I understand there is currently a controversy going on about letting kids select the books they want to read in school.
I think it's a good idea, if and when assigned reading is undertaken, too. In my varied past, I taught English for several years. (Out there is a good friend who was once a student in my senior English class.) Some common sense for the folks engaged in this controversy: When you read the regular assignment--you get to do a report for extra credit on a book of your choosing. It seems to me that this would be encouraging reading.
Who would want to miss out on reading some of the classics we struggled through? Not me. And as some wise person in the media suggested recently, that by reading the same books, we have a vocabulary of references to communicate with. It's a marvelous point. So much of our language is filled with such colorful chestnuts. (I'll look forward to hearing some of yours.) I found out several years ago that the common saying,"the proof of the pudding is in the eating," is from Cervantes! Think of our language devoid of such touchstones. Unthinkable.
Miss Gallager was my sophomore English teacher in high school. She hauled us through Dickens and George Eliot. Several Christmases ago a friend gave me a very fancy copy of The Mill on the Floss. It brought a tear to my eye thinking of tackling this masterpiece at such a young age. But it has had a lifetime-long impression. My son still smarts from having to read Henry James' Portrait of a Lady. But it was a film not too long ago, so there are still devotees. And I confessed to him, that just before he was born I took on reading the complete works of Henry James. I'm not sure if all the words were taken in or it was a nice excuse to sit in the sun and rest.
For those of us who seem to have found ourselves wandering around in the best of the 19th century, it is frightening indeed to see its literature slipping through our fingers. In the research I am doing for my new book, I sometimes think we are losing collective touch with those times all together. Mind you, there were some not very pleasant aspects of life then--but there are so many valuable lessons for us now. Read about the panics of 1873 and 1876 and think to our current pickle. Could we have avoided them by taking heed of what our forefathers did wrong--and right.
I also lament that many of the good women writers of the 1930's and 1940's are not being read anymore. Perhaps they are quaint. But Jessamyn West will never be to me. The Friendly Persuasion should never be out of print. It is one that I suggest you "read with tea." And there is no better book on dealing with grief than The Woman Said Yes. It was that high school student of mine who brought it to my attention. I guess she took to heart reading good books, assigned and otherwise.
And now to another subject on teaching our kids. I understand that we all want to encourage and delight our kids with things to make their activities fun and colorful. But I had to smile this morning while perusing a catalog and seeing an array of cooking utensils for little girls designed so that they will spend time in the kitchen with mom. I was so happy to sit next to my grandmother as she rolled out a pie; she would give me a little piece of dough to make my own little pie. We didn't have fancy things designed just for me. We had love and attention. Don't misunderstand me: I like these darling things and have bought some myself to give as gifts, but I hope my grandmother's recipe is not forgotten.
Have we started yet another controversy here?