Monday’s Musings: Assigned Reading

musingmondaysbigHow did you react to assigned reading when you were in school/university/college/etc? How do you think on these books now? What book were you ‘forced’ to read when you were in school that you’ve since reread and loved?

An interesting question for an English teacher who assigns reading to her students on a daily basis. As far as my own experience, I have always enjoyed reading, so I didn’t mind when a teacher assigned me something to read. In fact, depending on the teacher, I sometimes asked them for recommendations. However, two books which meant a whole lot more to me as an adult were The Grapes of Wrath and To Kill a Mockingbird.

To Kill a Mockingbird I think I was just way too young the first time I read it. What I remembered from that book was the “strange” neighbor who left Scout and Jem treats in the tree. I sort of missed the whole racism, prejudice, and moral issues the novel presents. As an adult, this is one of my all time favorites. Atticus Finch, sigh. I would marry him in a heartbeat. I definitely appreciate his struggle to raise his children to know the difference between right and wrong and to see the good in all people much better as an adult than I did as a ten year old.

I think I read The Grapes of Wrath when I was in the seventh grade. All I remembered about this one was a really clear image of the Joads’ truck all loaded up with family members and their belongings. As an adult, I think this is one of the most beautiful novels ever written about the strength of the human spirit. I made this mistake a few years back of trying to teach this novel to high school sophomores. Lesson I learned was that this is a book that needs to be read on your own, when you are an adult. Only with some maturity do I think people can appreciate the beauty of the interchapters and the ultimate sacrifice by Rose of Sharon at the end.

I think the mistake that some teachers make is that we force the classics on students at too young of an age. We fail to help students connect to the text and we discredit the literature and the author’s intent when we do this. If I hadn’t been a reader, if I hadn’t had a copy of The Clan of the Cave Bear hidden inside my Grapes of Wrath, I would have been a much more tuned out middle-schooler.


3 thoughts on “Monday’s Musings: Assigned Reading

  1. I can’t recall how old I was when I attempted and abandoned The Grapes of Wrath. I don’t even want to see the movie! I suppose I should try again.
    I enjoyed this post and the question you consider. I read Lord of the Flies a few years ago (late 30s) and I loved it – yet I see it on so many peoples hate lists and I wonder if they were too young or if it was forced.

  2. Oh yes, try Grapes of Wrath again. It is slow in the beginning, I will admit, but worth it in the end.

    I just taught Lord of the Flies to my sophomores and they loved it, thankfully.

  3. Mmmmmm Atticus Finch. I am SO glad I’m not the only literary geek out there who just wanted to reach out and give him a big hug and say, “You’re doing a fine job there, sport! Take me now, please.” And when you toss Gregory Peck into the equation…OH MAN!!

    I was interested in your comment about forcing the classics on children at too young an age. It’s not a perspective I’ve heard very often, but it’s a pragmatic one that I think more people ought to take into account. Reading classic works of literature is certainly integral to any school’s cirriculum, but there is definately a level of maturity involved that some age brackets just don’t have. Kudos to you for understanding that picking age-appropriate books for use in a cirriculum is not a form of censorship or a means of depriving students exposure to essential literature.

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