Wednesday, June 16, 2010

On Reading

On Friday, the last day of school, I talked to my students for a moment before summer settled over their brains, its filmy promise of endless days at the lake so much more powerful than my speeches about reading and writing and literature. Fully cognizant of the chance that my words would fall on fallow ground in their summer-soaked minds, I had to at least try.

So, I said, it's been a great year (blah blah blah) and I've enjoyed having you all in class (more blah). And remember, if you want to become better readers and writers, the best way to do it is to read. Set yourselves a goal: try to read at least three books this summer.

As I looked out over their rapturous faces, I realized that not one of them was listening to me. Their ears were filled with the buzz of sunlight reflecting off rippling water.

Then, one of them blinked and turned to me. Then, he spoke. And all of his classmates slowly shook off their collective reverie to listen.

Books? he scoffed. Books are for rich people.

Rich people? I said, shocked. Are you serious?

Yeah, he repeated. Books are for rich people.

Well, I blustered. I'm not rich. And I read all the time.

Yeah, he replied. But you're an English teacher. (Clearly, we're in a category of our own.) (I tried to ignore the derision he shoveled onto that label.)

I looked around at the rest of the class. What do you think? Are books just for rich people?

Almost every one of them nodded. All but three of them. (Who are, of course, now my three favorite students.) I tried to persuade them, to plead with them, to show them the glory of the printed word one more time before they left. But their eyes had taken on the golden glow once more and their minds had fled to summery musings. They were lost to me--for the next three months. In September, I would start afresh, and this time, indoctrinate them much more forcefully (ahem-earnestly).



Diapers and Wine said...

Have they confused "reading" with "yachting?" They do know that libraries have tons of books for, like, free, right? :-)

(It's MFA Lisa, by the way. Lisa N. The twice-pregnant one, hehe)

Kir said...

Hi Lisa! I know...I told them. They were just being thick-skulled. What a memory to end the year with, eh?