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On the proper use of books.

Children Reading

From an article entitled “On the proper use of books” which appeared in the late 19th century ladies sewing and knitting magazine called Dorcas, I bring you this excerpt today. The author of the article was impassioned about this topic, blaming improper reading for crime in the streets and child neglect before she* states that idleness and stupidity are “infinitely preferable” to the problems bad reading causes. :D

Well, I do appreciate her ardor, and I can’t find much to disagree with in the final conclusions:

Most people read without a thought of mental digestion.  If they were ruminant animals, and the “chewing of the cud of reflection” were to follow, it would be another matter.  One should never eat without chewing, or read without considering.  Eat slowly, read slowly, and you have the best conditions for the combination, “Mens sana in corpore sano.” […] Mere reading for amusement—the idlest form of living for one’s self—takes one out of the world, isolates one from humanity; while true, deep reading has the opposite result.  In books properly used, you come to understand your fellow man, which is truly the object of all knowledge.


*Women’s magazines of this era were often written by men, so I might well have said he. I was unable to find either an author or editor listed for this magazine.

Dorcas Magazine. New York. February 1885. pp. 38–40
Harvard University, Widener Library

“Children Reading” graphic via

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