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Intelligent Reading, as published in Home Magazine, (July, 1933)

Transcription

"Intelligent Reading"
by Helen Keller

There is too much scatter-brain reading by both men and women. One sees them reading newspapers and magazines assiduously, but when one enters into conversation with them, it would seem they had digested little of what they had read. We rise from our newspapers and magazines with our appetite for news satisfied, but with no perception of the sequence of events or our relation to them. We scatter abroad disconnected comments and opinions, thus passing on our topsy-turvy way of thinking to others.

I meet many women who read extensively, but their reading seems to limit itself to what is interesting, but not important. This kind of reading enlivens for the moment and deadens afterward. John Wesley refers to it as a "wasteful, unhealthy self-indulgence." Certainly it leaves the mind barren of needful knowledge that should be communicated to the younger generation.

We should read with some sort of system and purpose. We should read for understanding and tolerance, for historical value and critical judgement. When we have read an article or an instructive book attentively, we should try to apply what we have read to the principles of life and the march of events.

No matter what happens, right reading done in season and done with an open mind will render intelligible to us the why and the how of falling empires, changes in governments, events that reduce our means of life or affect our children's welfare, and we shall be able to put ourselves in a position to resist the menacing evil or benefit by the good that comes. For these same questions that disturb and puzzle and confound us today have in their turn occurred to all the wise men.

When we stand up for judgement in the crisis that is even now upon us, it will be of no use to say, "Oh, I did not understand," or "So many things happened, I could not keep up with them, and anyway, what could I do about them?" Unless we are informed we shall be numbered among those who having eyes see not and having ears hear not.

Perhaps we can give only a few minutes to reading each day, but it will steer us through a storm of conflicting ideas and standards and save us some cruel disappointments. For it will keep us clear of some of the pernicious false assertions that work as much havoc in our national life as selfishness. Want of thought is as harmful to us as want of heart. No one who reads attentively is ever quite the same again. He earnestly regrets that he does not know more, and that is at least the beginning of vision that keeps individuals and nations spiritually alive.

Many of the great men today, the men who have accomplished something in the way of science, medicine, exploration have received their inspiration from good reading material. The deeds and hardships of others who have given their thoughts to a great national service have spurred them on.

The kind of reading that counts is that which "doth buckle and bow the mind to the nature of things." Intelligent reading makes of us trail-breakers and lamps to the feet of our children.

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