Why We Read

With the start of a new school year, I’ve been thinking about what gets young people motivated to read. Last night, I picked up my hardbound copy of Persuasion by Jane Austen to read for the nth time. And right there, in the novel’s first sentence is the answer:

image Sir Walter Elliot, of Kellynch-hall, in Somersetshire, was a man who, for his own amusement, never took up any book but [Debrett’s] Baronetage [left; a history of all the English baronets, along with their coats of arms]; there he found occupation for an idle hour, and consolation in a distressed one; there his faculties were roused into admiration and respect, by contemplating the limited remnant of the earliest patents…and there, if every other leaf were powerless, he could read his own history with an interest which never failed….

Sir Walter is a vain, humorous character preoccupied with self, so his reading is, of course, driven by self-interest. Though who’s to say reading isn’t an intrinsically self-interested pursuit among us all?

In any case, when figuring out what will drive any particular young person to read for pleasure, our challenge as educators is to find the thing that interests that one person and point him or her toward materials that will satisfy curiosity, stir imagination, and provide intellectual stimulation.

Welcome back to school, and check in next week for more from TFCB!

[photo: books.google.com; quote from Jane Austen, Persuasion, Reprint 1992, New York: Alfred A. Knopf, p. 3]