From reading to learn to reading for pleasure

Ham and cheddar scones.

Egg and watercress sandwiches.

Salmon spread on pumpernickel.

Sticky toffee pudding.

That's the menu for tonight's book club meeting, a perfect compliment to our discussion of Jane Austen's "Emma," led by yours truly.

To be honest, we probably won't discuss the book that much because we'll be watching the 1996 film version starring Gwyneth Paltrow as we sip on Earl Grey and English breakfast tea. (I imagine some other beverages will find their way into our cups as well.)

I love my book club. We read everything under the sun - nonfiction, memoirs, contemporary fiction, historical fiction. Although I never went on to get a doctorate and become an English professor, I have assumed that unofficial role in book club. Other members suggest female detective stories or compelling nonfiction titles for our reading list. I rely heavily on the classics - Austen, Shakespeare, Hardy.

I really don't want to be that member who always wants everyone to read things they should've read in high school or college. But my book club friends seem to want to check these titles off their literary bucket lists. They insisted, in fact, that we read "David Copperfield" after I learned it was almost 800 pages and tried to substitute my recommendation with a shorter Dickens

novel. (In my defense, Ainsley was a baby and I was back at work full time.)

"Isn't there a movie?" they asked. There is, of course, so I watched it and spent most of that gathering offering lame observations about how the movie differed from the book.

That's what I love about book club, though. We don't take things too seriously. We enjoy a good book - and a good meal - and a good movie version of a good book.

We have fun.

That's the message John Warner shared in a recent issue of the Sunday Trib. Like me, he hasn't read "Moby Dick" or "War and Peace." He has no plans to read either one (although he can boast that has read


"(N)ever read a book because you think it will make you seem with it or worldly or cultured," he writes. "Read for yourself, not to impress others."

I read his column Monday night, right after reading

Ainsley's third grade homework assignment. They are working on reading comprehension, and I think it's fair to say school is a little more challenging for 8-year-olds than it used to be.

For example, to achieve the highest mark on the reading rubric, students need to offer a thorough explanation that includes inferential, original thinking and cite at least two pieces of the most relevant evidence from the text.

I read the sample answer that met that criteria and immediately thought back to my days as a writing tutor in college. I saw fellow students who would have been hard-pressed to write a paragraph like that.

Reading, it seems, has become a serious business. You can't just pick up a book anymore. You have to have goals in mind before you read. You have to ask in-depth questions before and after reading. You need sticky notes to mark passages and a Google Docs account to record your observations.

I think it's great that Ainsley's teachers are focusing on reading comprehension. Making the transition from learning to read to reading to learn is a critical step in Ainsley's education.

But I confess I look forward to the day when, after reading a novel, we can trade in the comprehension questions for some tea sandwiches and a DVD.

- Pamela Lannom is editor of The Hinsdalean. This column was first published Sept. 21, 2017.

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Pamela Lannom is editor of The Hinsdalean