I struggle mightily every day not to scream, “Stop making everyone read the same damned book!”
Yes, there is a beauty in a shared reading and examining of a text, but there is a perverse ugliness in the shared pretending to read and examine a text.
Yes, strive to have democratic classrooms honoring all voices, but do not pretend texts assigned by edict or the false choice of 4 titles equals democracy.
Yes, helping students gain the keys they’ll need to unlock cultural doors through understanding the ideas of canonical literature gives a leg up, but the leg up means little if that canon leads to a belief those are the only stories worth reading and telling.
Yes, Lord of the Flies, Animal Farm, To Kill a Mockingbird, and their ilk are masterfully written, but we were having conversations about humanity’s darkness, political inequality, and race in America long before each was written (and perhaps we’ve gotten better at it since).
There is an oppression in forcing someone to read a book long after they’ve realized they hate it. What might the effects of that oppression be on how students think about reading after they’ve left our care?
There is a disrespect in only asking students to read a single novel in a quarter or semester when conservative estimates put the number of new books each year at 600,000. What stories will they never see or see themselves in?
There is a shutting of our minds when we say, “These are the books I teach. What might we learn if realize we teach students and help them learn from as many texts as possible?
There is an hypocrisy in decrying the effects of text-impoverished homes on students’ literacy and then pretending we support and frame our school libraries as spaces students own. What if we allowed student access to these spaces in the same way we access bookstores, coffee shops, and the kindle store?
If literacy is key to democracy, if one in four American adults hadn’t read a book in whole or part in 2016, and if more than 90% of those adults were products of American public schools; then maybe we should stop making everyone ready the same damned book.
As a literate adult, how did you come to read the last book you read?