Yesterday, on the high school Facebook page, someone posted something about how she'd disliked The Great Gatsby in high school, and that her son was hating it too. Why did kids have to read these old, boring books they couldn't understand, she wondered?
I (among others) commented, saying I believed great and inspiring teachers are needed to make books come to life for teenagers. That was certainly true for me--I'm a lifelong Moby Dick fan because of my amazing AP English teacher. He taught me how to read closely, and how to write about it. It was like a whole new wing opened up in the house of my reading life.
Still, I get it if you just don't like a book everyone keeps saying is a "classic." But someone else on the thread commented, "When will we just accept that some people simply don't like to read?" That just made me sad.
I know it's true. There are those who don't want to sit down and waste their time with words. Even these days, when people are probably writing and reading more than ever before. We text far more than we talk. The publishing offices where I sometimes work are silent; it used to be that the phones were ringing and people were talking, to sources, writers, one another.
What else? Kids don't really have "signatures" anymore, because they don't learn cursive in school. They most likely don't recognize their best friends' handwriting, because they no longer pass notes in the hallways. And as I learned recently as a chaperone on a Disney trip, most of the thirty-some tweens we asked to write postcards home to their parents didn't know how to address one. ("Where does the address go? What about the stamp?")
My kid did know how, for the record.
Okay, maybe old-school reading just seems too exhausting to some after a long day of staring at a screen. But it seems like the least we can do is ensure that kids have an opportunity to get excited about reading in school. I hope very much my girls' teachers are inspiring them. I feel like the middle school ones did, and do (I was jealous on back-to-school night; I wanted to take Sara's English class). So far in freshman honors English, Kate is loving To Kill a Mockingbird. So that's good.
But I was always a reading and writing kid, and my girls are, too. What about the kids who aren't, who really don't enjoy reading, for whatever reason?
I worry, because reading and writing are such important tools for knowing yourself, aren't they. And for expressing yourself so that others can know you. I want to do something to help ensure that kids understand how much power writing will give them, and that reading will help them be better writers--and better, more compassionate people, too. And that stories, in whatever form, bring us together. That our entire lives are composed of stories.
I think about teaching middle or high school English.
Is that crazy?