Does School Kill the Love of Reading?

I had an interesting conversation with a couple coworkers the other day. One woman is about my age, and has a daughter in college, and one in high school. The younger daughter is supposed to read Catcher in the Rye over the summer, and is struggling to get into it, to the point she’s just about decided to just read the Spark notes. My coworker says this is unusual; her daughter is an honors student and usually doesn’t have trouble with assignments, but just doesn’t enjoy reading any more. She wonders if the material they read in school is part of the reason.

Our other coworker is 26, so remembers her own experiences pretty clearly. “So much of it just isn’t relevant,” she concluded. “We had to read a Jane Austen book–I can’t remember which one, not Sense and Sensibility, the one with Mr. Darcy…”

Pride and Prejudice?” I asked.

“That’s it!” She went on. “I mean, it’s all stuff no one can relate to today. Arranged marriages… and the language.”

Now, I need to point out that this coworker is a highly intelligent woman, with a master’s degree, and one who isn’t afraid of doing hard work. My other coworker and I agreed that the archaic-sounding English also put up a barrier to relating to the story and characters.

So we went on discussing books we had to read in school and didn’t like–Moby Dick, Old Man and the Sea, anything else by Hemingway. One of them didn’t care for Shakespeare, either. (Interestingly enough, my college-student daughter loooooooves Shakespeare, but somehow does not enjoy reading a lot of fiction). Yet both of my coworkers like to read. The one just couldn’t figure out where her daughter, who used to like it when younger, lost that joy. My daughter also used to enjoy more fiction when she was in elementary and middle school, but has moved on more toward nonfiction.

However, one thing that somehow never gets old in my family is bodily functions jokes. Yesterday, my dad emailed me a link to this video. Only the Brits could’ve come up with the fart noise heard across the English channel!

Smiths-Monthly-5-testWhat I read this week: I started Smith’s Monthly #5. I’ve  followed Dean Wesley Smith‘s blog for a long time, and especially enjoyed his “Writing in Public” blog series that he started almost a year ago. It was fun reading about a long-time pro’s writing process in putting together his own magazine, and the stories sounded good, so I subscribed. It’s been especially neat to see the end product after reading about his creation of the works. Dean writes in the tradition of the old pulps from the mid-20th century, so this isn’t deep, thought-provoking literature, but they are fun, entertaining stories. I’m about 1/4 of the way through the novel in this one–a science-fiction romance. The hero in it is totally yummy, not creepy-looking like the guy on the cover! (And has only two arms. :))

Sorry, no puppy picture today. I didn’t take any new ones this week. Puppy pics will be back, though!

ROW80Logo175ROW80 Update: I finished the scene I wanted to finish last week, and started sketching out this week’s scene. That went okay, until a character tossed a plot bunny (aka, new scene) at me. So I will be working on that this week, with the goal, once again, to complete a scene, whichever one it may be. My accountability buddy returned home from vacation, but did not lash me with a wet noddle because she didn’t get her scene done, either (vacation + kids = I could’ve predicted that). So back to work for both of us this week.

What do you think–does reading too many books we don’t enjoy in school kill the joy of reading? Which books did you have to read in school that you didn’t like–or what are some you did? Is the video something your family would laugh at? If you’re a writer, do you follow Dean Wesley Smith’s blog? (If not, you should! Great info there, both on the writing and publishing business). Please share–I’d love to hear from you!

Jennette Marie Powell writes stories about ordinary people in ordinary places, who do extraordinary things and learn that those ordinary places are anything but. In her Saturn Society novels, unwilling time travelers do what they must to make things right... and change more than they expect. You can find her books at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, Kobo, iTunes, and more.

9 Responses to \

  1. I pretty much hated everything I was supposed to read in high school, and college for that matter. I didn’t even bother reading the Cliff’s Notes (Sparknotes hadn’t been invented yet); I just listened well enough in class to get by on the exams. The only book I remember liking at all was Deliverance, and even then most of what I knew about it came from the movie (which was new when I was reading the book). That was the case for a lot of the stuff I had to read…

    The video was a riot!

    You had a good week, flying plot bunnies and all.

  2. Looks like you’re on a roll! Extra plot bunnies popping up like that can make things interesting for you, that’s for sure, but hey, you never know what they’re gonna contribute, right?

    I did chuckle at the video. I especially got a kick out of the music!

    Best of luck as ROW80 goes on!

  3. Two of my kids had to read The Good Earth as sophomores in HS and couldn’t get into it at all. I had to read it in 7th grade and loved it. In HS we had to read The Bridges at Toko Ri, and I couldn’t stand it. At my age now, I’d probably like it. I’ve never been into Shakespeare because of the language, but his plot lines are awesome!

    Good for you making progress with your writing, Jennette! Summer is flying by!

  4. I think the thing I hated about reading classes was writing the stupid book reports. Probably why I don’t review all that well (except to say I liked it or not). I refuse to write another book report! Haha! 🙂

    I can’t say school killed the joy of reading for me, though. I think it just told me what I didn’t like. Funny, I hated more of my reading assignments in college than I’d ever gotten in HS.

  5. I think it is very sad that your co-worker’s daughter lost her joy of reading. I think a lot of it has to do with today’s instant gratification society. Books have to be read to find out what happens and that takes time. There’s no graphics or moving images to stimulate their brain cells. Kids nowadays are conditioned to respond to electronics and video games. Reading isn’t fast-paced enough.

    Or perhaps its simply a stage she’s going through with hormones and learning life’s lessons and such. It’s hard to say, but it’s sad.

    When I was in high school we had to read Julius Caesar. At first I hated it, but once I started understanding what all of the old English meant, I kind of got into it. But, I loved to read and still do so who knows.

    Anyway, enough about that.

    Keep up the good goals.

    Patricia Rickrode
    w/a Jansen Schmidt

  6. I can see how today’s high school students find Jane Austen’s works hard to get into, although I think the strength of Austen’s work is that she was a keen observer of the human condition. She really got how people worked and what motivated them–status, security, vanity, etc. And that holds true today. But that’s not something I probably would’ve grasped in high school.

    I remember that my high school had a required reading program. You had to read so many books from the school library and take a test to prove that you’d read them. Unfortunately, our library had a terrible selection, so I think the program did more to turn students off to books than on to them. Today there are so many wonderful books out there for young adults, but I doubt those books are on the reading lists in school (thinking of The Hunger Games, for example). I can see how many kids become frustrated with assigned reading. Hopefully they’re able to discover some wonderful books on their own and remain inspired to read.

  7. John, Deliverance sounds more interesting than a lot of the books we had to read in high school!

    Tammy, my pop-up plot bunnies have served me well so far this week, so can’t complain – and thanks!

    Lynn, we had to read The Good Earth when I was a senior, but I don’t remember it at all! Might’ve been one of the ones I used Cliff Notes for.

    Stacy, the book reports were a drag, that’s for sure. Luckily, some of us get over that and go on to write reviews, huh? 😀

    Patricia, you may be right – that instant gratification thing. Hopefully it will pass. And thanks!

    Denise, I think you’re right, those are things I wouldn’t have thought so much about in high school. College, maybe. Though one of the books I really liked in HS was Jane Eyre…

  8. Yay! I made it over to you in less than a week! I think that’s a good sign, don’t you Jennette? lol. Reading in school…was not my favorite thing. Boring. I’m just being honest. I just couldn’t get into it. I finally read How To Kill A Mockingbird a couple of years ago. It took more than fifty pages to get into, but once I broke through, it was really enjoyable and a great story. Although it wouldn’t have taken off today. We have to capture the reader right away. And boo on no puppy pics. I’ll be looking forward to your next post. Congrats on your writing progress girl. You’re inspiring! 🙂

  9. Karen, always glad to see you here! And I totally agree – a lot of good classic books would never get picked up by a publisher (or probably many readers) today. Thanks for coming by!