Thoreau on Reading

"To read well, that is, to read true books in a true spirit, is a noble exercise, and one that will task the reader more than any other exercise which the customs of the day esteem. It requires a training such as the athletes underwent, the steady intention almost of the whole life to this object."--Henry David Thoreau* (1817-1862)

Thoreau and others like him are why we push forward with our writing, dig for the better idea, the best conclusion, the most surprising and satisfying endings. They, too, are why we suffer through revisions--including hurtful critiques and difficult rewrites. We must strive to create our best work so readers will have something worthy of their steady intention.

Those of us writing for children must try even harder. Writers of adult literature create for an audience already committed to the "noble exercise." Childrens' authors, however, must convince young people that learning to read well enough "to read true books in a true spirit"  is worth the rigorous training.

*Henry David Thoreau's given name was David Henry Thoreau. Figures that he was a writer; his father was a pencil maker.