Taste, Swallow, Chew, Digest


Our culture seems to have a love-hate relationship with reading. Book-selling is big business, but the entertainment industry is bigger. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that American adults watch 2.8 hours of TV per day, while the Kaiser Family Foundation documents an average of only 25 minutes spent reading daily. The BLS also reports that in 2009 “individuals ages 15 to 19 read for an average of 5 minutes per weekend day while spending 1 hour playing games or using a computer for leisure.” I venture to say that most children could more readily identify SpongeBob than Mark Twain. I hope I’m wrong.

I once saw a sign that said, “If you can read this thank a teacher.” Parents of Regents Academy students in particular should thank their children’s teachers. Regents teachers are preparing their students to read, and read well. Reading instruction takes place in phonics, spelling, literature, science, history, Omnibus – indeed, across the curriculum. And this is a wonderful gift. Reading well is essential for a well-educated mind and indispensable for a life lived well. As Mortimer Adler wrote, “Reading is a basic tool in the living of a good life.”

One key training ground for readers in grades 2-12 is the Regents Reading Program, in which
students read one book on their own each quarter. These books are high quality literature that challenges them and, Lord willing, fosters a love for reading. Teachers lead students to choose books that they will enjoy and that will kindle their imaginations. Reading a good book is its own reward, but I hope that our students are being rewarded in other ways as well, as they sense the accomplishment and excitement that comes from reading.

English scientist and philosopher Francis Bacon said this of reading: “Read not to contradict and confute; nor to believe and take for granted; nor to find talk and discourse; but to weigh and consider. Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested: that is, some books are to be read only in parts, others to be read, but not curiously, and some few to be read wholly, and with diligence and attention.”

Taste, swallow, chew, digest. There is a book for every purpose. Our job is to set the table and whet the appetite. With the guidance of excellent teachers, the enthusiasm of parents, the diligence of students, and the strength of the Lord, together we can create a culture that values and inspires reading and that cultivates “weighing and considering.” I would encourage you, parents, to read good books yourself, read aloud to your children, be involved in the books your children are reading, and donate good books to our school library.

Then go find a teacher and say thank you.

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