New York Times columnist Charles Blow wrote a great personal narrative yesterday that teachers can give to their students to answer the question, “Why read?”
In “Reading Books is Fundamental,” Mr. Blow tells the story of how he became an avid reader and how books transformed his life.
(Note: This article is also at Iserotope Extras!)
Growing up a child of modest means, Mr. Blow remembers skipping over toys and candy and being transfixed by the power of books. With stories, he discovered a larger world outside himself in which he could place his own trajectory. Mr. Blow quotes James Baldwin:
You think your pain and your heartbreak are unprecedented in the history of the world, but then you read. It was books that taught me that the things that tormented me the most were the very things that connected me with all the people who were alive, who had ever been alive.
Later in the piece, Mr. Blow worries that a recent study’s finding that more Americans are becoming non-readers. If the Pew Research Center is correct, nearly a quarter of adults did not read a single book last year.
It’s possible, Mr. Blow concedes, that Americans are reading tons of current events and other nonfiction, whether at their jobs or on the Internet. This is not optimal, he writes. A book — whether in physical or electronic form — is what matters:
[R]eading texts is not the same as reading a text. There is no intellectual equivalent to allowing oneself the time and space to get lost in another person’s mind, because in so doing we find ourselves.
I like that last part: that reading simultaneously leads us outward (toward another person’s mind) and inward (toward finding ourselves).
This year, as the Kindle Classroom Project grows, and as reading cultures build at the three schools where I coach, I observe firsthand what Mr. Blow is talking about.
I see students not just joyful that they’re reading. I also see them mindful. As students read, time and space tend to bend. Students fall into stories, and by doing so, they have an opportunity to write themselves.