Literature In School or How The Dog Dies

My daughter is in the 6th grade. She has enjoyed most of her class, as much as a 12 year old can anyway. She does have a reoccurring complaint about the curriculum however.

It is a complaint that I echoed at her age and still ponder to day. The friends I have spoken with about it have the same issues. We can all agree, that while well written, they could have chosen better books for required reading.

I am not a dog person. I like dogs. I like most animals. I will happily play with and pet a dog. I had an absolutely amazing terrier mix as a kid who would go fishing with me and was smart enough to know when I had a fish hooked.  However, I am not really a dog person. As in I don’t think I am a good dog owner. They deserve more love and attention.  Cats on the other hand never ask for love or attention. If they want it, they take it and it doesn’t matter what you are doing at the time.

My cats are one of the reasons it is important for me to reread things I have written. Not only are there my own mistakes to look out for, but the keyboard sometimes gets walked on when I get up to get coffee. There won’t be a cat insight when I get back, but the evidence remains.

Some of you are wondering what that has to do with books and school. Well, when I was in middle school the preferred reading was every well written book where an animal dies at the end. Most of those books were dogs. Yes, they were heroes first but they still died.

Old Yeller, Where the Red Fern Grows, Black Beauty, Frankenstein, Animal Farm. These are all bloody death books from when I was in school. Good books from the vantage point of adulthood but when I was a kid I wasn’t so pleased.

Like my daughter said: “Why do they make us read books where everything dies? Isn’t life depressing enough? Are they trying to drive up the suicide rate?”

The thing is she has a whole new batch of books. They are ones I have never heard of but the theme remains the same. Someone or something dies at the end. I have to wonder if all of these authors read Romeo and Juliet and thought “Yep that is the way to go. Kill them at the end.”

If they want kids to read about death and such at least give them something else to focus on than a mom dying of cancer or a dog with rabies. How about some science fiction? How about the Hobbit? Yeah, some of the kids wouldn’t like it and a lot of parents don’t like their children getting wrapped up in fiction “nonsense”. But good heavens, Stephen King has happier endings than some of these things.

I am fortunate that both of my children like to read. The library is a fun place for us. Some kids don’t and the only exposure to books that they get is the enforced reading in schools. It would be nice if they got a chance to read something where, just once, everyone lives.



iwdayala0240cI love to read.  I read a little of just about everything.  One reason I like to read is because I grew up with parents who liked to read.  My mom read to me when I was little.  My dad constantly had books and science fiction magazines laying around.

Another reason is because of a show called Reading Rainbow.  It was amazing.  As a kid I was introduced to a much wider variety of books than just the ones at home. Science, science fiction, mechanics, fantasy, fairy tales and mystery novels are awesome but there was a whole…well, Rainbow of topics that were not readily available at home.  (My parents were never big on the classics for example.)

reading rainbowI would have missed out on so many wonderful stories if not for Reading Rainbow. And now there is a kick starter to bring this story strong resource to more kids.  True it seems mostly to be an online thing,  but so many kids have internet access today that this is probably the best way to reach the most kids.  It will also be available in classrooms and free to those schools that could not otherwise afford it.

Reading Rainbow still has the magic to encourage kids to read. While I was watching this kick starter video my son was playing loudly in the other room.  As soon as the music started he went quiet and was stand next to me seconds later.  The gift of books and knowledge of the written word is a powerful thing.  With it, you truly can “go anywhere”.