How Reading Hard Books Leads to Super Powers

One of the most common complaints I've heard from students when assigned a challenging book or a “classic” was, “But I just don’t like reading those kinds of books.”

Of course, we want our students and children to develop a love for reading, but I think the comment points to a common misconception: the idea that the primary purpose of reading is entertainment. After all, we consume stories via movies and Netflix -- shouldn’t reading books be equally enjoyable?

Yes, reading can be fun, especially for Core Phase (0-7) students, but our Scholar Phase (13+) students benefit from the hard work of learning to read and value hard books. It is through reading difficult books that we learn to think through problems and moral dilemmas. It is through reading difficult books that we develop an “ear” for advanced language that is eventually transmitted to our writing and the other ways we communicate. Also, it is through reading difficult books that we are able to sit down with the great minds in history and learn to think and debate. In other words, reading hard books is one of the best ways for our brains to learn HOW to think. 

Thinking is a skill. Approaching academic reading is like taking on a new exercise regimen. We have to build muscle and put in consistent, hard work. The brain will actually physically hurt! Students need support and context to keep up this work. But the benefits are incredible! The thinking skills gained become a super power. 

When I first started a rigorous educational program my mentor had me read this brilliant essay called, Invitation to the Pain of Learning. We hope the principles shared here will help your Scholar Phase youth as well.