aprilhenry (aprilhenry) wrote,

Should kids get to pick what they like to read?

The New York Times says, “For years Lorrie McNeill loved teaching “To Kill a Mockingbird,” the Harper Lee classic that many Americans regard as a literary rite of passage. But last fall, for the first time in 15 years, Ms. McNeill, 42, did not assign “Mockingbird” — or any novel. Instead she turned over all the decisions about which books to read to the students in her seventh- and eighth-grade English classes at Jonesboro Middle School in this south Atlanta suburb.” Some picked Toni Morrison. Others picked James Patterson.

Some commenters got their knicked in a knot. One said, “If we aren't going to consider the quality of what is being read, than a love of reading is no more or less beneficial than a love of television-watching, slot-car-racing, or pizza-eating.” Another wrote, “If students are given a choice regarding literature, next it will be math and science and history.” A third said, “But I'm also greatly concerned about their collective cultural IQ. Fewer and fewer of them are exposed to Homer, Milton, Dante and the like.”

I read The Iliad as a senior (about all I remember is "and darkness covered his eyes"), and I have read only a few lines of Milton and nothing of Dante. But I’m not sure it affects my life in any way. Most of the time I feel overeducated anyway. I think America’s collective cultural IQ already lacks Homer, Milton and Dante. Unless it's Homer Simpson.

I guess for me it’s more important that kids LIKE to read than WHAT they read. Even if there’s some Captain Underpants and James Patterson thrown in there. Because I hope it means they grow up to be readers as adults. And somehow a love for reading is better than a love of pizza. (Although you can love both).

Read the article that started the kerfluffle here. What do you think?

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