A key word for Jacobs is 'Whim'. Reading should not be programmatic, and we should take ourselves where we fancy. As he writes, "the child who reads with a pure enthusiasm, signaling nothing to anyone, is beautiful": it is this kind of enthusiasm that is easiest in childhood, and which is very hard to recapture. He also discusses the way the Kindle rescued his 'pure enthusiasm', the importance of marking certain kinds of books ("Reading with a writing instrument in hand is an unnatural act for many readers, yet I think in most cases it is necessary to attentive response"), the pleasure of 'upstream' books (those which have come before, influenced and shaped our current reads) and much more.
Three quotations of particular interest to English teachers:-
- The“pedagogical challenge” for teachers, in the foreseeable future, will be to combine hyper attention with deep attention and to cultivate both.
- What reading teaches, first and foremost, is how to sit still for long periods and confront time head-on.
- In school, then, reading gets linked to a zig-zagging alternation between empowerment and anxiety, an alternation that for some people can last a lifetime
Alan Jacobs discusses 'The Pleasures of Reading in an Age of Distraction' from The New Atlantis on Vimeo.