Mr. Lawrence, the blogger at Get Lost, Mr. Chips, has figured out why students so often hate reading “classic” literature in English classes. It’s not the material itself, he says. It’s the presentation:
What doesn't help their appreciation/comprehension of these works is arguably in the piecemeal presentation, which breaks down chapters and has students analyzing sentence after sentence instead of 'enjoying' the book for what it is. Many cheat—and I know I did—by reading the CliffsNotes / SparkNotes for the books (I used the one for Lord of the Flies). 'Pleasure' is negated by turning the books into 'assignments' which are mandatory for class points.
He’s sure got that right. Long after high school, I realized I actually liked reading short fiction. What I hadn’t liked, in the 10th grade, was being forced to dissect “Sonny’s Blues” for weeks (really) on end. I still remember there was Biblical symbolism involving a “cup of trembling,” but the plot? The cadence of the writing? It took years before I was willing to give them another go. Perhaps the best thing an English teacher can do is try not to build more walls between the kids and the content than is really necessary.
A version of this news article first appeared in the Blogboard blog.