by Rev. David O Jones


As homeschool parents, we have a wonderful opportunity to impart a love of learning and a love of reading to our children and grandchildren. I was raised on a farm in central Illinois. Upstairs in that big old farmhouse was a small narrow room which my mother made into a room for us children to study. One wall had two small desks and the opposing wall had shelves filled with books. In addition to the encyclopedia set and other reference books were the plays of Shakespeare, Will & Ariel Durant's eleven volume The Story of Civilization, Winston Churchill's A History of the English Speaking Peoples, books of poetry, and at least a hundred mystery novels (her favorite). My mother enticed me to read first with the Hardy Boys mystery series, then with more serious mystery novels.

Through the years, I have used all the excuses as to why I wasn't reading. We all have schedules packed full of activity, thus come to a conclusion that we have no time left to spend reading. Some of us complain that we read too slowly. Some make the observation that reading puts us to sleep. While guilty of making all of these excuses my desire to learn, to know more, to improve myself has pushed me to read.

Some adults are at a disadvantage in having never been taught to read. But you can learn. John Taylor Gatto in Weapons of Mass Instruction, observes, "To learn to read and to like it takes about thirty contact hours under the right circumstances, sometimes a few more, sometimes a few less. It's a fairly easy skill for anyone to pick up if good reasons to do so are provided. Even reading disabilities can be overcome with the proper skill set.

Speed in reading is not necessarily an advantage. Woody Allen joked, "I took a speed reading course and read War and Peace in twenty minutes. It involves Russia. If the book is worth reading, there will be many portions worth pondering and remembering. Pondering and remembering can only happen if you take your time in the reading. A paragraph well digested is worth more than a chapter read in record time. Horace Mann wrote, "Resolve to edge in a little reading every day, if it is but a single sentence. If you gain fifteen minutes a day, it will make itself felt at the end of the year.

In the 1929 biography Sam Houston, author Marquis James relates that while Houston was in constant retreat from the Mexican army after the fall of the Alamo, "Each night¦General Houston inspected the lines of sentinels, conferred with his staff, wrote dispatches and turned the pages of the Commentaries of Caesar and Gulliver's Travels, which he had brought in his saddle-bags from Washington to read in his spare time. The future of thousands of Texicans and their Texan nation rested in his hands and yet he took time to read. I always keep a book with me so that if stuck in traffic or waiting for an appointment I can use those few minutes to read something beneficial.

Some books are not worth the reading. Over the years, I have completed reading on average thirty books per year. Over the same time, I have set aside nearly as many. By the third or fourth chapter, I have discovered whether the author had anything valuable to offer me.

Those books which I discard remind me of two quotes. The first by Mark Twain, "Be careful about reading health books. You may die of a misprint. " Then there is Groucho Marx, "From the moment I picked up your book until I laid it down, I was convulsed with laughter. Someday I intend reading it.

Roman rhetorician Seneca the Elder advised, "Desultory [aimless/random] reading is delightful, but to be beneficial, our reading must be carefully directed. Don't just pick up any book and read it, make careful decisions. If you are not sure which book to read, ask of someone who is well-versed in the topic you wish to learn.

Bertrand Russell wrote, "There are two motives for reading a book: one, that you enjoy it; the other, that you can boast about it. Actually the third and most important motive is to learn something from the book. There are a variety of methods to remember what was read. One is making an outline of each chapter. My personal favorite is to highlight what I consider to be significant points, then when finished with the book, typing those highlighted portions into a Word file. It thus becomes a resource for the future and I can review the book by rereading my selected passages. (Using the "find tool also allows me to glean information and quotes for a speech or article. I do such today.)

Millionaire businessman Orrin Woodward in Launching a Leadership Revolution advises, "Our reading should not just be for enjoyment, but should foster growth in our minds and persons. Reading should lead to better thoughts, which in turn lead to better actions, which then lead to better habits, which then produce better results, which then produce a better future.

While there is a time for reading a simple piece of fiction, more time should be spent on reading books of substance. "The books that help you most are those which make you think the most. The hardest way of learning is that of easy reading; but a great book that comes from a great thinker is a ship of thought, deep freighted with truth and beauty. (Theodore Parker)

The late great Zig Ziglar wrote, "You can make positive deposits in your own economy every day by reading and listening to powerful, positive, life-changing content and by associating with encouraging and hope-building people. The association with people can come not only through physical contact but through their writing as well. Rene Descartes wrote, "The reading of all good books is like a conversation with the finest minds of past centuries. "Reading a book puts one in touch with an author the reader may never have a chance to meet in person, either because of distance or time. (Orrin Woodward)

I urge you to read. I urge you to read to your children. Be transported in time and space to adventures and knowledge that we could not gain otherwise. Glean the minds of men and women whose intellect has conquered land and illness and space. Read to understand how great men think. Perhaps, just perhaps, you and your children may be inspired to live lives beyond yourselves.