The Importance of Reading

One thing slowly disappearing from the repertoire of many individual’s skills is reading.  During this day when too many are attached to their electronic devices, the idea of reading a book has fallen from popularity.  It takes too much time, there are too many pages, it is too hard.  How many other excuses are there…let me count the ways.

When it comes to reading, it is all about interpretation.  Personal interpretation.  What one may read in a particular passage will mean something totally different to another reader.  Additionally, when reading an instructional text, the reader has to reflect on the written knowledge, imbedding it in memory for use later at any time.  How well this “imbedding” is done will determine how well and however long the student can use the information later.

One aspect, one very pleasurable aspect of reading, is that you can lose yourself in the story.  Many young people today lack this wonderful experience; they have never read a novel or an autobiography or biography they truly enjoyed.  Consequently, they have not realized this level of pleasure in reading.

Back in grade school, one of the first serious books I read was Ted W. Lawson’s Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo.  Lawson was one of the 80 volunteers who flew with Jimmy Doolittle on April 18, 1942 in the first raids against the Japanese homeland following the attack on Pearl Harbor.  Lawson was a fine writer; his words flowed eloquently, logically, and simply from the first page to the last.

I was lying in my rack reading the book and had reached the point where Lawson and his crew were running out of both gas and daylight at the same time.  It was a bad situation and they decided to land their B-25 on a beach on the China coast.  They dragged the beach once, turned downwind, dirtied up the plane and planned the approach.

Then the worst thing that could possibly happen did.  Both engines quit on short final and they crashed into the ocean a quarter mile from the beach.  Everyone was injured–the tail gunner, David Thatcher the least, and Lawson, the worst.

In the crash, Lawson’s left leg was gashed open almost the entire length of his thigh.  I was so engrossed in the story that when my mother asked me to take out the garbage, I almost yelled back, “Mom, I can’t!  My leg hurts too much.”

This is what I mean by “getting into the story.”

The really nice thing about reading in depth to this degree is that the experience of the writer telling the tale will stick to the reader for a long time.  This is what is known as “vicarious learning” and it is important in learning how to fly.

Student pilots must read a lot of aviation textbooks–that’s a given.  Some of that reading, no, a lot of that reading, can be very dull and boring.  This is why it is so important to read other books, both fiction and nonfiction about flying.

If a pilot can learn about flying from other pilots who have written of their experiences, they can learn and reinforce aviation concepts through a good story.  Legitimately.  The first time I learned the concepts of weight and balance, density altitude, and aircraft loading was through reading Ernest K. Gann’s Fate is the Hunter.

If you are in need of aviation reading, may I suggest our website, BluewaterPress LLC?  Here is a list of some of my favorite aviation texts, along with a fairly extensive aviation fiction and nonfiction titles.

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© 2010 J. Clark

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