For my friends, family members and the 36 faithful readers of this column it will come as no surprise when I tell you that occasionally I will have an opinion on a matter. Even though I want to believe that my opinions are offered only after reasoned and thoughtful consideration, I know that is not always the case. When a person is wrong enough times he begins to accept it (which is not the same as expecting it). The person who thinks he is never wrong will never accept being wrong. That person can never know what they don’t know.
The things I don’t know could fill volumes – so I read. I was reading the July 2nd edition of World Magazine when I flipped the page to Janie B. Cheaney’s column, Becoming Readers. Since this was on page 24 of a magazine comprised largely of words it seemed that the author was after more than just inspiring people to read. She wrote:
“I remember the moment when I became a reader. I always liked to read, but that's not the same thing. What made a reader of me was a novel I received through a children's book club.” (The Silver Sword by Ian Serraillier) “…the story itself had reached out and grabbed my hand.
“Words arranged in sentences, built into a narrative, made me bigger. It's a bit like creation itself: light spoken into being, coalescing into atoms, combining into molecules, becoming elements. Writing imitates creation by ‘speaking’ ideas into being."
According to Cheaney, readers share in the creative experience. “…they interact with the book in a conversation that alters perception, expands sympathy, provokes anger, or refines argument.
“Not everybody is a reader, in this sense. C.S. Lewis, in An Experiment in Criticism, made the claim that even in a highly literate society, readers (those who get something from books that they get nowhere else) are the minority. Most people read for two reasons: entertainment and information. Both needs are legitimate, but can be met in other ways, especially today. The third reason I would call enlightenment—letting the ideas created by written language challenge or change us.”
I learned how to read from my mother; but Jon Logelin taught me how to read to learn. Mr. Logelin was one of my high school English teachers. He was passionate about reading, especially books written by Kurt Vonnegut.
In spite of my being an unwilling and unruly student, Mr. Logelin taught me to listen for the author’s voice as I read. By doing this I learned to appreciate another’s perspective.
Although Mr. Logelin and Ms. Cheaney communicated the importance of becoming a reader of books, I would suggest that news and political commentary be read as well. We all have a responsibility to learn as much as we can about current events and our political climate.
Read and listen to other points of view besides your own. You might learn that you may be wrong, or hopefully you will understand another’s perspective better. There is no honor in reading or listening to only that which you agree with. If your only source of news and information is one-sided you are only seeing half of the coin.
If you read Ann Coulter, read Maureen Dowd as well. Thomas Friedman and Charles Krauthammer will give you opposing views, as will Paul Krugman and George Will.
My daughter, Jennifer is a Kindergarten teacher. She spends much of her school day reading to her students and teaching them to read. She gave me a shirt with one word on the front: Read.
I think that is a marvelous suggestion. Of course, that’s just my opinion.