My favorite class in college was definitely children’s literature. It even beat tap dancing and bowling. It’s the only class that I can remember actually looking forward to doing the homework. I got to snuggle down with great books for an entire semester and actually got college credit for it.
There were books we were required to read , and then we got to choose others. (I have included the pictures of some of the required reads throughout this post.) I don’t remember many of the books I chose on my own, but the required reads I remember well even 10 years later. I know the difference in memory stems from having discussed and reviewed the required selections with the rest of the class. Being able to express feelings about the book and talk about the writing, the characters, and the plot just cemented them better in my brain, whereas my own book choices I just recorded the number of pages read.
I love to read, obviously, and I feel the time spent reading is invaluable if through the
process I am changed and improved. If I can learn something about myself or others or the world around me from reading then that is a great use of my time. But to gain anything from a book requires more than just reading the words on the pages and then setting the book aside once the last word has been read. We need to ponder what the words have taught us; we need to know how we feel about it and why. Taking time to internally process a book and our experience with it is what allows reading to have power. And then if you really want to make the new knowledge stick, make it concrete and memorable, we need to express our thoughts and feelings. Writing it all out can be particularly beneficial as it give us a record to refer back to and to remind ourselves of the literary journey we took.
It’s not just the positive experiences with books that are beneficial. Being able to explain why we didn’t like a book is just as valuable as explaining why we loved it. Discussing with others can provide further insight as well. We can see other perspectives and ideas that we might have missed, or hearing someone else agree with us can reaffirm and solidify our own ideas. I love that moment when you read or hear something and say, “Yes! Exactly! That [author/reviewer/person] totally gets it, and gets me!”
So that’s why I review books. It’s why I like to talk about them with other people. It’s
all about learning, gaining, and improving myself and then connecting with others and the world around me. If I’m really lucky I may even be able to help others experience the same kind of growth. My children’s literature class helped me to see the importance of reviewing in the whole reading experience; it gave me the “why” of reviewing. But more importantly, the class also gave me the tools to effectively and accurately review.