Practical Theory - The Origin
The Scholars in CyberEnglish
ToDaY's MeNu - Ted

Saturday, February 9, 2008

on reading

"For this she had to thank her English teacher, Mrs Chilcroft. Mrs. Chilcroft, facing her class of recalcitrant eleven-year-olds, had said: "You are going to learn to write your own language simply, accurately and with some elegance, and to speak it so that you aren't disadvantaged the moment you open your mouths. If any of you has ambitions above marrying at sixteen and rearing children in a council flat you'll need language. If you've no ambitions beyond being supported by a man or the state you'll need it even more, if only to get the better of the local-authority Social Services department and the DSS. But learn it you will."
from p d james' original sin.
when i read Staying Awake by Ursala K Le Guin in the feb 2008 issue of harper's i was elated and dismayed. elated because she masterfully hit on the finer points of books and reading. dismayed that she restricted herself to one genre.

as i read, i was reminded about how books were read to me to help me sleep. i dont really believe they were used to teach me language or the appreciation of anything. they were used to get me to sleep. i believe i did this my children too. as i grew older, i used a good book to help me sleep. if i woke in the middle of the night, i would grab the bedside book, collect a warm glass of milk and very soon i was asleep. often i would be found with that book covering my chest like a warm blanket. even on the beach, or in an easy chair, the same thing would happen, the z's would catch up to me before i could turn the page. on the other hand, i would find time to read the book without falling asleep. in fact, i am still amazed how many people use the book as a weapon against intrusion when on public transportation, in public places, or even in private. my mom was notorious for not allowing any of her children from disturbing her when she was in the middle of reading. it was her way of escaping us. books have always held a great fascination for us as a people from the early scribes to the mass book publishers. books in fact were important for my own children's education. i inherited some great tomes from my grandparents and converted them into cash that served as the foundation for investments that eventually paid for their education and the ability to buy more books.

le guin laments the book, but the book is fiction. for me, i buy more books a year then i did in my youth because i can now afford them and now i have a reason to buy them. but they are not always books of fiction, because my favorite authors can not churn them out as fast as i read them. i find nonfiction great reads, too. biographies, political tomes, travel books, books on food and the like interest me as much as a good work of fiction. i'm luckier than most because i use public transportation to get around so i can read more than the average person who uses a car to get from here to there and hopefully is not reading. however, that person may be listening to the book on tape. i think the electronic world has increased the reading of the average citizen. as an english teacher, i know it is not what we read as much as that we read. so when i see young scholars online reading webpages for information, i know this is good and see that it is good when we are in the english class. i'm just not that much of a snob, that i am that concerned with what is read. i know as a father of a child who had trouble reading when young. he used the sports pages and sports books to learn to read and now is a fabulous reader.

i love her concern with the demise of reading as the fault of the publisher. i concur. that is why i have embraced the web. i am now my own publisher just as anyone else who owns a webpage is. martin luther taught us this, thomas paine taught us this, the scholars in tiananmen square taught us this. there is always a price to publishing. i buy books, i sell books. i read on the web, i write on the web. reading is reading is reading.

just a mrs chilcroft instructed her charges, le guin seems to be on the same page in the end. it is all about learning and for me in my practice, i concur and merely say, let the learning begin.

my version.

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