Rhapsody in Reading

EconTalk Extra
by Amy Willis
Doug Lemov on Reading... Thomas Leonard on Race, Eugeni...

read aloud.jpg EconTalk host Russ Roberts welcomed back Doug Lemov, of Uncommon Schools, this week, for a very interesting conversation about reading, and especially, reading rigorously. In his new book, Reading Reconsidered, Lemov's primary audience is educators, but as Russ notes, and as should be evident from their conversation, it has relevance far beyond the classroom.

How much do you read today, and do you prefer electronic reading to "real" books? How has the digital age- and your cellphone, in particular- changed your reading habits? Those of your children and/or students? Do you ever read aloud anymore? Share your thoughts on this week's episode with us; we love to hear from you.

1. What does Lemov mean when he says that reading is "first among equals," and to what extent do you agree?

2. What's the last book you really struggled with? What did you gain from the experience?

3. What are Lemov's "tricks" to use when someone is reading something that's very challenging? Which of these tricks have you tried, and how successful were you? Are they any other suggestions you might add?

4. How did this episode influence the way you think about reading? Will you change your own reading habits after listening to this conversation, and if so, how?

5. Is reading a fundamentally individualistic or social pursuit?

Comments and Sharing

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COMMENTS (5 to date)
Lowell Smith writes:

I enjoyed this week's podcast and am glad that you are ranging away at times from purely economic topics to other issues of society.
Keep up the good work!

Jonathan Spence writes:

Interesting podcast.

I am currently enjoying audiobooks*, but have been reading e-books for a number of years.

I don't make notes in books so the e-book format is as good, if not better for me than paper. I note that paper still doesn't have scalable fonts, takes significantly more space and is more difficult to transport in bulk.

I don't indulge in "deep reading", but do understand the joy that it can bring. However I'm not convinced that being able to puzzle out the references is a virtue rather than a form of entertainment and self-congratulation. The reason why Red Riding Hood / Little Red cap, a young maiden, is associated with the colour red is all very interesting and obvious when pointed out. But is it really that different than a “who done it” or other fun things authors do?

I immerse myself in a book when I read so in that sense I regard it as individualistic, but book clubs, radio discussions, conventions etc. indicate that it’s not that simple. It can be part of a social life as well.

*On the subject of audiobooks, they are a DIFFERENT media. Things that work on paper can work less well spoken. Things produced for the spoken word likewise can suffer when translated to print.

Luke J writes:

1) Learning requires imagination and imagination requires...reading? Maybe not.

2) "A Wrinkle in Time" by L'Engle. 2nd grade I refused to read it because of the micro-analysis req. by my reading teacher (think packets of worksheets). Picked it up again in 6th grade; what a gem!

3) See #2 above and epidode comment from "D"

4) I agree with much of what the guest offered and I do read aloud to myself and my kids. Would encourage Lenovo not to disparage macro-analyses

5) Social. There is no such thing as an individual.

Steve writes:

Excellent topic. Most teachers and parents don't even know how important reading is and about the benefits discussed in this podcast. Post-1995, human resources don't even consider a well read person about the job or industry for which a person is applying for.

JK Brown writes:

The last book I read that took effort, at least at first, was von Mises' 'Liberalism'. The struggle was to reform my thoughts so I didn't apply the modern misuse of "liberal" when I read the word. It was beneficial in provoking thought on the topic. I now use "ironic liberal" when applying the term in the modern sense to Democrats, Progressives, and others on the Left.

Another writer I've found requires effort to read is Frederic J. Stimson. An article in Scribner's Magazine in 1887 on 'The Ethics of Democracy' uses a complex syntax that requires effort for the modern mind. His later writings in the early 20th century are a bit simpler, but I have taken the following as one of my favorite complex sentences. The effort required to follow it to the end helps provoke thought on the subject. You would definitely get points off for a sentence such as that below in English class. And yet, crafted so well, the length of the sentence adds to the weight the topic implies.

But no one, I think, has ever called attention to the enormous differences in living, in business, in political temper between the days (which practically lasted until the last century) when a citizen, a merchant, an employer of labor, or a laboring man, still more a corporation or association and lastly, a man even in his most intimate relations, the husband and the father, well knew the law as familiar law, a law with which he had grown up, and to which he had adapted his life, his marriage, the education of his children, his business career and his entrance into public life -- and these days of to-day, when all those doing business under a corporate firm primarily, but also those doing business at all; all owners of property, all employers of labor, all bankers or manufacturers or consumers; all citizens, in their gravest and their least actions, also must look into their newspapers every morning to make sure that the whole law of life has not been changed for them by a statute passed overnight; when not only no lawyer may maintain an office without the most recent day-by-day bulletins on legislation, but may not advise on the simplest proposition of marriage or divorce, of a wife's share in a husband's property, of her freedom of contract, without sending not only to his own State legislature, but for the most recent statute of any other State which may have a bearing on the situation.

--Popular Law-making: A Study of the Origin, History, and Present Tendencies of Law-making by Statute, Frederic J. Stimson (1910)

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