Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Do high school reading books breed readers?

My youngest is in high school so he’s getting used to the fact that he can’t pick his own books to read when it comes to his reading class.  I’d say he probably misses both middle school and grade school, when the kids were allowed to choose books from a fairly long reading list before taking a test in order to gain points towards their reading goals.
Now, however, the choice is not up to him.  I have to admit I feel his pain.  I do recall those days in high school when we were asked to read books we just didn’t quite understand; whether it was because of the writing, the characters, the era or all the above.  The one book which totally sticks in my memory is “1984” by George Orwell.  I can’t recall if I thought the story was odd or inconceivable but I know it is the only book that struck some sort of chord.  The others…not so much.
High school didn’t ruin it for me though.  I was an avid reader so I did as requested by reading the required book for class and then I would read whatever held my interest in the evenings or weekends to my heart’s content.  I’m fortunate my son is the same way, as he also gained an early love for books.
For any child who isn’t into reading and for any child who wasn’t able to keep up with the required reading in grade school or middle school, I fear they easily become lost in high school.  At that point, they only do what’s required of them and nothing more.  If they had no interest in reading before, the high school reading requirements will not likely help them find the interest. 
And that’s too bad.
I understand the desire to demonstrate various types of writing to the students but is there anything against moving on from Shakespeare to a lighter, easier read before heading back into unchartered territory again?  My son is currently reading Romeo & Juliet so I asked him how his reading class is going.  His response wasn’t very positive.  He just doesn’t understand it.  This kid is a straight-A student but regardless of that fact, I’m not surprised he doesn’t understand Shakespeare.  Not many kids these days really do.  Heck, I doubt I could say I do.  But he did say he figured out ‘thou’ means ‘you’ so I guess there’s some promise.
While high school reading may teach my son and other students about the different types of writing available to them as readers, it will also either make them desperate to get to a book of their liking or, in sad circumstances, it will give the student absolutely no interest in picking up another book whatsoever.
So the question is…do high school reading books breed readers?
I believe, sadly, that the answer is in the negative.  If a child isn’t brought up to love books before high school, then they may be lost forever.  So the next time you see a sign at your local grade school or middle school about how important it is to read to your young child 20 minutes a day, take to heart just how important those 20 minutes might be.  Not only is it precious time with a child, it is a precious mind you are engaging as you read with them to develop an interest in books that will hopefully last their lifetime.

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