Monday, August 24, 2009

Topic: Why High School Students Don't Like to Read

10-second review: Too much required reading kills the joy of reading. Students do not know how to connect to the classics.

Title: “Curricula Turn Book Lovers into Book Haters.” Valerie Strauss, Washington Post. Chicago Tribune On Line Edition. May 30, 2005.

Summary: “There is no ‘making meaning as readers’—allowing students to bring their experiences and thoughts into the analysis of meaning. Because many students don’t understand what they have read [in the classics]…teachers are left to ‘tell them what it means.’….”

Comment: Credit the New Critics for analyzing literary traits in the literature and not “tainting” the analysis with the students’ own experiences. As a result, students do not connect to literature. I think we all have had the experience of teachers interpreting the classics for us. And what the teacher says is the meaning that we put down in our blue books at test time. We’re also used to having to answer someone else’s questions at the end of the chapter or the book. That’s no fun. I think it’s far better to have the students ask and discuss the answers to their own questions before moving on to the questions in the book and before moving on to a sampling of professional criticism concerning the work.

In my next blogs, I am going to offer another model of reading literature, one that puts student question in the center of the reading experience. I’m also going to suggest how to teach a classic. RayS.

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