We are why kids hate reading!

greatgatsby-cover                 orig-11091641                wuthering-heights[1]

I’ve taught high school. Luckily I was at a good one, but I noticed one thing. Almost all kids hate to read now. Sure, there will always be the student that can’t put their books down, but they are few and far between. Why should they read now? They have phones, video games, and TVs to keep them busy. I don’t blame them. I get distracted by the same things.

Our English language arts programs don’t do us any favors either (I’m sure I’ll be dodging shoes of my English teacher friends in a minute). Seriously, look at what we make our kids read in school. Here is what I remember reading in high school: Wuthering Heights, Frankenstein, and To Kill a Mockingbird. I know other classes covered the Great Gatsby. Other than that, I don’t know what else there is. I do know that almost all the reading lists are based on what we consider English classics. 

So, when do we stop considering them classics? Maybe we’ll always make our kids read those books. Why? Because its what we’ve always done. Guess what? That’s why our kids hate reading. Most of them simply cannot connect with those authors and their writing. Seriously. Every time we started a classic in school all I wanted to do was throw the book out the classroom door. I had to seek out 1984 and Fahrenheit 451. I connected with those.

What would be the problem with letting our kids read more contemporary works. What is wrong with Harry Potter or the Lord of the Rings books? I know, I know. There are some serious politics that go into book selections. Some parents don’t like the witchcraft and magic in those books. I wonder where those same parents were when Dr. Frankenstein was putting parts together to make a living being? Honestly though, there are so many different books that offer the same literary concepts as the classics. They are just as easy to use in instruction and they have one major advantage – more kids will connect with them.

Teaching the classics just to do it is stupid. If we are doing it because we think our kids need to have an appreciation for the them, then we are doing it wrong. I won’t pick up any of them because I was forced to do it in school. Maybe we are so reluctant to change because we think it will be too much work to rewrite our lesson plans. If that’s the case, then I know why modern education is having trouble staying relevant. Laziness.

Don’t get me wrong, I know a lot of reading motivation has to come from home. I rarely ran into a student that was an avid reader who didn’t have great familial support behind them. Parents have to encourage their kids to read, but if they don’t, the last reading hope is their school. Why not offer them something they’ll actually enjoy while also getting them same instruction they would with the classics. I’ve always been on the fence with homeschooling, but they definitely have the advantage here.

Tell me what you think. 

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4 thoughts on “We are why kids hate reading!

  1. Yup, I pretty much agree with all of this. I’ve started to pick up some of the books I was forced to read back then, or ones that I never had to personally but are in the standard curriculum. Some of them I still don’t like, some I do, but even the classics that I enjoy now, I couldn’t appreciate at 15 (especially not when I was struggling to read my assigned pages along with the hours of other homework I had). The frustrating thing is that I know most of the teachers out there are doing the best they can. It’s the system that needs an overhaul.

    1. It really does need an overhaul. A local school board member here lobbied to have Harry Potter added to the curriculum. Unfortunately, he was voted out of office last year. I hope someone will make some changes soon! Thanks for the comment and take care!

  2. coffeescholar

    I agree ttally. English classics have their virtues, but very few of them will be included in our homeschool curriculum. Some of our choice picks for my 8yo are Harry Potter, graphic novels, anything by Rick Riordan, and the Hunger Games. He loves reading. I want to encourage that. As he gets older, I’ll explain why he should broaden his horizon with classics, but I don’t want to use an 800 page Oliver Twist to crush his love of reading before it ever develops.

  3. I have a slightly different opinion, not on your point, but on the solution. Kids hate classics. And with good reason – the same reason kids hate Algebra – it doesn’t not connect to their experiences in the world. I too went back and read the Top 50 classics in adulthood and they had more value. It appears that often ‘english lit” and other subjects are not planned from a big picture view. In other words we don’t select a plan of study that ensures the “best” things are read. You read Wuthering Heights – I read Jude the Obscure – Some other kid got “Tom Sawyer.” So step one is a better plan and one that covers classics that serve a theme. More importantly is stop asking what Heathcliff did and start making it relevant to the reader’s world. Take Jude the Obsucre. It is relevant to teens – choosing the person who is “best” for you or choosing the one who “excites” you. It’s an important lesson for anyone who choose a mate for the wrong reasons. I think that is a modern lesson that would be of great interest to our already “drama” driven sons and daughters. I think the classics are important but they only have value if we can use relevant (like Facebook) examples to expose the lesson.

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