I can’t tell you how many times I’ve spoken to people my age, no matter what age I was over the course of my life, and found that my peers hated reading. It is extremely rare for me to encounter a fellow bibliophile, and when I do I grab that person and try to remain bffls. Part of the reason I started this blog was to find like-minded beings.
But I always wondered why such a large number of my peers hated books. I could never understand their aversion. To me books were like air and food. I needed them to survive. Without them, how could I live? What would I do with my time? How could so many people not appreciate the stories the words created? How could they groan whenever it was time for the class to go to the library? How could they doodle in our literature books? How could they use books as doorstops? Why did they like TV better?
After twenty years, I have finally discovered the answer.
My two younger sisters are entering high school and fourth grade within the next few weeks. Both were assigned summer reading lists.
And there is the problem!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Required reading is ruining reading!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
There is nothing wrong with having a reading list. Encouraging kids to read is a good thing. It’s all the extra stuff that comes along with it that repels children from books. My sister headed to high school was told to read The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak. It is one of my favorite YA book that I absolutely devoured when I read it for the first time. I also re-read it,which is a great testament to the writing because I am rarely a re-reader.
Anna hated it.
Where it took me three days to read, it took her three weeks. Why? Rather than just reading it, she had to carefully analyze each chapter, select three quotes from each chapter, and draw connections to her life from all three quotes from each chapter.
There are over seventy chapters. Maybe ninety, I don’t recall exactly.
Why couldn’t she just read the damn thing? Why couldn’t she enjoy it for what it was? Honestly, she would probably have made more connections – more genuine connections – on her own without forcing them out of her brain just so she could fill a quota. She told me to made half of them up anyway, they weren’t even real connections!!! When I tried to talk to her about the book and what happened to the characters, she rolled her eyes, mumbled something and turned on the Disney Channel.
I am of the firm belief that if she had just been asked to read it without the assignment, she would have enjoyed the book. She would have made the connections and enjoyed the story and absorbed the literary symbolism and techniques without even realizing it.
My sister entering fourth grade also had reading assignments. She and my mother are currently shouting at each other downstairs about how much she hates doing it. She doesn’t want to do the writing her teacher is requiring her to do. Now she consequently doesn’t want to finish the book. My mother knows there are only a few days left of summer and is on her case about finishing it before the first day of school. They started out having a great morning and now are fighting with each other and throwing tantrums and crying and having an altogether shitty day. The assigned book causing all the drama? Ramona and her Mother.
No wonder kids hate reading. If it takes them most of the summer (Anna had three more books to read with the same attached assignments) and is the disrupts a peaceful day, then I don’t blame them.
Why can’t they just enjoy it? You draw more from something you enjoy than something you abhor. I’m positive the authors of the books did not wish for their life’s work to be hated. They wanted people to learn from them, laugh with them, smile while reading them. Not one of them dreamed about some kid groaning over having to read their book.
I’ve fallen prey to this too. I still cringe and hate Farenheit 451, Cold Sassy Tree, Lord of the Flies and Three Friggin Cups of Tea with a passion. Fine, it’s just Three Cups of Tea, but I like my title better. After pointless assignments and essays that neither affected my life nor my grade, who can blame me? All it caused me was frustration and time away from my friends and other books I could have been enjoying for my own personal pleasure. I, a reader, have nothing but bad memories from summer reading. It’s no small wonder people live their lives hating books. Like an adult scarred for life by a clown from a bad day at the circus when he or she was three years old, unpleasant memories from school reading assignments can permanently turn people off to reading. Think about it, they never made us do math problems over the summer. Or science. Most people I know like those topics much more than reading.
So thank you summer reading, for killing literature.