I read. I read a lot. In fact, I resolved in 2011 to keep track of just how much I read. I have three categories of books that I keep track of, the first being “Personal/Leisure Reading.” These are the books that I read to feed my own need for personal growth and enjoyment and include titles like How to Hug a Porcupine and The Gift of an Ordinary Day. Since January 1, I have read 15 books in this category.

The second category that I keep track of is “Professional Reading.” This is the stuff I read to become better at my job. My most recent finishes include titles like Deeper Reading by Kelly Gallagher and Brain Rules by John Medina. So far this year, I’ve completed 12 of these kinds of books.

And the third category of reading that I keep track of is “Children’s Books.” In the same way that professional books keep me at the top of my game, so too do picture books, young adult novels, and everything that qualifies for the juvenile section of the public library. These books don’t usually take that long to read and so far this year, I have read 80 different titles.

When I add up all of this reading, I have read 105 books…but what this doesn’t reflect is the hours I have spent reading my favorite magazine (People!), and reading the newspaper, and visiting my favorite blogs and reading articles online. I didn’t know how to quantify that reading, therefore didn’t “count” it on the list I’ve been keeping, but I wonder now: because I didn’t “count” it, does it not “count”?

I ask this question for a reason. The New York Times recently published an interesting essay by Robert Lipsyte titled Boys and Reading: Is There any Hope? In this article, Lipsyte explored what turns boys into readers and began to question curriculums that favor fiction over non-fiction. As a mother of boys, one of whom is a very reluctant reader, I thought hard about this and conversed over facebook with other parents and colleagues who deal with reluctant boy readers all the time and as I talked about this, I had a disturbing revelation: I suffer from an affliction that prevents me from giving fair value to online reading.

Let me explain. When I add up what my son Matthew has read over the summer, the tally includes The Tales of Beetle and Bard and the first 350 pages of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, both by JK Rowling. Keeping him reading, or I should say, keeping him reading books, has felt like a full-time job. But if I were to count the hours he has spent surfing the net, stopping by his favorite spots like Poptropica, Club Penguin, and Lego to read blogs and product reviews and descriptions, I wouldn’t be expressing such frustration, because he’s actually done quite a lot of that kind of reading.

But in the same way I didn’t count my online reading on my own list, I find myself devaluing his Internet endeavors as well. When I talk to him about his summer reading, I speak as if reading Harry Potter is more important and more “real” than that blog that talked about Kre-O overtaking Lego in the brick building market.

So my question to you is this: as you sit here reading this blog, are you really reading? Or do you consider it “fake” reading? Is my son really reading when he’s hanging out online? In your measures of reading volume, will you “count” Internet reading? And if you will, how will you honor and keep track of this category of reading unique to the modern age?

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Comment by Patricia Castine on September 18, 2011 at 5:17pm
Interesting Kim. I have the same categories and I find myself revisiting your ending question often. The Internet reading is done often and I am sure I de-value it, yet it is reading. How do we assess it's effect and contribution to student's learning? It is a new area to think about and study. Does it foster or hinder higher order thinking?

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