Saturday, October 11, 2008

A Small Triumph

Yesterday Sam told me he'd confronted his English teacher about the reading choices.

"Mom, the opportunity just presented itself," He said. "She asked what we liked and didn't like about the book. I said I like the quality of the pages - they're nice and sturdy - and that it was a fairly quick read, but that I didn't like the book itself because it was depressing. And that, since fifth grade, pretty much all the books we had been assigned to read were depressing and were making me not want to read anymore."

"What did she say?" I asked.

"She said my next read could be a free read - my choice," he answered. Then he added, "Although she did say there would be at least two more depressing books we'd have to read this year. And of course I have to finish this one first. By the way, all the other kids agreed with me when I spoke up. They all said, 'Yeah, me too!'"

Well! It's a start. It's one thing to hear this from parents - the best that seems to have done is generate some minor sympathy and the suggestion that we are over protective and babying our son. But to hear it from the kids themselves... I have to hope that if you're an educator for the right reason - that you care about kids - this may resonate somewhere. Most of all I'm proud of Sam for speaking up - and thrilled that his efforts were rewarded by a "free read."

Wonder what he'll choose?


Helle said...

What a wonderfull experience for your son, and as a teacher I can only condone the fact that the children obtain an awareness of the fact that they too can have an influence, also when it comes to the litterary choices made in school!
Because only this way can we ensure that they actually meet the pleasure of reading, and not only see it as a terrible burden that are imposed upon them by their teachers and parents. And reading is just such an import part of the personal evolution!
So way to go Sam!

Susie said...

I just read your last two posts. As a library assistant for a California University, I catalog the books being added to our Juvenile collection. When I took over this task several years, I soon saw a pattern of "depressing" books being added to our collection. I spoke to the librarian in charge of ordering books for this area, suggesting that children/teenagers would also enjoy books that are uplifting, encouraging, heroic, etc. Why not encourage children with positive role models and books that teach reaching to the highest level in life? I feel the pendulum has swung too far to the side of only commiserating in life's pain and sorrow ; hopefully it will swing back with the help of blogs and books such as yours.

Emilie said...

Bravo to your son for standing up for his beliefs, and doing so politely and intelligently! I remember saying the same thing to a high school English teacher while studying American drama. I asked why we couldn't study a comedy because nearly all the plays were about dysfunctional families or unhealthy relationships. As my parents were divorcing at this time, these plays were extremely hard to watch, even though my classmates were staging them. Her response was that these plays stood the test of time and were higher quality than almost any comedy, and therefore should be studied. It turned me off from theater for awhile, I must admit, and that's a shame. Kids and adults should be exposed to ALL kinds of literature, and I hope your son and others like him can experience the joy that should come with reading.

Emma Walton Hamilton said...

Thank you all for your comments! I received an invitation from the school librarian this week to come in and meet with the faculty at the school and begin a dialogue on the subject of assigned reading. Stay tuned!

design4u? said...

As a child raised during WWII, and being the oldest of seven battered children (by both my WWII Veteran father AND "closet batterer" mother), reading "censored" uplifting books as a child gave me hope that life could be better! It may have been more fantasy and set my hopes too high, but at least the HOPE helped me to survive my childhood.

Children need HOPE, as we all do!