Why Do We Read?

  • Frank G. Jennings


At the beginning of this book reading was defined in a very broad way as the drinking in of all experience, making that experience a part of our growing, thinking, feeling selves. Later we saw that man created some wonderful tools and some truly marvelous ways of making experiences more manageable. The camp-fire storyteller, the garrulous elder who earned his aging keep with ancient bits of worked out wisdom; the strange one who, with chant and song, made heroes out of hunters and peopled the darkness with ogres and monsters and bodiless powers; the puzzler who discovered that questions somehow put things in the kind of order that made them easy to understand. All of these men were kindred and sometimes these characteristics could be found in one man. The thinker became different from the doer and this division of labor made partnership possible. Both doer and thinker shared an interest in knowing what things were and how they happened, but the “why” question was the preserve of the thinking man; in a large measure it still is.


Book Reading Great Book Labor Leader Human Enterprise Primitive People 
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  1. 1.
    Paul Radin, Primitive Man as Philosopher, New York: Appleton-Century, 1927, p. 59.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Lester B. Asheim, “What Do Adults Read?” in Nelson B. Henry, Editor, Reading, the Fifty-Fifth Yearbook of the University of the National Society for the Study of Education, University of Chicago Press, 1956, Part II, p. 28.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Teachers College, Columbia University 1965

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  • Frank G. Jennings

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