As children, we begin to develop a firm understanding of grammar, spelling and phonetics; the “nuts and bolts” of language. Growing into comprehensive readers, we learn to assemble and dissemble the collection of words and symbols which make up sentences. After practicing alternative methods such as letter recognition and memorization, we eventually stop going through “only the motions of reading” and begin to understand the message behind the words (X1). Once we can understand the written theories and experiences of others, we are better equipped to add to or challenge them, and to construct our own arguments.
The consequence of the above process is that if someone does not pass through these stages of learning to read, they are not seen as qualified to enter into national conversation. In an essay called “Reading as Counterculture,” we are told that a student claims to read because he wishes to “enter the great debates” (Coleman 21). It is true that in order to take part in significant aspects of Canadian life and thought, an aptitude for reading is often a pre-requisite. In this essay, I will argue that while reading has many practical benefits, the fact that literacy is so central in Western society isolates those who take little interest in reading written texts. The dominance of literacy in our culture threatens to devalue other types of intelligence. Similarly, the standard form of scholarly writing represses the creative voice, and threatens to inhibit the understanding and interest of the consumer.
In “Learning to Read,” Malcolm X stressed that it was essential for him to learn to communicate more effectively. While trying to write a letter to someone he admired, Malcolm thought that the language he used in everyday life could not be applied to any kind of writing. Rather than creating a new genre to better suit his preferred dialect, Malcolm worried that the language he used “wasn’t even functional” and changed his vocabulary altogether (X 1).
I had a similar realization when I took a genuine interest in reading and writing at age ten. While for some time I, like Malcolm felt myself getting lost in a great book, my experience of learning to read was much more gradual than his. At the time, I was too young to recognize that my vocabulary was expanding as I let my imagination fly me to Hogwarts. Over time, I began to realize the difference that reading made for my everyday life. I began to notice the grammatical errors I normally made while writing and speaking, and strove to change my habits so that I may sound smarter, like the character Hermione Granger. Years later, when I discovered blogging, I managed to conform to the rules of grammar while maintaining a style and structure of my own. While writing scholarly work, however, my argument is often weakened because I spend too much time re-wording my sentences to sound more “objective.” Just as Malcolm X had to adopt a dialect of English very different from his former “street talk,” I...