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Monday, June 20, 2016

RA for All: Call to Action-- Listening to a Book Is Reading

As I mentioned here previously, June is Audiobook Month, and although it is 2016, there are still loud voices out in the wider world that claim Audiobooks are NOT READING!?!

Today, I am calling those people out. Unfortunately, I have met some of these people and they work in libraries and help leisure readers. I have even talked to book discussion leaders who forbid their participants to listen to the book. Recently. Seriously.

To these people I say, “YOU ARE WRONG AND STUPID.” There is no middle ground here. I cannot and will not apologize for this opinion.

One of my very first posts on this blog [9 yrs ago] ever was an article in the New York Times in August of 2007 which questioned “Are Audio Books Cheating?” I have had strong opinions on this topic for a long time, and it saddens me that I still have to fight this fight. [Click here for everything I have tagged audio books, including reviews.]

If you come across one of these library workers or a patron who wants to tell you reading audio books is not reading, you have my permission to chastise them.  In fact, if you are not allowed to tell co-workers and patrons they are wrong and stupid, I get that.  It’s not always the best idea, so I have a solution. Quote/cite me and yelling at them. I really don’t mind. Say Becky says you’re wrong and stupid...

...Or, you can use some of these more polite ways to counter this uneducated opinion.

First read the post from No Shelf Required entitled “Are you a “reader” when listening to an audiobook? Yes of course.” Not only are there links to documents that support the educational and literacy benefits of listening to audiobooks, but they are also announcing their increased audiobook content. Yay, more places for audiobook reviews.

Second, contemplate this point from that same article:
"And please think back to when you read the book The Reader (or watched the movie with Kate Winslet). Did you consider that perhaps it’s not only about the Holocaust and coming to terms with the past? Wasn’t it also about a woman who couldn’t read but insisted that the man she was having an affair with read to her out loud? Wasn’t she THE READER even though she wasn’t the one reading?"
That is a succinct, moving, and accurate argument.

Third, look up the definition of “reading." Reading is not solely defined by reading words on the page of a book. It never was before and it certainly isn’t now. The definition supports me in this statement. “Reading” is the activity of interpreting the world around you.

When it comes to interpreting stories specifically though, the word is used for watching a play, listening to music, reading graphic novels, the newspaper, etc... At libraries we also teach Internet literacy-- how to read the information we find on the web. All of this is reading.

I could go on forever ranting about the problems with saying that “reading” only counts when you sit down and look at a physical book, but that is a side rant off the topic of today’s call to action.  Let’s get back to audio books, this is their special month.

As an experienced audiobook reader I can honestly tell you that I experience the story in the same way whether I read the page or listen. For me, some books are better if someone reads it to me, and still others I would never have gotten through on paper, but I can’t imagine my life without having “read” them.  Seveneves is the most recent example of that last point.

Experiencing a story is reading it. How you get the story into your brain is your choice. But if you get  it in there, you have read it. Simple as that.

So get out there and start finding people a story-- whether it is real of fiction. This is what we do. But don’t ever tell them there is only one correct way to read.


Anonymous said...

Posting as anonymous for ease, but -- I'm Robert K. We've met a couple of times.

Firstly, the sentence “Listening to an audio book is cheating” makes no sense to me. Cheating how – in what way? I don’t understand. Who is being cheated? The person “listening” instead of “reading”? If they’ve gleaned the information, who cares about the manner of access? I don’t understand any of this.

Secondly, quoting Ms. Spratford, “In my opinion, listening to an unabridged version of any book, while not exactly the same as reading it, does put the same story into your brain.”
True enough, but – listening is not reading.
Folks who have listened to a book who claim they’ve read it are, for whatever reason, redefining the word “reading”. I don’t get the point of those who claim they’re reading; I suspect it’s just easier for them, and a bit self-serving.
I’ve addressed this issue before, and I suspect I’m on a losing battle front. If folks want to lie to themselves and say they’re reading when they’re not, I guess I can jump on that bandwagon. Galls me a bit though to think of folks re-defining words on their own.
For instance, last night I read Joni Mitchell’s “Blue” album. Guess you could say I “re-read” it.
Then I read some spaghetti and meatballs, before going out to read my Chevy to go read some frozen yogurt. Came home and read my dirty dishes.
Yep. I’ll sign off now, close my eyes and read any response.

Becky said...

Thanks for providing a counter point in a respectful way Robert.

Cari said...

I agree with you, Becky. My husband feels the same as the above commenter, but I would lean on your "definition of reading" point here. Yes, I am listening (this is the act) but I have experienced the book just as someone who has read it has. In fact, I may have experienced it even more deeply because of the interpretation of the reader/performance artist. The work is meant to be read, out loud, so it is a reading, and I am hearing the reading. Therefore, it is a reading. This would be different from listening to a comedy show where the person is making things up off the top of their head, or listening to music. We are using the same sense (hearing) but a different skill in interpreting it.