I have a couple of friends that just don’t like to read. They don’t really see the point of it. It boggles my mind, but they are still my friends. I don’t hold it against them. In fact, they are reading – they listen to podcasts and audiobooks, read articles and the news, and take part in discussions and performances. Many parent patrons let me know that they do not view graphic novels as part of their kids’ reading time claiming that there are too many pictures. But why? Sometimes text can be overwhelming to early readers (and let’s face it, to some experienced readers, too!) and maybe they aren’t developmentally ready for text only chapter books. Some readers need to listen to retain the structure of and themes within a story. Some readers need visual information to really reinforce the context of the printed word. Reading is more than text.
Reading is one of many forms of communication. It does not have this narrow definition of processing text printed left to right on horizontal lines on multiple pages of a physical paper bound together. Egyptians had hieroglyphics. Many early Central American and South American cultures recorded and read their history in a visual format. Some drew symbols to share information, while others communicated through quipu, various colored threads knotted in different ways, or other craft-like formats. Many cultures prided themselves on a rich oral storytelling tradition with words and sometimes instruments. This form of telling stories emphasized community and sharing. Then as a tool of colonization, Western explorers decried visual language and storytelling rituals as savage and proclaimed written language as proof of higher status. But they still loved their Shakespeare and political cartoons. Go figure.
While many people still view text as king, visual and oral communication are a huge part of our lives. Green tells us to go, award ceremonies for entertainment are huge events, we share stories every chance we can– at the dinner table with family and friends, in storytime, in movies, songs, and plays. Stories are everywhere. They reflect cultures and individuals, truths and deception. The power of stories is an incredible force in connecting people and expanding worldviews. Literacy is important and reading is just a portion of that. There’s a reason that the Public Library Association and Association of Library Services for Children include singing, playing, writing, and talking as early literacy skills. Along with reading, these activities reinforce how to communicate.