Reading for Entertainment
Under heaven all can see beauty as beauty, only because there is ugliness. All can know good as good only because there is evil.
Being and nonbeing produce each other. The difficult is born in the easy. Long is defined by short, the high by the low. Before and after go along with each other.
Tao te Ching
Hello GLWT readers! I have missed you all and hope that this post finds you safe and healthy. I have been chipping away at my novel, but wanted to take a moment and share something special that is going on:
This past week I was asked to host the daily posts for the Mindful Writers Group on Facebook. My topic for the week was mindfulness and reading for entertainment.
When I first sat down to explore this topic, I naïvely thought it would be simple. Like so many of you, I have always been an avid reader, surrounded by books since I was young. Reading is a great form of entertainment, escape, and adventure. Then, the speech pathologist in me thought better of this simplistic response. For reading to be entertainment, we must first look at the ability to comprehend the written word. What happens when the cognitive skills and sequencing required for reading comprehension are absent? What happens when reading skills decline?
I have been fortunate to work with clients of all ages, from toddlers to centenarians. I have worked with individuals with both emerging and declining reading abilities. I have seen children struggle to grasp the written word and have witnessed the joy of reading be replaced with anger and frustration.
According to Piaget, reading acquisition is initiated with the child’s ability to gather sensory and motor information. The way a toddler holds a multi-sensory board book - feeling crinkled paper, a fuzzy lamb, the thick cardboard pages – this activity is a precursor to reading. The toddler is exploring and absorbing the information; he/she is preparing for a joyful experience. What happens when that experience is clouded by a disorder or delay? Take, for example, a child with attention difficulties who struggles to maintain a singular focus and cannot maintain stillness, physically and/or mentally. The solitary, quiet task of reading becomes the ultimate test of willpower and persistence. Reading homework becomes a mental and physical struggle.
* We know that reading requires a quiet brain, but I think it’s important to note the physical control that is needed to read. *
If the brain struggles to focus, reading may become mindless. Mindless reading is identified when the reader stares, sometimes blankly, at the page, scanning appropriately, but not absorbing or comprehending the material. When this occurs, the story is lost; reading is a struggle, and the reader is certainly not entertained.
Similarly, when confronted with cognitive decline due to dementia, the readers’ ability to recall the story may be altered. Each turn of the page lengthens the distance of recall. Short-term recall of a page or chapter may be intact. But with the degenerative nature of dementia, in time, long-term recall can be disrupted.
The plot is lost for these readers.
This deterioration is typical, as noted in this journal abstract, “Thirteen patients with dementia of the Alzheimer type (DAT) were tested for their ability to read aloud and to read with comprehension. Reading aloud was preserved in all but the most severely impaired cases and was relatively independent of intellectual deterioration. Reading comprehension declined progressively with increasing dementia severity and correlated well with quantitative mental status assessments” (https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/3790984/).
As we begin this dive into mindfulness and reading as entertainment, let’s contemplate the opposite. As Lao Tzu says in his second verse in the Tao te Ching, we can see beauty only because there is ugliness. The contradiction of reading with ease is to read with difficulty.
I will be posting about reading and mindfulness for the next few weeks. I am fascinated with the neuroscience behind reading acquisition, comprehension and retention. Our online group utilizes meditative music, journal prompts and suggested readings. I have included a few of these here:
Journal Prompt: Imagine yourself unable to read for enjoyment. How would you feel? Then, feel the rush of relief and gratitude that reading is an activity that comes easily and offers respite and entertainment. Write an affirmation that acknowledges your abilities. Please comment if you'd like to share. I would love to read your responses!
Tao te Ching by Lao Tzu
You can listen to it hear: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=73_Voet2fnc
An interesting blog about the different ways to approach reading (phonetics vs. balanced literacy) https://www.scilearn.com/the-science-of-reading-the-basics-and-beyond/
See you next week,
Love and luck,