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Classics, contemporary – what goes in school?

August 29, 2009

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?

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