Sunday, March 7, 2010

Gulping vs. Savoring

For as long as I can remember, I've loved books and reading. As a child, I remember lazy summer days spent reading Laura Ingalls Wilder's Little House on the Prairie series and then devouring my set of Trixie Beldon mysteries. I've never had much self control once I'm off and running with a good book. Once when Alyssa was a baby, I remember finishing a book and anxiously awaiting her to wake up from her nap so I could dash off to the bookstore to buy the sequel. As far as I was concerned, books were for inhaling as fast as time allowed. The more the merrier, right?

I've also have never been a fan of re-reading a book. I've always figured with so many books out there, why would I waste my limited reading time on a book I've already devoured. Well, turns out I'm beginning to change my mind. Yep, it's true...I'm having a paradigm shift.

It all started with Hannah's reading schedule for the year. I decided to have her roughly follow the recommendations of Ambleside Online for 7th grade - particularly the history, literature, and devotional books. When we started, I was skeptical how Hannah would do with it - reading multiple books at a time, but only in measured doses. Turns out she doesn't really like it much more than I expected...but I keep reminding her that this slow pace allows her to really interact with the book, soak it up and let it become a part of her (while I mostly believed what I was saying, I was secretly glad it wasn't me reading those books at a snail's pace).

But then, during a book club meeting a few weeks ago, I asked the kids a question about a book I had assigned a couple of weeks before. One girl piped up and said, "I can't remember anything from that book. I read the whole thing in one night". Hmmm...not exactly the results I have in mind when I assign a book. Ambleside Online (and their Charlotte Mason approach to education) really is on to something.

Then my book club started reading The Chosen by Chaim Potok. It's my second time through what I've long called one of my all-time favorite books. I really started re-reading it just to refresh my memory for the discussion, but honestly, I'm sucked in just like I was the first time I read it...only more. While I've heard others expound on the merits of reading books two or three times, I just didn't think that a book could be good enough to captivate me a second time. I simply hoped the merits others talked about outweighed the boredom of reading the book over again. Turns out I was dead wrong. I'm noticing even more the brilliance of Chaim Potok, the beauty of his language, the countless ways he uses literary devices, and how tightly and intricately woven his story is to his theme.

So, after 17 years of education and 12 years of home schooling, I'm finally realizing the gems that can be mined if I'm willing to slow down and savor books rather than gulping them down as quickly as time allows. I'm seeing the merits of a more vertical education, digging deeper in few places rather than scratching the surface as we wander through large stacks of books.

And yes, all this should have been evident to me years ago, but I suppose I'm just a little slow. So, pick up an old favorite and read it again. I bet you see it in a whole new light.

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