Sometimes when I’m reading, I’m in a hurry to get it over with. You know, when you should probably already be out the door but you just want to find out if Ashton Kutcher and Demi Moore are really splitting up, or what the score for the Bills game was last night, or when you have a class that’s meeting in twenty minutes and you really should have started reading Daniel Deronda (which has 600-800 pages, depending on the edition you get) more than two hours ago. There are other times when I’m just a lazy reader.
The problem with both of these cases is that I don’t get as much out of my reading. The biggest thing I’ve found is that when I’m a hurried reader or a lazy reader, I don’t look up words I don’t understand. I skim over them, and even if I can’t get the meaning from the textual clues I forge ahead. Eventually, this kind of behavior becomes a habit, and you stop worrying about these words you don’t know. But learning is a lifestyle; the small choices you make each day to do something different that will provide an educational benefit. So the next time you’re reading a newspaper article and you stumble across a new word, take the time to look it up. Find out what that word means. Try using it in a sentence the next day. Write it down in your journal, or scribble it in the margins of your notebook.
Eventually, these words will start adding up. You’ll become better at the New York Times crossword puzzle. You’ll start recognizing more words. You’ll start using more words in conversations. You’ll be more invested in language. And, you’ll inspire your children to do the same. So don’t just skip over those pesky unfamiliar words…give them the attention they deserve.
What’s the best new word you’ve learned recently? Mine is “patina”: which can be the green film that builds up on copper or bronze after exposure to acid, a surface appearance that has grown more beautiful with age or use, or a superficial covering. Learn something new every day!