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Monday, November 26, 2007

Why We Read

One of the most important things I try to teach my RA students is how to get to the heart of why people choose to read what they read. I explored this a bit in this post where I talked about appeal. And here where I talked about my own reader profile.

Yesterday, The New York Times weighed in on this issue in the "Week in Review." Motoko Rich's article, "A Good Mystery: Why We Read," begins the discussion by bringing up one of the sleeper hit books of the year, The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett. Here Bennett creates a fictional world in which the Queen of England gets obsessed with reading after finding the "right" book. The article then goes on to recount other author's recollections of the book(s) that turned them into voracious readers themselves.

I think this adds another twist to the RA interview. As I have said before, we usually begin by asking a patron about a book s/he has recently read and then follow up with , "Are you in the mood for that or something different?" Sometimes patrons cannot articulate exactly what they want to read at that precise moment, so maybe now, we could take the pressure off their present needs by delving into their pasts. Something like, "What are the first books you can remember which really captured your imagination?" might be a good place to start this new line of questioning.

The idea is to get people talking about story, character, pacing, tone, style, etc... in order for us to get a sense of where to take that reader next. What a great idea for getting a patron to open up and begin talking about why they read. I think it will work too since there are already 97 reader comments posted about this article.

By the way, this now validates my reading of the "Week in Review" a few minutes past my lunch break. And for the record, the first books I can remember falling in love with were Shel Silverstein's A Light in the Attic and Where the Sidewalk Ends and The Little House on the Prairie series by Laura Ingalls Wilder. Compare that to my current profile. Not too far off. Interesting.

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