How to Read a Book was first published in the early months of 1940.
Why then attempt to recast and rewrite the book for the present generation of readers? (1972)
There has been a shift of interest from the reading of fiction to the reading of nonfiction. The educators of the country have acknowledged that teaching the young to read, in the most elementary sense of that word, is our paramount educational problem.
However, certain things have not changed in the last thirty years. Once constant is that, to achieve all the purposes of reading, the desideratum must be the ability to read different things at different – appropriate – speeds, not everything at the greatest possible speed. As Pascal observed three hundred years ago, “When we read too fast or too slowly, we understand nothing”
Another thing that has not changed, unfortunately, is the failure to carry instruction in reading beyond the elementary level.
Professor James Mursell of Columbia University’s Teachers College wrote an article for the Atlantic Monthly entitled “The Failure of Schools.”
Upt to the fifth and sixth grade, reading, on the whole, is effectively taught and well learned. To that level we find a steady and general improvement, but beyond it the curves flatten out to a dead level.
[Students] can improve; they need to improve; but they don’t.
To all intents and purposes [the student] remains a sixth-grade reader till well along in college.
If there was a need for How to Read a Book thirty years ago, …, The need is much greater today.