Friday, November 11, 2011

A Conversation with a Young Man About Reading

Yesterday I asked one of my senior boys how he was doing.
"I'm tired," he said.
Seniors are tired this time of year. They are busy with college applications and school and work.
I asked him when was the last time he read a book for pleasure.
He had to think for a few seconds.
"I don't know. A long time." Thinks. "The Knife of Never Letting Go."
I brighten, because I love this book.
"Yeah. That was four years ago."
I sag a little, because that's a long time to go without reading a book for pleasure.
I asked him if any of the books he'd been assigned during his school years appealed to him.
He liked 1984 and Fahrenheit 451.
I asked him which books he didn't like.
"Tale of Two Cities. I hated it. I didn't even read it. And to make them do it in the 9th grade. That's just not good."
So I asked, "What is the best book that represents the kind of reading that spoke to you least?"
Instant, reflexive reaction about this book. Since the author is still alive, I do not want to say which one it is. My boy expressed his opinion about it succinctly and vehemently.
And I get it.
I taught English for a long, long time. I know that not every book will speak to every kid.
But why isn't there room for kids to choose books and do more with them than write book reports?
I hate book reports.
What's wrong with just reading because it is a good thing to do?
So I made part of my student's assignment to read The Ask and the Answer, the sequel to The Knife of Never Letting Go, by Patrick Ness.
Just read.


  1. Wow, Kristen, what a great post. I love it because it's a real story. Thanks for recommending The Knife of Never Letting Go. I just put it on my reading list!

  2. We shouldn't teach great books; we should teach a love of reading. B. F. Skinner

  3. Make sure he reads The Ask and the Answer. Monsters of Men is book 3.

  4. You are the teacher my kids never had. Could we ever use you down here in the VI. Keep up the good work.

    Not sure who taught me to love books,love reading,and therefore to love writing.. I am a girl,so maybe it's different, but we all have to start somewhere.

  5. Great post! I have the same opinion about books in school. The best projects I did in my high school English class was when they'd let us pick our own books to read. Reading is better when it feels more like a choice rather than a chore. And The Knife of Never Letting Go is now on my to-read list.

  6. It's nice to read books for pleasure - I hope this young man continues to enjoy reading! Take care

  7. Good for you! I love it that he enjoyed 1984 and Fahrenheit 451! This is a smart kid with good taste.

    I love Dickens but I can totally understand someone, especially a young person, not appreciating it.

    In high school, I remember most of the kids liked The Great Gatsby and not just because it's relatively short. I wonder if that one is still assigned?

  8. Thanks, Kathryn! So glad you stopped by!
    Charles, you are so right. I have corrected my error. Many thanks.
    Farawayeyes, thanks for the props!
    Annie, you will LOVE The Knife of Never Letting Go!
    Old Kitty, I will make sure he has time!
    Cynthia, I love Dickens too! I think Great Expectations would have been a better choice. Yep--Gatsby is still around!

  9. Great post. I adore reading and am so sad my kids have not got that particular gene ... yet! Setting a choice of books would be so cool but I suppose each of us is different.

  10. I wish I could have read The Knife of Never Letting Go for english.