A candid and personal examination of the Philippine comics scene from a social, cultural, economic and business point of view.

Monday, February 06, 2006

The Meaning of Reading

I would like to share this letter sent to, and published by, the Philippine Daily Inquirer (July 6, 2005 issue). The letter is from Mr. Pedro G. Orille, President of the Agoo Senior Citizen Association, Senior Citizens Center, Rizal Park Compound, Agoo, La Union 2504. Mr. Orille's letter is titled: "Key to making pupils really read".

I am sharing this because of its relevance to the issue being discussed in this blog about raising the level of literacy in our country, which is crucial to reviving a local comics industry.

Reading comics is different from reading plain text. A point which was eloquently essayed by the late Will Eisner in his book, "Comics and Sequential Art". Citing educational authorities, Eisner posited the notion that the unique medium of comics entices the reader to read more than just plain text appearing in the comics panel.

Rather, this deliberate juxtaposition of images and symbols induces the same reader to comprehend their representational meaning by comparing it to said reader's experiences. In other words, how these images and symbols are organized in the comics page, supplement rather than hinder, the meaning being expressed or conveyed in the plain text of the comics panel such that increased and immediate comprehension results. Eisner compared comics reading to map, chart or statistical reading in that though there is a sparsity of written text, the information is nevertheless conveyed in full by the combination of images and symbols used and comprehended by the reader. If comics works are aimed to help elevate the literacy level of our populace, such an excigency demands that the visual storyteller be a thoroughly knowledgeable person of symbols, their meanings, the written word, and a host of other disciplines, and not confine himself to mere knowledge of "art".

Even so, the following article would prove useful to visual storytellers seeking to improve the comics medium:

"Declining readership, as observed by Belinda A. Aquino in her column (PDI 6/5/05), is a carryover of the kind of teaching done in the primary and secondary levels. Basically, all subjects are reading subjects. The poor grades in English, Math and Science can be attributed, therefore, to the poor reading ability of the students due to the ineffective way reading is taught.

One must know the nature of reading to teach pupils to read effectively. Reading is expressed in two related concepts: (1) reading is a series of complex proceses involving a variety of activities; (2) the reading performance of the individual is influenced by personal factors--physical, emotional, mental and social.

The crux of reading is expressed in the first concept. The series is made up of (1) recognition, (2) comprehension, (3) reaction and (4) integration. When these four reading skills or dimensions are fully covered in the teaching, good readership is enhanced.

Let me illustrate by using this line from the INQUIRER: "Who can argue against P35 billion profit?"

If this line is flashed to anyone to be read and it is indeed read, it can be said that the one who read it can recognize the printed page. This is the initial skill of recognition. Good readership does not end here. It should move on to the next dimension.

Comprehension. This means the ability to read above, between and below the lines. It involves analysis, the ability to draw meanings from the sentence. What ideas, information or situation can be inferred from the statement?

In the example, the following can be drawn: the President does not like to dismiss the present manager; she is politically indebted; more anomalies might be brought out if the manager is removed from office. These ideas are gleaned through comprehension. From here, the reading skill should proceed to the third dimension--reaction.

Reaction follows easily if comprehension is developed. It may take the form of rejecting, accepting or believing the ideas, implied or expressed, to be true, feasible or applicable in one's daily life. The fourth and last skill or dimension is integrating the meaning of the selection into one's behavior, activities and thinking. This series of complex menial processes should be fully developed to produce good readers. Aside from the materials used, personal factors such as health, mental, emotional and social should be considered.

If effective readers could be produced by diligently observing the nature of reading in teaching, the educational standard in the school could be improved. The teacher is the key to this. Books, chairs, good rooms and complete school facilities all contribute to make the environment conducive to learning, but only the teacher can provide the needed stimulus to make the pupils react and respond. One learns by doing."


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