Traditionally reading has been thought of as a very solitary occupation. People who read are often thought of as loners, not willing to socialise. But, I wonder, how did this idea come about and is it true?
Well, firstly, if you're reading this blog and considering commenting then you're showing that reading can be social. In fact, to some extent, early reading had to be social. You only have to look to the bible to see that it was once normal to read out loud:
"Then Philip ran up to the chariot and heard the man reading Isaiah the prophet. “Do you understand what you are reading?” Philip asked."
Acts 8 v30 from NIV
This is not surprising, since before written word stories and traditions were handed down by word of mouth. And if you're reading out loud then it can only be a solitary occupation if you're doing it in a room on your own.
This is not naturally how we read! As a child, you will have learnt to read by listening to others. You may have share a story with a parent, guardian, or teaching. And then you will have read it out loud back to them. Of course, there would have come a time when you were asked to read quietly to yourself, but this is a much harder skill and something that is not an ingrained ability.
And yet, many adults (and older children) do spend a lot of time reading alone. I don't know about you, but I can find it very hard to concentrate on a book in a busy place. And reading quietly in a busy place can seen anti-social (although no more than listening to your MP3 player through headphones). Yet, if you were to share your reading out-loud I wonder how many people would truly appreciate it?
Book groups can be a sort of communal reading. Most of them involve people reading the same book and then getting together to discuss it. In this was you may not be 'hearing' the words at exactly the same time but you are sharing the overall experience with others. Goodreads, librarything, and other similar sites also encourage this.
One step further is the possibilities offered by sites such as twitter (and I suppose, in theory Skype or real-world communications could be used this way as well) is for discussion about a book as you read it. This seems to be common for television programmes, so why not books as well?
I guess what I'm saying is that reading can be as social or lone an occupation as you want it to be.
So what do you make of it?