A calling ...

"We are called to be architects of the future, not its victims."

"Make the world work for 100% of humanity in the shortest possible time through spontaneous cooperation without ecological offense or the disadvantage of anyone."

- Buckminster Fuller

Sunday, February 6, 2011

How to Read a Book Video - Long Lost Footage of Mortimer Adler - Clip #1

In 1975, Encyclopedia Britannica Educational Corporation produced a series of videos where Mortimer J. Adler and Charles Van Doren discussed How To Read a Book, originally published in 1940. Thanks to Max Weismann, I was alerted to the rediscovery of this long lost footage, which I am reviewing today.

Clip #1: A Case For Raising Reading Expectations:
The discussion in the first video clip largely revolves around how to select an appropriate reading rate based on the type of reading one is doing. In the first video clip, Adler states:
The art of reading consists of having the skills required for lifting your mind, with nothing but a book in your hand, from understanding less, to understanding more.
Adler and Van Doren contrast books we read for entertainment or information versus books we read for understanding, making a strong case for "variable speed reading." Adler makes a number of provocative statements in the video. He states that 4th to 6th grade skill levels are sufficient to read most of the books read in schools and continues that reading for the sake of improving your mind is generally "not taught in schools." Reading that involves acts of interpretation, analysis, apprehension of content, and critical judgment, cannot be done quickly, Adler and Van Doren explain. Higher level reading skills are what's being advocated here.

In Endangered Minds, Jane Healy, Ph.d. questions:
Why don't -or can't-most young people read? One of the most common complaints among this generation is that books are "too hard" or "boring." Many have trouble with the mental organization and sustained effort demanded by reading. Coming to grips with verbal logic, wrestling one's mind into submission to an author's unfamiliar point of view, and struggling to make connections appear to be particularly taxing to today's young intellects. (Healy, p. 25)
How much of the boredom many of us observe in students is a result of children not being challenged enough by the reading they are doing in school?

Instead of only choosing leveled, Just Right Books, which Fountas and Pinnel advocate, in order to lift our minds up with insight, Adler argues:
I think it's terribly important for each of us, for everyone to find a number of books that are over their heads.
 Somewhere along the line, possibly from Richard Vacca's book on content area literacy, I read about the distinction between learning to read and reading to learn.  Adler and Van Doren strongly suggest that it isn't possible to learn or raise oneself up if a book is on grade level; a book has to be "over your head" in order to learn from it.

Having worked predominantly in elementary schools with heavy populations of children of poverty, English Language Learners, and otherwise at-risk readers, the instructional focus has been primarily on learning to read at the student's independent reading level. The limited amount of stretching that is done at school tends to be in Guided Reading or Shared Reading formats. An unfortunate amount of time is spent preparing students for SOL tests. No wonder students are often bored with reading.