Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Day 13: Stop Giving us Homework if You Want us to Have Time to Read

'The greatest writers are the most vigilant readers.'

      This may be the case, however, when flooded with incessant assignments, how are students expected to find time to read? I myself have a large list of books to read, not counting the stack of library books piling up in my room and collecting dust, that I never have enough time in the day to read.
      In high school, students are encouraged to take challenging classes, get good grades, be involved with multiple diverse extracurricular activities, do homework, and get enough sleep at night (which in case you were wondering is between 9 to 9 1/2 hours). If you are a high school student or the parent or teacher of a high school student, I would like you to ask how many hours of sleep do high school students (including yourself, if that is the case) get 9 to 9 1/2 hours of sleep every night on average? Show of hands? Hmmm. I am not seeing many hands, and that's not because I am simply sitting at this computer typing. This is because we don't have time to get enough sleep.


      However, this post is not about our lack of sleep and how I believe school start times should be pushed back. This is about having time to read. Teachers think they do us a favor by assigning books to read: exposing us to culture and expanding our horizons. The thing is, oh misguided teachers of ours, there's this thing called The Taint of School Touch. The Taint is something I refer to often when talking to my friends about books and reading. Think of a book you have been longing to read--it has been on your To Read list for a long time. Too long. Imagine it is some classic novel and you hope to broaden your sense of culture through the reading of this novel. 
      Now picture that school has just started and you are sitting in your English class; your first assignment: that novel you have been longing to read. Here is where The Taint comes into play. What you were once planning on reading for pleasure becomes a chore to complete. A chore that some students would prefer not to meet. 

      There are also different scenarios--things I have experienced--such as going to the library after school or during the weekend. You scour the aisles of books. So many titles and such little time. You grab a handful--or armload in my case--and head to checkout these new, exciting books. Maybe you picked up something informational from the non-fiction section as well as a couple thrillers from the action section plus a few classics or books that were finally available in the library. You go home to unload your treasures and can't decide what to read first so you start with "eeny meeny miny mo" and let chance or fate or what have you do the decision-making for you.
      You thoroughly enjoy your books. That is of course, assuming you didn't have a mountain of homework waiting for you once you came home that barraged you through reminders on your phone, letting you know how there is no time for reading. Or at least, there isn't time for reading all of the wonderful books you checked out from the library. Instead, you have a Tainted novel rotting away with the rest of your school work in your backpack, waiting to make or break your grade. 

      The books you just checked out get shoved off to the side as you make the tough decision to at least pretend you are going to be a good student and get your work done. Weeks go by and you look wistfully once or twice towards the books you got from the library (or maybe they are brand new books you just bought), but you have to turn back to the cruel homework sitting on your kitchen table. 

     Every once in a while you may be lucky enough to crack open the pages of one of the books and read for a moment or two, whether during a few spare minutes at the end of class or in the moments before drifting off to sleep. But it's never enough. You go online every week to press the renew button until it no longer does you any good. The books are due back and you haven't completed any of them; in fact, you almost completely lost interest in reading them any time soon and will probably forget that they were once a thrill you were hoping to enjoy. 

      Teachers think they do us a favor by assigning us books to read. "Bill Gates reads a book every week," my English teacher professes to the class. "However," he continues as though he is doing us a favor, "You only have to read one book a month."
      I would love to read a new book every week. During the summer and fall when school ends or is just beginning and I have no other obligations to fulfill, I spend hours curled up somewhere in my house--sometimes even outside sitting up in a tree--with a book. I wish I could do the same during the school year. 
      "Well let's just assign you to pick out a book you want to read. Pick a biography about someone that interests you." Tainted. "We just took the SRI and you received your Lexile score. Find a book that looks interesting to you based on your score." Tainted even more. As soon as a book is touched by the school system through assignment, it is Tainted.


      Dear Teachers, 
             Please stop assigning us books to read. We are in high school. We are nearly adults and should be allowed to make our own decisions. Your ideas of fun are not the same as ours. If anything, make it a competition as to who can read the most by the end of the year with a grand prize and something for the runner-up. 
            Check in with students, see what they are reading. See if there is something they could recommend to other students. Create a community for sharing, reading, and learning. Encourage us to read, but don't make it part of our grade. There are alternatives! I plead with you, don't Taint the works of brilliant authors. 
            Thank you.
Sincerely, 
            The Vigilant Readers Trying to Become the Greatest Writers (of Our Time)