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While I do not profess to be an expert, I have often pondered the how’s and why’s of typeface and document layout efficiencies with respect to speed of reading, and the understanding of content from a neurophysiological perspective. …

Donald Samulack, “Reflections on Text and Language Perception, and the Ramifications for Publishing Workflows,” The Scholarly Kitchen (Aug 16, 2018)

What Matters for Note-taking Is Interpretation, Not Information /

Christian Tietze used to gather complete source information when he studied, out of fear that he didn’t understand the author’s intent. He assumed that keeping the author’s words was more important than having his own. In time, his way of studying didn’t work. He had to revisit sources to rethink about them.

I’ve also fallen for this “collector’s fallacy.” I’ve spent a lot of time preserving clippings of significant articles and then having to reread them later for information, if I ever returned to them.

Tietze overanalyzes the problem, however, and makes a misguided foray into hermeneutics. In his article “Stop Relying on a Source and Have Faith in Your Own Thoughts,” he concludes that it’s not possible to understand the author’s intent, that texts have no information and are worthless. What matters, he says, is the information you create from interacting with a source. If Tietze were right in this regard, what would be the point of studying others and writing to build up others? Such a hermeneutic undermines our efforts to grow up and dismantle our self-centered views of the world. I don’t have faith in my own thoughts, which is why I study. Even he doesn’t agree with himself at this point. See his article “The Collector’s Fallacy” where he acknowledges that source texts do have information that matters and studying will, “integrate the text’s information into our own knowledge.” This second article comes closer to my experience: collecting materials gives a feeling of accomplishment, but it’s a form of procrastination.

I can see how Tietze’s thinking provides motivation to stop collecting other people’s words and start writing his own. Although I disagreed with his reasoning in the middle, I shared his problem and solution:

I stopped collecting because it didn’t produce the results I wanted. Instead, I increasingly shifted my focus to writing notes in my own voice, to keep my interpretations of texts in a condensed form, and to have them available at all times instead of making the texts themselves easy to find. This produces far better results, because a note you wrote yourself is tailored to your own patterns of thought, making it easier to work with it in the future. Your own notes require less energy when you read and make sense of them than re-visiting the original source would.

I agree with his idea that we collect our own words and ideas to provide clarity to ourselves later (not to mention another significant outcome: to avoid plagiarism). For the sake of learning, what matters more is not a copy of the information studied, but our summary of it. Not all of my notes are clear to my future self, but with a quick look at the source I recall what I was getting at. Of course, being faithful to the author’s intent matters: even Tietze keeps a reference to the source with his notes.

Preserving source information in place of note-taking is not helpful for learning. My own notes are a record of my engagement. They not only convey the meaning of the information, but also its significance.

The basic finding is that children’s brains are activated differently in emerging readers depending on how the content was fed to them. Audio-only had little brain activation, meaning just playing an audiobook or reading without letting the child see or hold the book is not highly effective. The opposite was true of full-on voice and animation, which left the child with very little to do in terms of activating their brains to understand the content. The middle ground, reading to a child while showing them static illustrations, required the most interaction in the brain and developed the most connection with the content.

There has long been a case for the “calmness” associated with e-ink e-readers for children’s content.

Mercy Pilkington, “Research Shows What Books Do to Kids’ Brains,” Good e-Reader (May 27, 2018)

“Could one not thus steal past those watchful dragons?” /

Russell Moore, “Watchful Dragons: Neil Gaiman’s Brush with Narnia Lingers,” Touchstone (Mar/Apr 2018)

Narnia, after all, was initially created to rescue a sense of the sacred from the established church and from what Inklings biographers Philip and Carol Zaleski describe as “the moralistic sentimentality by which it has been deadened” (The Fellowship: The Literary Lives of the Inklings, 2015, p. 390). This was why, Lewis concluded, he didn’t feel the weight of the stories of Scripture. They were too familiar to him.

“But suppose that by casting all these things into an imaginary world, stripping them of their stained glass and Sunday school associations, one could make them for the first time appear in their real potency?” Lewis wondered, in retrospect. “Could one not thus steal past those watchful dragons? I thought one could” (ibid.). …

But how did Lewis do this? It wasn’t his characters. As the other Inklings knew, Narnia wasn’t a carefully constructed mythic sub-creation, as Tolkien’s Middle Earth was. But for many of us, including Gaiman, there was something else at work in Aslan’s realm.

“The weird things about the Narnia books for me was that mostly they seemed true,” Gaiman reflected. “These were reports from a real place” (Laura Miller, The Magician’s Book: A Skeptic’s Adventure in Narnia, 2008, p. 23). …

“Sometimes fiction is a way of coping with the poison of the world in a way that lets us survive it,” he recounts. “And I remembered. I would not be the person I am without the authors who made me what I am—the special ones, the wise ones, sometimes just the ones who got there first.”

“It’s not irrelevant, those moments of connection, those places where fiction saves your life,” Gaiman continues. “It’s the most important thing there is.” Indeed, it is. And perhaps there is more yet of Neil Gaiman left to be saved. …

Even in the sterilized secularity of the West, there are yet signposts in a strange land. There are yet intimations of interest in something, or someone, just out of reach, even when those intimations are safely hidden away in science fiction or fantasy. Christians should take note. Perhaps the way to speak to a transcendence-starved West might include not only a cathedral liturgy or a revival tent, but also, even still, a lion, a witch, and a doorway, just where one least expects it, to Narnia.

The Books of “When I Give A Book” /

I enjoyed Helena Sorensen’s Shiloh Series. She recently wrote an article about giving books and what she’s really giving with the gift of a book.

She may not have had in mind a book checklist but I’ve reduced it to that! Her article was it’s own gift of reading recommendations. And I’m looking for recommendations for those “hours spent pleasantly… by the fire, during a blizzard, at the beach, curled in bed… [h]ours of laughing or dreaming or catching your breath….”

  • Norton Juster’s The Phantom Tollbooth
  • New ideas:
    • Frederick Buechner’s Telling Secrets
    • C.S. Lewis’s Till We Have Faces
    • Brené Brown’s Daring Greatly
  • Emotional experiences:
    • Betty MacDonald’s The Egg and I
    • Polly Horvath’s The Trolls
    • Frances Hodgson Burnett’s A Little Princess
    • Elizabeth George Speare’s The Bronze Bow
  • New people:
    • Noel Streatfeild’s Ballet Shoes
    • John Irving’s A Prayer for Owen Meany
    • Charles Dickens’s Oliver Twist
  • New places:
    • Ursula K. Le Guin’s Rocannon’s World
    • Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus
    • Megan Whalen Turner’s The Queen of Attolia

Helena Sorensen, “When I Give A Book,” Story Warren (Feb 9, 2018)

Karen Swallow Prior, “How Reading Makes Us More Human,” The Atlantic (Jun 21, 2013)

“Writers to Read”: Wilson and Sons /

Douglas Wilson, Writers to Read: Nine Names That Belong on Your Bookshelf

Wilson, a pastor and classical Christian educator, names nine authors to read:

  • G.K. Chesterton
  • H.L. Mencken
  • P.G. Wodehouse
  • T.S. Eliot
  • J.R.R. Tolkien
  • C.S. Lewis
  • R.F. Capon
  • M.S. Robinson
  • N.D. Wilson

I wondered about the last author until I learned it was Wilson’s son. Thoughts of nepotism aside, I realize that Wilson is the quintessential Psalm 127 man. He holds his children like a warrior holds his arrows, and stands unashamed at the city gates. He’s trained his children well and confidently puts his young son in league with great writers.

So I checked out N.D. Wilson. While I wouldn’t say his work is that distinguished, who’s to say he isn’t great? He has initials in his name.

I’ve benefitted from his writing and so have my children. He has a gift and uses it with confidence. I recommend reading him too.

“Follow the ‘Reading Rules’”: To the bookish but burdened /

Excerpt from Chelsea Kolz Boes, “Follow the ‘Reading Rules,’” World.

Have you, at any time in your life, grown accustomed to reading for utility instead of pleasure? If you are like me, and especially if you have recently been to college, you will have to reinvigorate your loves. I developed the Reading Rules over this year. You follow them like this:

  1. Go to the library.
  2. Do not hunt. Meander.
  3. Pull something out that you like the look of. Begin to read. If you do not care enough about it to stand in the aisle perusing for at least five minutes, leave it behind. If the book lasts that long, take it with you. Remember, you are not on trial. The book is.
  4. Gather a large stack of material from several genres: cookbooks, craft books, novels, biographies, and especially children’s books.
  5. Take the stack home, but never feel like you must read any part of your stack in its entirety — unless you want to. The only way you can fail at the Reading Rules is by feeling guilty. And if you feel guilty about not finishing a certain book, you will get stuck and never move on. If you are like me, you will stop reading what you want to read because something you feel you should read hangs over your head. And remember, you learn more reading a little bit of a book than you learn reading nothing at all.
Leadership’s First Lesson: Read It /
Coronation Chair in Westminster Abbey
Coronation Chair in Westminster Abbey

God gave his people a written record of his instruction before they entered the promised land. He said that any future king should make a copy of this instruction for himself and read from it every day:

When [a king] sits on the throne of his kingdom, he is to write for himself in a book a copy of this instruction, approved by the Levitical priests. It is to be with him, and he is to read in it all the days of his life. Then he may learn to fear the LORD his God by keeping all the words of this instruction and these statutes, and doing them, and his heart may not be lifted up above his brothers, and he may not turn aside from the commandment, either to the right hand or to the left, so that he and his children may continue long in his kingdom in Israel. (Deut. 17:18–20)

This lesson — the Bible’s first direct word about both reading and leading — teaches one thing a king should do. There are other first things the people are told concerning what a king should not be or do (he should not be a foreigner; should not amass wealth or wives; and ultimately, should not lead his or anyone’s heart away from God; see vv. 15–17). But a king should do God’s Word. And to do it, we’re told, he first must read from it every day.

This lesson is not about the king’s ability as an orator, administrator or strategist. The king’s greatest qualification as a leader is that he is a follower of God’s Word (compare this to the similar qualifications for church leaders in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1). God’s Word will go to work in the leader who believes it. Then he’ll know his place before God, the One who set his love on the people, rescued them from slavery, made them into a feared nation, and is awesome among them. He’ll know his place in the kingdom, among his brothers and sisters, as one among equals. He’ll know that God has granted in the Word everything needed for the task. And he’ll know this first lesson is also the final: a leader should pass on this legacy to the next generation so that they may “continue long in his kingdom.”

I have worked under men on the mission field who reflect this lesson in their leadership. I’ve traveled abroad with them and watched them speak God’s Word to others with confidence and love. And I’ve also seen them, on the same day, take up their copy of the Book and check their teaching against it. They don’t go back to lessons from leadership gurus, experience or research first. They say instead, like Paul, “bring… above all the parchments” (2 Tim. 4:13).

I’ve disagreed with these men also. But we can and should work together. Why? Because they uphold God’s Word above all, not their hearts above their brothers. The basis of a working relationship in the kingdom is God’s Word, and speaking it’s truth in love. Without this we have no way to keep from turning aside, “either to the right hand or to the left.” May God keep these leaders in the Word and give them the reward of spiritual children that continue in it.

Are you preparing to serve in ministry? Seek out leaders who keep God’s Word first of all. And keep it with them. Are you leading? Keep your copy of the Book close, every day. And make this evident when you speak. Lead by following God’s Word so that your legacy may last long in the kingdom.