Beth Hautala

Children's Author


What Do You Read and How to Do You Read It?

A friend of mine recently allowed me the privilege of perusing a literature curriculum she is planning to teach her son this fall, and I have to say, it made me itch to go back to school. This happens to me every year. Call me crazy, but I have always loved learning, and if I can do it through the pages of a book, all the better. Plus, new school supplies have always had their own special pull on my heart.

As an adult, my favorite books are the ones that teach me something. One could argue that all books teach you something, which is true. But some do a better job than others . . . And then of course, how you read makes a difference as well.

I've always been a fast reader. My brain makes up for the motion my body can never quite manage to achieve. (I hate treadmills). But there's a downside to being able to read a 200+ page book in an afternoon. Just like wolfing down an amazing meal, while you get the gist of what you consumed—the unique flavors, the nuances of combined herbs, the textures built to interest your pallet—the complexity of these are missed. And the same is true of consuming a book.  

Reading can be a form of entertainment. And as any writer knows, writing a book is often done with an audience in mind—even if that audience exists exclusively in the author's imagination. And as a form of entertainment, it's meant to be enjoyed. But you can argue that it is difficult to fully enjoy something when significant aspects are missed.

And so, while I continue to devour books at a break neck pace, I have a self-imposed read-twice rule. —The first read for the pleasure of wolfing down a fabulous story, and the second read for intimate attention to detail, twist of phrase, and story arc.

Which brings me back to the curriculum my friend is using. It's a literature curriculum designed to teach the student to read. Not in the basic sense, stringing letters together, but in the comprehensive sense. It asks the question, What is this story truly about and what was the author trying to communicate? What subtle details, nuances, foreshadowing, twists of phrase tell you something deeper about the story that a sweeping read might miss?

I'm thinking it might be time to go back to school, starting here. (And not just for the books. Those school supplies are still oh so attractive).

So you tell me, what and how do you read? Does it make a difference in the amount or quality of information you consume? Do you have any self-imposed reading rules? I'd love to hear about it!