Archive for November, 2013

Libraries, Reading and Day-Dreaming

Author Neil Gaiman gave a lecture on October 15th as part of The Reading Agency annual lectures about the importance of libraries, reading and day-dreaming.

In order to raise literacy in children, they need to know that reading is good. If a parent takes away a book because s/he considers it a ‘bad book’ then the child will believe that reading is frowned upon. In addition to having access to books, children need to read what they want to, not what you give them.  As Gaiman puts it, “A hackneyed, worn-out idea isn’t hackneyed and worn out to them…Do not discourage children from reading because you feel they are reading the wrong thing.”

“But libraries are about freedom. Freedom to read, freedom of ideas, freedom of communication.”

A library is the home of all information. From history to maps and fiction, libraries serve as a place where information is at your fingertips. With the rise of internet and computer use, libraries give the opportunity to use their computers and internet access for free. Some places around the world do not see the importance of libraries which results in closing them.  As a reader, I can only hope that libraries will not lose their place in the literate world.

Fiction has let the reader use their imagination when reading. Readers create the images, smells, etc. that the author has described. Without fiction, and books in general, our imaginations will not be fully developed or even existent. It seems as if the world’s imagination has lessened. While TV and movies provide some escape, it does not compare to the experience one gets while reading. Gaiman states that “Fiction can show you a different world. It can take you somewhere you’ve never been. Once you’ve visited other worlds, like those who ate fairy fruit, you can never be entirely content with the world that you grew up in. Discontent is a good thing: discontented people can modify and improve their worlds, leave them better, leave them different.” Imagination is a great attribute a person can possess.

I highly recommend reading his brilliant lecture.

Published in:Lauren McManus |on November 22nd, 2013 |No Comments »

Oh, that is where the phrase came from!

The origins of expressions and phrases used every day are not given much thought. Haven’t you ever wondered how the English-speaking world came to use these phrases?

Here are the histories of just a few common phrases.

“Blood is thicker than water”

Although this phrase implies the importance of familial bonds, the original phrase was actually “The blood of the covenant is far stronger than the water of the womb.” It has been suggested that the nobility changed the phrase to emphasize the importance of bloodlines.

“Cat got your tongue”

When a witty comeback fails to enter your mind, your loss of words are compared to a cat getting your tongue. According to author, Albert Jack, “having your tongue cut out and fed to cats was the punishment for liars during medieval times. Because ancient Egyptian cats were considered gods, this act was seen as a human offering to the gods.”

“To bite the dust”

We’ve all heard Queen’s hit “Another One Bites the Dust,” but did Queen know where the phrase came from? Interestingly enough, this phrase dates back 850 years before the Bible. In Homer’s The Iliad, soldiers, fighting in the Trojan War, are described dying with their faces in the dirt as if they were ‘biting the dust’.

“Wear your heart on your sleeve”

It is commonly known that “to wear your heart on your sleeve” refers to someone who openly shows their emotions and affections. This phrase originated in the Middle Ages when knights, who battled for honor, were given tokens of a lady’s affection. The lady would present the knight with the token, such as a handkerchief, as a sign she “gave her heart” to him. The knight would then put the token on his sleeve for everyone to see.

If you would like to learn more about the origins of common phrases, Albert Jack has published many books that are an interesting read. You can visit his website to explore more.

Published in:Lauren McManus |on November 14th, 2013 |No Comments »

E-reader vs. Paperback

I recently read an article on Scientific American pertaining to how technology has changed the way we read. With the invention of e-readers such as Kindle, Nook and the iPad, people are forgoing the classic paperback novel and using e-readers. E-readers have many advantages, such as holding multiple books without the bulkiness that comes with paper.

Avid readers may enjoy using e-readers while others prefer paper. There are many who vow to never use an e-reader because it takes away the physical and emotional aspect of reading a paper book. The act of turning pages, annotating in the margins, folding a corner of your favorite part, the smell of fresh pages, etc. are the pleasures of paperbacks.

The evolution of technology has allowed e-books to make up “more than 20% of all books sold to the public.” This increase raises questions as to what will happen to the publication industry. More revenue will be gained by publishing e-books, but what will happen to physical books? When asked this question, some have said that there will still be paperbacks, but we really don’t know what will happen.

Technology has vastly changed the world in many ways. The internet can give you the entire synopsis of a book and you don’t have to pick up the book let alone read it. You can even take classes online. While some of the advantages of technology are great, some take away the physicality of actions. Using an e-reader to find and download a book does not give you the same experience as going into a bookstore or library and using the Dewey Decimal System or just perusing until you find the book you need. Coming across new books when looking for something else is an exciting experience.

It has also been shown that e-readers do not give the mind the same experience as paperbacks. “Despite all the increasingly user-friendly and popular technology, most studies published since the early 1990s confirm earlier conclusions: paper still has advantages over screens as a reading medium. Together laboratory experiments, polls and consumer reports indicate that digital devices prevent people from efficiently navigating long texts, which may subtly inhibit reading comprehension. Compared with paper, screens may also drain more of our mental resources while we are reading and make it a little harder to remember what we read when we are done. Whether they realize it or not, people often approach computers and tablets with a state of mind less conducive to learning than the one they bring to paper. And e-readers fail to re-create certain tactile experiences of reading on paper, the absence of which some find unsettling.” With this being said, many students use e-readers to carry their textbooks. If students were to be ‘old school’ and use the physical textbook, there could be a rise in academic performance. The lack of focus when using e-readers leads to just looking at the words on the page as opposed to reading and understanding the text.

As someone who has read on an e-reader, I still prefer paperbacks. There is nothing that an e-reader can have that will persuade me otherwise.

Are you team e-reader or team paperback?

Published in:Lauren McManus |on November 7th, 2013 |No Comments »