Friday, September 16, 2011

Readers (Book Blogger Appreciation Week 2011)

Book bloggers blog because we love reading. Has book blogging changed the way you read? Have you discovered books you never would have apart from book blogging? How has book blogging affected your book acquisition habits? Have you made new connections with other readers because of book blogging? Choose any one of these topics and share your thoughts today!
I know that this was yesterday's topic, but I wasn't by a computer yesterday, and I think I'll have more to say about yesterday's topic than today's topic, which is about tips and techniques of blogging. (Hah! My appalling lack of perspective ability prevents me from ever writing coherent "how to" guides.) The reading-related topic I want to discuss is:

Can blogging improve critical reading and thinking skills?

Reading is great. Read whatever--literary classics, magazines, graphic novels, manga--just read. Studies have preliminary findings that show that reading while young is correlated to eventual career success. Reading broadens minds and stretches our ability to think innovatively... but I'm going to go one step further and say that blogging about books actually further increases our critical reading skills.

Back in high school, before I started blogging, I considered myself a fairly well-read person, and my grades and writing skills seemed to reflect that. I had been writing reviews before I started blogging as well. But not long after I started blogging, I could already see the definite improvement in my ability to write about books and book-related topics. My reviews went from summary-heavy to now covering a broader range of concerns that I, as a reader and aspiring writer, care about. As I kept on blogging, I found that I had more and more to say about book-related topics that I never even knew I had thoughts about, from accurate representation of diversity on book covers to financially successful but overdone YA characteristics.

Blogging increased my reading quantity only slightly, but it was, in fact, this constant and prolonged "critical distance" from books I had once devoured purely for escapist entertainment that improved my critical reading skills. I can now articulate why I liked or didn't like a book. I can better talk about books with others, and am thus more convincing as I try to persuade acquaintances to pick up certain books that I loved.

I'm thinking about this mostly because I have vague but determined plans to start a book club for my students at my job after the college application season, and the more that I think about it, the more I truly believe that blogging--having a public outlet for talking about books--can be extremely important to the development of one's critical reading skills. At my job, I work with some of China's smartest students: they effortlessly score 800s on the Math section of the SAT but struggle heavily with Critical Reading, a fact that is unsurprising for international students. My hope is that if I can introduce a consistent blogging habit among my students that they will be able to practice their critical reading skills and therefore improve not only their SAT scores but also their academic successes. Of course, this doesn't just apply to Chinese students: I'd be curious to see if blogging and other similar forms of new and more informal written literacy can benefit all sorts of students who are considered weaker in their reading and writing abilities.

Hmm... dissertation ideas, dissertation ideas... :)


  1. "But not long after I started blogging, I could already see the definite improvement in my ability to write about books and book-related topics. My reviews went from summary-heavy to now covering a broader range of concerns that I, as a reader and aspiring writer, care about."

    I really like how you articulated this, because I've found this to be true for myself as well. Even though I majored in English in college and spent plenty of time reading critically for classes, it wasn't until I started my book blog that I approached "pleasure reading" in the same way and I do think it's made me a better reader overall.

  2. Very thoughtful post -- I enjoyed reading your argument! As I think about it, I've noticed blogging has made me more able to talk about books in an intelligent way, too. I've begun to dig into them instead of just reading, to think (and then write) about why I enjoyed or didn't enjoy something, what confused me or rubbed me the wrong way, and so forth. There's definitely room for me to go deeper, and I love that I have a forum to do that with!

  3. I partially started my blog to help keep my lit skills in practice between essays.

  4. I've found that just with reviewing - I started reviewing my books on a couple years ago, and articulating _why_ I liked a book makes me think about it more, and more deeply. I've been thinking about starting a blog as well...this encourages me.

  5. Many studies have shown that reading improves writing, and writing improves reading, so what you are saying makes perfect sense. Writing, for me and many others, I'm sure, helps me remember what I read. That's why in school we take notes on what we read (or hear). Great thoughts. Blogging is great - but really, any type of writing about what we read is great. Summarizing articles, reviewing books, it all helps.


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