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Author Topic: Why don't people read?
Vyrus
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GinaG,

Thanks for the advice, and I'll keep that in mind later in my high school career. Recently I have been in the stages of trying to go back and re-read the great literature I missed in class, and have been making an effort to pay attention more.

I do agree somewhat with both you Glenn Arnold, however I do differ with him in that I think that there are basic skills all children should learn.

Namely, reading, math, etc., although honestly I think we need a whole new approach to showing kids to appreciate the arts, in their many differed forms.

That is an entire subject altogether, however.

When did so many people stop seeing the beauty in the small things? Nir....

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rivka
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If the question is "Is Samprimary making a joke?" it is pretty much always safe to assume the answer is yes.

In this particular instance I'd bet money on it.

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ketchupqueen
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quote:
Originally posted by rivka:
If the question is "Is Samprimary making a joke?" it is pretty much always safe to assume the answer is yes.

In this particular instance I'd bet money on it.

Especially considering the way in which it was posted. [Wink]
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Teshi
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quote:
I'm not sure what the answer with comprehension is.
More reading.

We don't teach comprehension of verbal speech by asking questions. We teach comprehension by providing a lot of context. The same goes with film. Children manage to figure out visual stories simply by watching a lot of them. Reading is the most difficult of these tasks, but I am a firm believer that the best way of teaching comprehension in reading is to provide lots of reading of all kinds.

I think most of us learnt to comprehend reading by being read to by our parents. We got lots of vocabulary and we got to know the sentence structure of writing so when we went to read that level of books ourselves, we were prepared to read that kind of language and understand it.

In my experience, asking comprehension questions in great detail turns even eager children off reading.

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Starsnuffer
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Throughout highschool I would wish there were a mandatory class hour of mandatory reading, of whatever you wanted to read, but reading nonetheless. Sometime's I'd be busy and not be reading as much as I'd like during School, or only reading my stuff for classes and I wanted a break to read what I liked. Also it appalled me how many people were woefully unread and generally dismissive toward the idea of reading at all.

Looking back from college now the idea that I was ever actually busy in highschool is laughable, though, and maybe dedicated school time for reading isn't the answer and more advertisement and cool stuff from libraries to encourage people to read good things.

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Glenn Arnold
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quote:
I do agree somewhat with both you Glenn Arnold, however I do differ with him in that I think that there are basic skills all children should learn.
I'm not saying that there aren't basic skills that all children should learn, I'm saying that to expect all children to learn reading and math "on grade level," and to learn exactly the same math is unrealistic. Children learn at different rates and in different contexts.
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Tresopax
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Why don't people read? Because they don't understand and were never taught the value of reading. Why should people read??

Middle and high school English seems designed to drive home the message that the point of reading is to analyze books like a literature professor would. Aside from the tiny percentage who actually do share the interests of literature professors, I don't see much reason to suspect the average person would see the value in that.

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Altáriël of Dorthonion
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Because books are for nerds!


Just kidding.
It's because they lack imagination, they're too lazy to use said imagination, or they just lack patience. My two cents.

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Orincoro
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quote:
Originally posted by Tresopax:

Middle and high school English seems designed to drive home the message that the point of reading is to analyze books like a literature professor would. Aside from the tiny percentage who actually do share the interests of literature professors, I don't see much reason to suspect the average person would see the value in that.

That's the old chestnut that gets bandied about as if it is a meaningful or substantive observation of actual classrooms. I found my high school English courses exhilarating and interesting, but I'm just me. You can't write off the behavior of a society on the performance or percieved values of one small set of contributors to education. Whether or not a high school English teacher does or doesn't have success appealing to his students (mine did, and for most of their students as well), I think the root cause of that success or failure lies in the backgrounds of the individuals, and not the structure of the institutions. It's like OSC constantly lambasting and haranguing the academic culture because it made him feel excluded, when you can tell he is never stopping to think what kind of system would have been more inviting, and still accomplished some of the same goals. Maybe there isn't a system like that, because everyone's background is different, and so the system cannot and will not work for everyone. Consider, for a moment, what would actually convince a 16 year old lover of books that she shouldn't love books anymore. Is an overbearing English teacher going to do that? Seems to me that he would as likely have the opposite effect, invigorating the student in her love of the reading that SHE wants to do. It's not particularly shocking that OSC became a writer himself, when he reacted so passionately to the academic culture he was exposed to- it was motivating, because whether it had appealed to him or not, he was going to be a writer already. So he got an education too, just not the one he thought he'd get- and he did alright by it.

Our level of personal success is tied to so many things, and though we love to believe that these things are the most tangible, like a good teacher or a kind word, they're usually an accumulation of small unknowable effects. How many words did your parents speak to you as a child? How many encouraging vs. discouraging words? How many conversations, how many lectures? For everyone it's different, so how can we put 30 kids in a classroom and hope to find a formula that advances all of them as well as it advances the best students? We are not all equal, even if we are created equal.

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TL
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Sometimes teaching people to read isn't enough.
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Irami Osei-Frimpong
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quote:
There seems to be a nerdy stigma attached to reading. Why is this?
I think reading takes time and discipline, but there is a bigger payoff. We've got it in our heads that all our leisure time should be used in activities that are easy and entertaining, and reading good books isn't always the easiest thing to do or the most entertaining.

There are a lot of reasons why I think kids should play competitive sports or an instrument. But I think the biggest reason is because I think that those endeavors instill of a sense of discipline and sacrifice that's not tied to ease and entertainment; but rather, it's tied to the promotion of beauty and excellence.

[ December 23, 2008, 09:41 AM: Message edited by: Irami Osei-Frimpong ]

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Tresopax
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quote:
Consider, for a moment, what would actually convince a 16 year old lover of books that she shouldn't love books anymore. Is an overbearing English teacher going to do that?
I enjoyed reading when I was a child, then stopped reading for pleasure as school taught me reading was something you do for work and is not fun. No single teacher did it, but over time school did.

Incidently, I started reading for pleasure again after senior year - in part because of one particular teacher I had that year who was able to effectively express that it is possible to enjoy books for reasons other than to admire the technical skill of the author.

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Orincoro
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NAh, I'm sorry. You've said that before and I don't buy it for a minute. I don't think you know why you read or don't read, and I think the experiences you leap to in your memory are probably not as important as you think. People are busy in High School, things change for lots of reasons, so you don't why you did what you did. The explanation: "my teachers made it feel like work," is already telling of your attitude to school, not your attitude to reading. And you kept reading after school, so obviously a lasting impression was not made. So why, in the end, are you even a victim of anything?
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Liz B
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Sorry, Orincoro, but Tres's experience -- exactly the way he tells it--is not unusual. Sure, there are lots of reasons why students stop reading for pleasure when they hit about 7th or 8th grade...but many former readers point to the fact that reading CHANGES when they leave elementary school. Instead of reading stories for enjoyment, they're mostly reading for information and to analyze.

When you add that change in with the fact that kids get busier and more social, then pleasure reading decreases sharply.

We English teachers need to ask ourselves what our long-term goals are. If we want to create a nation of readers, we've been going about it in very much the wrong way. (Not all teachers, obviously...note the last paragraph in Tres's post for an example.)

Since my main long-term goal is in fact to create life-long readers and writers, it has a tremendous impact on how I organize my classroom and curriculum. I wouldn't expect to be able to help kids develop as pleasure readers if my class were organized only around literary analysis.

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Orincoro
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Liz, your explanation is still different from Tres's. I'm completely credulous of the idea that English teachers may not accomplish their goals of encouraging reading for a variety of reasons. However, I don't think that English teachers really have much of a negative effect on reading patterns- I think those other factors you mentioned are vastly more important. Besides, the mind of a child and that of an adolescent are different. Most children like to read once they know how, because they get so much out of the experience; their minds are like sponges that seek out new material all the time, and reading is stimulating. By the time students get to adolescence, this drive slows down, and other reward mechanisms either kick in, or don't. I think it has to do with family life more than anything, and I'm very skeptical of the idea that a teach could have such a profound effect on reading patterns. I think it's social, it's in the family, and it's in the mind of the student.

It's not as if the motivations for reading are supposed to stay static anyway- we are not supposed to read wholly for pleasure, and expecting the education system to totally maintain that attitude to reading is pointless. Students need the skills they learn in school, including fruitful analysis of written works, in order to function as communicative adults in our society. But I'm not at all convinced that the introduction of this aspect of reading has a deleterious effect, or that it is even avoidable, or should be avoided. I ask again, and the question is quite simple: what student who comes from a background which encourages reading and the enjoyment of books would be put off completely from reading by her experiences with a teacher, or with a new application of her skills? Would you, in the end, deny that the changing nature of a person's mind and consciousness could be partly responsible for a shift in attitude, or do you leave the responsibility for a change (which I do not acknowledge as negative or even unnecessary), solely and completely on the shoulders of a person who asks that student to apply her thinking in a new way? How does the discovery of new skills close doors on students' enjoyment of knowledge? Every time someone makes this backwards argument, I can never get over that basic question. How can all the potential and all the tools be there in a student's mind, and the a teacher could just shut that off, inadvertently, but trying to teach something new? I just don't buy it, at all, given the myriad factors that come into play for a high schooler.


It's an ungainly comparison, but does the introduction of a new language in a high school setting discourage students from speaking English, just because the use of a language has been made into something academic? Will talking remind them of this, and be less enjoyable? Perhaps it's better that students be exposed to new ways of thinking about what they read. I'm not particularly sorry for Tres, or anyone else who suddenly found that their old modes of thought or expression were no longer satisfying when they learned about something new. It's rather strong evidence that the teaching is actually working, and that tastes are maturing. Why exactly should that be avoided?

This all reminds me rather strongly of Genesis- the ennui of human existence boils down to the fact that as we learn about new things, the pursuits of our old lives become unsatisfying. We are not static creatures. Boo Hoo.

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Tresopax
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quote:
I ask again, and the question is quite simple: what student who comes from a background which encourages reading and the enjoyment of books would be put off completely from reading by her experiences with a teacher, or with a new application of her skills?
Yes, but when given an example of such a student, you refused to believe it.

You can not believe my explanation if you want, and you could write off the experiences of others who say they felt the same way, and you could not feel sorry particularly sorry for anyone who doesn't appreciate the academic approach to reading taught in schools, but the bottom line still is that people aren't reading - and if the goal is to get people to read, something is not working.

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Orincoro
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Tres, you have absolutely no evidence for the assertion that "people aren't reading." Literacy in the United States is very, very high. One could also argue that "cultural literacy," (for which there are many definitions, but I use it broadly to include a knowledge of an appreciation for our common culture of art) a value which is very difficult to determine, may be higher than it has ever been in human history.

So you have an anecdote with no insight (you yourself argue that you were put off reading, even though you *do* now read and enjoy reading), and you have a generalization with no evidence. What do you actually have? Where is the baseline for "things working?" Why should things be the way you want them to be? You give me no reason to suppose that you know any of this.

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Belle
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Oh, I think literacy is really high. I think people read more now that at any time in our history. They just are not reading *books* so much. They're reading graphic novels, magazines, internet forums and blogs, and other things.

And they are reading books, actually. Maybe not what English teachers might want them to read, depending on the English teacher, of course. My 10th graders had ALL read Twilight it seemed like, even the boys.

They brought books with them to class...they were reading what they wanted to read, even if they weren't reading The Scarlet Letter. Now, I think there is a place for classical literature, and that teachers should attempt to stretch students' abilities and expose them to things they might not read on their own. But, I also firmly believe in encouraging whatever reading a student might want to do on their own, even if it is Stephenie Meyer's drivel. [Razz] I try and encourage them to read other things, but if I have a 15 year old girl who only wants to read about vampires, then I will find books about vampires that I think are age-appropriate to recommend to her rather than telling her "Don't read that stuff." I'm happy she's reading.

At the same time, I'm going to encourage her to read the books assigned in class. I don't have a choice about it either, you know. In 10th grade, the Course of Study says I have to teach The Scarlet Letter. I can't substitute Ender's Game. I can encourage them to read things outside class and I have a little leeway in what we cover after the required novels are done, but the required novels are just that - required.

The tough part of a teacher's job, especially an English teacher who loves books and reading (and every one I've met does) is that we know the kids don't like all or even most of the literature we have to cover. We try very hard to make the learning experience useful and engaging. We also try to encourage reading in all its forms. None of us wants to turn a student off from reading. Our goal is the opposite. We have to work within the framework of our course of study and cover what we're required to in order to keep our jobs and build enthusiasm for reading and writing in our students. Not an easy task, but I don't think there is a more important job I could be doing. Good communication skills - the ability to read, comprehend, judge, evaluate, and synthesize information - are essential for success in life, whether that student moves directly into the workforce or goes to college. Even professions that twenty years ago didn't require that level of critical thinking and communication skills require them today. One cannot even work a construction trade anymore without knowing how to read contracts, make decisions based on what you read, communicate in writing with customers and understand how to navigate professional software.

I think it's pretty darn easy to see that the more reading a student does, the better writer they are, and the better they do in every class. I want my students reading, and I don't care so much about what it is. But they do need to read the things I assign to them. That's part of what I'm teaching them as well - that sometimes you have to tackle something you might not otherwise take on, and learn something from it.

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GinaG
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quote:
Originally posted by Orincoro:
Tres, you have absolutely no evidence for the assertion that "people aren't reading." Literacy in the United States is very, very high. One could also argue that "cultural literacy," (for which there are many definitions, but I use it broadly to include a knowledge of an appreciation for our common culture of art) a value which is very difficult to determine, may be higher than it has ever been in human history.

So you have an anecdote with no insight (you yourself argue that you were put off reading, even though you *do* now read and enjoy reading), and you have a generalization with no evidence. What do you actually have? Where is the baseline for "things working?" Why should things be the way you want them to be? You give me no reason to suppose that you know any of this.

NEA reports literary reading in dramatic decline

WaPo: One in four read no books in 2006

Prose reading proficiency declines among college graduates

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Orincoro
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quote:
At the same time, I'm going to encourage her to read the books assigned in class. I don't have a choice about it either, you know. In 10th grade, the Course of Study says I have to teach The Scarlet Letter. I can't substitute Ender's Game. I can encourage them to read things outside class and I have a little leeway in what we cover after the required novels are done, but the required novels are just that - required.
Now, that is a problem. The Scarlet Letter is not a very appealing book. In my opinion, it is not a very good book, and not even Hawthorne's best work. There is a problem when all highschools have somehow been locked into reading Romeo and Juliet, Hamlet, The Scarlet Letter, The Odyssey, etc, when they have little appeal to students. There are many better things for teenagers to read.
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Omega M.
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One reason I don't read as much as I "should" is that I know I'll have plenty of time to read once we run low on energy sources and our electricity goes mostly out. I already own enough "great" books for that time. I'm being only partially facetious here.
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