Sunday, April 7, 2013

Reading and Teachers

Last year, I was reading constantly.

I always had a book in hand, many of which were marked with post-its or had reading logs stuck in the pages.

Last year, I loved reading, yet I was forced to do it. So I did it constantly. When reading at least twenty pages a day is your homework, you do it. You have to. You have to force yourself to sit down and read those twenty pages. And if you're me, then you can sit down and read forty or fifty or a hundred or three hundred instead of the required twenty.

After talking to a friend of mine, who had the same language arts teacher that I did, last year, I discovered something interesting. She, like me, loves reading. Both of us used to read constantly, especially last year when we were forced to do so. But both of us, starting directly after last school year finished-- when we were no longer forced to read twenty pages a day-- stopped reading as much.

Last summer I read perhaps five books. Last spring break, only two months previously, I read seven. Last year, I was in a constant state of reading.

This year, I've been reading, but definitely not as much.

Something about being forced to do it last year, made me read more than ever before. But now that I'm no longer forced to read, that I don't have to sit and think, "Oh, well I'd better get my reading done so my teacher doesn't get mad at me.", I don't read nearly as much.

It'll take me two weeks to get through a 200 page book nowadays, whereas I would have read a 200 page book in a night before.

This makes me sad.

This teacher that I had, who was trying to inspire us to read, trying to get us to enjoy it, who forced us to read, got me to the point where reading was homework. Where when I didn't have to do it, I was happy. I was happy I didn't have this constant assignment hanging over my head. Where I'm turning in more books to the library half-read or unread than actually finished.

It makes me kind of angry, actually. I know that this teacher was just trying to get us to love books. To love to read, to get us to a point where reading wasn't a chore, it was for fun. For me, reading was already fun. I adore it, actually, it's one of my favorite activities. But after last year, I consider it a chore. When you're forced to do something you love, rather than choosing to do it yourself, it makes it so much less fun.

Yet... she did the opposite. I haven't read even close to half as many books this year, as I did last year. This year, when sitting around doing nothing, I'm less likely to think, "Oh, I should grab a book and read," because it isn't this ever-present assignment.

Another thing about teachers and reading, is something that my current language arts teacher said to me, recently. He overheard me and a friend talking about a book that I gave her that she had recently read, and how much we loved it, and one of the characters in it. And he came up to us, and said, "You know, I really think it's time that you start branching out from teen literature. Try some classics! They're so much better!"

And I just didn't appreciate that at all. I love the YA genre-- there are so many good books in it, so many left undiscovered, so many to read and experience and fall in love with. And I've read several classics over the years-- granted, many of them were in class, but had I been reading them on my own, I know I wouldn't have either enjoyed them or finished them. For me, the YA genre is where I'm comfortable and happy. I do also read books classified as "adult" books, although I've definitely found that I love the YA genre best. Out of everything I've read, YA is where my heart lives.

And so telling me that classics are better than YA, makes me angry. I want to write YA literature-- whether or not I become an actual author isn't all that important in this scenario. I just want to write it. And one of the best things for me to do, is to read YA literature.

So really... sometimes I think that language arts teachers need to step back a bit, and let their students read as they please. Read what they please and when. Let them discover genres for themselves, let their students discover their love of reading, rather than have their teachers diminish it. I know that it's language arts teachers jobs to inspire reading and writing and creativity, but, to be quite honest, I've never had a language arts teacher who has truly inspired me.

My own creativity, my own love of reading comes from within, and I hate that over the years my teachers have tried to change it and mold it to what they think it should be. They think I should read classic books. They think I should read more, or read other things. They think that the best way of reading is this or that, when really it's something completely different for me.

Books, reading, writing, creativity... they're extremely personal things. And for me, teachers trying to shape my thoughts on these things that are so personal to me, doesn't work. It changes my original thoughts, and not in a good way. Teachers shouldn't care what you read, or how you read, I think. They should just care that you read. Of course, they're allowed to dictate what you read if it's a book for their class, but if it's just a book that you're reading on your own? I don't think that teachers should judge on what you're reading, be it comic books or YA literature or a classic. Does it really matter what it is that you're reading, as long as you are?

{This is a photo you've seen before, but it was the only one I had on my computer that seemed to fit with this post. Sorry.}

{Also I'm sorry that this post is so long, I had a lot to say. }

The Dandy Lioness

1 comment:

  1. Ahhh, Sofia! I hear what you're saying. My experience (about thirty years or so of it as an avid reader) tells me that 'this too shall pass'.

    My youngest son is your age. Two went before him into that dark night of reading for school. They also struggled with the expectations of their primary/secondary school reading program... pushing the classics like crack.

    Kids who once couldn't wait to open up that fresh new book from the library or break into that awesome YA series they were given for Christmas, suddenly turned their backs on reading all together!

    I agree with you about encouraging young teens to read ANYTHING they can get their hands on. Basic reading skills are so very important! It shouldn't matter when you're just trying to hook a kid with the fun of reading! At some point, however, improving on their reading skills is going to require that they move past the picture books. (;

    It sounds like your LA teacher must not have gotten his/her point across about their love of the classics. I know I've tried sneaking a novel or two of my own on my daughter's bedside table over the years, out of my own excitement for a particular character, plot or theme. And I have enjoyed a YA book or two at my age, as well, because she shared something she loved with me. Ala, the entire 'Twilight' series! Oh, yes! I got caught up in it, too.

    Turning to the classics is kind of looked at as a graduation of sorts from those things of our childhood. They're more adult themes, more "classically" written with more depth to them, both in content and style. Not "better" necessarily, just... more adult.

    That is not to say that YA lit is simple and just for children. I've found that writing it can be most certainly fulfilling, and may have even improved my skills.

    The older you get, the more they'll shove a lot of stuff down your throat. You may even grow to love some of it when you're in high school and beyond. My all-time favorite novel was one I read in ninth or tenth grade, "Brave New World". And Shakespeare? I HATED it in ninth grade, and SO grew to love it in my twenties and thirties.

    Life changes us. Scary. Exciting. Irritating. But it changes us all the same, especially when we're not looking.

    Stick to your loves!
    Try something new!
    Share your feelings with your teacher, if you trust them to handle those feelings with kindness and not arrogance or a self-righteous attitude.

    You ROCK!
    It's clear to anyone who reads you here that you're well-read and one smart cookie! Whatever you're doing. Keep doing it! Just don't be afraid to branch out into the unknown every once in a while. It'll only sting for a minute. (;

    Love! of reading.