BTT: What is reading?

Suggested by: Thisisnotabookclub

What is reading, anyway? Novels, comics, graphic novels, manga, e-books, audiobooks — which of these is reading these days? Are they all reading? Only some of them? What are your personal qualifications for something to be “reading” — why? If something isn’t reading, why not? Does it matter? Does it impact your desire to sample a source if you find out a premise you liked the sound of is in a format you don’t consider to be reading? Share your personal definition of reading, and how you came to have that stance.

This seems like a question without an answer.

My first reaction is that if you are sitting with a book in your hand, it is reading. But what about audiobooks or e-books? I'm reading right now: checking blogs in the Google Reader. Is that 'reading'? I didn't think audiobooks were reading until I used one. It's definitely reading. I was processing the words in my head the way I would with a book. Reading the listings off the TV guide is not reading, not to me.

I think it's the mental process used that counts. I have gotten frustrated with my daughter as she learns to read this year. She gets much of the information from the pictures, where I am asking her to 'sound out the words'. I had a discussion with another mom who said that the teachers encourage this, that it's part of the learning process. It's so different from how I learned. I wish we'd get a guide or something at the beginning of the year! So, I guess looking at the pictures is also reading, as she's getting the information she needs to understand the story. I guess that's how graphic novels work as well.

I suppose reading isn't reading unless you can discuss it in some way. "I read this article on MSN..." or "Read the book before you see the movie, it's awesome" or "What do you think he meant when he wrote..." or "Mommy, that's a really hairy spider." You can't really discuss the TV listings!


  1. I thought after I'd posted my answer that reading blogs is a form of reading.

    That's an interesting point in your last paragraph.

  2. I do read blogs all the time!


    Here is my say!

  3. As a long-standing teacher of reading please don't discourage your daughter from using the pictures. In the best written picture books parts of the plot will surface in the pictures rather than the words and if she can't take account of those she will miss the whole point. Do you know Pat Hutchin's 'Rosie's Walk'? Have a look at it and you will see what I mean.

  4. I had a hard time defining blog reading as actual reading too. Nowadays, I read blog posts almost as much as I read regular books.

    As for learning to read by pictures, I'm with you on this one. It's frustrating. In kindergarten, my daughter could memorize an entire story based just on the pictures but couldn't sound out any of the words. At age nine she still has problems with reading. Whatever happened to teaching phonics is what I'd like to know. Sorry. I could go on and on, lol.

  5. Great examples, especially your last sentence. I've always felt that reading satisfies what I like to call the "7th sense". It satisfies that need to learn new things and stretch our imaginations, just as television satisfies that visual thirst.

    Kudos on a great post.

  6. I'm with you, Chris! I also liked the way you wrote: "'s the mental process used that counts", this is so true!

  7. I enjoyed reading your answer. So yes, I include blogs as reading. Happy BTT.

  8. IMHO, if someone can learn the language by "reading" the words, then whatever they are reading doesn't matter. so reading classical literature is no different in spirit than reading a bumper sticker on a car. it is the act of identifying the symbols and understanding the meaning which makes it reading.

  9. I'd also forgotten about the specific act of reading blogs. Slightly ironic given I've spent about two hours this morning reading (and learning from) them... Really should go and do housework now!

  10. Table Talk- I try to curb the impulse to focus on the words but it's hard.

    Trisha- Yeah, I had that discussion with the other mom too. Maybe teachers know more than I do but I always use phonics.

    Thanks everyone for the comments!

  11. Great answer, Chris! I agree about the audio books. I haven't gotten in to them myself, but I would never tell someone they don't read just 'cause they listen to audio books.

  12. "I didn't think audiobooks were reading until I used one." That is exactly right: I'll bet anyone who says audiobooks isn't reading hasn't actually listened to one (or two--sometimes a bad voice can turn one off, just like a bad font or layout or cover could) I wrote about audiobooks.

  13. I don't know, Chris. My husband and I can build an entire conversation around TV guide listings. ;-) I know what you mean though.

    I tend to take a broad view of reading when considering a definition. Being married to a comic book/graphic novel/manga reader, I have come to respect that type of reading much more than I had before I had experienced it myself.


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