Today, to procrastinate writing my bibliographic essay, I did that thing where you meander through the internet just to see where you end up. It’s like getting lost on purpose without having to combat the current sunshine-yet-raining-plus-heinous-wind weather situation here in Jolly Old(e). My sister’s twitter indicated that someone did a blog write-up on an article she wrote recently; it’s really interesting, you should read it. This someone turned out to be a friend of hers from college (uni) who is now a writer (both professionally and bloggerly). As I wimbled my way through her very good blog, I came across a very interesting idea.*
In regards to reading, she has a no guilt policy. This no guilt policy states that she can stop reading a book at any time, no matter the book, if she doesn’t like it. Similar to this policy, she discusses the idea of autonomy in school reading lists: providing a list of classics and allowing the child to pick, say, 10 books that appeal to them. I take issue with autonomy in English class because if kids who don’t like to read get autonomy in picking books, than I want autonomy in learning calculus.
My point is thusly: it is a bad habit to read books because we feel like we should, because they are classics or because everyone else is, or whatever lemming reason we choose.** Books, classics or otherwise, have something to say (usually) and we as readers glean some version of it whether we actively set out to or not. We should read books because books affect our lives. I am a richer human being, emotionally, because of the books I have read (even the ones I didn’t enjoy, because a negative opinion/reaction is as valuable as a positive one.) Certain books should be read because the themes within them warrant discussion and remembrance. Fiction—or just books, really—provide a platform for discussing complex ideas and themes. It’s why the relatively recent controversy of the edition of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn that removed the n-word and replaced it with “slave” is such a heinous crime, in my opinion, against our children. I am not a racist and the n-word is in NO way a word that should be used, ever. And an excellent way to address this, as well as the casual racism that was RAMPANT in all parts of America during the time the novel was set and the time it was published is to discuss it with children via the book. Changing a purposefully chosen word deadens the message and hinders discussion, and ignoring the fact that the word exists tamps our ability to remember, and hopefully avoid a repetition of, the more unsavoury parts of our collective past.*** And this is just one example. I believe that The Hunger Games trilogy provides equally significant topics of discussion.
Books transport us to a different place, a different time, but frequently still manage to make us think about things that our pertinent to our own lives (whether we realize it or not). Some of the best books permeate the corners of our minds without our noticing, but other books make us ponder ‘til our ponderer is sore. But the important thing is, the seed is planted. And we should encourage as many ideas and thoughts and questions as possible. I’m not trying to say that autonomy in schools is bad (heaven forbid) or that the no guilt policy shouldn’t exist when you’re older. And I acknowledge that many many many people automatically have a negative reaction to a book because they were “forced” to read it for school. But the question should be, how do we change this negative reaction without sacrificing the knowledge these books provide?
*technically, the definition of wimble is actually any tool used to bore holes (like a gimlet, obviously) and thus a noun. However, given the frivolity of the actual word, I’ve decided to make the verb definition to mean something along the line of meander with attentiveness.
**lemmings don’t actually jump off cliffs. A documentary filmmaking chased them off the cliff. Despite it being a faulty metaphor, I enjoy typing the word lemming.
***this segment of the Daily Show, which I can’t watch because I’m prohibited by my location so I’m linking to the Huff Post article, explains this point well.