Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Not Exactly Sophie's Choice

Today I compiled a list of book series to try to entice reluctant high school readers into reading over the summer months.  Research suggests that lower income students can lose up to 3 months of learning over the summer, while middle and high income students make a month's worth of gains.  End result: after 3 years, lower income students are a year behind--and it actually has nothing to do with the quality of instruction they receive at school or how quickly they learn.  Compelling, no?

So anyway, here I was trying to think of titles that a kid who might not be that interested in reading should read, and the same source as referenced above suggests that series are especially powerful in enticing kids to read.  So naturally, one of the biggest series draws for teenage girls is . . .Twilight.  Now to those who are fans of Twilight, I would say, I am not judging you.  I eat too much chocolate, watch So You Think You Can Dance, avoid running on the flimsiest of pretexts, routinely Facebook stalk, and have an unhealthy relationship with Sporcle (caution: If you have a proclivity for trivia-game-addiction, do not click.  Repeat, do not click!).  My point being that I have quite a collection of my own shallow and potentially even damaging habits --so do your thing.  But promoting Twilight for young students, some of whom have seriously disturbing ideals of romance and gender roles already, is something else entirely.  At the same time, I have already seen a few girls who were unexcited about reading get hooked on books by way of Twilight.  Nothing I could offer them would appeal to them, books with strong heroines and compelling stories, non-fiction, historical fiction, series I actually like, like Chronicles of Narnia or Harry Potter.

The dilemma, then, is which interest wins?  The need to instill values and promote strength of character and independence?  Or the desire to pique interest in books, with hopes of creating a life-long habit and changing students' long-term educational trajectory?  I think we like to believe sometimes that you don't have to choose. That if I were diligent enough, I would look until I found the perfect Twilight-esque book, a paragon of ethical virtue, at the perfect reading level, with characters and a story line so compelling that no teen could turn away, or barring that, write one myself in my free time.  But practically speaking, I have to choose.  And this time, perhaps because I'm doing this in my role as a teacher, I choose books.  Er.  Sorry?


robin marie said...

i feel the same way about twilight... but i have heard the argument, "as long as it gets them interested in reading!" ... so i would probably choose books too - but then force feed them other series with much better writing! good luck!

Czechdeb said...

Thanks, Robin. That's the hope, right? That Twilight will just be the entry into better things.