Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Climbing atop the reading pulpit--Part One

Note to readers: this is my most opinionated post so far.  I am not apologizing for it, but just be aware.  Written in a white heat with my full heart.

What is the purpose of education?  If you were to step in many classrooms across the country, you might think it's to teach students to complete fill in the blank worksheets, to parrot back what their teachers say, to listen mindlessly and not question what they are being told because there is not time for that in the grand push to PASS THE TEST.

I worry so much that, as time passes, students (actually, people in general) will grow to see reading and writing as frills, things that eccentric Language Arts teachers care about, but that "real" people know are not as important as Facts.  That Which Can Be Bubbled In.  The Objective, rather than the Subjective.  The things any computer can know and repeat. Questions that have one word answers.


If it does not come with a worksheet, it does not matter.  It kills me when a student believes that. 

How many times have I had this conversation?  Too many to count.  Enough to make me heartsick.  

F:  Are you keeping up with your reading? 
Student: Not really.
F:  Why not?
S:  I don't have time. 
F:  Do you have time for your math and science and social studies homework?
S:  Well, yeah. 
F:  What's the difference?
S: .....

Sometimes I feel like I am fighting a battle I have already lost.  Luckily, that feeling is rare, as my natural optimism about young people pulls me away from the brink.

I am so thankful for those students who have discovered what I have--that if you value something, you make time for it.  

That reading is not just something you do; it's who you are.  

Postscript:  This is not a call for you to stop completing work in your other classes.  I can already hear the conversations, "But Mrs. Fritch says......"


  1. different people though like different things, and making reading homework instead of something that someone just enjoys and makes time to do kind of defeats the purpose. Reading is just one facet of LA even if it is arguably the most important one. I have currently read this month more fanfictions, and not largely published unfinished works than I care to count and yet this isn't the 'reading' that most teachers would think of.

  2. Reading, of course, is mostly a matter of pleasure. But it is also a practice, and like any other skill, you need to devote time to it. Assigning something as homework, is, unfortunately, one way to encourage students to do it.

    1. I like to think of it this way: I tend to dislike science homework, but very few people will argue for dropping science because it isn't a pleasurable thing for me to do. Science is important; it separates the barbarians from the enlightened. Meanwhile, reading is something that shouldn't be forced on unwilling children because language arts is a frivolous hobby less important than SCIENCE, not something that will get you a job. Because critical thinking isn't an important skill or something.

  3. I think that because of the online connectivity of this (our) generation, reading has unfortunately been shelved for other purposes.

  4. Tee hee. Reading pun. But I am not sure I agree. I would be curious to know what other students think.

  5. My one complaint is the definition of reading. I consider reading my own writing, or someone else's 'reading' but I would never put 'The Teddy Bear Agreement' by Purplerose on wattpad on my read list. The problem is, we limit 'reading' to published works, and that isn't everything out there, there are tons of amazing authors whose books aren't published, largely and available as hard copy or e-books. So reading may be 'shelved' as Amogh put it, but maybe it is a more innovative approach that has simply been taken up, not making the other reading a closed case.

  6. I know it's late (or early?) but I couldn't sleep.
    Reading is a way to gain understanding, which I think is the real reason we're supposed to be in school, not to pass a test. Reading is the foundation of knowledge, and understanding stems from knowledge, and sympathy stems from understanding, and if we are to truly fulfill our lives, we need sympathy, which is a manifestation of love. Love should be our final goal in life, not money. And not gaining love, either, but sharing it.
    Other classes prepare us to be successful, which is fine, but reading prepares us to change the world for the better, and we are created not to climb the socio-economic ladder, but to help others and bring light to dark places, and to do that we need love. I know that in order to have resources to do all that we need the other classes, and of course since we don't want to starve we need money, and I'm not saying that that success is not important, just that reading, therefore understanding, is more so.
    Intelligence isn't being able to spew facts, it's being able to put them to good use. To know what use is good, we need to understand, and to understand, we need to read. I hope you got what I was trying to say out of that mess of ideas: we get understanding from reading, and we need understanding to fulfill our purpose in life.
    By the way, you probably noticed the way I advocated for love and its importance in our purpose to exist. Three guesses as to where that bit of understanding came from...
    Yes, I do realize that people see the meaning of life differently, so this is just my opinion, and I hope it wasn't too... There's a word I'm looking for. What is it? Grrrr, I hate this. Much? Opinionated? Biased? That's not it... Let me know if you figure out what I'm trying to say.

  7. I'm so glad I started reading again this year. I used to be scared of it because books were too good. I would get addicted to them like people get addicted to drugs, and I couldn't focus on anything without daydreaming about books and their characters.

    1. The choice to parallel reading addiction with a drug addiction is interesting.

    2. One adult told me that simile when I couldn't concentrate on what they were telling me.