professornana (professornana) wrote,

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words by heart

I wrote yesterday about the power of words. Someone commented on Facebook that she had committed so many poems to heart, and suddenly that phrase, WORDS BY HEART, reverberated. I have so many associations with this phrase. Here is one:

words by heart

If you have never read this book, stop reading this blog now and get a copy of this book. The cover of this edition is the one inspired by the movie made from the book, a movie that was true to the book itself. The power of words is at the center of this story. Lena can recite scriptures by heart. And now we are back to the comment about committing works to memory.

There are so many words from books that are now WORDS BY HEART for me. I know the entire text of many books and the opening paragraphs of novels and poems galore. I know them by heart because of repeated readings. I did not make a conscious effort to do this at first mostly because that rote learning/memorization activity was so overused on me when I was younger. I can still recite the preamble to the Constitution but have trouble recalling my own phone number. Ditto the Gettysburg Address. I think if I concentrate for a moment I can still do declensions, recite the 8 types of nouns, and tell you that OBS-IBA are the "directions" to inscribing a circle inside (IBA) and outside a triangle (OBS). So much useless info crams out room for things I might want to recall. And so I studiously avoided memorization until one day I found I could turn the pages of a picture book during read aloud and not have to glance sidelong at the text. I had read the book so often that the text was in my brain. Why was this seemingly so simple? Because these words also spoke to my heart, I think.

WORDS BY HEART not only means committing to memory, it means holding words within me that speak to me, to my heart. Maybe instead of asking kids to memorize a poem, we need to just ask them to record somewhere the words that speak to their hearts? I do that when I annotate a text. I mark the words, phrases, sentences, images, etc. that speak to me, give me pause, make me question, basically stop me in my tracks when I read.

I want readers to have WORDS BY HEART for those times when their own words might fail them.
Tags: books, memory, reading, words
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