As a young girl, I devoured books. I would spend hours reading. Of course, I am an only child, so I was often driven to stories to find playmates. In these stories, I would find countless friends. I discovered a lot about myself and was free to explore worlds that didn’t exist except in my mind’s eye. I would often carry a flashlight to bed, sure I was sneaking something past my mom and dad, reading for hours under my bedcovers. I never had trouble staying awake.
Adler’s book challenges me in two ways. First, reading with grit. Second, reading with questions.
Reading with Grit.
“Whether you manage to keep awake or not depends in large part on your goal in reading. If your aim in reading is to profit from it – to grow somehow in mind or spirit – you have to keep awake. That means reading as actively as possible. It means making an effort – an effort for which you expect to be repaid.”
I winced a bit when I read this, realizing I don’t always approach my reading with great expectation. I am often guilty of using my reading as a daily sleeping pill. What a waste! I was further convicted of this as I read the portion of the book on syntopical reading. How will I ever pull the best out of resources if I am not approaching them as a “demanding reader,” with expectations of repayment for my time? I should be approaching my reading with as much tenacity as I approached the books I read as a child. Though the repayment expectation is different, my posture should remain the same. I may be surprised by the treasures that lie in the material I am now reading. I need to add some perseverance and tenacity to my reading…I need to read with grit.
Reading with Questions.
I am sure all parents are familiar with the rite of passage that is the perpetual “why?” of the toddler years. In an article from Harvard Business Review, 200 clients with children were surveyed, and they responded that 70-80% of their children’s conversation were questions compared to 15-25% of their own conversations. It seems that as we enter adulthood and the demand to have answers grows, we stop asking questions.
Adler challenges our lack of questions. In fact, he proposes that every reading experience should be a discovery process as we seek answers to major questions about our reading. For me, this is one of the reasons the chapters on syntopical reading are so helpful. Perhaps I never outgrew the toddler phase, but the more I read and learn, the more I realize I don’t know. This leads to more reading and discovery. Adler’s explanation of how to pull the best out of all our simultaneous reading is priceless.
As I enter this program, I am doing my best to approach reading and research wide-eyed and full of questions. I can’t wait to see where these questions will lead…perhaps to some of the powerful, God-dreamed pictures I now see in my mind’s eye…
 Mortimer J. Adler and Charles Van Doren, How to Read a Book (New York: Touchstone, 1972), 45.
 Ibid, 307.
 Pohlman, Tom and Neethi Mary Thomas. “Relearning the Art of Asking Questions.” Harvard Business Review, 2015.
 Adler, 46.