Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Kids and Classics

My 13-year-old son grumbled about his Language Arts teacher. She had told his class,"You must read from this list of classics."

My son loves reading nonfiction: medieval weaponry, The Dangerous Book for Boys, and survival techniques by Bear Grylls from Man vs. Wild. I looked ahead to his eighth grade year as one of frustration, tying him to a chair while he choked down classic literature.

One evening we sat together at the computer--his list in front of us. Last summer we read Old Yeller together, and he loved it. From Renaissance Learning, we found out the word count of Old Yeller (35k, in case you're wondering).

We found several books on his list, similar in length, that my son is excited about reading. He read half of The Outsiders over the weekend, telling me this morning about one of the "sad ironies" of the story (go figure). Next he'll read Fahrenheit 451.

It pained me when my son was upset about having to read, and yet I understood how he felt. I like reading certain genres, but was forced by my English teacher to read To Kill a Mockingbird. I'm thankful, since it remains one of my favorite books.

Fortunately, my son has opened up to reading about subjects other than spears, gladiators, and drinking your own urine. Perhaps one day he might even be glad his teacher gave him the dreaded list.

What's been your experience with kids reading classics? If you're a parent, did your child resist? Or were you a child who resisted?

photo credit: Barnes and Noble

42 comments:

  1. I was one of those kids who loved (and still do) to read. I used to come home with piles of books -- classics included -- and read them in a week. My parents encouraged me and my brother to read fom a young age, but never forced us. That, I think, was the key. :)

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  2. Often the books imposed on them by a teacher are the ones they really analyze and critique in class, so they come to understand them well. And so the classic story stays with them, and they eventually look back on the experience gladly.

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  3. My son is currently reading The Odyssey. Fortunately, he has read it before & seen the Sci-Fi channel version. But, in his classroom, I saw copies of Spoon River Anthology & almost swooned. He groused. We'll have many rounds of the 'I don't want to read it!' debate.

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  4. I loved reading, but at times I resisted the classics. Today I am grateful that it was shoved down my throat, because there is so much to learn from the classics.

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  5. I resisted to a level. I thought they were boring and dull, because I didn't understand and didn't care much. Sure I got A's, but I wasn't in love. This is the very reason my husband stopped reading, and basically all of his friends. There wasn't a mixture of the fun and the sorta dull. Yeah there were a couple of books I liked, to Kill a Mocking Bird is one, but for the most part I think a lot of it turns kid off reading for good. They see it as a chore. When I was younger, when we got to choose more often, I LOVED it, remember plenty of books, and now that I can do the same, love reading again. But in high school and jr. high- would have rather done anything else. And I'm going to be an English teacher LOL. I'm hoping to help others

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  6. I loved reading, but I was a child who suffered through the classics.

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  7. That's the way my son now sees reading, as a chore. My plan is to continue taking him to our public library where he can choose what HE wants to read.

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  8. Recently, my daughter started reading a lot of the classics on her own, and I questioned if she wanted to do Grapes of Wrath for a book report, but she said that actually the classics were more about character development with simple plotlines compared to cont. YA, so book reports were easier! I'd never thought of that.

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  9. "Drinking your own urine..." ha!

    My kids aren't quite old enough yet to be faced with this, but I wonder if we'll go through the same thing. My 9yo daughter loves reading more "classic" lit when we read it together, but when left to herself she chooses all the series books, like Babysitters Club, etc.

    I guess we'll see!

    Amy

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  10. You're such a wise mom! He'll appreciate all this cajoling later in life, when he'll be quoting from his vast background. Thanks for your visit!

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  11. I can so relate to this. My son is a nonfiction - war, gladiators - reader through and through. But recommendations from his friends have made him expand his horizons a bit. So far, any classics have been read in class. I shudder the day he brings one of those lists home.

    I'm glad it opened your son's horizons. Listen to him about The Outsiders! My son read it last summer and loved it.

    I, too, have to break out of the genres I tend to stick to.

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  12. My kids all love to read and they grew up on the classics of children's literature. These never grow stale. I love them. Your son sounds like a smart kid!

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  13. I started resisting as I got older, but am so glad my teachers forced me to read them. Good stuff here! :o)

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  14. I have no kids, sadly, but recall as one myself that I appreciated the classics more when read them at school. Now as an older reader I find the style much harder going and prefer them as audio books or TV dramas/ films.I do plan to try again though sometime. I agree 'To Kill A Mocking Bird' is a great book. I also read the lesser known Thomas Hardy 'A Trumpet Major', which I enjoyed. I'd go round the house saying "I seed ee" to my family and they'd hiss "I thought she'd finished that book!" to which the other would growl "She's reading another one!"

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  16. There were definitely some classics I intensely disliked when I was forced to read them in high school. But there were some I enjoyed reading (To Kill the Mockinbird, for example). I remember preferring it when I was given a list of classics to choose among, because there would invariably be one or two that I found interesting. :)

    Emy Shin (my new blog)

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  17. This line was truly funny: Fortunately, my son has opened up to reading about subjects other than spears, gladiators, and drinking your own urine. It struck me as so funny, although I realize it's supposedly good advice if you're trapped in the desert. I've never tried it though.

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  18. The drinking of the urine is no joke! I wish it was! I guess it's a survival thing, and my son was fascinated by it. Doesn't it sound horrible?

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  19. oh, so that's a small step for humanity but a big step for the Musils :PPP
    I was actually a kid who adored reading, here in Serbia kids read hundreds of book during primary and secondary school, and since later on in high school we had a lot of long and big classics, our teacher had a deal with my class - if Dezz reads the longer book, the rest of the class can read the shorter ones :) So I read BROTHERS KARAMAZOV while they read CRIME AND PUNISHMENT, I read WAR AND PEACE so that they could read just ANA KARENINA, I read THE QUIET DON while they read just HUMAN DESTINY :))) Off course, I cheated and read both mine and their books as well :)

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  20. Wow, Julie! Great post. I was an English teacher and now I'm a school librarian and I worked hard (still do) to make the classics go down easier. I know some schools are purging classics for Oprah books, but I hope it's not too many. Older stories parallel history, and I've often said that the literature is history's soul. I hope they aren't bumped for less substantial works.

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  21. Dez, are you messing with me? Did you really read ALL of those books? I'm feeling a little lazy.

    Jeannie, I think classics are amazing, if only we'd give them a chance.

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  22. Loved the classics, was a blue stocking anyway. Gave them to my stepdaughter and she still complains about having to read them.

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  23. Every book I had to read because it was a classic always ended up teaching me something. I may not read them all over again, but I appreciated them. So I say: make them read classics!

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  24. Carole, it must be a universal kid thing!

    Lydia, I agree. It's a great experience, even if they're grumbling about it now.

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  25. When my daughter was young, I didn't have a lot of money for new books, but I had a big library of classics. Most her early years were spent watching me read classics, so when it came time for her to read them, she didn't blink. On the other hand, now I have to pull teeth just to get her to read the classics I assign for English. Good thing she already had a base to pull from or we'd be stuck.

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  26. It's hard to get the kids interested in some of the older works. Language and styles have changed so much. I find telling them enough of the story in advance can get them hooked enough to read it. :)

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  27. I didn't resist because I've always loved to read, but I didn't like that I was forced to read them! Sometimes I wasn't in the mood for the type of book I had to read at the time. I liked many right away ("To Kill a Mockingbird" is also one of my favorite books!), but some I didn't like until I reread them when I was older on my own time. Providing a list of classics and letting the kids choose which ones interest them is a better approach, I think.

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  28. At least he has a list to choose from. I don't ever remember being given a choice.

    Haven't read any of those you've mentioned (yet). They're on the bookshelf just waiting for me.

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  29. I loved the Outsiders!! That's a great book. I never resisted because I love books and I've always loved reading so I was always cheering inside when we "had" to read a book.

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  30. It is great that he is reading the classics, but I guess it is enough that he was a reader to start with. What he reads is not as important as the fact that he does read.

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  31. My son did seem to resist a bit, he was into
    fantasy genre. He also crossed the bridge and found others he wanted to read. My daughter loves to read and isn't dragging her heels so much. She did struggle with "Lord of the Flies" this summer, before high school. She read it and did the required project. She understands the freshman dynamic and sees why it was required reading. I think having a list to pick from is wonderful~

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  32. Oh, I remember (vividly) being forced to read classics that I didn't enjoy or appreciate until adulthood! I still think back to my Senior year of high school and having to read Heart of Darkness in preparation for Freshman year of college. I swear, I would have rather had a root canal LOL! When I was a kid, I read the same books over and over again because they touched me. I must have read Where the Red Fern Grows fifty times:)

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  33. As a former English Lit teachers, I can tell you that forcing kids to plough through Macbeth, Dickens et al was like pulling teeth. I think it pained me as much as them, and I'm sure it turned a few off reading altogether!

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  34. I resist classics, mostly because they make me feel stupid. I read for enjoyment, escape, and I don't really find that in classics all that often.

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  35. Julie, do pop over to my blog for your award.

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  36. I don't have kids, but as for me, I can't ever remembering not enjoying a book that was assigned in school.

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  37. Oh, man. I'm really struggling with my oldest (7) for the same reasons. I really want to turn her into a reader, but am not sure how. While gifted in all other areas, she's falling behind in reading over the last few school years and I struggle knowing how to help her.

    My solution of late is reading Harry Potter with her. She loves dragons and such and since some of her friends have become readers because of HP, I thought it was worth a shot.

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  38. This is a little like Clarissa Draper's latest post. It's great to see you encouraging your son to read..:)

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  39. This is awful but I don't rememeber my daughter having to read the classics. Wonder why? She loved to read so maybe that's why I don't remember.

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  40. Some of the classics I loved, others I could barely read. It depended. I read mostly to escape.

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  41. That's great, Julie!! I'm stubborn. I don't read a lot out of my genre. But when I do, I usually am glad I did.

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