Today I'm centered on high school teachers, perhaps the most maligned of all. We hear that these people kill the love of reading and turn young people away from reading in general. Let's take a look at a few arguments from a (retired) high school teacher's perspective.

"The teacher's assigned material made me hate reading."

I doubt that anyone or anything can make a person who likes to read feel any differently about it. Reading a book you hate does not make you stop reading any more than tasting spinach and saying, "Yuk!" makes you stop eating. However, it's easier to blame being a slacker on some teacher who made you read Silas Marner in tenth grade than it is to admit that you are...well, a slacker.

"That stuff is boring."

I taught with a man who answered that with, "Boredom is an inner condition." He's right. Things (like books) don't bore you. You decide they don't apply to you. Now that may be true; it may not apply to you at that point in life. Still, the intelligent among us know that the present moment isn't all there is to life. The great thing about learning is that it stores up in your brain and comes back when you need it most. As a kid, I wasn't much affected by Macduff's pain when he learned that Macbeth has murdered his wife and children. As a parent, it's almost too meaningful to consider. But I'm glad some teacher shared it with me.

It's hard to help students appreciate reading in a classroom situation. The choices are sometimes one-size-fits-all, the setting is artificial, the readers are inexperienced and slow. But discussions I had with students, fun we had with rewriting and acting out scenes or stories, and the slow but steady collection in their minds of an understanding of literature, society, and intelligent thought made putting up with the "Do we have to read this?" comments worthwhile. They may not remember the details, but they got a sense that kids have always been kids, people have always been plagued by questions, and there is a line in each individual's life that cannot be crossed without dire consequences.

When you leave my classroom, you will decide how much you'll read. But if you never pick up another book, please don't be so ignorant as to blame it on me.

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