The Art of Reading

The Original Art of Narnia (article and pictures) Pauline Baynes  (illustrator) | Las cronicas de narnia, Ilustraciones de cuentos, Narnia

“I only read non-fiction.”

“I only read comics.”

“I don’t read at all.”

The story-teller’s art is as old as humanity itself; and since the invention of the printing press, the story-teller’s audience has grown by leaps and bounds. Until now.

If you love a movie or a TV show, be it known that somebody had to write it before anyone could film it. And someone had to read it. But fewer and people are reading. Fewer and fewer are getting the stories.

Reading is one of those things you get better at, the more you do it. I can tell you that as a person trained to teach developmental reading. Even without someone to coach you, if you keep at it, reading will come easier and easier to you. And for a good reader, with the right kind of book, it’s like having a movie playing in your mind.

How much the poorer I would be, without reading! Never to have stepped through the wardrobe into Narnia, never to have watched Lord Peter Wimsey solve a mystery, never to have roamed the dead sea bottoms of Barsoom, nor visited The Shire, nor explored the ocean’s depths with Captain Nemo–oh, but I could go on all day!

Just to show you I’m not trying to trick you with a stealth commercial, let me say it out in the open: yeah, you ought to read my Bell Mountain books.

Now, what good does it do to fill our heads with stories that are not true? Always bearing in mind that the parables of Our Lord Jesus Christ were not about real people, real events, and so, strictly speaking, “untrue.”

For one thing, these fictional stories do contain abundant truth. They can serve as parables. They can teach moral truths.

For another, stories, like sleep, can knit the raveled sleeve of care (borrowing a line from Shakespeare). When your life begins to look like the lyrics of the Car 54, Where Are You? theme song, you can escape into your favorite books–or into new stories altogether, to see what you might discover.

The more you read, the more you’ll retain; and the more of your reading you retain, the better you’ll be at expressing your own thoughts. I realize that applies to all reading, not just reading fiction. But it certainly doesn’t not apply to reading fiction.

Reading is good for you! Period. Civilization would never have gotten anywhere without it.


5 comments on “The Art of Reading

  1. How totally I agree with you on this word. Reading has been my passion since I was so young I had to sit on my mother’s lap in the car (that was long before seat belts). By the time I was 13, I had read every book in the public library, and the librarian had to order cartons of books from the headquarters in Jefferson City to get me through the year. I live in books every day. Scripture first, books on Scripture, then other things.

  2. It has been posited that the characters of ancient Hebrew were adapted from the hieroglyphics of ancient Egypt and the these proto-Semetic writings were the first alphabetic language. This was a huge innovation in the ability to convey meaning in written form. In hieroglyphics, there were symbols for entire words, or even short phrases. Many words meant many symbols to memorize and true literacy was reserved for the small segment of the population capable of devoting much time to education.

    Interestingly, and perhaps providentially, alphabetic writing came along just in time for the Exodus and served well the need to transmit a written law to an entire nation. Ancient Israelites were expected to know and understand the Law. A person that could read the Law could also use this skill to read and learn about many other subjects as well. The prosperity and success of ancient Israel was assisted by the fact that literacy was much more feasible in a civilization where literacy was more common.

    Reading has been my greatest skill; pretty much since I learned to read at an early age. Everything else I can do owes a great deal to the fact that I have learned much from reading. Most of my reading is non-fiction. I still read a bit of fiction, and see great value. Jesus used parables to make points and to help people to reason on matters. There wasn’t a literal master and three slaves in the Parable of the Talents, but it is foundational to our understanding of how we are expected to use our time, our God-given talents and our energy to advance the cause of the Gospel.

    One problem with non-fiction is that it can become very dry and very lifeless. It’s possible, even likely, that someone reading a technical document can read it thoroughly, but never really understand it, or at the very least never fully gain perspective on the meaning of it. One little illustration can make a huge difference in this. Fictional examples can be invaluable in such situations.

    1. The Chinese get by without an alphabet; but learning to read Chinese is, for a Westerner brought up on the alphabet, is a challenge. After two years of Chinese in college, I could speak it well enough but couldn’t read it. That would have taken more years than I was willing to spend in college.

    2. Speaking only from an amateur’s viewpoint, I would imagine that such a writing system would raise the bar considerably, as far as meaningful literacy is concerned. We have but to memorize 26 letters, x upper and lower case, plus some numbers and punctuation. Learn to fit those together and it’s a powerful tool that a 6 year old can master.

  3. The book is always better than the movie. Something magical happens when we read, verses being entertained by a show or movie. I prefer non-fiction like the book “Titan” I am reading right now about John D. Rockefeller (better than any movie).

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