Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Bud on Why our current education system is failing

Thanks to Stephen Downes, I came across this post today. It is written by someone still in high school, and is one of the most articulate, cogent arguments I have read. The debate in the comments is very telling, too!

At this point, consider there to be a section break. The next part of this post goes into a spin-off.

There is one section of his post, in particular, however, that I would like to tease out:

Our top priority must be to instill a passion for reading. The progress of humanity depends on it.

A number of my friends routinely say ” I hate reading”

And I always reply, ” You just haven’t found the right book.”

That 'you just haven't found the right book' argument has been mine, too. Verbatim. I have tended to believe that for every child, somewhere out there is the book that will flip the switch. The book that will take the 'non-reader' label past its sell-by date. I have always told my kids: there isn't a door in the world that is closed to you if you love to read. (Side note: I am trying decide what to make of Bud's view that the 100 books he has read over the past four years constitute a lot of reading, when I read 200 books during my last two years of high school, and my mother before me read 400 over the same period.)


I am the mother of a 15 year old son who hates reading. I am also the mother of a 17 year old who enjoys it.

Every night of their early lives, both boys had a bedtime story. At several points during the course of pretty much every day of their lives, someone would read a book to them, or go through a picture book with them. Both boys observed their parents' love of reading. Both boys loved to be read to (said she, ungrammatically).

When, as a baby/toddler, my elder son was 'too quiet' in a way that every parent understands only too well, I would go to investigate, expecting carnage, and find him seated in front of the bookshelf, surrounded by books, 'reading'. I must have repacked those bookshelves 5 times a day when he was little. Quite often, I would find him 'reading' Asterix when the books were longer than his outstretched legs. He liked to be allowed to 'read' an Asterix book in bed... and this was often the result (taken from our family photo album).

And yet. And yet.

I have bust a valve trying to find that 'right book' for my 15 year old. All. His. Life.

Our house has always been full of books. We made regular trips to the library when they were little. We have grabbed reference books to resolve disagreements about trivia at the dinner table. I have come out of bookstores weighed down and broke.

The books on the shelves in our house currently include stuff by Terry Pratchett, JK Rowling, Tolkien and Shakespeare. We have Anthony Horowitz books of all descriptions. We have Captain Underpants. We have Holes. We have The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time. We have Anne MacCaffrey and John Meaney. We have John Grisham. We have exemplars of the juvenile secret agent type that is currently so popular: the Cherub series and the young James Bond stuff (and Horowitz's Alex Rider). We have William Nicholson. We have Christopher Paolini. We have Michelle Paver. Brian Jacques. Trudi Canavan. Frank Peretti. Lloyd Alexander. Sharon Creech. Chris d'Lacey. Roald Dahl. Caroline Pitcher. Colin Foreman. Kevin Crossley-Holland. Justin Richards. Steve Dixon. Jonathan Stroud. Rodman Philbrick.

Nothing. Nada. Not a sausage. Not a glimmer of love for reading.

It is utterly beyond me how anyone can not love to read, but my younger son is one such. He hates to be taken out of the hurly burly of interaction with other people. He loves msn. He loves World of Warcraft. Both these things enable him to engage with other people.

Oddly - and this really gets me - he has the most vivid imagination, and his creative writing is of a high standard. His critical writing, too. His evaluation of the play Blood Brothers read in parts like something I might have written (and before you ask, no, I didn't - I do not, will not do my kids' school work for them). Now, I don't mean to imply that I am a superior writer, but I hope you agree that I'm not bad... and he is only fifteen! His essay about Macbeth was even better. I am at a loss to explain this skill in someone who consumes so little written material from which to draw examples. I am just pleased that he has it!

I have had to learn to just let this one go. Perhaps one day, he will find the 'right book'. Perhaps he never will. I have to let him know that he is not a disappointment to me because he doesn't share my passions.


LindaH said...

The temptation to say the words "learning style" and duck for cover almost overwhelming! LOL

Karyn Romeis said...

@LindaH Yeah, you'd better duck! ;o)

Anonymous said...

I'm not familiar with all the authors on your list, but are any of those graphic novels? The entry point for my dad was comic books; their rule growing up was that they had to be reading something but it didn't matter what.

Audio books might be another option. It's not quite the same as a book, but it would still be exposure to characters and places and narrative.

Karyn Romeis said...

@Christy None of those listed are graphic novels, but do occasionally get some of those, too. Problem is that they are very expensive and not readily available from libraries. We used to get audio books when he was little, but the same is even more true of those. They cost about five times as much as printed books, and there is a very limited range. The few that are available from the library tend to be on cassette rather than CD and there is a waiting list for anything remotely interesting.

I have wracked my brain over this and tried many, many avenues. I had hoped that Drew Buddie was going to do a podcast of Weefree Men this year, but that plan appears to have been shelved :o(

Flipchart said...

I'd agree with christytucker. When I was growing up we owned a newsagents, every Saturday I would go in to the shop and devour the comics that were there and I'm convinced this game me my love of literature.

The Superhero genre (my preference - geek alert) is looked down upon but the a lot of the writing deals with complex themes - morality, the search for self, the weight of responsibility, politics, environmentalism, justice, human nature, etc.

I've pretty much grown away from them these days but every now and again I hear of something interesting and order it from Amazon, or (the cheaper option) off eBay.

They worked for this boy with a vivid imagination

Karyn Romeis said...

@flipchart Thanks for your input. I have been very careful not to sneer at any genre, because I remember how it hurt me that my father sneered at my choice of Enid Blyton (even though, at the same age, I was already reading Gerald Durrell's autobiographical material). I don't know if you're familiar with Captain Underpants, but I assure you, if I were going to sneer at graphic novels, I would certainly not have countenanced these books!