Why Reading Matters

Last week I was at a super exciting English teacher workshop put on the local community college and was very saddened to see the heavy emphasis on expository writing. While I do have an obvious bias towards literature, I do definitely understand and support the need to teach student to comprehend and utilize expository texts. It's imperative for succeeding in other content areas, success in college, and survival in the real world. But I also believe there needs to be a balance, as does David L. Ulin in his extended essay The Lost Art of Reading- Why Books Matter in a Distracted Time

I "wasn't able to attend" the last day of the completely voluntary training but did receive a text from a colleague saying that another one of the attendees said that "the teaching of literature in the high school classroom is dead." After getting over the feeling of wanting to punch someone in the face, I decided that after owning Ulin's book for awhile it was time to read it. And instead of giving a long, boring summary, I decided I'd simply pick ten quotes that best represent the heart and soul of his message. That's it. 

1. "Literature... is conscious, yes, but with room for serendipity, a delicate balance between craft and art" (2).

2. "What I was after [reading], in other words, was not merely an escape but also a point of entry, a passport, or a series of passports, not to an older version of myself but to a different version- to the person I wanted to become" (11).

3. "This, of course, is what readers, as well as writers do- participate, be part of the back-and-forth, help bring the text to life... Reading is an act of contemplation, perhaps the only act in which we allow ourselves to merge with the consciousness of another human being" (16).

4. "...she relied on books to pull back from the onslaught, to distance herself from the present as a way of reconnecting with a more elemental sense of who we are" (35).

5. "Stories, after all- whether aesthetic or political- require sustained concentration; we need to approach them as one side of a conversation in which we also play a part. If we don't, we end up susceptible to manipulation, emotional or otherwise" (45).

6. "Rereading can be a tricky process, in which, for better or worse, you're brought face-to-face with both the present and the past. It's different than reading, more layered, more nuanced, with implications about how we've changed" (51).

7. "I flipped ahead to see how many pages were in each chapter, as if to calibrate my experience. This is something I have always done, a way to position myself in a book. But such knowledge can be a two-way street..." (55).

8. "How do we pause when we must know everything in a instant? How do we ruminate when we are constantly expected to respond? How do we immerse in something (an idea, an emotion, a decision) when we are no longer willing to give ourselves the space to reflect?" (78).

9. "Reading is a form of self-identification that works, paradoxically, by encouraging us to identify with others, an abstract process that changes us in the most concrete ways" (102).

10. "I think in pages, not screens; I like the idea of a book as object, of the book as artifact, of reading as a three-dimensional, tactile experience, in which the way a text looks or feels or even smells has an influence over how, or whether, I engage" (121).  


  1. Great quotes! Reading is an art. I probably sound like a broken record, but if you haven't read The Book Whisperer, you should. It really changed the way I view teaching reading. It might come off as too elementary for your kids, but it works at all levels.

    It seems like the shift toward expository is just the run of the mill pendulum swing we often see in education. In a few years, it will swing back the other way.*

    1. I hope so! There needs to be a balance, but that seems like such a difficult concept for curriculum writers to grasp! I'll have to check out The Book Whisperer. If you're looking for a good teaching reading book, check out Readacide- really good.