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September 15, 2006



I see this every day at school. I happen to be in an AP English class, but there are so many students who groan and complain at the mere mention of classics. I can hardly beleive my ears whenever someone says "I hate reading." I used to wonder how. Now I realize why, and I wish I could find them the perfect book, so that they could start to like reading, and then work their way up to all those classics. I wouldn't get read of classics entirely, but I do agree that only reading classics gets boring mighty fast.


That is an excellent take on it, and frankly, those statistics are kind of shocking. I would also love to see some of Laurie Halse Anderson's books be taught in schools. If anything is to change, I almost feel like it's up to us (the blog-checking book readers) to do something about it. Where to start, however, I have no idea.

Lauren A.

Wow this is all so interesting. I never really thought about it the way LHA phrased it. She's a really good author too.


right now in my english class we are reading thoreau and emerson and twain. so far we have only read essays. so far i have actually liked readign the essays (which i didn't think would happen) and am understanding real well.

Jaya Lakshmi

So true. All the girls in my class tend to read books like Gossip Girl. I have to appreciate English though, because I've finally been able to appreciate Catcher in the Rye.


Wow, that's scary!


I can't imagine....wow, that's just sad.


That is pretty scary. Now I feel lucky that I was born into a middle-class white family. I don't know what kind of person I would be if I had never learned to read.

Charlie Anne

I think a lot of it comes down to teachers. A lot of them are spectacular, but I think at least half of them are terrible. (Not necessarily terrible people, but not everyone can teach.)

Especially for younger kids. A lot of what they think about school goes on when they're little, and yet people tend to think they don't really need to worry if they aren't learning.


I agree with the quote. And I do think learning to read harder books and reading the classics is very important. It's just that reading only classics in school can get very boring. Now, if there was a way for there to be classics AND contemporary books in the curriculum, then that would make reading more enjoyable for everyone. The students get to read books they like and they also get to read the classics.


Charlie Anne- I know what you mean aboout the younger kids. My mom is on the school board for our district, and the other day she was complaining how they don't check for things like dyslexia until FOURTH OR FIFTH GRADE!!!!!!!!! Come on, people! These kids are the future!
Help them learn!!


Oy. That's sad. I know people like that though. People who hate reading. I try to explain to them my love affair with books, but they don't understand. It's partly because the only reading they've ever done is the forced kind. I think if they read a book on their own and really liked it that things would change. But the question is, how do you get someone who "hates reading" to pick up a book on their own in the first place? How do you convince them that reading isn't a deathtrap? I don't know. I wish I did. If I did know the answer though I'd have tried to take over the world by now. :-)


I can't understand people who hate reading, because I have litterally been in love with reading since the womb. But I can understand where it's coming from. Who wants to read when there's such "quality programming" on as MTV?

Jaya Lakshmi

I think I have an answer- American bookcase roulette.
Here's how you play: in a classroom you have a bookshelf filled with stuff from Goosebumps to the Newberry winners. Each week you tell your students to pick one book from this bookcase for a grade. They don't have to write a report; they have to read it and then tell the teacher if they liked it or they hated it. For the last fifteen five minutes in class they can read; if they don't like the book for good reasons, then they can switch to something else. They can't read the same thing twice each week and, in theory, this will expose them to books that is required, but not necessarily boring. Of course, it may not work as I'm not a teacher, but this is what I did in fourth and fifth grade to a lesser extent.
We read Chocolate Fever and Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing in fourth grade. Chocolate Fever was hilairous even though it was simple.


Wow, I never even knew... surprising how that works out. I agree with everyone here, and will just leave my comment at that.


I feel like we're all part of some secret minority...the last readers on earth!


What if more kids who "hate" reading were encouraged to either follow along with, or given books on tape? Part of the reason I love to read, I'm sure, is that my parents read to my sibblings and me from a very early age. (I was too scared of Lord of the Rings when I was 3 years old and made my parents stop reading it out loud to us at bedtime. But I can still remember my mom's voice and my histerical laughter as she read the line, "Duhhhhhhh, tanks Buttercup," over and over again, when I was about 7.) What would happen if more schools made use of the book-on-tape resourses in various genres just to get kids interested in something akin to reading before slapping them with Thoreau and Dickens and whatnot?
And, I did finish River Secrets yesterday. Diana was right. It is a BEAUTIFUL book. Thanks for giving Razo his story, Shannon. What would we do without that Razo?


I just fineshed River Secrets!!! Razo is so wonderful!! Although I am confused about something- does Tira have a king or just a prince and an assembly?


Wow. Just wow.

One thing that I haven't seen much discussed here, however, is parents roles in all this. I grew up on Sesame Street and frequent trips to the library, where I could check out as many books as I wanted. My parents didn't have a lot of money when I was young, so I didn't have a lot of toys, but they always managed to scrape together enough to enroll us in book clubs, and a library card is free. We also weren't allowed to watch that much TV. I think laying all the blame on schools is a little unfair. I entered high school more than ready to tackle the classics, which took my reading ability to the next level, and I attribute that to the influence of my parents more than elementary school. I haven't been lucky enough to have children of my own, but you can bet that I read to and share books with my nieces and nephew at every oppurtunity (as do their parents), and they are all well on their way to becoming avid readers.

Here is another question. At what point does a book become a classic? Are there any modern classics that could/should be added to high school curriculums? Just wondering what others think about that :o)


yeah, I've wondered that too. I mean, I mean, at my school, we read Pride and Prejudice (which I loved ) and Great Expectations (which I felt indifferent about) Freshman year, and then the next year you read stuff like A Seperate Peace and 1984, and you end up finishing senior year with Cyrano de Bergerac. (there's more books in there, of course, I just don't remember them all) Anyway, are A Seperate Peace and 1984 considered classics? Or do we just call them that because most of us think they're dry and dull and indescribably boring books? Is that what a classic has become? Just a book that everyone wants to have read but no one really wants to start reading?

And am I even making sense?


Jordan, I love your definition of a classic: "a book that everyone wants to have read but no one really wants to start reading." I used to feel like that, especially being an English major in college where you feel smarter when you can list a ton of classics you've read. Now I mix things up, reading a YA book then a contemporary adult book then a classic and back to YA, depending on what I'm in the mood for.

I watched a 20/20 special a few weeks ago about how America has fallen to #25 in the world for education! It's so sad. I taught a freshman college course for a few semesters and it's amazing how much students DON'T know when they get out of high school. But the hopeful news is that they can catch up quickly. =) I now give books as presents as often as I can to my family members of all ages.

shannon hale

The classics are a pretty narrow category and always seemed to me to be somewhat arbitrary. I'm willing to bet that at least 75% (and often 100%) of any high school English class's required books are made up of these few authors:

The Greek playwrights

Homer, Virgil, Dante, Spenser, Chaucer, Shakespeare, Milton, Cervantes

Defoe, Scott, Austen, Thackerey, Brontes, Eliot, Dickens, Cather, Wharton, Henry James, Kafka, Poe

Beckett, O'Neill, Miller, Tennessee Williams, Ibsen, Shaw, Chekov

Conrad, Hawthorne, Hardy, Tolstoy, Twain, Dostoyevsky
Fitzgerald, Hemingway, Steinbeck, Camus, Joyce, Woolf, Faulkner, William Golding, Melville, Orwell, Waugh, Richard Wright, John Knowles, Salinger, Sinclair


Soz, not on subject but.. I just read River Secrets and it was amazing! Definetly my fave book ever! I thought the character of Razo was so different to Isi and Enna that it was really great to read it from his perspective.I also thought that it was a contrast to your other books because Goose girl was really rich and detailed, Enna burning was dark and misterious but this was funny, had a good plot, good characters, it was fun to read and was really satisfying as well. Absolutly loved it, Keep going!


This is way off subject, but I feel like I am about to burst!!!!!!!!!!! I am just about to go to dance and try out for Nutcracker! I am so nervous.... shaking, really.

Shannon, almost done River Secrets! I don't want to finish it. But must. Keep. Reading.



p.s. what else did William Goldman write? (besides Princess Bride) I love that book! And now I tell people, proudly, that the reason the book and the movie are so good is because he did the writing for both. (thanks for the tip, Shannon!) I find it shocking when people have never heard of it.

Gasps. Again. Soon I'll faint with all of this gasping!

Enna Isilee

Wow I finished River Secrets on 9-9-06(bigger post to follow).

In my english class we have read/are reading...

Things fall apart
And Frankenstien

Don't get me wrong they aren't terrible, but the're not what I like. I read them without processing anything I am reading. I just turn the pages like a robot and the words zip right through me.

I just bought three brand new books (River Secrets included) and I don't feel like reading them, even when I have the time, just because classics make me tired of reading.


On the whole calssics thing, to stick up for my school-other than Macbeth, frankenstein, romeo and juliette, the crucible bla bla bla, We have also studied 'Holes' by Lois Sachar, and 'keeper of ther Isis light' by Monica Hughes. Neither of these were my faverite books but they weren't bad and they weren't classics. Nothing other than classics above GCSE year so far though (boo), I'm stuck with Shakespear.


To stick up for my school on the whole classics thing, we did study 'Holes and 'Keeper of the Isis light'in lower school, neither were that bad and neither were classics. Nothing good so far past GCSE year, I'm stuck with Shakespear.(boo)

As a side note, to get to this web site, It's labeled 'Hale, Shannon'. Take away the comma and you have 'Hale Shannon!' If you say that out loud it sounds like, 'Hail Shannon!' Which I think is funny.



From web searches I've done I haven't seen the type of reading lists for English classes that you describe, 75-100 percent western canon. For an AP class yes, and for some college prep. However, I think the trend in most high schools is to not read so many classics in non-college prep classes. I know that is the case in the private high school in Maine I attended. Their reading list, even for AP, includes many more non-classics than when I was there 15 yrs ago. We read 100% western canon in class all four years at my high school. I felt well prepared for college English at BYU compared to many of the other students who hadn't read many classics in high school.

I have found this discussion fascinating, because I remember reading the "Literary Losers" article back in July. I completely agreed with it. I would be very alarmed if my child brought home such a reading list. Does that make me "snooty?" I do not believe that classics are necessarily better than books written by modern writers. For my own taste, there are many classics I don't like, and many modern books I do like (including yours!). However, I would prefer that in school my children read as many classics as possible, for many reasons.

It IS very sad that so many children are unable to enjoy the classics because they do not have the required literacy skills. Something needs be done about this years before they get to high school. Or maybe they just need a certain environment, a certain expectation. Many underprivileged kids attend schools like Boston Latin, where they are expected to read classics and they rise to the occasion.


woah mads!!
how did you do in your dancing thing?
just finished rs, im so glad razo found someone :)


was tht a spoiler???
if so im v sorry :(


Two things, neither of them on subject!

1. River Secrets was great. Need I say more?

2. I met the real Finn today! (Or at least someone who could be Finn's double. More on that later.)


Oooh, do expound. We must know of Finn's double. You see, if Finn has a double, then maybe Edward Cullen has a double...tee hee...


Jordan: I wish. Read my entry on "Inbox Collapsing" for more about my Finn.


Those statistics are SCARY! I learned to read at the age of four, and spent most of my time with books since then. Does high school really have that many classics? That's great! I'm in grade 6 and my school library has NO classics except Pride and Prejudice, which I got last Christmas and loved.


Hermione: I'm in eighth grade, and we've already started reading some classics. Good luck!


Just so's you know, my prestigious high school reads The Hobbit as a part of the sophomore honor's english curriculum! I do believe it is a classic in the way we have been talking about classics.

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