Reading, Writing, and Television: How Zombies (Can) Teach Literacy

Kyle Harley, KUWC Tutor

Book pages

© 2014

As the schoolwork begins to pile up, so, too, do the students at our virtual doors seeking writing assistance. In the past few weeks, students sought our services for general help with writing, though the evidence appears to suggest that writing need not take the blame for some of the more recent cases. After a bit of prying, the core reason why particular students struggle with writing stems from the simplest concept: they do not read.  In fact, some claim they do not have the time to do so. A few students even went on to discuss how their lack of reading blossomed from not taking interest with the text. In sum, they faced the reality of being a student, and that reality can be harsh.

In an effort to help, I compiled some of my tips and tricks that I still use to build my reading and writing skills without spending hundreds of hours trying to decide which whale Herman Melville wanted to bore the audience with next. I, too, remember the days of being a student, especially in an English department where Faulkner reigned supreme. So, my advice and deepest sympathies go out to those in search of their reading niche.

Step One: What Makes You Happiest? Read That!

I ask students this question frequently and they respond very rarely. To place myself on the examination table, I personally found the fantasy genre to be most appealing due to my obsession with gaming earlier in life—and it did not hurt that Lord of the Rings could be found in literally every theatre and bookstore on the planet. The beauty in this activity revolves around finally identifying what really grabs the attention and, furthermore, keeps the boredom at bay. Once an interest has been identified, the real fun begins.

Step Two: Look For A Book!

Visiting either a book store or a library will certainly suffice, but try entering the store with zero expectations aside from the genre of choice. Many of the folks that work at either of these establishments can help select a great starting text.  Just like with movie buffs and great films, I am a firm believer that the “locals,” or just those that have a habit of reading, tend to know the ins and outs of the textual world. Even online bookstores offer help with selecting a text through both user and professional reviews. After the search is complete, does anyone really have the time to read?

Step Three: Make The Time and Not The Excuses!

I hear this same excuse frequently, but the results rarely change. Time, in this instance, does not deserve the blame. Instead, how long is the average commercial break in this country? Six to eight minutes seems to be a rather safe bet during a thirty-minute program, and at an average of two to five pages per commercial break, the tally after one television show equates to almost a chapter or more depending on the text chosen. My method of practice remains rather simple: I always keep a book next to my table where the remote stares up at me. Almost Pavlovian, at each commercial break, I immediately take out my book, mute or pause the program, and pick up from where I left off reading. The purpose of this exercise simply revolves around continual exposure.

When I read a book that really captures my interest, reading does not seem like reading at all. Instead, reading becomes an act to look forward to, especially during some of the more boring episodes of our favorite programs. Once this barrier begins to crumble, reading really does become just as worthwhile, fulfilling, and relaxing as watching zombies our monstrous LCD screens. I call reading a “habit” because I feel that it needs to become one in order for progress to occur, so try and make the best of it! Reading and writing require a fair amount of practice, and one simple way to increase your skill level with both of these activities includes finding time to read. With the amount of downtime available, especially during our favorite activities, the blame need not be placed on the act itself any longer. Start out slowly with a text of your choice. As the act of reading becomes simpler, begin to introduce course readings into the mix at a steady pace. With enough time and practice, students, too, will see the importance in utilizing those commercial breaks wisely before the undead horde makes its way back from the advertisements of tomorrow.

Zombie eyes

© 2014

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2 Responses

  1. Kyle Harley says:

    You’re very welcome! I’ve actually been known to pick up used copies of the same book to scatter throughout the house–in fact, you can probably pick up three of four copies for under five dollars at the right location. This way I can keep all of my ducks in order, especially with some of the dense and less-than-welcoming texts that typically induce nightmares! Take it slow and see how much more you can accomplish in just one week 🙂

  2. Kyle, I just loved your post. I usually sit lazily by staring at the muted TV during the commercials with a hundred books lying quietly on the shelves! From now on I am going to keep one of my books by my seat in the living room. I keep on in the bathroom which I read daily…this tip will quadruple my reading time! Thanks

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