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Re: [mythsoc] FW: NYTimes.com Article: Summer Reading List Blues

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  • JTHeyman@juno.com
    ... Synchronicity is a strange thing. In today s papers, syndicated columnist George Will, commenting on a survey of reading literature, bemoaned the trend
    Message 1 of 9 , Jul 22, 2004
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      "Croft, Janet B." <jbcroft@...> writes:
      > An interesting article on summer reading lists for school children,
      > and the trend away from suggested reading lists including plenty
      > of fantasy, to required reading with lots of "issue" books (ugh).
      > No wonder reading rates are dropping!
      >
      > Summer Reading List Blues
      > July 18, 2004
      > By BARBARA FEINBERG

      Synchronicity is a strange thing. In today's papers, syndicated
      columnist George Will, commenting on a survey of reading literature,
      bemoaned the trend toward electronic media over the printed word, but he
      did so in a way that makes me wonder if he really understands what has
      been happening. (Sorry, I don't know if this particular piece is
      available on-line, but wouldn't it be ironic if that was the only way
      most of the list could view it?)

      Anyway, my opinion of his column is that he wandered through several
      topics, but a few things particularly about books struck me in his piece:

      1. Mr. Will spends a good quarter of his column talking about Charles
      Dickens and how the works of Dickens influenced people and made Dickens a
      celebrity. Frankly, I've hated Dickens ever since 7th grade when our
      English teacher spent three months on "David Copperfield" ... all 734
      pages of it. I very nearly gave up on all books after that one.
      Luckily, I didn't and later discovered that reading could be enjoyable.

      2. Mr. Will actually commented negatively that the definition of
      "literature" included "any fiction ... and most fiction, like most of
      most things, is mediocre." Whenever I hear someone try to limit
      "literature" that way, I start to wonder who gets to decide ... and I'm
      reminded of what a professor once called "the Puritan work-ethic of
      literature - if you enjoy it, it's not real literature." Ms. Feinberg's
      article seems to suggest that this view has made a comeback again. Yes,
      of course there's a lot of mediocre stuff out there, but when it comes to
      children, I'd rather they read the mediocre stuff that they enjoy rather
      than learn to hate reading by being forced to read the "important" books
      that leave them with a dread of reading, wondering which horror they'll
      be required to experience next.

      I won't comment on some of Mr. Will's other assertions which would more
      properly be discussed in a sociology or political forum, but I notice
      that he seems to ignore that literature which people, especially
      children, enjoy (not a mention of "Harry Potter" to be found anywhere).
      And all I can think is that if kids are given books that they find to be
      *enjoyable* for a change, maybe Mr. Will's article would never need to be
      repeated.

      <shrug> The above is my opinion. Your mileage may vary.

      ~ JTHeyman

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    • WendellWag@aol.com
      Is it really true, as Barbara Feinberg claims, that there are that many more issue children s books out there that there was a generation or so ago? As she
      Message 2 of 9 , Jul 22, 2004
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        Is it really true, as Barbara Feinberg claims, that there are that many more
        "issue" children's books out there that there was a generation or so ago? As
        she says at one point, these sorts of books have been around since at least
        the 1960's. It's not as though fantasy and science fiction children's books
        have suddenly disappeared, after all, given the popularity of the Harry Potter
        books. There was always a large subset of teachers who didn't like fantasy and
        tended to steer their students away from it towards realistic fiction.

        Wendell Wagner


        [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
      • David Bratman
        On the one hand, two of my elementary-school teachers (in unwitting collaboration) were responsible for introducing me to _The Hobbit_. For which I am
        Message 3 of 9 , Jul 22, 2004
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          On the one hand, two of my elementary-school teachers (in unwitting
          collaboration) were responsible for introducing me to _The Hobbit_. For
          which I am eternally grateful. That book changed my life.

          On the other hand, I was fed crappy "relevant" literature even then, in the
          60s. I remember in particular a loathsomely high-minded book called _The
          Pigman_ by Paul Zindel.

          I was also fed a lot of crap that was distinguished as "great literature."
          Herman Melville and Joseph Conrad are the ones that still make me flinch
          the most.

          On the third hand, I discovered and loathed Dickens all on my own.

          On the fourth hand, the great author probably most loathed by the most
          students, Shakespeare, is one I lapped up eagerly both in school and at
          performances I went to voluntarily.

          - David Bratman
        • Lisa Deutsch Harrigan
          The one thing I HATE about Harold being a Gifted Child, is the Sr High School idea that Honors English Students should read things like War & Peace over summer
          Message 4 of 9 , Jul 22, 2004
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            The one thing I HATE about Harold being a Gifted Child, is the Sr High
            School idea that Honors English Students should read things like War &
            Peace over summer vacation between Jr & Sr year.

            I know the kids are bright, but they are still kids. Moose is hardly
            ready for that kind of book, and I don't think 2 years are going to
            help. Jennie wouldn't have been able to understand it either and she was
            16 going on 26!

            In fact the only part of the gifted English thing Harold has problems
            with is when they require adult books with adult themes, other than
            that, he's doing fine with all the work.

            His teacher last year had an independent reading list that had a good
            range of subject matter and level with a lot of good SF&F. He enjoyed
            Huck Finn, 2001, 2010, Hitchhiker's Guide, Ender's Game. The Hobbit,
            LotR were on there, but he'd already read the Hobbit and wasn't
            interested in LotR. We'll see what they come up with this year. I pray
            there is stuff he likes. Otherwise, this won't be pretty.

            Mythically yours,
            Lisa
          • juliet@firinn.org
            You re starting to look like Vishnu or somebody, Mr. Bratman, what with all those hands!
            Message 5 of 9 , Jul 22, 2004
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              You're starting to look like Vishnu or somebody, Mr. Bratman, what with
              all those hands!

              On Thu, Jul 22, 2004 at 09:00:15PM -0700, David Bratman wrote:
              > On the one hand, two of my elementary-school teachers (in unwitting
              > collaboration) were responsible for introducing me to _The Hobbit_. For
              > which I am eternally grateful. That book changed my life.
              >
              > On the other hand, I was fed crappy "relevant" literature even then, in the
              > 60s. I remember in particular a loathsomely high-minded book called _The
              > Pigman_ by Paul Zindel.
              >
              > I was also fed a lot of crap that was distinguished as "great literature."
              > Herman Melville and Joseph Conrad are the ones that still make me flinch
              > the most.
              >
              > On the third hand, I discovered and loathed Dickens all on my own.
              >
              > On the fourth hand, the great author probably most loathed by the most
              > students, Shakespeare, is one I lapped up eagerly both in school and at
              > performances I went to voluntarily.
              >
              > - David Bratman
              >
              >
              >
              >
              > The Mythopoeic Society website http://www.mythsoc.org
              > Yahoo! Groups Links
              >
              >
              >
              >
              >
            • Ginger McElwee
              ... the ... _The ... literature. ... flinch ... I think the problem with the summer reading list is not that children are reading “relevant” literature,
              Message 6 of 9 , Jul 23, 2004
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                David Bratman wrote:

                >On the other hand, I was fed crappy "relevant" literature even then, in
                the
                >60s. I remember in particular a loathsomely high-minded book called
                _The
                >Pigman_ by Paul Zindel.

                >I was also fed a lot of crap that was distinguished as "great
                literature."
                >Herman Melville and Joseph Conrad are the ones that still make me
                flinch
                >the most.

                >On the third hand, I discovered and loathed Dickens all on my own.

                I think the problem with the summer reading list is not that children
                are reading �relevant� literature, but that they are not being given a
                choice of a variety of things to read. As a child I loved Tolkien, but
                I also eagerly read Dickens, Shakespeare, and even Grace Livingston
                Hill. My children read Lloyd Alexander along with Cynthia Voigt, and I
                read both types of books along with them (and enjoyed them all.) Summer
                reading should have some choice involved, and probably some variety as
                well. To limit reading to one genre or theme is to limit the mind and
                the imagination. Let the kids have some fun with their reading during
                the summer.

                By the way, it�s been years since I read _Heart of Darkness_ or _Moby
                Dick_, but I remember really enjoying them both. _The Pigman_, on the
                other hand, was an awful book. I was forced to teach that when I worked
                in a high school years ago.

                Ginger McElwee








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              • Christine Howlett
                English teachers seem to have a lot to answer for! I learned to think that literature must be something quite unpleasant after being marched through Dickens
                Message 7 of 9 , Jul 23, 2004
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                  English teachers seem to have a lot to answer for! I learned to think that
                  literature must be something quite unpleasant after being marched through
                  Dickens' "Tale of Two Cities" in junior high (which requires a lot more
                  historical context than most eighth-graders have). And I LOVED to read at
                  the time, would read cereal boxes if nothing else offered. I took the
                  required English comp course in college and then abandoned the English
                  department with relief. After college, while idling in a friend's house and
                  feeling very bored, I picked up Jane Austen's "Pride and Prejudice" with no
                  expectation of any pleasure and was amazed at how wonderful it was. Within
                  a short time thereafter, I had read all of Austen's books, all of Dickens,
                  most of Trolloppe, several of Thackeray, George Meredith's "The Egoist"
                  (unjustly neglected), and the Bronte sisters' books. I still don't like
                  "Tale of Two Cities"; I think it's Dickens sappiest and it doesn't have the
                  comic relief of the minor characters and subplots - but then it's the
                  shortest and I think that's why teachers choose it. I have to admit I
                  really like Dickens generally. I even spent real money just to have the
                  Oxford hardbound set.

                  Has anyone tried Jasper Fforde's fantasies where the protagonists get caught
                  up 'inside' these books? I liked the first, "The Eyre Affair" tremendously.

                  Christine
                  ----- Original Message -----
                  From: "David Bratman" <dbratman@...>
                  To: <mythsoc@yahoogroups.com>
                  Sent: Friday, July 23, 2004 12:00 AM
                  Subject: Re: [mythsoc] Summer Reading List Blues


                  > On the one hand, two of my elementary-school teachers (in unwitting
                  > collaboration) were responsible for introducing me to _The Hobbit_. For
                  > which I am eternally grateful. That book changed my life.
                  >
                  > On the other hand, I was fed crappy "relevant" literature even then, in
                  the
                  > 60s. I remember in particular a loathsomely high-minded book called _The
                  > Pigman_ by Paul Zindel.
                  >
                  > I was also fed a lot of crap that was distinguished as "great literature."
                  > Herman Melville and Joseph Conrad are the ones that still make me flinch
                  > the most.
                  >
                  > On the third hand, I discovered and loathed Dickens all on my own.
                  >
                  > On the fourth hand, the great author probably most loathed by the most
                  > students, Shakespeare, is one I lapped up eagerly both in school and at
                  > performances I went to voluntarily.
                  >
                  > - David Bratman
                  >
                  >
                  >
                  >
                  > The Mythopoeic Society website http://www.mythsoc.org
                  > Yahoo! Groups Links
                  >
                  >
                  >
                  >
                  >
                  >
                • Berni Phillips
                  From: Christine Howlett ... caught ... tremendously. Oh, yes! It was recommended to me by Wayne Hammond and Christina Scull so I
                  Message 8 of 9 , Jul 23, 2004
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                    From: "Christine Howlett" <chowlett@...>
                    >
                    > Has anyone tried Jasper Fforde's fantasies where the protagonists get
                    caught
                    > up 'inside' these books? I liked the first, "The Eyre Affair"
                    tremendously.

                    Oh, yes! It was recommended to me by Wayne Hammond and Christina Scull so I
                    thought, hey, if they recommend it, it must be good! I loved it and the
                    whole concept of a universe taking books so seriously. I enjoyed _Lost in a
                    Good Book_, too, but I like the first the best (maybe because you have all
                    the wonder of being introduced to these things).

                    Berni
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