Back to Basics: The Role of Reading… (G. Eyre)

Eyre, G. (2003). Back to basics: The role of reading in preparing young people for the information society. Reference Services Review, 31(3), 219-226. Retrieved 1/22/2008, from

In the second half of this article, Eyre builds towards the main thrust of his argument: that children are under-exposed to imaginative literature, even though studies (namely Children as Readers by Spink, 1989) show that this is key in helping them develop in the following areas: physical, intellectual, language, emotional, personality, social, moral, spiritual (221). Eyre makes a case for studies examining the potential relationship between exposure to imaginative literature and information literacy.

Perhaps more interesting than this discussion are those that set it up in the first half of the article. Eyre alludes to the changing definition of literacy and to the increased emphasis on information literacy and ICT skills in the context of the looming “information age.”

The discussion of literacy aptly reminds that “literacy is a dynamic concept and gradually, as the needs of society have evolved, the requisites of being able to function within that society have expanded and the concept of literacy has also changed to fit the bill” (221). Specifically, he points out that “At one time a person was considered literate if they could sign their own name” (221). I can’t help but think that it would be naive to believe that literacy has and always will mean what we currently think it does. (Yet another article I’ve read recently pointed out that humans have not actually been reading text for very long — certainly not long enough for us to evolve in any way to compensate or promote it. And a friend pointed out that it is only recently that the majority of (Western Hemisphere, at least) people have become readers.) It might be an interesting exercise to imagine in what ways this definition might evolve.

The definition of information literacy is also discussed. Eyre maintains that “many discourses on information literacy tend to emphasize technological requirements” while an adequate reading level (and broader literacy level) is equally central, but underrepresented. One of the cited definitions of information literacy takes on so much that it could practically be renamed “existence literacy”: “Brown (1997) argues that information literacy actually subsumes a wide variety of skills and abilities including: critical thinking, problem solving, personal, social and communication skills, library and computer literacy” (221). I would love to see CARL alter its information literacy standards so as to test levels of social skills…


One response to “Back to Basics: The Role of Reading… (G. Eyre)

  1. I agree that this is an interesting area for more research: how imaginative literature affects one’s overall literacy. (One thinks, for example, of Bruno Bettelheim’s Uses of Enchantment. ) I suspect–I would like to believe–that it is important, but how can it be tested?

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