I was an AP student in High School (yes, I am a geek). In my school, students chose whether to enroll in AP classes or not, it was not assigned, as I have seen a lot of schools do recently for accelerated learners. Of course, it was the competitive academic crowd , which I technically belonged to in my introverted, non-social way, that took all of the AP classes. For me, it was really about pride.
The following admission is awful, so please remember I was a young and stupid teenager back then. ….I didn’t want to be in classes that were “beneath me,” with those kids….*cringe.* I SAID it was awful. No yelling at me in the comments below. Bad Alicia. Got it.
Anyway, I never voiced my thought process about AP classes, thank goodness, nor would I have been able to actually; I was a fun mixture of proud and completely self-conscious. But, truth is truth. I wanted to be in with the advanced crowd because it made me feel good about myself, something I struggled to feel in daily living.
In my AP Language Arts classes, I NEVER, not once, was permitted to read a book of my own choosing. Of course, that was pretty standard across all LA classes, not just AP. I was required to read titles such as: Taming of the Shrew, To Kill a Mockingbird, Beowulf, Rebecca, and The Iliad, and Of Mice and Men. I read a few bits of some of them and thought they were completely stupid. I skimmed, while walking down the hall to class when I remembered there was a quiz, I paid attention during lectures to pick out important info, aced all of my AP LA classes, and left high school without reading more than a couple of books total (personal or academic reading). And I did not read for pleasure for another several years after those experiences. In all, I lost about 10 years of reading potential, a third of my life, because of school.
Teachers, in my experience, were BOOK DEMENTORS**. Sucking all the peace, love, and happiness from reading everywhere they went.
Everything I seem to be reading in regards to the current reformation movement of reading and schools is so exciting to me. We have all heard the excuses for holding on to required reading. An article, “A Case for Choice Reading” outlined a few common ones:
- “I LOVED the classics in school, it’s why I want to teach literature today, and I want my students to have the same [antiquated/freedom-less/required] experiences I had.”
- “These are the books I LOVE, they are just soooo good, I will teach them well and students will love them too”
- “If I don’t require them, students will not ever read them, and then how can the be successful people one day?”
- “What will students read if they have choice, and how will I teach them all then?!?!?! *insert panic attack*”
These fears and beliefs IMHO do not have a healthy place in supporting reading habits in schools and homes. My experience, like many, many, many others, illustrates what happens when educators hold on to these opinions, reading looses joy. Students sit in desks holding books in front their faces, with eyes that are unfocused and minds which have wandered down some other path.
I am very grateful that I was SO BORED one day, as a young adult, that I finally considered reading as an option. The prospect was about as exciting as sitting through a mass lecture, but I desperately needed something to do. Fortunately, I had faded memories of enjoying books earlier in my life, before school, so I sucked it up, went to the library, chose a book, and I fell in love with reading all over again. In the decade since that time, I cannot even put a number on the books I have read. Some have stretched my mind, such as Jane Austin (which I LOVE), Bronte (meh), and Shakespeare (at least I can say I read it), and some have just let me slip into their pages and become a part of the story.
Those pleasant, although faded and almost-forgotten, memories of books and reading from my childhood gave me courage to venture back into reading and changed my life. Books are now in my blood. Without them, I would go into withdrawals and shrivel into a shell of myself. Sound dramatic? It’s not, just another truth.
What is unfortunate is that I, and other youth, even have such experiences in the first place, all because parents and educators are basically scared and faithless. Scared that youth will fail to become the people WE think they should be if we do not keep control. Faithless in their ability to make healthy and productive reading choice. Well, it’s enough. Let choice and reader freedoms be the Patronus Charm**, to banish Book Dementors** and reveal the joy and beauty that should be a part of reading.
**If you have not read Harry Potter….well, my heart is sad for you. I wont require you read it, that goes against everything I am trying to share here, but it is an amazing story, full of adventure to experience with some great characters, and I totally recommend it. I know it has been very “pop-culture” for many years, and that is quite often enough to make me turn my nose up at a book, but I promise you are missing out. Just try a few chapters and if you don’t love it, message me and I will explain “dementors” and “patronus charm” to you.