It’s May! We’re nearing the halfway point of the year and in the month of May, Canada celebrates reading in a big way. From April 30 to May 8, Reading Town PEI has a whole week of activities focused on increasing literacy through reading. Activities are slated island-wide, at which authors will interact with audiences and a great deal of reading will be done in public places in groups large and small. I think one of the nicest ideas spurred by this Canada-wide incentive is the Tiny Lending Libraries project. Tiny Libraries are small boxes, anywhere from the size of a large mailbox to old refrigerators where readers can take books and return books for free. Everyone is encouraged to share books they’ve read and would like others to enjoy by putting them in these little libraries. They’re open 24 hours and can be found in various places throughout the city.
Reading is a skill that is often overlooked and underrated. Nearly everything we do involves reading and understanding what is written–whether it is in words, symbols, signs, or ciphers–the basic skill is the same. We need to recognize symbols (letters are, after all, symbols) and decipher their meanings. Deciphering meaning occurs on several levels, the most elementary of which is to recognize the symbols. When we recognize letters, we eventually learn to read words, then sentences. Reading does not end with understanding the words in the sentences. Put together, the sentences have meanings beyond the words. Words can also mean more than one thing, and again, when put together in different ways, can mean different things. Because of the complexity of language, reading comprehension is classified into 4 or 5 levels, depending on your resource. Most people think that if they can read the words and identify basic information presented in a text, they can get by. In fact, while the meaning of “literacy” is the ability to read and write, as a statistical measure, it merely meant the ability to read and write one’s name, which was all that was required on any legal form. We know, however, that literacy has to progress beyond the mere ability to read and write on a Literal level–recognizing information stated outright. Schooling helps students achieve literacy on an Inferential level, which means they are able to make predictions and understand sequence and settings. At the very least, these two levels are necessary for anyone to function in the most basic way. Higher academic achievement, however, cannot be attained without at least Evaluative comprehension–the ability to judge texts based on fact or opinion, as well as determine cause and effect, validity, appropriateness, or comparisons. The appreciation of literature in all its splendor requires Applied comprehension, which allows readers to understand a text according to the author’s language, imagery, style, purpose, and values. Only when readers are able to understand and appreciate literature at the deepest level of comprehension can they truly appreciate the writer’s skill. Suffice it to say the writer must be adept at all levels of comprehension to write works that require the deepest thought. Thus is pulp fiction separated from classical literature.
On another note, one of the projects for Reading Town PEI is ISLAND POEMS 2, a joint effort of the PEI Writers’ Guild, this town is small, and Peake Street Studio: the Writers’ Guild supplies original poetry from island writers, which are passed on to artists who interpret the poetry through their art. The resulting poems and artwork will be exhibited through the month May at the Farmer’s Market Art Gallery from April 30. I have a painting included in the exhibit and hope you find time to visit!