Why I Read trailer

For more information, click HERE.

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Thank You

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“Why I Read” needs your support

I hope you all have enjoyed the first two segments of my “Why I Read” docu-series. It was truly a joy speaking with these women and hearing their stories about how reading has not only impacted them professionally, but personally.

I set out to create this documentary because I wanted to understand how we could change the way reading is perceived. What was once promoted as a fun and engaging act that stretched one’s imagination has become a laborious and even humiliating task for some. This docu-series is to examine what causes such harsh feelings toward reading.

As many of you may not know, I am a senior in college. I am majoring in English, and literacy has always been a strong passion of mine. I have worked as a mentor for young children throughout my college experience and they have all inspired me to search for ways to make reading more accessible and enjoyable. This docu-series is the first in that attempt.

Being a full-time college students who also juggles working to pay for housing as well as outrageously expensive textbooks ($200 for a French book) it has been financially challenging to secure all of the materials needed to make a visually appealing documentary. I was able to save and purchase a camera, but it is the lights and audio that help bring the visual aesthetic to life.

My plan is to present this docu-series in it’s entirety not only to the public, upon completion, but to the department of education. With this docu-series I hope to spark the conversation about how reading can be transitioned into something students regard with feelings of joy and wonder.

I created a gofundme to raise money for a light kit, a microphone, and a lens to help me bring a visually appealing narrative to life. If you are unable to donate, I hope that you will assist me in spreading the word about my attempt to help foster literacy and a love for reading in students across the globe.

You can find more information, as well as the first two segments by clicking HERE

Thank You,

Stephanie Fields

Why I Read — Cecilia Johnson

In this episode of “Why I Read” I spoke with Cecilia Johnson, an academic advisor, and she explains how reading is actually engaging in telepathy with the author.

Why I Read: a docu-series

Reading has always been important to me largely because I enjoy it, but as I got older I began to understand just how important literacy is for one’s life. I wanted to find a way to illustrate just how important literacy is no matter what career field you’re in, so I set off to film a docu-series about “Why I Read.” In the first episode I spoke with Gadise Regassa, a masters student at The Ohio State University, and she shared with me her views on why reading is important for mental and social liberation.

Check out her story below:

Dear Zora

Zora

I remember the first time I was confronted with your work. It was 10th grade in my suburban high school. My English teacher assigned Their Eyes Were Watching God and I’ll never forget those few weeks with that text. I’m almost ashamed of my old self and how I cringed at the vernacular you wrote in and how quick I was to reject this story as being unworthy of respect let alone analysis, but something kept me turning the page. It wasn’t until I finally finished that I sat in silence. It was a silent reverence, an adoration, an apology because at the time I had yet to read something so powerful, so honest, so visceral. You spoke to the me who only appeared at the kitchen table, at the beauty shop, at home far away from my predominately-white school. You held a mirror up to me and it reflected not the image I hoped to project to the world, but the true person I was outside of the double-dutch game of double-consciousness. It was alarming, it was uncomfortable, it was liberating.

You resurfaced again when I expressed my fear of not being able to be a writer because of my race and gender. My 12th grade teacher referenced you and your pride in your culture and gender. From that moment on my love and obsession for you grew. What a maverick you were, how fearless you were. 

Thank you for working, despite the criticism, and traveling the diaspora in order to preserve a piece of culture for young people like me who approach with reluctance and even shame from our own Eurocentric nurturing. You taught me to write from the soul and with passion. You taught me to never tuck in my vulnerabilities and flaws, but to let them hang loose and to be proud of where I come from. You taught me that my story is legitimate, worthy of respect and analysis. 

Happy Birthday and thank you for living out loud and writing it all down. 

Xoxo

– Stephanie 

How to be a close reader

I know we live in a McDonaldized world where efficiency and calculability are key, but there still remains some things best done slowly–like reading. 

We not only read for entertainment and escape, but to educate ourselves about specific topics and to gain an overall higher level of consciousness. 

It is quite difficult for one to achieve such a heighten conscience if one speeds through texts. Close reading, defined as “reading to uncover layers of meaning that lead to deep comprehension,” is the agent imperative to getting the absolute most out a text. Reading is so much more than simply glancing at the words on the page; it is a mixture of interpreting and visualizing the written word to ultimately arrive at your own ideas and criticisms.  

If you are completely McDonaldized to the point where you can’t even conceptualize how to do such a thing, here are four ways to become a close-reader:

Annotation:

Annotation is an art-form, but unlike most other art-forms it isn’t something you have to be born with. 

The Oxford Dictionary defines annotation as:

a note of explanation or comment added to a text or diagram

It is simply the act of underlining, circling, and writing in the margins of the text. Now, this doesn’t mean take your pen to town all over the book. Annotating requires your critical mind–highlight a beautiful prose, underline a symbol/theme/phrase that continues throughout the book, jot down a particular thought or connection to something you just read.

Here is an example of light annotation I’ve done in my Jane Eyre novel that I’ve read about twenty-thousand times:

Stephanie Fields's Jane Eyre annotated novel

Here’s an example of a lightly annotated page of my copy of Zadie Smith’s, White Teeth, where I used post-it notes to mark an impressive theme in that passage:

Stephanie Fields's annotated copy of Zadie Smith White Teeth

Here’s an example of two heavily annotated pages of my same copy of Jane Eyre:

Stephanie Fields's annotated copy of Jane Eyre

Your book doesn’t have to be so marked that you can’t even read the original text–you are looking for what jumps out at you as important.

Re-read

In the McDonaldized way of living we want things one-and-done. No one has time to re-do, re-view, re-vise. Unfortunately, you’ll never truly grasp the beauty or complexity of any written work if you don’t re-read.

If you don’t believe me, Valdimir Nabokove once said:

one cannot read a book: one can only reread it. A good reader, a major reader, an active and creative reader is a rereader.

It is impossible to catch everything the first time you read a text or a sentence. Initially you are trying to grasp the plot of the story–what’s happening and to whom. It isn’t until you re-read that you can begin to answer the question of why and how things take place. I often will get so caught up in the beauty of the syntax of language that I’ll reach the period and have no idea what I just read, as laborious as it may be I trek my eyes and my brain right back to the beginning of the sentence and read again for clarity.

When you’re re-reading you are looking to answer critical questions that arose after the first or second time of reading, during this process you are bound to catch something you missed before, which is what makes reading that much more active and entertaining of a sport.

Read Slowly

If I were to re-order these steps, this would definitely be number one. It is absolutely impossible to become a close reader without reading slowly.

When you whizz by a beautiful landscape, you don’t really get to appreciate the vast greenery of the land, the magic depth of the sky, or the idiosyncrasies of nature. The same is true for reading.

Close reading allows for greater understanding and appreciation of the author’s style and other rhetorical devices that help enhance the way the story is told. Reading slowly doesn’t mean reading one word at the pace of a tortoise; it simply means not glazing over the text, but reading each word carefully and deliberately.

Look Things Up

Despite what our ego may tell us, we don’t know everything. That’s where the dictionary, thesaurus, and plain old Google comes in. When you’re so engrossed in a text, it might be difficult to pause and look up a word, a phrase, or person the story refers to, but just imagine how much more fulfilling and engrossing the tale would be if you truly understood the references.

When reading closely it is always imperative to have a dictionary or cellphone near, this will also help improve your vocabulary.

Now, you don’t have to master all of these skills at once. Focus on strengthening one and soon the others will follow. Being a closer reader not only allows you to enjoy the full weight of the text, but it also aids you in making a well-thought-out, critical, engaging, and uniquely original response. As you read more closely you are strengthening your critical thinking skills and attention to details; you are also exercising your brain and keeping it stealthy enough to fight off certain conditions that affect the brain.

You can find more benefits of reading on a previous post of mine by clicking here

How have you become a more closer-er reader?