Reading with Unhurried Delight

Feb 22, 2017 | Posted by Gail


Edmund Burke believed that, "To read without reflecting is like eating without digesting." As National Library Lovers month and our focus on reading come to a close, it seems useful to share some of the reading resources that IEW offers. We asked the author of Timeline of Classics, Gail Ledbetter, to chime in on the conversation.


Many teachers and parents feel overwhelmed by the sheer number of books available today, and those numbers continue to increase daily. How does one choose from the vast array of books available in the library and at the bookstore? What are the Great Books that our families should be reading? This is a question worth considering. Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803 - 1882) wrestled with this question as well when he wrote:

There are 850,000 volumes in the Imperial Library at Paris. If a man were to read industriously from dawn to dark for sixty years, he would die in the first alcove. Would that some charitable soul, after losing a great deal of time among the false books and alighting upon a few true ones, which made him happy and wise, would name those which have been bridges or ships to carry him safely over dark morasses and barren oceans, into the heart of sacred cities, into palaces and temples.

What Emerson experienced in the nineteenth century has only grown in intensity in the twenty-first. In 2010, Google estimated that upwards of 130 million books have been published in all of modern history! The number of books published each year in the United States alone is thought to be somewhere between 600,000 and one million. Since time is such a precious commodity, who would want to waste it among the “false books?”

In addition to the constant deluge of distracting choices, there is the perplexity of literary analysis. How can you be sure that you truly caught the author's intended message? Common sense tells us that reading is about more than just watching words go by on a page or on a screen. It is about wrestling with the timeless issues that have touched the human heart since the dawn of time. But how do you learn to truly connect with what the author was trying to say? This takes time and a little know-how.

Timeline of Classics addresses both dilemmas. By focusing solely on the great books, this resource helps narrow the choices considerably. In this unique compilation, the classic literature of the ages is arranged chronologically to lend a deeper layer of understanding through the lens of historical context.

Eugene Peterson describes reading this way—“Reading is a gift, but only if the words are taken into the soul—eaten, chewed, gnawed, received in unhurried delight.” How does one teach students to digest what they read? Reader-response journaling, as detailed in Timeline of Classics, offers a simple method for slowing down the brain. It allows time for words to be taken into the soul where they can do their work. By learning to ask questions, some-a-rize chapters in key word form, discuss the beauty of literary devices, and delve into vocabulary study, students can learn to engage with an author on their own.

Gone are the days of traditional worksheets, complicated teaching materials, and prescribed comprehension questions! By modeling reader-response journaling, you will have taught students to chew, gnaw, and receive literature. Here is what this looks like on a practical level. Reader-response journaling helps students:

  • think more deeply about literature

  • strengthen comprehension

  • recall complex details

  • attend to literary devices

  • expand vocabulary

  • discern truth

Not only can this study method be facilitated at home with your family, but it can be easily implemented in a classroom setting across a broad spectrum of ages and abilities.

Books should not be feared. Read them with patience. Experience the blessing. With resources like Teaching the Classics and Timeline of Classics, IEW is here to help you successfully navigate the narrow literary path. So, whether you're snuggling with a board book, a blanket, and a toddler, or leading a book discussion in a high school classroom, books are meant to be enjoyed! Authors speak to us. Let us slow ourselves down so that we can listen with unhurried delight.

Helpful Resources:

Episode 36: Some TLC from IEW


Gail Ledbetter earned a B.S. in Bible and Elementary Education from Columbia International University. After teaching for many years in Gwinnett County, GA, she entered the most challenging classroom of all, where her heart remains captivated with her four children. With a love for history and literature, Gail and her children developed Timeline of Classics: Historical Context for the Good and Great Books. Gail taught writing and literary analysis for many years in her home, in local co-op classes, and online. Finding Excellence in Writing made it possible for a reformed reluctant reader and writer to coach families in the very areas in which she struggled the most! Gail now serves IEW as a Certified online instructor, author, and exhibitor. She and her husband Shane continue to educate their younger children at home on her grandparents' former dairy in McLeansville, NC.

Live Chat with IEW