Reading Notebook

I keep a reading notebook. I read quite a bit and there are often things I come across that I want to remember. I put the date I read it, the title and the name of the author on the top of the page and then just take notes on the interesting points. I find myself referring back to the notebook quite often.

I do not take notes on every book. I simply begin to take notes if I come across something I feel is significant or memorable.

Some book titles from my notebook:

  • The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis
  • The Real Thomas Jefferson from the National Center for Constitutional Studies
  • Amazing Grace by Eric Metaxas
  • The Culture of Disbelief by Stephen L. Carter
  • Gift From the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindberg
  • Home Comforts by Cheryl Mendelson
  • Any Child Can Write Harvey S. Wiener, PhD
  • The Elegant Universe by Brian Greene
  • How the Irish Saved Civilization by Thomas Cahill
  • Advancement of Learning by Francis Bacon
  • 8 Minutes in the Morning by Jorge Cruise
  • Plus More

The books I take notes on are totally random and eclectic. Some of them I love, some I think are all right and a few I really hate, but they all have something that I felt, at least at the time, was worth writing down.

My Notebooks and my Thoughts

There is no order to my notebooks. Some of the notes are only one page, while some notes take up many many pages. I write down direct quotes or ideas, but mostly it’s my thoughts about the author’s thoughts that I record.

I’m not sure why this is, but until you write your thoughts, you haven’t really thought them yet.  Writing helps us refine and articulate our views.  It also helps  us cement our views.

High Schoolers

Try using the reading notebook concept with your high schoolers too.  As they read a book, encourage them to write down the thoughts they have.  To help them get started you may need to provide direction.  If they’re assigned to read Hamlet, for example, tell them to write down each character and what they like/do not like about the character.

What is the character’s main problem?

How do they attempt to solve it?

What traits made them capable (or incapable) of the task?

Apply It To You

But the most meaningful things to write in your notebook are the lessons you learn and apply to your life.  In the example of Hamlet, you might learn how a desire for revenge creates problems or you might learn that we need to follow our hearts or you might learn that it’s never so dark that we ought to give up on living.  Write the lessons you learned.

Why Bother?

We often talk about how we want our kids to be lifelong learners, but we fail to be that ourselves.  This is a really simple way that you can become a lifelong learner, without really even working hard at it.

  • You will be amazed at all you learn.  I feel more alive and engaged when I’m learning.  It’s an investment you won’t regret.
  • You will be able to recall all of those cool thoughts and ideas you had.
  • You will have things to talk about with others – your kids, your spouse, your friends – you will become a deeper, more substantive person as you expand your mind.  Can you just see the interesting dinner conversations you’d have over your table if everyone in your family did this regularly?
  • You will also be showing the best kind of example to your kids.  They are watching you.  They see what you do.  They will find it far more natural to read and write about it if they observe their parents already doing it.

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