Good books and the value of reading



This book originates in dissatisfaction with Mary Shelly scholarship concerning the origins of the name of her novel, Frankenstein, which has now haunted the world for over 150 years.
Florescu, In Search of Frankenstein


It was hot - the heat has jammed on in my place - and too late. I was trying to get something done, but I was having annoying computer problems and anyway I didn't have enough information. Still, I'd invented a deadline, and now I got to choose between feeling bad for missing the deadline or feeling bad for moving the deadline. It was lousy and I was getting a low grade headache from too little water and too much coffee... when my eyes fell on the spine of a speculative literary history by Radu Florescu.

I opened it up, and I read the first line: "This book originates in dissatisfaction...." And I was done for the night. Everything else was Brahms or somebody, a European voice, the cool draft from the window, and the handful of stars I could see beyond the tied-back curtain.

Books are miraculous things.

I had something interesting and pleasant happen the last couple of weeks.

Looking back, I think I see three ingredients. One was me pointing out, relentlessly, that three of the five GED tests are reading tests, and passing on the unhappy news that most people who failed the Social Studies test reported that they ran out of time because of the volume of reading involved. Read fast, I say, and read accurate. And when they ask, How? I say, Read a lot.

Another was the culture of reading in my room. I don't impose silent sustained reading or anything like that. But I'd guess that, in my room, at any given time, someone is reading, and someone else is happy to talk about the novel they just started or finished.

The third ingredient is accessible, quality, middle-level books: Quick Reads, Good Reads, Rapid Reads, and the Open Door Series.

One day last week, a learner asked: Are there any of those books you think I should read?

Near the end of the week, the learner remarked: I'll be honest with you though. I never read a novel all the way through before. This is the first one I ever read all the way through.

The next day the learner asked: Do you have any more books like that one I read?

The next day after that the learner declared, unexpectedly: I think you've cured me. I'm almost done this book too.

Find money somewhere, anywhere, and buy good, easier-to-read books. Read them. Lend them out. Let people read in class.

Ask people to read at home.

Let them read.

Apparently it will cure them.



Oh, and don't pass up a chance to help them read interesting non-fiction either. Be a conspicuous learner. Share your readings and your learnings. Share the interesting little things. They'll appreciate it.

Why, just the other day, I spoke up and made a sort of general announcement that in 1531 Georg Frankenstein died fighting a lindwurm which is a kind of dragon found in the upper reaches of the Rhine. Everybody looked at me, and only one learner said, "Don't start."

They love that kind of stuff.

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