Hey there Saloners. I hope everyone has had a fantastic week. I've slowly been enjoying the last moments of "freedom" (sure I've gone up to my classroom to get work done, but isn't it always easier when you know that you don't HAVE to?).
With Florida schools returning (and some already have) I've been perking my ears up a wee bit more at the bookstores or around teens. Trying to feel out what they're reading, what they're liking. Usually I spend most of my summer reading YA books and Tween books that I can recommend to my students; this summer I didn't. I feel a wee bit outta loop. I tend to have quite a bit of freedom in my curriculum (teaching 7th grade advanced, I don't have specific novels that I have to cover). And because of this, I allow for frequent individual chosen reads. My opinion has always been: we create readers if we encourage readers to explore what interests them as much as teaching them the merits of (da da DDDDUUM) "The Great Ones" and how to graph a story.
As it happened I attended a family gathering today which included one sophomore (10th), three freshman (9th) and two 6th grade girls*. I sat around gabbing books to the girls going (or in) high school first - summer readings have always intrigued me.
"So whatcha read this summer for school?" I pried.
"Oh we had to choose two books from this list on the school website. So I read Willow and Linger. I liked them both," sayeth the entering Freshman who adores reading - we'll call her The Bookworm.
"Yeah, you have to tell me about one of them," sayeth the sister who hates to read - we'll call her the Reluctant Reader.
"OMG (ok, no, I didn't actually say the letters) that's so awesome. I couldn't read titles that were out when I went into school. I remember having to read Watership Down before 9th grade and couldn't figure out why my teachers assigned it. I mean, it was about a bunch of rabbits in this community. What? Really! Linger, that's the werewolf one right?" I continued prying.
And then...AND THEN...IT HAPPENS!
"Oh god, you're gonna read this most boring book this year," Reluctant Reader says to Bookworm, "It was called. Oh god. What was it, oh yeah, To Kill a Mockingbird. God it was awful!"
"Are you kidding? It's incredible! Atticus is incredible. Wow. I loved that book!" I squealed. And yes, I do squeal. I get this high pitchy cheerleader voice when I either get mad or excited. *rolls eyes* Whatevs.
Now while this is going on, Bookworm is looking at me with doubt, cuz obviously the name Atticus does not encourage he interest. And then Reluctant Reader attempts to remember the story for Bookworm and it goes something like: "Er, well, there's this black guy and he's on trial for rape. But he didn't do it. And then there's this other guy who is trying to get him off. And so the dad kinda frames the black guy. But I think that the black guy and the daughter were like in love or something? I don't know. I didn't really pay attention."
The conversation continued for a bit more. I tried to do damage control for TKaMB because I really wanted Bookworm to walk into the classroom with an open mind. Plus, I mean, c'mon man, it's HARPER LEE. It was, like, the 50th anniversary and all that shizzat.
But then I got to thinking...are we wasting the classics on the young?
I think it's most excellent that students get to choose from this list of books for their summer reading [(and I do want to clarify, that this is just general population (a term coined for the average student). The honors, IB program, etc., all have different requirements)]. Perhaps if more students are encouraged to check out some most fierce contemporary YA lit, they wouldn't roll their eyes at reading. Maybe, just maybe, contemporary lit should be taught in the classrooms in the first years of high school.
Do most students in high school love classics? Or are we constantly re-reading them going, "Huh, I used to hate this but now I love it?"
I'm not really sure how that works. In high school I Hemmingway's For Whom the Bell Tolls and Farewell to Arms. I disliked them both. To this day, I still feel a certain type of gag-reflex coming along. Plus, i cannot decipher the two in my head. I have NO desire to re-read them. Watership Down? I didn't really care for Bigwig (but can remember his name nearly 20 years later) and his rabbit commune but might JUST MIGHT re-read it. Steinbeck, I totally dug. But by then I was getting a wee bit older. (Oh and I was in the AP classes - Advanced Placement, so I doubt I would have been offered the list above to read from...which is another gripe because I never really read YA books when I was YA. Although I bet the genre has come along way. Er, okay. End tangent). Scarlet Letter? OMG. Totally loved. Canterbury Tales? Yeah, Chaucer grew on me during college.
But you see, I'm still sorting out my feelings on the subject. What is the best age to introduce students to classics? Perhaps if there are YA books that coincide with the same themes and teach them jointly? Would that be possible? And if we are to stick with the plan that general population (there's that term again!) should have the enrichment of The Classics, what classics are the most teachable? How do we put it in perspective?