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Friday, April 06, 2012

The importance of reading what you don't understand

On Woman's Hour a head teacher apparently said there's no point presenting young children with texts that they don't understand. Michael Rosen wonders why not and points out that his kids were always reading things they didn't understand. That's how they learned.

I have always read things I didn't understand. I still do. In my twenties I would read Herbert Marcuse or Richard Brautigan and didn't get more than one sentence in ten. I did the same with NME and Rolling Stone and the underground press. I groped my way towards an imperfect understanding of all kinds of things. If it had been easier I probably wouldn't have bothered.

I've always pretended to know more than I do. Seems better than pretending to know less. I often think my education has been as much about picking up fragments as anything else. I think Rosen's point is important. A man's reach should exceed his grasp or what's a heaven for? Which is, funnily enough, the only bit of Robert Browning I know.