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The Westfield Voice

The Westfield Voice

How Education Has Affected The Wonders of Reading

Reading Deserves A Second Chance

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When I think about the first time I ever experienced literature, I think of joy, peace, and a remembrance of a simpler time. I think of my imagination striving, it was like I was there witnessing the events of the story unfold, like a movie. When I think about reading nowadays, I think of tests and essays. 

It was a warm spring afternoon, sun was shining through the window, my mom was cooking cinnamon buns, and my grandma was reading The Giving Tree to me. I remember finding the book exciting and relaxing at the same time, it’s one of my earliest memories reading and I loved it. I don’t remember my exact age, but I was very young, this was the first time I was experiencing any form of literature. While the book did have pictures, I couldn’t see them at first, so I was still able to use my own imagination to make up the story. This is what books are supposed to do. This process of imagery would be used for a while by me, but looking at reading today, I just can’t feel the same way, my imagination doesn’t get excited about reading anymore, they’re just words on a page. 

In Elementary school, not only have my reading skills increased, but so did my joy for reading as well. Granted, I wasn’t reading any complex books, just fun ones like Diary of a Wimpy Kid and Big Nate. These books were a blast to read through, and correlating the text with the images kept me entertained. There were books that didn’t have pictures, but they were still pleasant to read. Without a phone and no video games during the week, I read pretty much every night. Whenever I was grounded(which was often, I was a fairly mischievous kid) I’d go to read to burn through my time. It was a genuine hobby that I enjoyed, and I was excited to improve my reading skills and see what other books were waiting for me. 

I Entered middle school, and my first ever English class. We had to read a book called Lyddie. I still remember this book to this day, as it pretty much ruined reading for me. It kickstarted the events of “Read 20 pages a night, take notes, answer questions, test friday”. This method wasn’t bad for increasing comprehension skills, but it absolutely killed reading for me. Let’s say for example you had to take notes and take a test on a movie, then do it every week. Would that be any fun? Of course not! This has got to be one of my biggest issues with our school system, it genuinely took one of my favorite hobbies and completely destroyed it. Every year I would hate reading more and more, and do I even need to talk about summer reading? Sure, it was in elementary school, but it was optional. In middle school, you were required. This pretty much has the same issue with school readings during the school year, except worse because it’s the summer. Once High school came around, I couldn’t stand it. It’s impressive how school has ruined reading for me this bad. One day, I was bored enough to go digging around in my room, only to find a diary of a wimpy kid book, one of the books I used to read for hours and hours, usually able to finish it in one sitting. I decided to skim through it, and I ended up not being able to put the book down. I was having fun. Eventually I did stop, but at the time, I didn’t think much of it. Come senior year, I was looking forward to not having to do summer reading, I was free. I did some more thinking about reading, my parents would always talk me into liking reading, and I never understood why. To me, reading was a chore, and given time, I would realize it only seemed like a chore because of the education system. It was literally brainwashed into us that reading was something that you were going to be tested on, of course most people don’t enjoy it. Reading is an art, not a subject. For your art class, if you had to study for a test on Artists and their certain paintings, would you enjoy that? For music, would you enjoy it if you had to take tests on instruments, rather than playing them? The sad thing is I bet somewhere out there this does happen. I remember arguing with my parents about this subject for years. I’d always say the education system was bad, and way too formulaic, and they always said I was making excuses to not do my homework, and at the time I thought they were right. Come present day, realizing how much better college is, I was right. I can feel my wanting to read slowly coming back, and it just makes me more mad about how Middle school and high school completely ruined that for me, but realistically, what can we do about it? 

First of all, what happened to reading together in class? We used to do this sometimes in middle school, and these were the last moments of joy that reading would bring me. Reading together is just a nice relaxed setting, it makes it easy to follow along, and talking about what you read afterwards is fun. It’s like a movie, you can follow along together, and when something of significance happens you can talk about it. Doing this also strengthened your comprehension abilities. As much as it’s fun to joke about how English teachers get way too deep into the readings, doing this naturally helps you understand how these books are, and how to get the full emotional value from them. Also is there really a point of tests? For reading? When you think about it, it doesn’t make a lot of sense. A product for purely entertainment…is being tested on. This never made sense to me. Sure, schools want students to have good comprehension, but these tests are only there to make sure the students read the book, so in the end you accomplish nothing. The worst type of reading assignments were when we did none of the reading for class, then nothing but reading for homework. WHY??!!! What’s the point of coming to school if I’m just going to do all the work at home. All this does is encourage me to go on sparknotes and look up the plot, because i’m already exhausted from 7 hours of school, plus I played golf in High School too, I had no time for that. I remember when homework was a short assignment that reinforced the ideas you were taught in school, instead now they are entirely separate teachings, which you will discuss in class. Classwork and Homework pretty much swapped the roles of each other, but I’m getting way too off topic. Before I had the ability to burn through books and be able to get the emotional rewards which the author had intended for. Now whenever I read a book, it’s most likely for a class, where I’d have to be pressured into reading a certain amount of pages before a certain time, and when I finish the book all I would feel is relief, which sucks because these books they’re giving us are high quality, and the majority of students won’t ever be able to see the significance in them.

When schools are tasked with getting students interested in reading, they fail in every single aspect. They try to get students to comprehend books well, but the mundane structure of regurgitating information leaves little motivation for the students to even try to comprehend it. This also leaves the students with no enjoyment for the students, and the imagery these books are supposed to give us is tarnished. We shouldn’t treat english/reading as a subject. We should treat it as an art. We should enjoy it, or else you’re just going to ruin reading for a lot of these students, and at that point what even is the point of teaching it? What is the point of taking a piece of entertainment and destroying the fun out of it, and when you think about it it hurts the people writing these books too, schools take away all the creativity and it’s a shame. It’s no wonder the interest in reading has been declining for a while now. (Granted technology is another reason for this) I hope one day, sooner than later, I’m able to get my enjoyment of reading back, as there are truly great books out there that deserve recognition.

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