Reading: Take Out Your Inner 3-D Glasses and See for Real

Aug 18, 2015 by

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Reading: Take Out Your Inner 3-D Glasses and See for Real

Jeffrey Pflaum

Yes, you heard that right. Demo reading as a 3-D movie kids see in their mind and imagination and they might see the light. I taught students since the 70s about mind-pictures and the visualization process, which have become more routine in reading instruction today. I created a phrase, the self-amusement park of the imagination, where the action of reading—changing words into images—takes place. I also added the mind’s magic reading theater to set up an imaginary stage where kids can see and experience the “shows.”

The above frameworks, along with fundamental skills for learning—concentration/focus, recall, reflection, thinking, feeling, and creativity—allow the movie experiences to morph into amazing performances. Children begin to appreciate viewing reading’s visual delights with an inner eye on an imaginary TV screen in the mind, as the words are narrated by a silent, inner reading voice, and, of course, the silent sounds of words heard by an imaginary inner ear. Isn’t this the magic of reading?

Reading magic creates the greatest shows on Earth. However, brilliant inner worlds have lost their luster to the dazzling electro-techno worlds of computer/video game images. How can reading, with its little miracles of mind-pictures, compete with the surreal pictures seen on computer screens? How can a child’s imagination compare to the 3-D worlds they view with or without their inner 3-D glasses? Why bother using your imagination if imagination assaults the “real” eyes with incredible images and no great effort is required on the kid’s part to see them?

A caption from Bill Keane’s cartoon in “The Family Circus” captured my attention years ago: “TV puts pictures in your eyes but books put pictures right inside your MIND!” Reading is like taking a Polaroid photograph: snap the picture and wait for an image to materialize. And that’s what reading is. You read words, create pictures, and visualize them in the mind. This was one answer to motivating reading from the inside out—and it was extremely successful from the 70s to 2002. But I am thinking about new ways to amp up the reading process to inspire many adolescent readers by connecting the electro-technoworld to reading.

  • Re-invent and re-energize young people’s reading life experiences by modeling how the inner processes of reading can create threedimensional, holographic, virtual realities inside the mind’s magic reading theater by taking them on trips through the twilight zones of writers’ infinite worlds. Isn’t this reading magic when a reader’s imagination is hooked up and on to a writer’s imagination? Isn’t the hypnotic, telepathic communication also magical in a sense?
  • Demonstrate the magic reading theater as a window into deeper reading worlds. Describe this framework as a make-believe television screen in the mind where stories, literature, poetry, dramas, comedies, fantasies, documentaries, newsreels, history, math, science, and animated cartoons take place and come-to-life.
  • Let children recreate their inner reading universes. Reading is not only about speed,

fluency, mechanics, and testing, but “stopping by woods on a snowy evening” and to see, think, imagine, experience, and reflect on words, sentences, and paragraphs, to create, ideally, a virtual reality of what they read. Help kids become avatars in whatever they read, be it fiction or nonfiction.

  • Wikipedia definition of avatar: “In computing, an avatar is the graphical representation of the user or the user’s alter ego or character. It may take either a three-dimensional form, as in games or virtual worlds, or a two-dimensional form as an icon in Internet forums and other online communities.” Let the student “become” that graphical image so s/he can navigate the inner landscapes of their reading worlds. Let the student realize that s/he is this avatar and that they control the “rudder” of the mind and imagination.

Give adolescents skills, a toolbox, to discover their reading creativity and original creations, the power and magic of words, the art of reading, and they will scream for joy inside themselves. During those times they will not miss the electro-techno world. In my approach, experiencing, feeling, meaning, and magic become motivation, the new reading test score.

Imagine that: Picture this passage through your 3-D inner eyeglasses:

One winter morning I photographed the sunrise through my living room window. A strange picture was created because ice covered the window. Everything became soft and fuzzy on the lightly frosted glass. The sun lost its roundness. It became blurry and wobbled along the window. I watched the rays of the sun paint the morning sky yellow, while the light coming toward me sparkled in gold. I saw different bands of color move across the window, one on top of the other. There were waves of uneven ribbons of yellow, pink, red, orange, blue, and purple. And then I saw the sun soaring high in the blue and yellow sky over the bands of colors on the glass. I quickly photographed the picture with my mind. Snap! Snap! Snap!

This is what I see—a virtual reality through my inner eye 3-D glasses:

I am the avatar who lives inside the scene. I am walking in my living room. It’s early and very cold. I’m a little out of it, still trying to wake up, feeling slightly wiped out from my own winter morning weariness.

I see a freaky sight: an ice-covered window sending a big chill through me. The world is soft and fuzzy through the frosted glass. I am getting another shot of chilly winter feelings. I look closely at the glass. The sun morphs into a blur, a blotch on the window connecting with my spaced-out mind, where nothing seems real.

My vision intensifies. I concentrate on the sun’s rays. They hypnotize me as they flash like gold through the frosted panes. I am illuminated, warming up, leaving the morning’s cold behind me, starting to focus, seeing things more clearly, saying good-bye to that misty morning mind, and watching the bigger picture show, the reflected colors of the rainbow along the white walls of the living room.

The colors seem to be moving along in waves and they are getting inside my head, my body,

feeling good immersing myself in the flowing Technicolor dream-like world. I see sun and blue sky over waves of color, a good-vibe world, much sweeter than before, now feeling myself leaving this fogginess into a clear head. And then I shoot the picture with my mind’s eye, developed it in my imagination, and stored it safely in my memory bank for future use.

Directions for a class lesson:

  1. Read the “picture this” paragraph twice. Pretend you are the photographer, the main character, or the avatar in this passage. Get inside the person’s head and look out of his/her eyes. Look at the scene in your mind and imagination.
  1. Draw the picture you are looking at and photographing with the inner or mind’s eye. Use crayons and/or markers.
  1. Brainstorm possible titles for your picture.
  1. Write a paragraph to describe what you were seeing, photographing, and experiencing.

Reflection Questions:

  1. Did becoming the photographer, main character, or avatar in the story, help you

understand and enjoy the passage more? How did it help you? Explain.

  1. What feelings did you experience as you visualized the paragraph? Name the feelings

and the reasons behind them.

3. As you became the avatar in the passage and watched the early winter morning sunrise,

what were you thinking as you looked out the window? What thoughts went through your mind and imagination? List them.

4. As the avatar, what parts of the passage seemed like 3-D, or three-dimensional, where

they looked life-like and became a virtual reality—almost “real” to you. Describe the experience. What happened inside your mind and imagination?

5. What part of your reading experience seemed magical or like magic to you? Why?

6. As the avatar, did you experience anything else not written about in the passage?

Describe what happened.

And to finish my blog-post lesson, think about these quotations for a minute to see if they might change your ideas about how reading is taught to children:

  • “It is important to remember that we all have magic inside us.” (Kathleen Rowling)
  • “A piece of writing is like a piece of magic. You create something out of nothing.” (Susanna Clark)
  • “In a world full of audio-visual marvels, may words matter to you and be full of magic.”

(Godfrey Smith)

  • I would define a book as a work of magic whence escape, all kinds of images to trouble the souls and change the hearts of men.” (Anatole France)
  • “The power of Thought, the magic of the Mind!” (Lord Byron)
  • “Books are a uniquely portable magic.” (Stephen King)
  • “Imagination is the true magic carpet.” (Norman Vincent Peale)

Check out the author’s books, articles, and his website for further information about virtual reading: Motivating Teen and Preteen Readers: How Teachers and Parents Can Lead the Way by Jeffrey Pflaum (Rowman & Littlefield Education, 2011) Check out the above book on the website and at Amazon about how to inspire adolescent readers through an inquiry- and passion-based approach and other articles about motivating reading and writing. Please see my posts on EDWords, the blog for The BAM Radio Network, where I am a regular blogger with a mix of articles about reading, writing, thinking, creativity, poetry, emotional intelligence, character education/formation, social and emotional learning, values clarification, communication skills, and vocabulary expansion/appreciation.

Additional important resources and background: “The Magic of Literacy & The Spell of the Sensuous” (2011) is an interview with Dr. David Abram who discusses topics such as “Reading is Like Magic,” “How Reading Affects Us,” “Self-Talk,” “The Magic Spell of Writing,” “Animism—Nature Speaks,” “Interiority,” and “The Child.” “Want to Explore Virtual Reality? Try Reading a Book” (2009) is an article about Dr. Jeff Zacks, associate professor of psychology at Washington State University in St. Louis, who discusses “his new study exploring what happens in the brain when we read a book.” “Readers Build Vivid Mental Simulations of Narrative Situations” (2009) is a more detailed piece about the previous Zacks’ article on reading as a virtual reality. “Fiction: The original virtual reality” (2009) is yet another article found on Read Street, A blog for a community of readers, in Baltimore and beyond. It is also about the virtual worlds triggered in the reading process in connection with the work of Dr. Zacks.

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