Monday, March 09, 2009

What Does it Mean?

As a writer and reader, I spend a lot of time with words. Lately I've been thinking about those words and how we use them--to get across a meaning, describe an object, express a feeling. We use words in so many ways, but are we really saying what we think we're saying?

Words are tools, but they're not like hammers. They're much more flexible than that. A hammer is a hammer, no matter who is holding it. But words, they often take new shape depending on who hears (or reads) them. Words are constructs we've created to help us express ourselves more concretely. They're limited, however, by the understanding that the hearer or reader brings to them.

Take the word "pencil" for instance. When I write pencil, I have a specific idea of what that word represents (yellow, wooden stick with graphite in the center). You may have another (mechanical plastic stick with refillable lead compartment). "Couch" is another good example. When I hear the word couch, I attach the characteristics "soft", "plush", and "over-sized" to it. Someone else might picture a stiff, firm Victorian-style seat.

Realizing that such seemingly simple words can be misinterpreted or misunderstood, I'm beginning to wonder how we've managed to communicate anything over the centuries and eons that our language has developed. Each of us carries our own experiences, fears, knowledge and understanding to every word we hear, read or speak. How can we ever agree on abstract concepts like "God" or "peace" or "time," when "couch" and "pencil" aren't as concrete as we may think?

Monday, March 02, 2009

It's National Reading Day

March 2nd is National Reading Day, otherwise known as Read Across America. It's also Dr. Seuss's birthday. This is not a coincidence, either. Turns out the National Education Association planned it that way.

The goal of Read Across America is to motivate children to read and to help them improve their reading skills.

Motivating children to read is an important factor in student achievement and creating lifelong successful readers. Research has shown that children who are motivated and spend more time reading do better in school.
As you all know, I'm a book-lover through and through. And I love sharing books with the kids in my life. I'm the Aunt/Sister/Daughter who always gives books as gifts. I want everyone to love reading as much as I do. As much as I can, I especially try to share my love of books with my nephews and nieces. Unfortunately, they're all too far to read with on a regular basis. Today I might just have to call a few of them and read together over the phone.

Who will you read with today?

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