Classics, contemporary – what goes in school?
I read To Kill a Mockingbird in ninth grade and didn’t understand a page of it. I’ve always said that I hate the book, but not actually because I hate it, just because I didn’t understand it. If I were to give it a try as an adult, I believe I’d be a much more enthusiastic reader.
The New York Times has a great article on letting students choose the books they read in class, rather than consistently assigning the classics and traditional favorites. At first I was reluctant, thinking everyone should have to read Shakespeare and Dickens. I, for the most part, really liked the classics, but there were some of course that I didn’t like and I did what everyone else did – got the Cliffs Notes, asked a friend who had read it, or just skimmed and googled. So isn’t it better that kids read – with less regard to what it is – to start them on the path of enjoying and loving books?
Of course many schools and teachers are reluctant – I think people find it really uncomfortable and intimidating to change. But the teachers in the article aren’t simply letting their students read the comics and manga – they are holding sessions about books, recommending good choices and asking students to choose books out of their normal comfort zone. I think this is a fabulous idea. If kids are reading and enjoying, then its only a matter of time before they seek out the classics on their own, and then haven’t both sides really won?