Bait & Switch

In this article written by Christina H., she addresses how students are given the “bait-and-switch” when it comes to reading. In elementary school we are, as Christina writes, “baited”. This happens with read-a-thons, bookmobiles, and other ways that make us feel that reading is fun! She calls this the bait, “That was the bait. In junior high and high school, they made the switch. I guess they heard about how drug dealers give you free doses of the good stuff until you are addicted, and then once you are hooked, they start cutting it with 50 percent baby powder or something. Actually, junkies notice when you do this. And kids notice when you swap their fun books for boring crap”. She paints quite a harsh picture, but I’m left to wonder is she right? She continues on to discuss how youngsters look forward to reading and read enjoyable books to having to “talk about metaphors and symbolism in Chapter 1,” removing all the joy that once existed in reading. She concludes her article by breaking down what she feels is going on in classrooms today that is in turn, turning adults into non-readers.

High school required readings suck: She opens by boldly claiming, “The Scarlet Letter, Wuthering Heights, Great Expectations, Ethan Frome, Walden, Heart of Darkness, Madame Bovary, The Catcher in the Rye and The Sun Also Rises all suck”. I can’t say that I have read them all, but I can say that those that I have read have not all been amazing books! She states that most teenagers will blog about how much they hate the books they are reading and that is a problem. I find myself agreeing other on this point, why not make the book selection have the students voice, let them help pick the books they’ll be reading.

You’re not allowed to talk smack about the books: She explains that teachers fear that if students begin to express their dissatisfaction with the book more students will jump on board and question the reading. Further explaining that students can’t just state that a book was “preachy” without having to “cite” examples from the text.

Anything fun is to shallow: Christina writes, “Sometimes they let kids read one or two “fun” books (like the Hunger Games books or something) in a concession to try to keep them into reading. But they treat them like candy, a necessary evil that you should spend as little time on as possible. Maybe you give a book report, but otherwise they don’t want to waste time on that popular crap. The argument is that fun and popular books are too shallow to get much out of. They’re not going to have as many themes, or new vocabulary words, or symbols, or unusual storytelling techniques as a classic novel. And that’s probably true in a lot of cases. The point they’re missing here is that most high school classes never even get close to digging out all the analyzable stuff from a book, because of time limits or limits of the students’ reading level”.

Enjoy reading? Preposterous?: In this final point she addresses the fact that at one point reading is no longer described as fun, but, instead, made into work. Moreover, are told that they need to read for a specific purpose of “improving their mind” and if not it is a waste of their time.

The reason that this article really grabbed my attention was of because of one the pre-Practicum classes I am in. The picture I attached is of my notes in that class. The teacher doesn’t let the students take home the books, so she reads to them in class. Her reason being that she knows they will not read at home. However, if you look at my notes the majority of the students have checked out of the classroom, they are in their own world. This brought the question that is starred in my notebook to mind, how do we make students who hate reading, read? After reading this article I found myself asking did these students enjoy reading at one point and do they now hate reading because they fell victims to the “bait-and-switch” Christina refers to in her article? How do we as teachers prevent the “bait-and-switch” from happening? How do we make reading enjoyable throughout the secondary years? I’ll be exploring this topic more in depth and hope to post more information in the future on this topic, for now I simply am stumped.

Link to article:
http://www.cracked.com/blog/4-ways-high-school-makes-you-hate-reading/

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5 Comments

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5 responses to “Bait & Switch

  1. Thank you Brenda for this article! I think it is an extremely important one as well. I want to make some points that you have called to my attention;

    1. High school reading books can be boring, but that does not mean it has to be boring. My junior year of High School we were reading The Scarlet Letter and my teacher assigned a project. It was to find someone in “pop culture” today who in some way resembles, acts, or projects herself like Hester Prynne. We also had to explain why we thought that the “pop culture” character reminded us of Hester. It was a compare and contrast from the 1600’s to today. It was interesting and made me enjoy the novel.

    2.I also believe that children today get bored extremely quickly because of how technologically advanced our society has become. Book stores are few and far between but almost everyone has a smart phone. Students do not want to read these “required” texts and find them “boring” because they would much rather be blogging, tweeting, or facebooking.

    3. I don’t know how to prevent the “bait, and switch” from happening except that the student does not need to feel that way. It’s a transition from childhood into high school level reading. The students should be proud that they are reading high level of difficluty novels, instead of mad.

    Sarah Lynch

    • Thanks for commenting, as far as point one goes I agree with you. I just posted this on some else’s post:

      “In my “designing a curriculum” course one of my classmates, who is doing his ore-Practicum at Boston Latin School (BLS), tells about a class he is currently observing. He tells us that the class is currently reading Twelf Night, and that in order to engage the students the teacher has them connect their reading to real life. What she does is tells the students to take pictures with their cell phones, of themselves, that relate to what they have read. The pictures are then used to build comic strips and word bubbles are added. The students then add the words from the text that parallels the action in the photos. He explains that the students are very engaged and really are enjoying connecting the reading to their out of school lives”.

      I think this is a great example of how to engage students in literature which may be considered “boring”! In a way this teacher is also incorporating what you stated in your second point. Overall, I think adjustments have to be made on both ends and you bring up some great points.

  2. Hello to both of you,
    I loved the article you found Brenda and I read it. I think some of the points you both brought up are extremely valid and I wonder what I can do to bring back the joy of reading to many of my students. I love the assignment that Sarah brought up and I think it would have most certainly been entertaining and valuable to the reading of The Scarlet Letter, I also think the same about the Twelf Night assignment.
    I remember being in elementary school and only enjoying those few assignments where I was able to relate the book to my own life. We had an assignment where we were to pretend to be a main character in whatever book we were reading (I don’t remember now) and write a diary as that character. It made us use both textual evidence and character analysis while also encouraging imagination. It was far from boring yet definitely supported what the teacher needed to see.
    I hope to be as creative as my teacher and the one’s that you both mentioned. I also think that the book choices we are assigning should be a good mix of both classical and new literature as both serve different purposes.

    Cheers,

    Tamzin

  3. mofulco

    I really enjoyed this post, and this article, thank you for posting about it!
    I think high school students often do dislike the reading they are made to do because it seems to reflect the teacher, their thoughts and interests, not the students and their thoughts. I think its important to get creative, and involve high school students in the reading process, including picking the books which they are interested in reading. I think that so often, teachers take their students’ reading as a task that must be accomplished and therefore take away the experience of reading a great book and truly being inspired by it. The results are often focused on getting the A on the book report instead of getting something out of the book for your life.
    I think book assignments should be class based, and that students should be able to speak openly about what they have read, whether they enjoyed it or not.

  4. This was a great post! I was reading the original article and a lot of things also stuck out to me. The author writes that, “I stopped looking at books as wonderful presents I couldn’t wait to open” (Christina H) and I could not help but sadly feel that this statement is so true. In younger grades I felt that everyone loved to read and that I fit in. It wasn’t until junior high and high school that now I did not fit in because I loved to read and enjoyed English class. Wanting to be an English teacher this statement scares me. The fact that for this writer and probably many others, English class and possibly English teachers have made her and others hate to read is awful. I know for myself, and probably many others teachers, they got into English because they love it, they love to read or write, and they want to pass on that love to their students. What a slap in the face if not only is this not happening, but instead the opposite is happening. I feel that more and more we read or hear stories of this happening and not that many stories of how an English class/teacher made or fostered someone’s love for reading. I think that it is time to change this.

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