Reading the Whole Book

Much debate among educators these days revolves around the preference in the Common Core State Standards for reading book-length works in excerpts more than in their entirety.

The argument in favor seems to go that there’s too much to cover, and that the skills we need to inculcate can be adequately covered with bits and pieces of text, rather than by slogging through entire works.  Besides, kids today won’t read a whole book, anyway.

Those with such a view are missing out on a huge, obvious fact about reading.

Reading an excerpt isn’t the same thing as reading the whole thing.

I’ve read summaries of and excerpts from long classics plenty of times, and not long afterwards, I’ve forgotten the themes, allusions, stylistic features, and even much of the plot.  Shallow experiences only bring shallow memories.

When I’ve gone back and read those works in their entirety, over dozens of hours, I’ve been immersed in worlds so deeply realized, so breathtakingly real, that my prior experiences seem like pale shadows by comparison.

Reading whole books makes life bigger.

Look, it would be like only knowing the Lord of the Rings trilogy through the first teaser trailer.  It would be like playing two minutes of Bioshock.

Spending a significant time commitment exploring a talented author’s mind art in all its perfect, loving detail is an event that simply has to be experienced.  But I guess we don’t have to teach it because people these days are so naturally drawn to commitment and details… (/sarcasm)

Or maybe those who argue for excerpts can’t champion reading whole books because they’ve never done it.  No sarcasm that time.

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