As a Language Arts and Literature teacher I am automatically tasked with encouraging reading. Not just for students, but everyone. It’s as if there is some underlying code which stipulates that English teachers encourage reading. Are science teachers automatically expected to encourage experimentation?
My husband is not a huge fan of novels. And by “not a huge fan” I really mean that I have never actually seen him read a novel in all our years of knowing one another. He loves magazines and will read countless blog posts about topics which interest him, but he has actually not picked up a novel since college. Even then, it was not by choice. This led me to ponder, as an educator, what we consider reading and the judgement or bias placed by teachers, as well as members of society, on the type of material which is read for pleasure.
Let me say this first: all reading is reading. Whether you are reading War & Peace or Fifty Shades of Grey, you are reading. As far as I’m concerned, I would be happy for any of my students to actually read something because they want to and less concerned with its genre. Reading opens our minds up to the world, allows us to engage in different experiences and all that other fluffy mumbo jumbo that you find on inspirational classroom posters. What I love most about reading is the ability to create images in my mind of the characters or subject matter as well as the control I have, as a reader, to set the pace of the plot’s completion. When you read a novel you can decide if the story will end next week, next month or in the next couple hours. I don’t have that control over the storylines of the various shows I binge watch on Netflix.
To this end, I have been encouraging my students to find their genre. Reading doesn’t end when the mandatory school book list fades away into the distant past of your high school or college career. In order to keep the pages turning, you need to find something you like to read and a curriculum may not be able to tell you that. I have one student who literally reads six books in one weekend and another who takes all month to finish a book. The time in which it takes someone to finish a book doesn’t matter.
All reading is reading.
Hypocritically, however, I rarely read for pleasure. I can count on one hand the books I read last year which weren’t work-related:
See? Four. It isn’t that I don’t love reading books (I do!) it’s simply that I spend too much time not reading. I tell myself that it is because my life is full to the brim already. That being a wife, mother and teacher is something which keeps me completely occupied, every second of my day meticulously planned in my agenda. I don’t have any time to sit and read. For some reason, though, I seem to have time to browse all the memes on Instagram… Too much of our modern life is spent scrolling and not enough time is spent actively reading things which can enrich both our lives and our minds.
Do you have any reading resolutions this year? If not, it may be time to carve out at least 15 minutes of every day where you devote your time to perusal of literature. If you haven’t found your genre yet, perhaps 2017 is the year for experimentation. If you’re like my husband and short-term reading is more your style, find a great magazine and stick it in your favorite chill spot to encourage yourself to put the phone down and pick the magazine up (on his bedside table right now are How, Men’s Health and Wired).
Meanwhile, I will work on being more decisive about my own downtime and plow through “Vanessa’s 2017 Reading List”: Orphan Train, Sons and Lovers, Help for the Haunted, Here Comes the Sun, The Girl in the Ice, When I’m Gone, The Girl in the Spider’s Web.
Leave some Novel Ideas in the comments to help me build my personal reading list for this year. Let me know what you plan on reading or what your favorite genre is. Can you tell mine?
Also, if you would like to contribute to my classroom’s library wishlist, click here.