Wednesday, August 01, 2012

Reading, Writing, and Arithmetic, but mostly Reading

When I was little, my favorite thing to do was read.  I learned to read early, and my parents found me lost in piles of books more than once.  Dad took me to the library weekly, and I'd get a stack so big I could barely carry them out to the truck.  More than once I finished that whole stack in two or three days.  My parents must have realized how futile their efforts were to make me play outside since they only urged me to put down my books a scant few times.  When I was learning to drive, I didn't know how to get to my grandparents' house, a place to which I'd been hundreds of times, because I was always reading whenever my parents drove me there.

My least favorite subject in school?  Anything that involved reading.

Weird, I know.  My favorite subjects in grade school were math, spelling, and history.  I excelled--or rather, didn't even have to apply myself--in those subjects.  Math was only difficult because I got fed up with having to do forty of the same type of problem just to prove I could do them. (I then landed myself in "math detention," some sort of pretentious first-world solution where if I didn't do all of the work, I had to stay in at recess and finish, which was laughable.  I didn't even take it seriously as a twelve-year-old.  The teacher finally bargained with me to do only the odd or even problems on her assignments just so she'd have something to grade.  Long division can still kiss my ass.)

Reading in class, though, was torture.  I can read aloud fine, and, while not ideal or always desirable, I don't have any problem reading a book of someone else's choosing.  The problems for me involved speed, questions, and opinions.  Being an early reader also helped me to later be a fast reader.  I have always read much faster than my classmates.  I remember looking over at the pointing-at-each-word-as-he-read-it-aloud-while-wanting-to-die-of-self-consciousness student and thinking, "Why am I here?  Why do I have to listen to him read to me?  Why can't we both just end this torture!" (Apparently he mistook my look of pity as a look of disgust, which might have explained what happened later on the playground...)  My reading speed was a blessing in that I could read large amounts of literature and regurgitate it readily.  On the other hand, it meant I was stuck learning at someone else's pace, something I'm sure everyone can agree is not pleasant.

Questions also posed problematic for me.  I loathed book reports.  I still can't stand reading a book and then being expected to dissect it.  It feels like trying to interpret what a painter was feeling when he painted something.  "See this big green wall?  What was the artist feeling as he painted it stroke by stroke?"  Seasick?  I hate it.  I realize my teachers were probably trying to impart some great nugget of wisdom or life lesson or token of respect for great literature.  I just don't like being forced to read something and then forced to explain something that I didn't get out of the text.  "What was the character's motivation in that scene?" He was motivated to save the starving children because of his sense of human decency and compassion.  No? He was trying to make up for the loss of some ancestor to the Roman Legion in the third century?  Oh, how convenient. I never would have guessed that considering the book never even talked about it!

Opinions are the worst part of reading a book to me.  It grates at me when someone says they really like a book and then expect me to feel the same way.  Maybe I don't like it.  Maybe I think it is utter garbage.  But clearly you read the book and feel strongly that it should be taught in English 101 across the country.  Doesn't make you right.  If you want my opinion of a book, fine, but don't get mad if you disagree.

SO! The Man and I had a long conversation about this over dinner recently, and he agreed with my assessment of reading in school.  We are both avid readers now, and we like some of the same books.  We're considering challenging ourselves with a book club.  But there's no way we're going to let someone tell us what to read, and there isn't going to be a list of questions we have to answer at the end.  We're going to select a book of our choice and discuss whatever we want about it.

That's where YOU come in.  If I can convince him, I might post some of our conversations about books we've read here.  Share in our conversations if you want.  We'll get started today with a question:

What was your experience like with reading in school?  Were you a faster reader or a slower reader?  Do you still like or dislike reading?  Did or do you enjoy dissecting a book?  Would you rather just watch the movie?


Jules said...

I am a fast and avid reader, from the age of 5. Half of my kids began reading before they were 5. They often don't hear me b/c they are stuck in a book - just like I was as a kid.
I love the idea of an online book club :)
And I would much rather read the book first! B/c a movie always leaves out so much, and so many important parts.

Linda G said...

I love to read. I don't always remember if I've read a book or not because I like to just read it for entertainment value at the time I read it. I would rather read the book than watch a movie, at least to see if the movie would be any good. If I watch a movie and like it, I'll often see if it was based on a book and try to read the book. Like Jules, the book usually is more insightful and better than the movie.