"Books taught me to think and thought set me free" (quote attributed to the Spanish writer Ricardo León, 1877-1943)
Texts and reading continue, and will continue, to transform themselves and transforming readers but we have reached the end of a stage for this blog. It emerged as a space for reflecting and sharing, both in English and in Spanish, on our research process for the project Reading Changes: Adolescents, Young Adult Literature and Literacy Practices in Mexico. We also invited other researchers with similar projects to participate in the blog and in this way to discover links to other worlds and possibilities.
Now we have reached the end of this process and it is only left to us to publish some of the project results in more detail (which we will reference later through this blog). One of these will be in an edited book that will bring together chapters from some of our guests and which we hope will be out in 2017.
But please don’t abandon us! We have decided to transform this blog … more information in our next entry, so “watch this space”…
However, before starting a “new epoch”, Laura and I would like to close this blog with thanking all the participants: first, the young people and their teachers who welcomed us into their schools and accepted our invitation, especially to Silvia Reyes because without her support, in both 1992 and 2014, the project would have not been possible. Secondly, we are grateful to our research assistants, Carolina González Alvardo y Jocelyn Silva at the beginning and Áurea Xaydé Esquivel Flores and Cutzi L.M. Quezada Pichardo towards the end, for their work and enthusiasm.
We are also grateful to the guests who shared their research with us at various stages: Osman Coban, Alejandro Aguilar Mayorga, Erin Spring, Lucia Cedeira Serantes, Mireia Manresa, Nayla Aramouni and Alberto Bolaños Montealegre. Finally, we thank our readers who, according to statistics, have visited this blog more than 15,000 times, from Chile to Ukraine, including Austria, the Philippines, India and other countries.
I asked some of those who accompanied us throughout the last two years to reply to a question: What did it mean to you to participate in the project on reading workshops about changes in reading among young people in Mexico?
With their words we close this stage ending with the voice of the youngest of them, Xiadani, to whom we are particularly grateful because she reminds us of the reason why one begins research on young people and reading in the first place. (EA)
Dr Laura Guerrero, PhD Modern Literature, lecturer and researcher in the Dept of Literature, Universidad Iberoamericana, Mexico City
Time has passed quickly, this sensation of fleetingness that accompanies human beings every time we finish a stage or project, especially if it was a time of discovery, of enrichment and camaraderie just as it was throughout my participation in this study. I have worked on children’s literature for many years and I had always had a desire to engage in research that brought me closer to real readers, to our Mexican youth, to know more about them, far from impersonal surveys, preconceived ideas or prejudices. When Evelyn Arizpe invited me to collaborate with her it was sensational, I was going to fulfil that dream, supported by an experienced researcher who had worked internationally on this topic. Also, we were going to work on some of the issues around reading that challenged our adolescents and we would look for some ideas for possible solutions. It was in this way that I entered into the empirical study of reading which has definitely benefitted my work with a renewed comprehension. We began the blog “Reading Changes” on 17 September 2014 in order to briefly reflect on the work of the reading sessions with the research process as it happened and to share this exercise with our readers in both English and Spanish. This initial objective soon gave way to another important one, to offer a space to other similar experiences with different visions or perspectives. The success of the blog has given us great pleasure. Having reached our central aims, we now turn to the exercise of synthesis that will occupy other spaces in articles or books.
Now that we close this stage, I’d like to say that it was very important to have lived through the process of the workshops: the research design, the team meetings, the translation of materials, the review of the surveys, the selection of texts, the preparation of the sessions, the pursuit of the hermeneutic process, as well as the mistakes, the unexpected, the support of the authorities, the trust on the part of the students, their participation, their interest in reading, their social or familial problems, their needs, their intelligence, their enormous capacity to dream and imagine possible worlds. I was part of a search process, in a full hermeneutic cycle of self-reflection I understand and interpret that literary art is life and goes beyond the school curriculum.
Silvia Reyes, Teacher and Sub-director, Escuela Secundaria No.1 Profesor Froylán Parroquín García:
Reading and writing is a therapy, to express all that one thinks and one feels. To manifest in public personal joys, sadness and above all to share the emotions that these activities produce. In this panorama, it only a case of being loyal to oneself and of sharing with wisdom an ideal, a dream that can become reality, in the possibility of reaching a common accord, an interest, and to act according to principles and habits which are thoughtfully integrated. The love of reading and the individual and collective improvement produced by sharing all those emotions, that is the ideal that was behind the workshops for “Reading Changes” which were carried out in a school in an adverse social context.
It is a constant learning, it is a commitment with which I have been struggling for a long time, since my first engagement with the issue of reading, the desire to provoke bewilderment among young readers, courage, a craving to keep reading. To succeed in having young people read, that they become interested in the subjective in a story, in comics and their anecdotes, in the picturebook: that aim of the workshop was reached. The participant students succeeded in lighting their reading fire and they shared their feelings about reading. So we move forward, because the road is arid and discouraging, because we are scared to fumble, give me your hand and let’s go… together we will get there. Thank you Evelyn and Laura and all those who participated in this project, thank you.
Carolina González Alvarado, Research Assistant, PhD student, Universidad Iberoamericana, Mexico City:
The work as a research assistant on this project was for me a profoundly rich experience of learning and development. The fieldwork allowed me to directly spend time with the young readers and delve into the influence of national political and social reality in the process of reading reception. On the other hand, the collaboration with expert researchers in the field of children’s literature widened my knowledge in the area but above all, gave me the opportunity to learn from their experience and professionalism. This project taught me that through continuous effort, disposition and humility, it is possible to work in a team and create a shared dialogue where the exchange of experiences, perspectives and points of view contributed to the creation of knowledge.
Alberto Bolaños Montealegre, specialist in second language teaching, Spain
“Transformaciones lectoras” and its English version, “Reading Changes”, has been a very interesting initiative for everyone who asks themelves what sort of attraction reading and the book can have for contemporary youth, constantly surrounded by screens and with immediate access to technologies such as Internet, videogames or social media.
As all the different contributions to the blog have shown us during these months, the act of reading goes further than the simple act of decoding words printed on paper. Books tell stories. Stories with which, to a greater or lesser degree, young (and not so young) people identify with and through which we not only learn about human beings but we also develop our own interpretation of the world and the reality in which we live.
We have also been able to observe how, in addition, the act of reading is not an act that is indifferent to the changes and social innovations that arise over time. The different contributions to the blog have shown us how reading is influenced by actual issues such as the new technologies and Internet, hybrid reading forms between word and image such as the comic and the graphic novel, or by themes that are so present in the lives of young people today such as sexuality, migration or politics. This shows us the flexibility of reading and the capacity it has to adapt to the needs of each moment.
At a personal level, it has been very interesting for me to contribute to the blog with my two entries on young adult fantasy literature and education (First and second part). This project has not only given me the opportunity to disseminate my research on this theme but it has also provided a pleasurable first experience in the wee world of blogs [Note to Alberto: I thought the Scottish word fitted in best here – and given your time in Scotland, it seemed apt! EA].
For all of this, I cannot but congratulate Evelyn Arizpe and Laura Guerrero for this initiative that has brought together teachers, professors, readers and researchers with the intention of coming closer to reading from different perspectives and understanding a bit more the fundamental role that reading continues to have, even in such a technological and high speed age as the 21st century.
Xiadani Guadalupe Cabrera Salvitano, Secondary School graduate, 15 years old
This workshop gave me a great happiness because they gave some of us young people the opportunity to participate in reading activities which taught us to be analytical and not just say “no, maybe, I don’t know…” It was interesting to see the context of the reading, what was the message, what is it that the author really wanted to communicate. They also shows us that not all books “with pictures” are for little children, but that different types of books exist and they all have good things about them. It also pleases me that they could facilitate such good texts because one doesn’t always have the opportunity to read things like that, therefore this workshop gave us, in short, the opportunity to open our minds and see beyond what we have, look for new things and be analytic.
I believe that more workshops like this should be done with all students but do it with things that really attract young people’s attention because many times they are given things to read that do not interest them or don’t attract them and then the young people don’t even give themselves the time to take the books and read even the first page to see if they are going to like it.
I am very interested because they knew how to choose the books because some of us were not used to this type of reading and they succeeded in getting us all to read them.
I am very grateful to Dr Evelyn and Dr Laura for having given me the opportunity to participate in this research, for my part it was a great pleasure to have been able to participate.