Poor writing at its best. I’m still not done with my first cup of coffee, so pardon the wacky stream-of-consciousness…
Today’s prompt might be the toughest for me all month. I love books. Like, seriously. This was not always the case. As a kid, reading was boring and I think a challenge for which I was not prepared. My early memories of reading recall images of those old Garfield collections (I distinctly remember being obsessed with having all of them placed in numeric order on my bookshelf) and Judy Blume’s Superfudge. Unfortunately, I cannot recall absolutely anything about the plot, characters, situation, conflict, resolution, theme, motifs of that latter title.
This was also the case for me when, a few years ago, I reluctantly closed a book and privately announced I would never pick it up again. The book was Jonathan Safran Foer’s Everything is Illuminated. I picked up this book on reputation alone–one of my typical techniques; I rarely even read the flap/back cover if someone or something I trust talks up a specific book.
Looking back, I may have allowed other factors affect my inability to read/comprehend this book. In those days, our school had a portion (twenty glorious minutes) of the day devoted to a schoolwide Silent Sustained Reading program. The program evolved in the spirit of encouraging reading by offering books to our students and modeling for them that reading is a wonderful activity. It met with resilience from some students (and a handful of adults in the building), but overall I believe the students liked the program. However, if memory serves, I was trying to read EII while supervising a very reluctant group of high school juniors.
What I do recall are confusing sentence structures, bizarre and forgettable character names, and dialogue that appeared nonsensical. I was not under any physician’s care nor was I consuming regular hallucinogens, so perhaps my straight-laced approach was the problem.
I vow to try again…someday. I like funky books. I might have just been in the wrong frame of mind at that moment. I read and loved his other huge hit Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, so there’s no way it’s an author-reader issue. In fact, I think I’ll add it to my to-read Goodreads list.
For the second half of this essay, I’m going to write about why I think young people become so reluctant to read. In my sixteen years as a teacher, I’ve encountered a number of possibilities. By the way, much of what I think I’m about to write applies to writing as well.
It absolutely has to start at home. Kids need to see books as an enjoyable form of entertainment. Reading to young children before bed, throughout the afternoon, anytime, really, is so essential to develop interested readers. Taking kids to the library or bookstore and making seeking out books as an adventure would have incredible ramifications. Our theory as a school applies here. Kids who see adults they (somewhat) respect reading are going to be at least a little more interested in the craft.
Think about how kids get interested in anything. They are introduced to it (be it fishing, hunting, car repair, needlepoint) by someone older than they are (typically). That interest is fostered over time and the adult’s enthusiasm shines through and gets into the younger person’s bloodstream.
What I see, however, are students who have simply not been given the access or students whose view of reading has been pushed down by other adults in their life.
Part of me also thinks it’s a vision problem. Students actually say things to me such as “It’s hard to read” and they don’t mean the vocabulary.
I began love reading (slowly at first but now at full speed) because the words seemed much easier to absorb once I was wearing glasses. Can you believe there is still a stigma about wearing glasses at school? Jesus…it’s insane.
Please encourage and model reading in the home. I’ll do what I can in the classroom.