A long time ago, three people got together and tried to come up with a way to get more teens reading. Let’s name them #1, #2, and #3. The following is their conversation:
#1: Holy surprising statistic, Batman! It seems that the percentage of teenagers who read for fun is on a steady decline. What should we do to fix this?
#2: Well, I guess we could encourage them to read books they’re more likely to enjoy. Reading books they like will help them—-
#3: I HAVE AN IDEA!
#2: Okay, just cut me off. That’s fine.
#3: Oh it is? Good. Thank you.
#3: Anyway, I think we should make them read books they obviously won’t like.
#1: Go on…
#3: And then force them to say positive things about those books, even if they think it’s horrible.
#2: How would that help? It doesn’t teach them to think critically and just reinforces the belief that reading is dull and pointless.
#3: Yes, but symbolism!
#1: *Nods head.* Excellent point there, #3.
#2: Well, there’s plenty of great books out there with symbolism. How about we make To Kill a Mockingbird mandatory? Or what about Huckleberry Finn?
#3: No way, those books are racist. We don’t want to offend anyone.
#2: But the whole message of those books is that racism is bad.
#3: If the authors thought racism is bad, why’d they use the N word so many times?
#1: He has a point.
#2: Okay fine. What about a book that teenagers could relate to? Something like Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson, or maybe Looking for Alaska by John Green.
#3: Yeah, but both of those books involve sex. We don’t want teenagers getting the wrong ideas.
#2: By the time someone reaches high school, they already know what these things are. Just because teens read about sex in a book doesn’t mean they’re more likely to do it. Besides, these books were definitely pro-abstinence.
#3: Yeah, but teenagers don’t have the critical thinking skills to figure that out.
#2: Well that’s just not—
#3: I HAVE ANOTHER IDEA! Let’s make students read The Scarlet Letter, by Nathaniel Hawthorne.
#2: That book involves sex too.
#3: Yeah, but it’s a classic, so that makes it okay. Plus, it has symbolism!
#2: Symbolism isn’t the only thing that makes a book good.
#3: You’re right; it’s symbolism and long, boring prose. The Scarlet Letter has both.
#1: So let’s recap the ideas so far: 1) force them to read books they won’t like, 2) make them say positive things about it, 3) avoid edgy books, and 4) only get classic novels with boring prose and lots of symbolism.
#3: Don’t forget to make them write long essays about the symbolism.
#1: You’re right. I can’t believe I almost forgot to include that.
#3: One more thing: let’s make students take turns reading the book out loud in front of the entire class.
#2: What could anyone possibly gain from that?
#3: I don’t know, but let’s do it anyway.