Thursday, November 14, 2013

Thoughts On: Reading for School

I assume everyone had to read in English class in high school (or whatever the equivalent in your country is). I also assume that, unless you had an unusually progressive teacher and curriculum, this was probably less fun than reading on you own time because you wanted to.

This is going to be a long ramble about my high school reading for my English classes. We were supposed to read one Shakespeare play every year, which wasn't too bad. It stretch you thinking (I was in an experimental program for tenth grade English, and I didn't have to do it that year). I do wish that we might have actually seen one play at some point, the way that it was meant to be seen. I don't really have a problem with reading Shakespeare. The problem for me was the novels, or specifically, one novel.

In grade eleven we read the Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini. To summarize how I felt, and still feel, about that book, I can use three simple words: I. HATED. IT. I was miserable reading it and found it pretty traumatic, but not in any impactful way (more on that later). I don't think that it is a spoiler to say that this book discusses rape very near its start and is meant to be a redemption story- the narrator saw it happen and didn't do anything. I thinking there are a couple reasons why I really didn't enjoy this book:

  1. The narrator didn't interest me. The only reason that I really kept reading was because I had to finished my assigned pages for class. I know that I skimmed a lot toward the end, just so I could pretend that I read it.
  2. The subject matter disturbed me. If you look at my reviews, you'll see that I don't read books about rape. I just can't. I don't have that sort of emotional maturity, I suppose. They actually had to send a waiver home saying that, if this book caused the child to be scarred, it wasn't the school's fault. Should you really be making a bunch of sixteen year-olds read it then? I'm not saying ban it, I'm thoroughly against that, but maybe don't make it required material. There was an alternate option, but I was told that I wouldn't be able to participate in class at all, and that I would still have to be present for the discussions. I refused to take the book into my room. I might have overreacted, but, like I said the content was disturbing for me.
  3. I found the book relentlessly depressing. It is supposed to be a redemption story, but I didn't really feel that much redemption happened. It didn't leave a positive impact in me, and, while the ending felt like there was intended to be some sort of hope, I didn't feel it. It was in a couple scenes horrifying, and otherwise simply unenjoyable to read, to the point where I stopped being emotionally impacted by anything that happened.
You'll notice these are personal reasons for me. Reason's I didn't like the book, personally, but I also feel that there is a wider issue here: English teachers seem to think that teenagers should not read books written for their age group. I don't know why this is, but they just don't. I feel like the young adult genre gets a bad reputation for being poorly written and having no message, which, anyone who reads a lot could tell you, is not true.

These are books that are written for teenagers, with a mind to their world and emotional climate (does that make sense). They are written to be read by young adults (though they can totally be enjoyed by adults too). There are a lot of young adult books that could be inserted into a class medium and used to teach. There are plenty of young adult books that discuss a plethora of issues in a way that might, at the very least, be slightly funner than eating worms, and even possibly- gasp- enjoyable for students. I shall even make a list of books that can be used easily in teaching (with the high school curriculum of my area in mind).

Grades Nine and Ten: Exploring Heroes and the Heroic Journey

Dark Life (Dark Life, #1)Airborn (Matt Cruse, #1)Leviathan (Leviathan #1)VesselSeraphina (Seraphina, #1)The SupernaturalistThe Scorpio Races
Look! Young adult adventure stories! Heroic protagonists of various types going on quests and overcoming prejudice (and usually both)! Take notes, this will be on the test.

Grade Eleven and Twelve: Tragic Heroes and Antiheroes (and I've thrown moral ambiguity in too)
All Our Yesterdays (All Our Yesterdays #1)The 100 (The Hundred, #1)
These two. I think All Our Yesterdays actually provides a good example of the tragic hero (James- if you look for it, you will see it) as well as consequences. The 100 is something that I think would be good for discussing all sorts of ethics, morals, consequences and what makes a hero (or antihero, or villain).  Basically, I think that they could prompt discussion about real world topics and issues.

Those are some that I have been thinking about recently. There are a lot of books that could be used the the "heroism" area. I'm sure there are others for the "tragic hero" area, but All Our Yesterdays has been floating around in the back of my head for a while (it seriously does not need a sequel by the way). Those are just some ideas, and I'm sure there are books that would fit better. Not really the point.

The point is that schools should stop avoiding letting young adults read books written for a young adult audience. They do have meaning, they do have messages and many can stand up to analysis. The way English it taught now, it is just going to scare students off of reading, since it is often depressing material. So stop viewing it as some inferior form of literature, and look at possibly making use of the material instead.

Wow, that got long. If you're still here, thanks for reading my ramblings. What did you read/are you reading in high school. What do you think of the books that I have brainstormed here? Do you have any ideas? Let me know what you think in the comments.

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