Research shows that reading is a determining factor when it comes to our futures. It affects our educational success, our employability and our engagement with society – our place as active citizens (Dugdale and Clark, 2008). Reading is changing, though, and this chapter will explore some of what is happening and the ways in which our approaches, strategies and even thinking might be positioned to meet future challenges, helping people to find paths to follow on their lifelong reading journeys.
When reading and responding to texts we can subscribe to their tropes, ideas and traditions, we can subvert these by discovering different ways of doing things, or we can withdraw from them. This chapter will be concerned primarily with those who withdraw, but also with those who subscribe and who can valuably act as advocates, encouraging and enticing those who have withdrawn. It will explore how reading experiences can be framed in appropriate and alluring ways.
What happens when we read?
When we read we are connecting with ideas and thinking that extend our sense of understanding and identity beyond its previous confines. Reading allows us to become bigger, broader and more rounded individuals than before.
Stories and information shape and determine not only who we are but the very world in which we exist. When Freud and Jung were looking for lenses through which to explain and communicate their thinking and theories on the human mind, it was often mythology that provided the framework. ‘It has become quite clear to me’, Jung wrote to Freud in 1909, ‘that we shall not solve the secrets of neurosis and psychosis without mythology and the history of civilisation’ (McGuire, 1974). Stories are a way to give structure and form to our ideas; they record them and allow for their easy retrieval and interpretation. They have been crucial to all branches of knowledge – the sciences, humanities and the arts.
If we are to take on the role of champions, advocates and baton-bearers for reading, we need to be clear about what we are promoting and recommending. Moreover, we need to be clear about just why it is so important and the roles that reading can play in our own lives.