I am becoming more and more interested in this as I work. I’ve encountered school students who, though they are very competent readers, do not enjoy reading. I’ve always found this difficult to understand: reading is my default activity. When questioned, the youngsters admitted to not getting a film in their head of the story and still seeing the dark marks on the pale page.
I often ask my creative writing students and even my English lit ones about their experience of reading. In five years I’ve only had one student admit to not getting pictures in her head and even she, arguably, if we look at exact meaning, reads ludically.
“Ludic” really means “playful”. Even my learner who sees no pictures plays with the abstract meaning of words. She has a Platonic relationship with what she reads. If she encounters a common noun – e.g. “cat” – she “plays with the idea of “cat” rather than “seeing” a particular moggy. Yet “ludic” comes from a word that means playing according to rules. Sure, we have rules about how we turn the dark marks into pictures or ideas, but there are no rules about how our imagination interacts with the ideas the dark marks give us. That seems to me to be more akin to “plaedus” – the type of imaginative games and role-play that I used to play as a child: Mums and Dad, hospitals and doctors, cowboys and Indians, Famous Five adventures. Maybe the term we need, then for this “film in the head” type of reading is “plaedic”.
I find this plaedic experience is even greater when I write than when I read. The pictures are sharper. Another interesting phenomenon occurs in my “Character magic” exercise. I suspect that the plaedic picture in the writer’s head is so strong that sub-consciously the writer picks exactly the right details to enable the plaedic reader to get the same plaedic image.
I’m interested in pursuing this further – starting with a little qualitative research through semi-structured interviews. Anyone interested in being part of the study? I’ll be aiming at a balanced demographic so may not be able to use everyone who volunteers. If so, let me know your details. I’ll aim to make a start mid-September.