Thursday, 7 February 2013

In Pursuit of Active Reading and Creative Writing

The Melancholy of the Abandoned Book?

Reading is far more than just mouthing the words on the page. While there is a lot to be said for silence and solitude in reading, there's also a clear benefit from group discussion and collaborative exercises. For me reading is part of a continuum of activities which have been designed to be creative and engaging for the participants.

For adults, as well as children, reading ideally involves creative and critical reflection. Reading harnesses a variety of brain functions, so we should cater for multiple learning styles in our approach to the activity. There is far more that can be done than the traditional closed-answer comprehension exercises.

These are some of the activities that work well with readers and encourage them to be more actively engaged in storybooks:

Explain what you liked or disliked about the book’s illustrations. Why not create your own illustrations, or devise a collage of cut-out images?

What colours best represent your impression of the story?

If you could add a soundtrack to the book, what would be you choice?

Many books are turned into films. Why not create a film-style poster/advertisement about your favourite book? Explain why you have illustrated the book in a particular style. This is also an opportunity to use the blurb as a guide, and to creatively modify it. Justify your choice of characters shown or incidents represented.

Do some research on the author. Books do not, and should not, exist in a vacuum! How does the book relate to the background of the author? Are there any links or influences?

Create a short improvised play based on a key turning point in life of the characters.

Create a video clip or animation improvised play based on a key turning point in the story.

Research. Find out where your favourite writers get their inspiration from.

Write a letter to the author or publisher, saying what you thought about the storybook. This is also an opportunity to ask them some difficulty WHY questions.

Other members of the class may want to research the answers to these questions.

Compose a different ending to the story.

Retelling: how would you make this book more serious and sad, or funny and ridiculous. This is an opportunity to think on at least three levels: character, story, language.

Write a short sequel (follow up) or prequel to your story, and why not experiment with a different time in history and a different geographical location?

© Dr Ian McCormick. But please feel free to share and attribute!

Dr Ian McCormick is the author of The Art of Connection: the Social Life of Sentences
(Quibble Academic, 2013)

Other Perspectives on Reading.

'I find television very educating. Every time somebody turns on the set, I go into the other room and read a book.' ---  Groucho Marx.

‘A children's story that can only be enjoyed by children is not a good children's story in the slightest.’ 
--- C.S. Lewis.

'Reading or making love, we should be able to lose ourselves in the other, into whom – to borrow Saint John's image – we are transformed: reader into writer into reader, lover into lover into lover.' --- Alberto Manguel, A Reader on Reading.

"In this major collection of his essays, Alberto Manguel, whom George Steiner has called “the Casanova of reading,” argues that the activity of reading, in its broadest sense, defines our species. “We come into the world intent on finding narrative in everything,” writes Manguel, “landscape, the skies, the faces of others, the images and words that our species create.” Reading our own lives and those of others, reading the societies we live in and those that lie beyond our borders, reading the worlds that lie between the covers of a book are the essence of A Reader on Reading.

The thirty-nine essays in this volume explore the crafts of reading and writing, the identity granted to us by literature, the far-reaching shadow of Jorge Luis Borges, to whom Manguel read as a young man, and the links between politics and books and between books and our bodies. The powers of censorship and intellectual curiosity, the art of translation, and those “numinous memory palaces we call libraries” also figure in this remarkable collection. For Manguel and his readers, words, in spite of everything, lend coherence to the world and offer us “a few safe places, as real as paper and as bracing as ink,” to grant us room and board in our passage.

Alberto Manguel is one of the world's great readers. He is a member of PEN, a Guggenheim Fellow, and an Officer of the French Order of Arts and Letters. He has been the recipient of numerous prizes, including the Prix M├ędicis in essays for A History of Reading, and the McKitterick Prize for his novel News from a Foreign Country Came. Among his most recent books is The Library at Night, also published by Yale University Press. His work has been translated into more than thirty languages."

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