The Value of Reading Widely

*Here is another post from my archives that I’ve updated and am re-posting.*

Awhile back, I began reading the book Watership Down. One day, while reading this book, I found myself reading the following words:

Odysseus brings not one man to shore with him. Yet he sleeps sound beside Calypso and when he wakes thinks only of Penelope.” (Ch. 22, pg. 162)

Right smack dab in the middle of a book about rabbits was a reference to The Odyssey, a classic work of ancient literature. What is exciting about this is that because I had started reading The Odyssey at one time, I knew exactly what that reference to The Odyssey was. And that’s exciting to me! Why? Because it’s a connection…a connection between two very different types of books. No one had to point it out to me. I knew the connection because I had read some of The Odyssey myself.

Reading Widely

Coming across this reference to The Odyssey in Watership Down is just one example of the benefits of wide reading:  you never know when any two books you read will cross paths and a connection is made.

Through wide reading…through a generous curriculum full of quality living books…children are introduced to many ideas. And ideas are nourishing food for the mind.

“The life of the mind is sustained upon ideas…” (A Philosophy of Education, pg. 25)

“The intellectual life…has but one food whereby it lives and grows – the sustenance of living ideas.”
(School Education, pg. 121)

“…mind appeals to mind and thought begets thought and that is how we become educated.”
(A Philosophy of Education, pg. 12)

Reading widely is good for our children; and I think it is also good for us.

Our children’s minds need the nourishing food of ideas. So do we.

That wide reading…that filling of our minds with lots of soul-nourishing, mind-nourishing ideas…is important. When we read widely, we are exposing ourselves to a world of ideas; and that means we are learning…we are growing…we are enriching our lives.


This and That: Movies, Books I Want to Finish, and More

I had mentioned in a previous post how I loved watching The Wizard of Oz movie growing up but hadn’t read the book. So I decided that I would read the book aloud to my youngest daughter as I was reading it and then we could watch the movie together. My daughter loved the book; so I was pretty certain that she would enjoy the movie as well. When we decided to watch it this week, of course I called up my mom, told her that we were going to watch the movie and would she like to watch it with us. If you read my post about the book, then you know my mom loves this movie. Of course her answer was “Yes!”. So we headed over to my parent’s house with movie in hand. My mother and I sang to pretty near every song and quoted lines of the movie along the way. LOL And I was right…my daughter loved the movie too! So we now have three generations of Wizard of Oz fans. 🙂


I’ve been thinking the last couple of days that starting in March, I’d like to work on finishing up some books I started awhile back and never finished. They are books I *want* to finish. For some reason or another, I started reading them and then set them aside. I may try to tackle one each month until I get them finished, since I’m already currently reading Les Miserables. Here’s the ones I’d like to finish reading:

I’m only reading Books I and II of The Once and Future King and I’ve already read almost all of Book I. I’m about halfway through Watership Down. So it shouldn’t take too long to finish both of these books….I think…


While we’re on the subject of books, let’s talk tea. I shared one of the quotes I love from C. S. Lewis on Wednesday:

“You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me.”
~ C. S. Lewis

I love a good cup of coffee; but I also enjoy a variety of teas. I have to say that my favorite is probably English Breakfast with Earl Grey following up in second place. How about you? What’s your favorite tea?

Keeping a Commonplace Book

*This is a post from my archives that I’ve updated and am re-posting.*

When it comes to reading, I am a highlighter. I highlight in books a lot. But I also keep a commonplace book or what can be called a reading notebook. Actually, I keep two notebooks. One for only quotes…where I write down quotes from things I’m reading (books, articles, blog posts, etc.)…things I want to remember…things that stand out to me. And then I keep another notebook where I write quotes along with jotting down notes, writing out my thoughts, and sometimes writing summaries about what I’m reading.

There’s just something about writing down things when I’m reading. Why is that? In her book The Well-Educated Mind, Susan Wise Bauer helps us understand why when she says:

What we write, we remember. What we summarize in our own words becomes our own.” (pg. 35)

There is something about keeping a notebook of quotes and summaries that seems to aid in the retention of that material. I notice that even in the act of writing down a to-do list for the day, I’m more likely to remember those things on that list just by having written them down.

This is a picture of a couple of my commonplace books/reading journals.

Mrs. Bauer also says:

“…the journal is the place where the reader takes external information and records it (through the use of quotes, as in the commonplace book); appropriates it through a summary, written in the reader’s own words; and then evaluates it through reflection and personal thought…In this way, the journal connects objective and subjective learning.”
(The Well-Educated Mind, pg. 36)

One of the most powerful ways to internalize something we read is through telling about it…whether it be telling someone else about what we’ve read or by writing a summary of it on paper. This can also be known as narration.

When we keep a notebook where we jot down quotes and statements that stand out to us, then summarize what we’ve read in our own words, then reflect on it and evaluate what we think about it, we are internalizing the material…we are thinking about it…taking it in and evaluating it. And doing this helps us remember it.

To read more about keeping a commonplace book or reading notebook, might I recommend the following?

Sparkly Gel Pens, a Webinar, and Other Commonplace Book Necessities – This is a great post by Brandy. Some of the things she shares about in this post are her favorite types of notebooks and pens to use for a commonplace book.

What I Keep in My Commonplace Book – In this post, Sarah shares about her own commonplace book.

How I Use My Commonplace Journal – In this post, Mystie shares how she keeps a commonplace book. One of the things she talks about is how she uses an actual notebook and then transfers her notes to digital format.

Do you keep a commonplace book or reading notebook? What are your favorite types of notebooks to use for a reading notebook/commonplace book?

Journeying to the Land of Oz

Growing up, we had a TV with an antenna. Cable TV was available at the time, but we didn’t have it until later on in my teenage years. I can remember we could only pick up just a handful of stations on our TV with the antenna. And at some point when I was in elementary school, I remember my parents buying a VCR. A VCR! How exciting! We were actually able to watch movies that we could pick out at the local movie rental store. It was amazing!

But you know what I have always remembered from those years of having a TV with an antenna? Waiting anxiously each year for three movies to air on one of the stations we could pick up with the antenna…The Sound of Music, Mary Poppins, and The Wizard of Oz. It was always an exciting time for me when these movies came on; I looked forward to it each year. From the amazing Mary Poppins, to Maria singing Do-Re-Mi, to Dorothy and her three friends and Toto making their way to the Emerald City…great adventures awaited on the TV screen.

Of those three movies, my mom especially loves The Wizard of Oz. And to this day, she cracks us up with her imitation of the wicked witch of the west talking to Dorothy or proclaiming “I’m melting! I’m melting!”

The Wizard of Oz series

You can imagine that with such fond memories of anxiously awaiting to watch The Wizard of Oz each year when I was growing up, along with having a mother who loves the movie as well, it would’ve been a natural conclusion for me to read the book. But I didn’t. In fact, I hadn’t read the book until last year…when I picked it up, read a few chapters, and set it aside. I don’t know why I set it aside really…probably because of choosing to read other books at the time. So this year, when I decided to join Modern Mrs. Darcy’s reading challenge, I knew this book would be the exact book I would choose for the category “A Book You Previously Abandoned.”

Even though the movie is called The Wizard of Oz, that title is actually the title of a whole series of books L. Frank Baum wrote. In fact, I understand that Baum wrote fourteen Oz books. The first in this series is the one I read, entitled The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.

Like most books that are made into movies, there were definite differences. While I enjoyed the book, the movie just has a magical quality to it that has a way of whisking you away to the land of Oz. Not that the book isn’t magical in its own way. But I think the movie was able to capture that magicalness (hmmm….is that even a word???? I don’t think so….) in a way that wasn’t there in the book. As I read the part when Dorothy stepped out of the house into the land of Oz, I couldn’t help but picture that famous scene in the movie where all goes from black and white film to a world of bright and magnificent colors. Magicalness. Pure magicalness.

Something that really stood out to me as I read the book, is how over the course of the journey to the Emerald City, the Scarecrow, Tin Man, and Cowardly Lion all exhibited and/or developed the very characteristics of the things they were wanting to ask the great Wizard of Oz to give them. The Scarecrow, who wanted a brain, began to have ideas and think about things more. The Tin Man, who wanted a heart, was compassionate and caring. The Cowardly Lion, who wanted courage, showed great courage and was brave a number of times.

This book is a timeless classic…well written and engaging. I have seen this book recommended for 1st-4th grades. I would say that as a read-aloud, that is probably about right. However, my suggestion is that this is a book you might want to look at ahead of time to determine what age would be best to read it aloud to your child. Also, if you are cautious about reading books with witches and wizards and magic, know that this book has these things. The land of Oz has both good witches and bad witches. The good witches are really more like fairy godmother type characters. And my next comment has a spoiler alert:  The wizard, in the end, is not really a wizard at all.

And for all of you Wizard of Oz fans, you’ll definitely want to watch the recent movie Oz the Great and Powerful. It gives a lot of backstory to The Wizard of Oz.

2016 Reading Challenge January Update

The 2016 Reading Challenge is going well so far. I already feel so much more successful with Modern Mrs. Darcy’s challenge! In January, I completed four of the categories and that has me just squealing with joy! Also, because I am most definitely a box-checker type person, being able to check off four of the categories makes me immensely happy. 🙂 The following is what I read in January for the reading challenge, along with which category each book completes.

The Wizard of Oz series

The Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum
Category:  a book you previously abandoned


The Invention of Hugo Cabret

The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick
Category:  a book you can finish in a day


The Giver

The Giver by Lois Lowry
Category:  a book that was banned at some point


And I also read The Boxcar Children (#1 in the series) by Gertrude Chandler Warner
Category:  a book published before you were born