DEC Scan Journal : February 2012
high genres of the past have room to accommodate the new and evolving literary styles. If consuming literature is compared with eating a meal, instead of being offered only one large main course of printed-paper texts, readers are now provided with a smorgasbord of reading material. Those willing to try, can taste, savour, nibble, or devour the many different bibliographic delights, and for versatile readers this is a most flavoursome and enriching experience. While some bibliophiles may lament a shift from the sovereignty of the printed book and feel uncomfort- able about accommodating a range of digital upstarts, it is important to see this change in terms of the bigger picture. In A history of reading, Alberto Manguel (1996) traces the development of books from ancient Mesopotamian stone tablets, through scrolls, manuscripts and codices, to bound printed pages. Mass produced printed books have existed for less than 500 of the 50 000 plus years of the human story, and these printed texts are themselves the result of a revolutionary shift in technology. As books became cheaper and plentiful, readership increased dramatically. Technology in the 21st century is once again cultivating a monumental shift in the nature of reading. I ... confidently rely on the ability of computerized services to hunt through libraries vaster than Alexandria's for a remote piece of information, and my word-processor can access all manner of books. Manguel (1996, p. 61) Reading is perhaps the most significant learned skill humans can achieve. In tracing the biological devel- opment of the human reading brain Maryanne Wolf claims, Biologically and intellectually, reading allows the species to go beyond the information given to create endless thoughts most beautiful and wonderful. We must not lose this essential quality in our present moment of historical transition to new ways of acquiring, processing, and comprehending information. Wolf (2008, pp. 16--17) The ability to read is indeed remarkable and it is important to be able to learn and develop different reading strategies for different formats. As Margaret Atwood notes, ... not so long ago, those who could read were few. They had a rare skill, and what they did -- staring at odd-shaped marks and reeling off a message written by someone far away -- was regarded with awe. Atwood (2002, p. 46) A feast for the eyes and the senses Considering reading in a broad sense leads to a greater recognition of the sumptuous feast on offer in today's world for readers. As Figure 1 suggests, reading is more than merely decoding symbols. It involves making meaning and having the skills to analyse, evaluate and critique the intent embedded in the presentation of symbols in a particular manner and for a particular purpose. In a contemporary understanding, reading presumes a combined reading and viewing approach. This is recognised in the delineation of literacy in the Australian Curriculum. The Board of Studies NSW Glossary for the English Years 7--10 syllabus also recog- nises this, and offers among the most recent definitions for related concepts provided by an education authority, while we await the glossary from the Australian Curriculum Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA). For example, the Board of Studies NSW definition of Language modes illuminates some key interdependencies: Emerging discussion about transliteracy, considers the importance of the ability to read, write and interact across a range of platforms (S. Thomas et al). Volume 31, February 2012 19 Figure 1 Reading process Language modes: Listening, speaking, reading, writing, viewing and representing. These modes are often integrated and interdependent activities used in responding to and composing texts in order to shape meaning. It is important to realise that: • any combination of the modes may be involved in responding to or composing print, sound, visual or multimedia texts • the refinement of the skills in any one of the modes develops skills in the others. Students need to build on their skills in all language modes.