In Other Words

With all this back-to-school stuff going on around here, with teachers sending home papers urgently stressing the importance of our kids reading every day, with my first-grader slowly moving down the road toward idependent reading, I came across this.

Sometimes (most of the time) I find that others have said what I’m thinking better than I could say it myself.  So for today, I’m just going to bring you Madeleine L’Engle’s words, from her book Walking on Water, which is a wonderful reflection on faith and art.  

We think because we have words, not the other way around.  The more words we have, the better able we are to think conceptually. Yes another reason why Wrinkle was often rejected is that there are many words in it which would never be found in a controlled vocabulary list for the age-group of the ten-to-fourteen-year-old. Tesseract, for instance.  It’s a real world, and one essential for the story.

As a child, when I came across a word I didn’t know, I didn’t stop reading the story to look it up, I just went on reading. And after I had come across the word in several books, I knew what it meant; it had been added to my vocabulary. This still happens. When I started to read Teilhard de Chardin’s The Phenomenon of Man, I was determined to understand it. I read diligently, with a dictionary beside me, stopping to look up the scientific words which were not familiar to me. And I bogged down. So I put aside the dictionary and read as though I were reading a story, and quickly I got drawn into the book, fascinated by his loving theology, and understood it far better, at a deeper level, than if I had stuck with the dictionary.

Is this a contradiction? I don’t think so. We played with my daughter’s vocabulary words during dinner. We kept a dictionary by the table just for fun. But when we read, we read. We were capable of absorbing far more vocabulary when we read straight on than when we stopped to look up every word. Sometimes I will jot down words to be looked up later.  But we learn words in many ways, and much of my vocabulary has been absorbed by my subconscious mind, which then kindly blips it up to my conscious mind when it is needed

True, isn’t it?  

So much learning is there for the taking, if only we won’t take all the fun out of the process.

Just a little something for us to think about as we conscientiously help our kids plow through homework this year.  

Carry on, Mom and Dad. You’re doing good work.

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