Reading and meditation are the two principal means by which one advances in knowledge, Hugh of St. Victor notes in his 12th century treatise, The Didascalicon: On the Study of Reading. Three things, he says, are necessary in reading, namely: what one ought to read, in what order one ought to read, and how one ought to read. His treatise probably doesn’t appear on the syllabus of any university Department of Education but in truth his points underlie all and every form of curricula. And so, for us at King’s-Edgehill and especially in our current world, there is a kind of crisis about reading.
Ironically, students are reading far more text but almost entirely digitally and with far less attention and understanding. Shallow reading, as Nicholas Carr puts it in his book, The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains (2011), results in the loss of the skill of ‘deep reading’ which is attentive, critical, and reflective. Maryanne Wolf’s Reader, Come Home (2018) provides a very fine account of the problem from both neuroscientific and literary perspectives which shows how we are all affected by the impact of digital platforms and technology on our reading. The point is not, however, to ban digital reading but to balance it with print reading, appreciating the importance of the latter for the development of deep reading and reflection.
On this basis, the English Department at King’s-Edgehill, with great help from our librarians, Marilyn Curry
and Susie DeCoste
, has undertaken the task of developing some basic policies for the teaching of literature at our School and in putting together a template of texts
for the study of English for Grades 6 through 12. The idea is that in each grade and level of instruction there will be at least three print texts
studied in class. The curriculum lays out a range of core texts for each grade as well as recommended texts for independent reading. The task in our times is for students to be “double-cultured” in both print and digital reading, thus exercising what Wolf calls “the bilateral mind.”
Such a curriculum contains a range of books, both contemporary and classic, which touch upon various areas of concern and interest, all in the pursuit of encouraging students to become careful and thoughtful readers. The key that is provided simply indicates certain features or aspects of some of the books; they are not full descriptors. Pat LePoidevin has produced some lovely posters that highlight the books for study in the Junior and Senior Schools and which will be a welcome addition to the walls and classrooms of our School. Thank you, Pat!
What Hugh of St. Victor says about what to read, in what order, and how to read echoes the setting of the story of the Good Samaritan in the questions of Jesus in response to a question by a cynical “certain lawyer”. “What is written in the law? How readest thou?”
Of the making and reading of books, there is no end, Ecclesiastes notes, and so too for our age. This programme of texts will be constantly revised but it provides at the very least a coherent structure and a direction for reading and study. It is attached for the interest of parents and guardians. My thanks to my colleagues in the English Department for their enthusiasm and suggestions.
(Rev’d) David Curry
Head of English and ToK Teacher