Be happy in your learning
Many parents will agree that encouraging teenage children to read and immerse themselves in books can be challenging.
Getting them to reset, so their brains generate images from descriptive text instead of relying on supplied imagery – so much part of modern communication technology – can be difficult.
Many educators, keen to help, stress a need to provide children with books that reflect the young readers’ interests, and therefore encourage them to be, or keep, them engaged. Good advice.
We can’t help but wonder, when selecting the books for teenagers to study at school, how in-tune we are with children’s needs to become comfortable, competent and analytical readers.
With a lengthy period as a parent of children attending school I have lost count of the times I have grimaced or groaned in trying to read the books the kids have brought home.
Asking teenagers to read, analyse, debate and write constructively on provocative pieces of work is a critical part of learning. But does subject matter necessarily need to be boring, depressing and loaded with ideologies, veiled messages and agendas?
I remember with dread my own year-12 experiences all those years ago when forced to read John Steinbeck’s ‘masterpiece’ The Grapes of Wrath.
Call me a philistine of literature, but for an immature pubescent 17-year-old interested in sport, music and fun it was a painful, dreary and dreadful experience. I don’t think I picked up a book for at least a year afterwards.
In another example, in almost every year of his secondary school life, my now adult son had to read books based on the Second World War holocaust.
Fair enough, there are some pretty strong and important lessons in the subject that we should all take on board. But five year’s worth? Come on, fair go!
Little wonder the subject becomes tiring and important messages get diluted.
Then there’s the string of social sob-story books, many involving depressive or downtrodden teenagers or dysfunctional families, that are supposedly designed to stimulate an emotive pathway to learning. Ugh!
What I’m saying is of course subjective and this adult-inspired direction in literature for impressionable teenage minds no doubt works for some.
But what about students yearning to be stimulated by powerful positive messages about humanity, themselves and society that they don’t have to dig too hard to find?
We’re not talking about sugar-coating the subject matter of study books to a point of being contrived. That too can be boring and uninspiring.
But being constantly encouraged to wade through boring subject matter and then feel sad about the world by picking over its bones through literature is no good for anyone. It is also hardly a way to get more young people interested in books.
Some balance would be nice.