benefit society.

So, should reading programs not just encourage kids to total up the number of pages and hours spent reading (which can lead to competition), but to also be "knowledge philanthropists" and share what they've learned and experienced from reading (which might lead to collaboration)? Or would that intimidate kids away from reading at all?

I'm not a children's librarian or parent, so perhaps I'm just late to the party on this.

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3 Responses to “What is the Point of Reading?”

  1. laura Says:

    I think you’re right about the social part of reading, but I also hope that reading as a solitary and private delight never disappears. I sometimes wonder if, in our rush to make everything relevant and appealing and, well, social, we are forgetting the sort of solitary, bookish people (I was and am one) for whom libraries have always been a refuge.

    So yay socializing over books during summer reading, but also yay to that kid in the corner whose greatest desire is just to read and be left alone.

  2. Teresa Raines Says:

    I work in a library at an elementary school. I’m also in library school. Our school emphasizes reading in a social setting, through Readers Workshop. I emphasize reading in the library as social fun. Learning the language of books through discussion and book talks is a vital part of academics today. Glad to see you asking these important questions.

  3. Brian Herzog Says:

    @laura: hopefully we could have both – actually, I’m sure the individual reader will always win out.

    @Teresa: That’s nice to hear. Do you have any ideas on reconciling social reading with the kids who just want to read and be left alone?