This I Believe

June 18, 2009

This is an assignment that I did for a reading class (it was supposed to revolve around reading education, which at first, I didn’t think much of. Then I realized it’s actually one of my controversial stances. So I spit this out quickly. It’s rough, and I’m struggling to wrap my mind around the NPR This I Believe format, so if I’m way off, I’d love your feedback. I plan to write a friendlier example to share with students next year.

Here it is:

This I Believe

I was raised by “readers” so I was always being encouraged to read novels and had a well stocked bookcase of my own. Sometimes I read, sometimes I simply didn’t feel like it. Personally, unlike many, I have always loved being assigned to read books and having a class or group of others to discuss with.  I also have found that there are so many ways to apply the skill set required of “good readers” and that voraciously consuming novels is not necessarily the only path to an educated life, despite what a heretical thought it may be amongst my fellow English teachers.

I still remember a mousy brunette sitting in front of me in Calculus class. It was our senior year of high school and we were part of an elite group who had made it to this level at my small country school. She sat and read books, often cheesy murder mystery novels, during lectures. She rarely kept up with the homework and while that didn’t affect her score much, her test scores revealed her priorities.  She made it into a college below her natural aptitude and today works in a job that is similarly below her capacity. I can even recall many accounts where my mother would complain that I didn’t read as much as she had as she recounted the times when her own mother scolded her for reading too much and therefore ignoring her responsibilities.

Obviously I am not trying to prove that reading is a bad influence or even that Calculus is more important. I’m merely trying to show that it isn’t everything many English teachers make it out to be. Doctors, lawyers, and an infinite number of other professionals must be lifelong readers, but that means different things for different people. For some, it means novels from Harry Potter  to Dan Brown. For others, it means keeping up with professional journals or maybe even blogs and internet articles.

Teaching reading doesn’t require one to make students love reading. They have their whole lives to learn this lifestyle.  It’s about teaching kids how to really understand and read between the lines. Reading Twilight is certainly a good thing but what do students learn from it? While I would agree that reading is better than watching television, sometimes I have to question if the gap between the two is so large.

This I believe: reading is the quintessential skill for an educated life, but it doesn’t require one to be a bookworm. Reading and the skills to be adept at reading are useful in infinite facets of life. Reading the latest young adult fiction piece does not make a person educated. It’s important that we don’t oversimplify these ideas.

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