(Books taught me how to think and thought made me free)
From Evelyn:This entry is dedicated to the young people who participated in the reading workshops during the research project in Mexico – some of whom are also readers of this blog. The majority finish their Secondary education and will go on to ‘Preparatory’ or ‘High School’. Some of them told us they want to continue their studies at university and were already finding out about the different possibilities; in fact, one young woman was leaving her town to continue her studies in Mexico City in order to apply to the National University (UNAM). Via this blog entry, we want to thank them all for participating in the activities and for sharing some of their reading life with us. We were conscious at all times that, although reading is embedded in social practices, the act of reading is an intimate act and that our questions infringed this intimacy, but our intention was to do so always with respect and appreciation and we are moved that the readers wanted to share with us both tears and laughter (and the occasional rude joke!). We learnt a lot about what they look for in their reading, what they expect from a text; about how they relate to fictional characters, about the way they interpret images and words, about their perspective on the use of digital technologies and reading and also about their sadness, fears, anxieties, hopes and dreams.
We thus also want to wish them the best for their future.
We hope that these workshops were useful. We are encouraged by the some of the students’ words in the project evaluation:
Maribel: What I liked best about the workshop was, well, all those talks we had, it was really fun to come to talk about things that I can’t talk to all my other schoolmates about, well, because they say we are crazy…
Mario: It’s because it is not usual to talk about reading with schoolmates.
Natalia: … you felt like confident to speak to everyone and everyone shared what they felt and when you felt something different from the others, well you would start to reflect…
They also passed on their enthusiasm to others:
Edgardo: … we have a schoolmate called Carlos and he asked us to borrow the book because he was also interested. He doesn’t read at all, he doesn’t read at all and with that book he started reading. He started to read it and he really liked that book.
But these young people are not only readers, some of these students also shared their creative writing with us, they told us about the poems, stories and even novels. One young man spoke to us about the poetry he writes and how it had allowed him to understand others, and himself, better:
One day I made a poem, I was very sad that day. One of my schoolmates took my notebook and began to read it. He said he felt almost the same thing that I had set down in that poem and at that moment I thought, ‘what I feel, other people also feel’, but sometimes it is hard for us to express what we feel.
This is an important motivation to keep writing, we hope that both he and the others will continue with these creative activities, perhaps one day we will find ourselves in another workshop with students, reading their published work! Thinking of these and other shared words, Laura and I were reminded of some of the letters written ‘to a young poet’ by the Rainer Maria Rilke and so we would like to leave them with some words inspired by this great poet.
When we are young, we hear many words of counsel and recommendation, it is the time in which the adults around us, especially family and teachers, want to share their experiences and for us to learn from their errors. This objective is not always fulfilled but the good wishes remain, the words are there to represent the interest or affection of others. Sometimes, when we confront a problem, we remember what our grandmother or mother or a good head teacher said to us. Sometimes, these words reach our hearts to change our way of seeing the world or they stop our footsteps and they make us think about ourselves and what we really want for ourselves. Sometimes, these words are kept with affection and we return to them to share with others.
Similarly, when we were young, we read a collection of letters that moved and enlightened us, Letters to a Young Poet by Rainer Maria Rilke. They inspired us to talk to you, vital readers of stories, thoughts, news and poems; restless spirits that populate the world of effort and work, of dreams and parties, of friends and solitude. To you, who walk through the streets making sense of the signs that others transmit, young people who accompanied us through hot afternoons or warm mornings, who looked at the books with astonished eyes, curiosity and desire, whom we would have liked to get to know more and better, who we listened to, we talked to and who we shall remember with affection.
Reading, dear students, is not a simple habit or pleasure, you already know that. Reading demands complicity, we must immerse ourselves in the atmosphere, listen to the voices and attend to the narrator to live, within the shoes of others, the battles, the love, the doubts and the betrayals that adventure novels distil; the place of refuge from what goes on around us, where our hearts beat quickly, full of desire or anguish. There will be some who want to stop our reading, who do not understand the dangers we confront together with the protagonists. Distracted or angry, we will have to wait and the world of the story will be suspended until the next moment of solitude shared only with the text. At that moment, the memories of what we’ve read will return and we will continue those parallel lives which enrich our own.
The love of reading is something that can be transmitted but it is not something that can be imposed and it is a lot of fun to find another person who shares our delight or who has read the same books. Don’t be disheartened when you don’t have anyone with whom to talk about your texts, you can tell the story in your own words to others, revive it for them, let that spark lit by the joy of it move to another heart.
The books are there, there are many places for them, don’t come to a standstill, there are virtual libraries, second-hand books, libraries which are worth traveling to, there are books in your neighbours’’ or relative’s houses, in your new school, in the street, in libraries. There are books for every taste and there are books that are waiting to be written, poems that wish to be born to express their ideas, sentiments or desires and there are stories that project them or dreams that can write them.
In the same way that the young participants will continue on their paths, this blog will follow its own, at least until the end of 2015. We are motivated by the number of visits the blog has had, between the Spanish and English sites, almost 4000, with readers from Uruguay to Canada and from Ukraine to Australia. We will be writing further about the analysis and the results of the research and we have several invited ‘bloggers’ who have promised us entries about reading practices of young people in Canada, Lebanon and also about Mexican adolescents reading about migration, among other themes.
For the moment, we wish our readers a good summer and we will take some well-deserved holidays until the end of August when the blog will resume.
Evelyn and Laura