Is it better to read a book or listen to it?

Daniel Willingham, a University of Virginia psychologist who wrote "The Reading Mind," says that the most common question he receives these days is the following: “Is it cheating if I listen to an audiobook for my book club?” In a New York Times essay, Willingham parses the benefits and drawbacks of both formats. Which one is better? Of course personally preference and convenience matter, but Willingham argues that generally right now when it comes to listening or reading a book, there is "equivalence for easy texts and an advantage to print for hard ones." For example, audio books provide prosody, the intonation, tone, and rhythm of the words. Sometimes, hearing those cues helps us understand the material. But not always. From the NYT:

For example, one study compared how well students learned about a scientific subject from a 22-minute podcast versus a printed article. Although students spent equivalent time with each format, on a written quiz two days later the readers scored 81 percent and the listeners 59 percent.

What happened? Note that the subject matter was difficult, and the goal wasn’t pleasure but learning. Both factors make us read differently. When we focus, we slow down. We reread the hard bits. We stop and think. Each is easier with print than with a podcast.

Print also supports readers through difficult content via signals to organization like paragraphs and headings, conventions missing from audio. Experiments show readers actually take longer to read the first sentence of a paragraph because they know it probably contains the foundational idea for what’s to come.

Read the rest

The Dyslexie Font makes reading easier for people with dyslexia

They say to create solutions for the problems you have and that's just what graphic designer Christian Boer did. He has dyslexia and, for his graduation project a few years back, he created a font that makes reading easier for people with dyslexia. According to his site, people with dyslexia often have difficulties reading because of certain "common reading errors" including "swapping, mirroring, changing, turning and melting letters together." Boer's Dyslexie Font is a typeface with uniquely-shaped letters that remove these common reading errors.

GOOD:

...research suggests that it’s effective (though some disagree) and also because Boer has made the font available for free. Many educators and businesses already make use of Dyslexie. For instance, Project Literacy integrated the typeface into its logo.

Recalling an anecdote from one of his design clients, Boer notes, “They were creating an animated commercial and hired a dyslexic voice-over artist to narrate it. He wanted to be able to read the script fast enough to match the video’s pace, so he asked them to lay it out in Dyslexie first.”

For many... individuals and families who have used Dyslexie, the results are transformative. One mom emailed Boer to say that being able to read this font has encouraged her son to dream big.

“He is looking forward to the possibility to become an engineer, now that this is available for him,” she wrote.

Dyslexie can be downloaded to use in programs and documents. It is also available as a browser extension for Chrome. Read the rest

You can request hand-crafted reading-list recommendations from the Brooklyn public library online

The Bklyn BookMatch is a free service that matches readers with custom lists of recommendations: fill in a webform with "the titles, authors, and/or types of books you enjoy, and why" as well as "movies, TV, games, and other interests" and any books you dislike, as well as format and age preferences and within two weeks, a librarian will send you a customized reading list that you can check out of the Brooklyn library (or your own local library -- the service seems to be open to everyone!). (via Kottke) Read the rest

LA libraries replace fines for young readers with in-library "read-offs"

Stan Rehm writes, "An uncommonly sensible new policy in Los Angeles libraries now allows children with overdue book fees to 'read off' their fines in the library." Read the rest

UK authors and librarians' open letter to Education Secretary: stop closing school libraries!

I remember the day I realised that my daughter's London school had no library, the shock I felt, the sense that the cuts had gone beyond the bone, and that kids were being deprived of something critical -- and then the discovery that then-Education Minister Michael Gove was planning to spend a fortune distributing Bibles to schoolchildren with his name embossed in metal foil on the cover. Read the rest

The US has quit UNESCO, the UN agency that protects world heritage sites and teaches poor children to read

UNESCO is about as good as it gets in the world of UN Specialized Agencies, responsible for designating and protecting world heritage sites, running literacy for the poorest people on Earth, supporting potable water programs, protecting fragile and endangered ecosystems, running disaster preparedness plans for all to use, protecting indigenous knowledge, protecting the free press, and digitizing the world's libraries. Read the rest

About half of Detroit can't read

America's public education system is failing the citizens of Detroit, where the Detroit Regional Workforce Fund reports that 47% of people in Detroit are illiterate. In nearby suburbs, up to one-third are functionally illiterate. Read the rest

Trump's bookcase, Old State Department Library

Ladies and gentlemen, the bookcase of the Old State Department Library at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building. (via Bookshelf) Read the rest

94% decline in librarians for Philadelphia's public schools

Since 1991, the number of full-time librarians working in Philadelphia's cash-strapped, budget-slashed public schools has declined by 94% -- only eight remain, while the state continues to trail the nation in literacy scores. Read the rest

Indianapolis launches literacy-promoting "Big Free Libraries"

Chris writes, "Indianapolis has just launched a great new series of art installations intended to promote both art and literacy." Read the rest

Cory at Reno's Grassroots Books this Friday!

I'm doing a Q&A and signing at Reno's Grassroots Books -- a local, indie store with an emphasis on affordable reading for all -- this Friday, Aug 28 at 6:30PM -- just a quick stop on the way to That Thing in the Desert. I hope you'll come by and say hello! Read the rest

Funky librarians

The librarians of Vernon, Illinois want you for their summer reading program, and they're not shy about it! (Thanks, Sharpchair64!) Read the rest

School bus driver bans little girl from reading

The school bus driver in St-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Quebec told 8 year old Sarah Auger she wasn't allowed to read on the way to and from school because she might poke herself in the eye with a corner of the book. Read the rest

XKCD vs hand-wringing about what texting does to kids' literacy

It's great, and the tooltip's even better: "I'd like to find a corpus of writing writing from children in a non-self-selected sample (eg handwritten letters to the president from everyone in the same teacher's 7th grade class every year)--and score the kids today versus the kids 20 years ago on various objective measures of writing quality. Read the rest

Painted "bookbenches" spring up across London

The National Literacy Trust has dotted London with painted benches that celebrate classic works of literature from Paddington to The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe to The Hitchhikers' Guide to the Galaxy. Read the rest

Who reads books in America, and how?

The Pew Internet and American Life project has released a new report on reading, called E-Reading Rises as Device Ownership Jumps. It surveys American book-reading habits, looking at both print books and electronic books, as well as audiobooks. They report that ebook readership is increasing, and also produced a "snapshot" (above) showing readership breakdown by gender, race, and age. They show strong reading affinity among visible minorities and women, and a strong correlation between high incomes and readership. The most interesting number for me is that 76 percent of Americans read at least one book last year, which is much higher than I'd have guessed.

E-Reading Rises as Device Ownership Jumps

(via Jim Hines) Read the rest

Auctioning a conceptual copy of Banksy's thrifted "Banality of the Banality of Evil" to benefit 826 Valencia

A San Francisco artist commissioned a Chinese artist to make a copy of "The Banality of the Banality of Evil" -- a painting that Banksy thrifted, added a Nazi to, and shop-dropped back into the thrift store. The copy, called "The Banality Of The Banality Of The Banality Of Evil," is now being auctioned to support 826 Valencia, a literacy for kids program in San Francisco. Read the rest

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