How I Read

When David was younger … and had a lot more allergies … I did a lot of research into homeschooling. We might still homeschool in the future. It depends on where the military sends us and what the local schools are like.

But before I ramble on about homeschooling, let me get to the point.

While I was researching I found a book that caught my eye.

The Well-Educated Mind by Susan Wise Bauer

The book includes lists of works to read in the major literary categories (novel, historical, memoir, poetry, & drama) and I bought it primarily as a guide for what to read. But Bauer spends the first fifty pages or so discussing how to read in a way that promotes critical thinking skills and retention.

One idea that struck a cord with me – writing in a commonplace book.

There’s my current one.

In it I write down the book I am reading, title and author. I’ll write down chapter titles, main characters, plot points, passages that I want to remember, and thoughts about the book. I’ve also been trying to make sure I write my own take on the book after I’m done reading it.

For years, especially since I became a mom, I’ve noticed that my reading retention skills suck. I’ll finish a book and the next day I can’t tell you the author, the names of the main characters or how it ended. I have a Bachelor’s degree in English Literature. This is stuff my brain should keep. But it hasn’t been.

However, since I started using my commonplace book in November of 2009 I’ve seen a big increase in my ability to recall key elements of a book.

Also, I love that I can refer to my commonplace book if I want to remember more about a book or reread a certain passage that I wrote down. This allows me to pass on a book after I’ve read it or borrow books from the library without feeling like once I give it back or give it away it’ll be like the book never existed (since I couldn’t remember what I had read anyway). So, it decreases my¬†book expenses¬†and my book storage. I borrow more books than I buy now that I know I’ll have what I want to know about the book at my fingertips after I give the book back. There are already three huge and three medium sized bookcases in this house, so any device that allows me to decrease the number of books I keep is helpful.

On a Rose-needs-to-continue-decreasing-her-unnecessary-guilt note, I use the Cross pen my dad bought me to encourage me to write more with my commonplace book. Since I do the majority of my writing on the computer, especially now that I’m writing on this blog, it’s nice to have a scholarly purpose for such a sentimental and costly present.

Disclosure: Using the link to purchase this book may result in a commission for me. However, the opinion expressed is my own and cannot be purchased.


  1. TyKes Mom says:

    This is a GREAT idea! Even before becoming a mother, my retention skills were always horrible. My husband and I read the same book at the same time about 7 years ago and to this day he can tell you everything about it whereas I cannot even remember the basic concept of the book. It’s really sad. I think I might look into doing something like this.

    Also, I am interested in hearing your homeschooling thoughts. My son is entering preschool years and I have (fearfully) decided to homeschool. I have no clue what I am doing, lol.

    • Rose says:

      Thanks, I really like it. I’m not so good about doing it consistently with fiction yet, but I’ve found it really helpful & am really good about doing it with my non-fiction reading.
      I’ll been meaning to write a post about homeschooling but the bottom line is that we support homeschooling and admire homeschooling families but with David’s food allergies school outside the home gives him the opportunity to learn how to deal with his allergies in a relatively safe way … as long as the school is willing to take necessary precautions … and my highest priority for David, my most important goal for his childhood, is to teach him how to be self-sufficient in a world that will try to kill him every time he sits down to eat. And I’m going to stop there, otherwise this will turn into a blog post. But Susan Wise Bauer’s mother, Jessie Wise, is known as a homeschooling expert and they’ve written a homeschooling method that I really like. I just bought a book by Jessie Wise called The Ordinary Parent’s Guide to Teaching Reading and just skimming through it I know I’m going to love it.

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