Here we are again, on Literaritea, making a capital/lower case distinction! We’ve discussed Truth v. truth and Story v. story. Today, we’re going to discuss the distinction between Reading and reading. (As with the others, you might think of these as “Big-R Reading” and “Little-r reading” and we will try to make a size distinction clear when we are referencing the distinction).

Reading (capital “R”)

Any active, skilled, memorable engagement with words or images that conveys worthy meaning or T/truth to the one who absorbs them. The result of Reading should include ideas or responses of one’s own; i.e., something original to the reader occurs by means of the activity and the text or images which occasion the Reading. Real Reading is a kind of creation cooperatively between one human and another, having some of the life of each.

Madeleine L’Engle puts it this way (Walking on Water): “Creative involvement: that’s the basic difference between reading a book and watching TV. In watching TV we are passive; sponges; we do nothing. In reading we must become creators. Once the child has learned to read alone, and can pick up a book without illustrations, he must become a creator, imagining the setting of the story, visualizing the characters, seeing facial expressions, hearing the inflection of voices. The author and the reader “know” each other; they meet on the bridge of words.” [I would add to this: in our day of screen-reading, we are increasingly scanning, not reading. It’s worth teaching our children to READ).

reading (lower case “r”)
A more or less passive and forgettable encounter with words or images that fails to bring one into any real contact with meaning or truth and resulting in no significant or lasting change in the reader and nothing original. [This is frequently the kind of reading we employ when we read web-related information–like this blog! As screen-reading becomes more and more a vehicle for actual literature that is meant to be Read, we must help our children discern when they do, in fact, need to Read instead of merely scan.]