I have a few pet peeves, as do most people. I don’t care for animals wearing people clothes, when people underline and write in the margins of books, mimes. But the pet peeve that sends me over the edge and causes my friends and family to quietly back out of the room is one that was recently printed in the local paper: “Find Time for Reading with Books on CD.” Now don’t get me wrong, I love audio books. I’m listening to An Arsonist’s Guide to Writers’ Homes in New England by Brock Clarke right now. However, if there hadn’t been a waiting list at the library, I would be reading it. See what I mean—two very different things.
I love language—written, spoken—it doesn’t matter. Maybe it stems from the struggles I had when first trying to learn to read. I remember the other children in my classroom talking about the book we’d been instructed to read and feeling left out because I had only acted like I was reading. I couldn’t seem to link the words together and make any sense of them as a whole. After going to a tutor, the concept clicked and a whole new world opened up for me. I read everything I saw, and still do. So when I hear people playing loose with the language, the part of me that knows the importance of words wants to hand out dictionaries and demand they be used—religiously.
Researchers at Carnegie Mellon found that, “Listening requires much more processing as well as more memory resources than when processing written text. That is, spoken words are only available for a shorter period of time and are held briefly in temporary memory storages. In contrast, when reading, a person can control how fast he/she processes the words; and written words can be considered an ‘external memory’ because the text can be re-read.” An ‘external memory’—what a beautiful phrase.
When listening to an audio book, you have the freedom to drive, make dinner, write a blog. But reading itself is an active experience; the process of sliding your eyes across each word, linking them into sentences, and those into paragraphs, well, you get the picture. Both listening and reading are important, but they’re not the same. I know it’s just semantics, but isn’t everything? Saying you read a book you listened to is equivalent to someone saying they made dinner and carrying in a pizza box from the place down the street. You still get to eat, but it wasn’t homemade, now was it?