Reading Snobbery

A friend of mine was having a rant on Facebook last night because someone who was a complete stranger to her had taken it upon themselves to berate her for reading a gossip magazine (you know, something like Hello! or Closer).  It wasn’t as simple as decrying her choice of reading either; the individual made the assumption that as she was reading such a thing, she had to have issues with confidence and self-image, so I get the impression the discussion got quite personal.

Although my first thought was the obvious one of “Who do people think they are to make such aspersions about total strangers?” it later got me thinking about how dyslexics might feel should a similar situation happen to them and what the potential consequences of such an occurrence might be.

When an individual makes a disparaging remark, no thought is given to the circumstances of the recipient of the disdainful comment, or what such words might cause them to internalise, regardless of whether or not there is any substance to the both what was said or the subsequent thoughts the receiver might have in relation to it.  While some people might say it’s easier to live by the adage of if you haven’t anything nice to say don’t say anything at all, it isn’t always as simple as that.

In the instance of grouping children by reading ability, they quickly learn who are deemed the struggling readers, by the size of the lowest set of nothing else – because lower ability groups need to be smaller so that the children who need the extra support get it.  But still, I remember being appalled and hurt when a child (by this point someone old enough to know better than to say such a thing) felt the need to tell me that we would be reading better and harder books were it not for me – I later moved from the bottom to the top reading stream so her nastiness was just that and her comment bore no weight in the long run – but even in primary school children are taught to associate certain types of books – those that are shorter in length, for example – with a decreased level of intelligence.

Why does this have to be the case?  As has been proven countless times dyslexics can be whoever they want to be – I certainly didn’t know Jamie Oliver and Keira Knightly (to name but two) were dyslexic before I started volunteering here.  That being said, when book snobbery begins in primary schools, why is it a surprise that it is rife among the British general public?  Why do popular book series’ that appeal to the young and older people alike, such as Harry Potter or The Hunger Games, have to have separate covers for children and adults?  If you enjoy reading, it shouldn’t matter how the content is dressed up, whether it be a front cover of a book or the medium within which the book is contained, whether it’s a gossip magazine, an audio book or an encyclopaedia.

Nor should the content of your preferred reading material be judged.  Although I don’t read an awful lot of it personally, chick lit such as the recently released Bridget Jones: Mad about the Boy gets an awful lot of bad press.  Actually, it’s more that the women that choose to read them sometimes get seen as having nothing between the ears, because it’s not seen as intellectual.  At the opposite end of the scale, science fiction and fantasy fans are seen as nerds, and those that prefer books thought of as high brow classics – I’m thinking along the lines of Jane Austen here –  could be deemed old-fashioned.  My point is, everyone has different interests, the same way that people have different levels of proficiency with regards to reading.  As a result, no-one should be condemned because of their personal tastes or abilities.  The consequences of having something as inconsequential as what a person chooses to read being belittled and mocked could be far-reaching, not only affecting their educational development and self-esteem, but ultimately their willingness and ability to reach their full potential.

While I don’t think anyone would argue with me about the fact that reading snobbery needs to be combated, less clear is how this should be done, although educational intervention is key to change societal attitudes.  I’m not saying that setting by ability needs to be eradicated, that does have its place as they can be of great benefit to children.  However, it still needs to be made clear that along with the support that these teaching methodologies provide, children also need to be taught that life is about more than being put in a particular group or being given a specific label.  It’s about making the correct choices for yourself so you can aspire to be exactly what you want to be and nobody has the right to make anyone – child or adult, dyslexic or non-dyslexic, feel as if they cannot achieve that because of what they choose to read.

Perspective

A wonderful blog by doreenjank.

I have just seen “The Big Picture” documentary film; which reminded me of how important different viewpoints, understanding and perspectives of a learning difference can be. I don’t want to say anymore as I would like you to watch the film; and not just take away my interpretation.

Also whilst volunteering in the office I realised why I always made mistakes (as a child) with the small functional words when reading (which had my parents pulling their hair out). I heard the following description of dyslexia. Dyslexics can’t make mental pictures of the functional words in the same way as they can with a word like ‘car’. And that dyslexics don’t have the innate skills to learn to read (i.e. associating sounds with letters).

 Perspective

*Everyone has their own

    Influenced by:-

        > Emotional intelligence

        > Up bringing

        > Present environment (both home and work)

        > Education

        > Abilities/inabilities and their perception of these (which in turn may be influenced by others views about how valuable their talents are).

        > Physical health

        > Understanding of others

        > Willingness to learn/listen

        > Ability/willingness to use imagination. How much reflective thought one engages in.

 Use/misuse of perspective within teamwork 

*  A team can achieve almost anything, if there are enough different viewpoints; but each individual must be able to relinquish at least some of their opinion to allow for others to be incorporated.

* Each individual must be respected enough (but not too much) for their views to be heard and considered.

* People must achieve, the extremely difficult task of listening/understanding and co-operating with others views (into a larger plan): whilst also being able to articulate their own views in a way, that each individual (or at least the majority of the people) in the group can comprehend.

 Given all that has been said above how-on-earth can anyone (or even a group of people) create a single resource that everyone will find useful. I’ve been thinking about this; since I saw that there was to be round table event, to discuss the creation of a adult toolkit, on the Dyslexia Scotland’s Facebook page (which is extremely interesting and has right up-to-date info).

Some people really relate to words and others to pictures/symbols; what works for one individual may not work  for others (even for those within the group of individuals who have been labelled as dyslexic). Even within the category of those who relate to a picture/symbol there may be different reactions to the same icon, and individuals may even interpret the meaning differently. The english language and its usage (along with many other languages, I’m sure) is living and evolving so much that all but the most basic functional words like: a, the and at are subject to different interpretations (either wider or narrower than any dictionary definition, which themselves may not entirely agree). Once (or if) a toolkit (for example) has been created how can everyone in a country, region or place be made aware of its existence. We have a wonderful choice of media these days, how could any one advert , cover them all. And if that’s not enough colour-schemes are likely to be beyond contentious.

 But then again where would we be if none of us had any perspective!!!