Declaration of Independence

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. - That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.

Friday, January 11, 2019

Reading Books

            Families, communities, and nations grow stronger when individuals learn to read books for both enjoyment and knowledge. Some books are more enjoyable and trustworthy than others, but most books can take us places that we could never go without them.

            Some of my dearest memories revolve around seeing my mother sitting on the open oven door of our kitchen stove with a book in her hands. The stove was heated with coal and wood and was used to warm a large portion of the house. The warmest place in the house was behind the kitchen stove, but the next warmest place was on the oven door. This was my mother’s favorite place to sit. She loved to read books, and she passed her love for reading to her children. I passed this same love to my children, and they have passed it to their children. I love to find my grandchildren curled up in a corner of the couch or lying on the floor with a book.

            I read to my children when they were little and even after they were reading chapter books by themselves. In fact, one summer my then-college aged daughter requested that I read aloud to the family while on a camping trip. My youngest daughter took longer to move into chapter books than I thought she should, so I started reading chapter books to her. We chose a nine-volume set of historical fiction books about the early days of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Long before we finished the series, my daughter understood the importance of reading chapter books. She came to understand my statement that words can paint more and better pictures in our minds than artists can paint for the books.

            I remember reading the same books over and over and over again because the child or children enjoyed it so much. One of my daughters simply cannot handle reading a book more than a couple of times, but it never bothered me to do so. Recently I found an article that explained why children like to hear or read the same book over and over again and what they gain from it. I wish I had known these benefits when I was with my daughter.

            In his article titled “Why Reading the Same Book Repeatedly Is Good for Kids (Even If It Drives You Nuts,” Devon A. Corneal gives several reasons why repetitive reading offers numerous benefits for new readers. 

Vocabulary and Word Recognition: The more a child reads, the larger their vocabulary becomes. When a child reads or hears the same book multiple times, they become familiar and comfortable with a greater number of words….

Pattern and Rhythm: Hearing favorite stories read aloud helps children become aware of the pattern and rhythm of text. Language is more than just words – it’s how words sound and connect to each other….

Fluency: Fluency is the ability to read text “accurately, quickly, and with expression.” Repetitive reading allows a child to read without stumbling or stopping, and reading time becomes more pleasant for everyone….

Comprehension: Reading comprehension is the ability to understand all the components of a story – from plot to character development to symbolism. Comprehension is “the essence” of reading. Each time your child reads or hears a book read to them, they learn more about the story itself. Each pass through the text or illustrations allows them to dive deeper into the story’s meaning, preparing them for more complex narratives down the road.

Confidence: With fluency and comprehension comes greater reading confidence. Children who can follow a story and don’t stumble over words are more self-assured about their abilities and more likely to enjoy reading.

            My daughter may not enjoy reading a story or book more than a couple of times to her child, but she may be more willing to do it if she understands how it benefits him. Repetitive reading is not only good for children, but it benefits students and adults. I was doing some research on Mortimer Adler when I came across a video titled “How to Read a Book by Mortimer Adler.” His video listed nine ways to improve our reading, which are quoted/paraphrased as follows.

Lesson 1: Have a purpose for reading the book.

Lesson 2: Major arguments and evidence matter more than details. Pay attention to the ends of paragraphs and chapters for the most important information.

Lesson 3: Use multiple modes: Writing, talking, and visualizing helps you remember what you read.

Lesson 4: Take time to process. This gives your mind time to store it in memory. Take time to apply lessons immediately after rather than over load your brain with more information.

Lesson 5: Focus on high-value content or the elements of the book where you can extract the most information with the least amount of effort. The Title, Table of Contents, blurbs, illustrations, and bold headlines all give you the important stuff.

Lesson 6: Read the book more than once. The more you read, the more you will remember. Reread books that truly impact your life.

Lesson 7: Know the author. Do they know what they are writing about?

Lesson 8: Understand the context. When was the book written and why?

Lesson 9: Question what you read. All ideas in books come from people like you and me. They are subject to mistakes, errors and human biases. Learn about books and authors from other readers.

            I was first attracted to Adler while I was clearing out material from my computer from previous classes. For one class I was assigned to read and comment on an article titled “How to Mark a Book” by Mortimer J. Adler, PhD. He says that the most efficient way to read a book is to not only read between the lines but to also write between the lines. He claims that there are three types of book owners, with the third having “a few books or many – every one of them dog-eared and dilapidated, shaken and loosened by continual use, marked and scribbled in from front to back.” Adler continues by explaining why it is important to write in the books that we read.

Why is marking up a book indispensable to reading? First, it keeps you awake…. In the second place, reading, if it is active, is thinking, and thinking tends to express itself in words, spoken or written…. Finally, writing helps you remember the thought you had, or the thoughts the author expressed….

If reading is to accomplish anything more than passing time, it must be active…. If, when you’ve finished reading a book, the pages are filled with your notes, you know that you read actively….

But, you may ask, why is writing necessary? Well, the physical act of writing, with your own hand, brings words and sentences more sharply before your mind and preserves them better in your memory. To set down your reaction to important words and sentences you have read, and the questions they have raised in your mind, is to preserve those reactions and sharpen those questions.

Even if you wrote on a scratch pad, and threw the paper away when you had finished writing, your grasp of the book would be surer. But you don’t have to throw the paper away. The margins (top and bottom, as well as side), the end-papers, the very space between the lines, are all available. They aren’t sacred. And, best of all, your marks and notes become an integral part of the book and stay there forever. You can pick up the book the following week or year, and there are all your points of agreement, disagreement, doubt, and inquiry. It’s like resuming an interrupted conversation with the advantage of being able to pick up where you left off.

And that is exactly what reading a book should be: a conversation between you and the author. Presumably he knows more about the subject than you do; naturally, you'll have the proper humility as you approach him. But don't let anybody tell you that a reader is supposed to be solely on the receiving end. Understanding is a two-way operation; learning doesn't consist in being an empty receptacle. The learner has to question himself and question the teacher. He even has to argue with the teacher, once he understands what the teacher is saying. And marking a book is literally an expression of differences, or agreements of opinion, with the author.

            Adler gives several ways to mark books, such as underlining or highlighting important points, using a vertical line at the margin to highlight an underlined statement, putting an asterisk at the margin for very important statements, numbering the sequence of points made by the author, page numbers to tie ideas together that may be separated by many pages, circling key words or phrases, writing questions and/or answers in the margins, and using the end-papers at the back of the book to make a “personal index of the author’s points in the order of their appearance.”

            The last bit of advice given by Adler is to avoid loaning your books to friends or family members. They may be distracted by your notes, but a more important reason for not loaning them is “because a marked copy is kind of an intellectual diary, and lending it is almost like giving your mind away.”

            Reading books is an excellent way to find enjoyment and to gain knowledge. We can relax and simply enjoy the story told by the author, but we must actively read in order to gain more than simple enjoyment. Repetitive reading is good for both children and adults because it helps to increase our vocabulary, fluency, comprehension, and confidence. Repetition and active reading gives our brains time to store the new knowledge. Reading books brings much enjoyment and knowledge to us. It can also strengthen our families, communities, and nations.

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