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Was reading encouraged in your school?


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#16 BW

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Posted 08 June 2003 - 04:55 AM

I grew up on the East coast of the USA - in a suburb of NYC. Attended a private school for most of my years...and reading was always more than encouraged. My school had summer reading lists (required) that had quite a number of books on them. One of the highlights at school was the annual book fair! I remember them well and the excitement of walking around with a mimeographed (remember that?!) sheet upon which I could write down the books and the authors that I really, really wanted, more than anything. :)

Parents were avid readers. I have many fond memories of going to the library with my mother both to the children's room where we'd listen to stories read aloud by Miss Bird... and tagging along as my mother searched the stacks for just the right book for that week.

Books are the one thing I was always given without hesitation and it's a practice I try to carry on with my own family.

#17 Calliope

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Posted 08 June 2003 - 05:43 AM

I went to schools that was progressive in it's reading structure. We had a required literature class from 7th on up. Except senior year, where it was elective, but they were always the fullest classes. My favorite out of all of them was in 10th grade, we did poetry, I'm so thankful for that class. It was my introduction to Dorothy Parker, William Blake and Neruda. I was glad to have someone guide me through reading them, otherwise I think I would never pick up some of the books I do.
One of the most popular senior classes was literature and film. We had to read the book and then watch the movie. As a teenager you think there's no way the book can be better than the movie!

#18 Tancos

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Posted 08 June 2003 - 07:22 AM

I did time in four grade schools and three high schools, and it would take too long to summarize the attitude toward books at each. In general, I would say that reading was encouraged at all of them to varying degrees. Even if the teachers had been Bradburian firemen, though, it would have made very little difference to me. Once I learned how to sound out words I took off on my own and never stopped.

#19 Ari

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Posted 08 June 2003 - 08:07 AM

Like many here, I learned to read before entering school, and always had my nose in a book. Whatever reading we did at school was nice, but irrelevant to my own reading activity. Still, I recall reading being encouraged at both elementary schools I attended. BW, I remember those book fairs, too! They were great. And I loved the Scholastic Book Club, which offered cheap paperback books of good quality, including many adult classics. They were, I believe, offered through My Weekly Reader and its successors, a periodical that we received at school. We always had to do book reports. I remember one teacher telling us that the boys had to read more fiction and the girls had to read more non-fiction.

In seventh grade I began attending a private school that had a rigorous standard in literature. In seventh grade (that's about age 12 for those of you with a different grading system) we read Julius Caesar and Great Expectations; in 8th, we read Sir Gawain and the Green Knight (in up-to-date English), the general prologue to the Canterbury Tales (in the original), The Man Who Would Be King (which we all hated), The Merchant of Venice and Pride and Prejudice. The school's approach to Shakespeare was to take it very slowly, line by line, explaining everything — language, metaphor, themes, etc. That meant we got the most out of it and understood everything. I wonder whether students who weren't introduced to Shakespeare this way have ever really understood him.

#20 vagansmom

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Posted 08 June 2003 - 08:15 AM

I'm more of an Aolian and Dorian mode person myself, in music AND in reading.

#21 Tancos

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Posted 08 June 2003 - 03:32 PM

Originally posted by vagansmom
I'm more of an Aolian and Dorian mode person myself, in music AND in reading.


"Dorian Mode" was my first thought. However, I was afraid that people would see "Dorian" and think "Gray" or "Green," which is not what I had in mind.

#22 Treefrog

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Posted 20 June 2003 - 07:02 PM

Three elementary schools (two private, one public) and two middle schools (private), the second of which merged into high school (with a boarding department, just in case we moved again!).

Reading instruction was excellent in all but the public school (grades 4-6). I can still remember my second-grade teacher reading The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe aloud to us. Of course, I couldn't wait to find out what happened and read it all in a night or so. (As an aside, second grade also provided a large chunk of my lifelong arts education; almost all that I know and appreciate about Renaissance painting I learned from Mrs. Dawson.)

Grades 4-6 were dismal: line-by-line reading, and insipid stories in grade-level readers. Reading instruction consisted of SRA cards (remember those?), and we were only allowed to read one each class. Except me: when the reading teacher found out I was moving mid-year, she let me read TWO cards per class so I would reach a higher level and be a credit to her. I repaid her 'kindness' by doing an oral report on Death at an Early Age in which I emphasized the cruelness and cluelessness of the reading teacher. (I was a pretty nasty know-it-all as a kid...) During this time, I read a LOT on my own, and well above grade level: To Kill a Mockingbird and Catch 22 are two I remember for sure.

Middle and high school were great. At least one Shakespeare per year, lots of short stories, also A Separate Peace in 8th grade. Through high school, I took every course I could with a certain English teacher. We read a huge variety of things in courses with titles like "Comedy and Tragedy" and "Image, Imitation, and Experience." Lots of discussion, plus daily assignments to write a paragraph or two in our journals. They could be about almost anything, but the goal was to advance a thesis in the topic sentence and support it thereafter ("Melville perhaps utilizes the Town-Ho's story as a prototype for Billy Budd, because both stories pit an honest, revered man against an unreasonable tyrant." -- bet you won't believe I just happened to have one of those journals within arm's reach!)

#23 vrsfanatic

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Posted 21 June 2003 - 03:39 AM

Reading was most definitely encouraged as I was growing up both at home and in school. I spent 3 years in public school in suburban NJ, where I am told I learned no reading skills, but I could sing and charm, was wisked out of the public school system in third grade (actually I had to repeat third grade), into an all girl's private school, where I remained until my graduation (well except in my junior year my parents did allow me to go to the public high school but I ran back to my private school after only 4 days. Somehow I knew I was not going to learn as well) We had reading lists, school year and summer, in the girl's school, from the time I can remember book reports, discussion groups, etc. I hated it, the reading lists, but I do realize today what value it has had in my life. I was always reading on the bus to ballet, from age 10. Those were two hours a day I had to myself. I was captured. There were so many books, mostly the ones already mentioned but in 6th grade we began with Shakespeare. Julius Caesar was the first and then every year until graduation another one. Now I thank my lucky stars, but at the time I must say I thought it all was ridiculous.

In eighth grade we had our first book in French, Le Petit Prince, Antoine de Saint-Exupery, and I must say this book changed my outlook completely on reading. How I struggled getting through it, but I must say that to this very day I remember the rewards I received by sticking to it and comprehending the words and the meaning behind those words. Finally I was able to understand it was a concept in reading that was of the most importance not the definition of each word. It also gave me the fascination to learn different languages. I give this book as a gift to young and old, in various languages.

Our reading lists were divided into American Lit., English Lit., European Lit. My foreign language was French, 4 years of that although I must say I only function at an intermediate level now. It all seemed to go together with what we were studying in history class. We were reading the Rise and Fall of the Third Reich as we were studying World War 2, etc.

To this day I have my books. They have been in and out of storage so many times, I cannot tell you. I have very little contemporary literature though. I find it difficult to get through. I have tried, but I never seem to find anything that grabs me. I will go to the library to get some of the books suggested here at BA, but I cannot buy anymore books, no room! ;)

#24 Dolphingirl

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Posted 22 June 2003 - 09:58 PM

Reading was always encouraged in my life, both outside of school and in. I certainly knew how to read before entering Kindergarten, but I only have vague memories of being taught. In fact, all I really remember was being *afraid* to read to my preschool teacher, I guess because I was worried about being wrong. I do enjoy telling a story of driving past a car wash and reading the sign "Car Wash" because I could recognize the "Car" from my name and the "Wash" from Washington. This must have been at 4. I was at the same private, montessori-based school from kindergarten through 8th grade. My real reading memories begin in 1st grade, though I'm told that in Kindergarten my teacher often had to pry me away from the reading section and make me work on other things. In first and second grade, we had "reading groups" which were arranged by ability. We came up with names for ourselves (Golden Eagles and Raining Cats and Dogs were my two groups) and our teacher selected books for us to read, based again on ability. I remember my meaner side coming out and laughing at some of the second graders who were working on sounding out two letter combinations on flash cards, while I as a first grader was in the highest group. In these groups, we would get together and discuss our opinions of the books, do roleplays of some of the scenes, or whatever else we thought was appropriate. We always had a teacher overseeing the meetings, which had regularly scheduled times, but we often got to make discussion decisions by ourselves. We had an open classroom, and were able to make decisions about the work we did, so I often chose reading as my activity. We had a library period once a week, where we learned how to find things according to the Dewey Decimal System and our librarian helped us find tons of books. It was probably 1st grade that I was introduced to the Laura Ingalls Wilder books, which are probably my all time favorites. I particularly remember being allowed to sit out of the class song time before dismissal, because my teacher was impressed with my reading one of Laura's adventures. Around this time also (7ish) I began teaching my sister to read. She was 3 at the time and I went with her and bought some flashcards, and stickers, and I began giving her reading lessons. I wrote common two letter combinations on cards, like I had seen in class, and started helping her sound out the combos. After that, I wrote out simple three letter words, then more. I don't remember how long it took, but she really enjoyed the lessons and begged me for more...maybe it was just because of the stickers. She's now 11 and an avid reader. We've been fighting over who gets to read the 5th Harry Potter first. I think she won though.

3rd and 4th grade weren't anything special, in my remembering. We did standard book reports often, and we still met in groups to discuss books. Usually we were given a selection of 5 or 6 books that had something to do with the subject we were studying (either fiction or non) and we picked the one that interested us most. Our teacher would also read aloud to us, and one day we as a class of 25 opted out of extra recess in order to finish "My Brother Sam is Dead" about the Revolutionary War.

5th and 6th grade were probably my favorites, because I had the best socialstudies/language arts teacher. She told us "The Iliad" and "The Odyssey" one year and "The Popol Vuh", which is the Mayan Creation Story, the next. This wasn't precisely reading, since it was all in her own words, but she would read passages for us. We read in groups too, things like "A Proud Taste for Scarlet and Miniver" by E.L. Konigsburg. I finished it the first day, and had to endure the slow going, much like other people have posted about. However, after 4th grade, the amount of time I spent reading for pleasure went down considerably, as my level of homework and my commitment to other things(ballet) went up. I'd still pick up new books and read them at lightning speed, but not as often as I had in years before.

7th and 8th grade were good years for me. We had a summer reading book, but we were also required to start the year by turning in a list of all the books we'd read, plus their lengths. We also had to fill out "reading and writing surveys" in which we had to describe in an essay form our thoughts on reading and writing, so that the teacher had an idea of what to expect from us and to know where to guide us. We often had reading time instead of a discussion in English, but we still did group things. I most enjoyed "The Chosen" at the end of 8th grade. It did so much for our group in terms of growing as a class, it was pretty amazing. Our teacher usually just sat back and let us run the discussions and we had some very interesting and deep conversations. We also read a few things as a class that were well below our level. We read "Johnny Tremain" during our Revolutionary war studies and we all hated it. At the end, we did projects on HyperStudio(a sort-of low form of powerpoint) in which we had jobs somewhat like the ones Vagansmom described. I had to describe the locations and find out how realistic the descriptions were. A silly thing, because there were no actual descriptions of locations in the book, but I had a lot of fun looking at old maps of Boston!

I started a new school for 9th grade, where English class took on a much different form. We went from one book to another much more quickly, and had many more written assignments than at my previous school. This year we read "Haroun and the Sea of Stories", "Of Mice and Men", "Black Boy" "Catcher in the Rye", and "Macbeth". We also had various short stories sprinkled here and there, and "Haroun" involved lots of creative writing. We wrote analytical essays of several of the books, and, especially for Catcher, we had to turn in questions and "insights" for each chapter. These insights were just interesting things we noticed from the chapter, but had to be written in the claim, context, evidence, explanation format. I had the department's best teacher, and, unfortunately, I'm told that the teaching from other teachers is not nearly as good.

That's my reading experience in a (rather large) nutshell.

Dolphingirl

#25 GWTW

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Posted 22 June 2003 - 10:29 PM

Dolphingirl, those are interesting books you've read this year. What kind of school do you currently go to?
(I thought your sister was "unhealthily addicted" to TV, but maybe I'm confusing posters?:o )

#26 Dolphingirl

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Posted 23 June 2003 - 09:26 AM

Nope, you are right, it is my sister who is unhealthily addicted to TV, but she also likes reading. It's very hard to get her to read books she hasn't read before, but she's starting to discover some of the books I read when I was her age, that have been on my shelf. She has difficulty knowing how to pick books that she'll like, but once she finds them, she can't put them down. I was much like that at her age, but I didn't watch nearly as much TV, so I spent more time looking for good books.

I am currently at another local private school, in the highschool. It is very math and science oriented, but doesn't have to be- I prefer the history and language studies, so I plan to take lots of classes in those subjects and purely meet the requirements for math and science. My English teacher this past year told us at the beginning of the year that each book we were reading had been banned at some point, and throughout the year we discussed why the books were banned, and what we thought about it for each book. It lead to some pretty exciting discussions, because occasionally there would be people who disagreed with the majority of the class (the majority agreed that none of the books should be banned except maybe in an individual school) We also tied many other forms of media and communication into our class. We wrote lots of poetry and short stories to go along with Haroun, we watched and analyzed the movie "Ordinary People" to go along with Catcher, and we acted out scenes and played around with character personalities in Macbeth.

Reading back through Treefrog's post, my highschool seems very much like hers, in terms of English education.

Dolphingirl

#27 carbro

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Posted 23 June 2003 - 11:05 AM

Dolphingirl, your reading pays off! I could never have guessed from the fine quality of your writing that you are in high school.:)

#28 Dolphingirl

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Posted 23 June 2003 - 04:00 PM

Thank you - that's a very nice compliment, Carbro :)

Dolphingirl

#29 artist

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Posted 07 March 2007 - 04:51 PM

In elementary school in VA, we always were encouraged to read. During each summer it was [either required or optional,] (but my mom always made me) to read 3 books and do a book report on one. In 1st grade we'd have a book pile with pillows that we'd have time for. (but what kids did was scan the books just to be the first ones done).

In 3rd grade, especially, we read a lot in class and on our own. We'd sort of have contests on how many books one could read. I came 2nd place, reading 13 books a month, and remember thinking that I was just doing it b/c I liked it - not to compete.

I started to hate reading a few years after that when it became mandatory.

in CA at a private middle school, we'd have to read one book over summer and do a book report and a creative project on it. In Lit. class each year, we'd basically did the same thing, just with more books.

in high school, we'd have to read 2 per semester and annotate (analyzing tone, theme, figurative language, etc.) them, and be tested on it. In addition, we'd read about 2-3 books in class (this was advanced english) 3rd year HS (in regular college prep) we'd have maybe 2-3 quizes a week on the books in order to test our reading comprehension. Also, many in class discussions and assignments that had to relate to books we were reading.

#30 Paul Parish

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Posted 07 March 2007 - 09:33 PM

Great question, and what a lot of great answers!

My family was very tense, and we all read a great deal as a way of avoiding each other and getting into a world that felt more congenial. Mama, Daddy, my two brothers and I all read a couple of books a week, maybe three or four -- mostly romances -- from the time i was 10 till I graduated from high school. We'd come back from hte library with a stack of books 3 or 4 feet high. Daddy read history. Dick read "Desiree" at least 20 times, and I read it 3 0r 4. I read lots of sea-faring stories; Dick read baseball stories.

Daddy read heavy books. He read the Imitation of Christ on an on-going basis, wore the back off it, and the Meditations of Marcus Aurelius. But what he really liked was Immanuel Velikovsky -- Worlds in Collision, Ages in Chaos. I read them too, and had never seen so many footnotes. Turned out that Velikovsky was laboring in the cause of the truth, and his theories about cataclysmic changes were validated when Alvarez proved that an asteroid struck the earth, death of the dinosaurs, and all that.

My favorite book as a child was "Myths Every Child Should Know," a Doubleday Junior de luxe Club book (with full-page drawings) that was essentially Hawthorne's Just-so stories -- Medusa and the snaky Locks, Bellerophon who rode the flying horse; there were plenty others, but I was crazy about Medusa, and colored her locks green and purple. And Pegasus I colored black. The sky was "cerulean" out of the big Crayola box. LOVE that color.

I'm not sure how old I was when Miss Gretchen suggested "The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe," but I DO remember feeling like the top of my head was coming off, like I was about to understand something way beyond the scope of things I'd thought about before, and that was the first time, though not the last, that I felt that.

My first real taste for the GOOD stuff was not a matter of books -- it was hearing Beethoven on a phonograph record, Artur Rubenstein's OLD recording -- on 2 12-inch 78s -- of the Pathetique sonata. Reading, I was still reading "Captain Marooner" and stuff, by the bushel, mind you. Well, I did read "Wuthering Heights" -- one page a day was all I could take, it was so frightening.

Of course I read stuff for school. Davy Crockett, Daniel Boone, Jim Bowie, there was a whole series of them, and the Bowies came from my home town, so I was proud of them. (Rezin Bowie is buried in the Catholic cemetery there, and they used their money to have a WONDERFUL reproduction of a Rubens crucifixion put over the altar in our pretty old church; it was painted by a German who went up and down the river by steamboat, decorating rich folks' places. That painting was a huge influence on my life, for it was beautiful and moving and full of virtue -- not a scary, gnarly, ugly crucifixion, but a sacrifice that was full of love and beauty, and big as a movie-screen almost. Jesus was giving up the ghost, and it was awesome: simultaneously peaceful and terrifying, lonely and totally supported, muscular and sensitive and full of majesty.

Beethoven was like that, too. I got a piano and learned to read Beethoven. The great thing about the piano is it lets you read music for yourself. George Bernard Shaw said that, and it's true. I also read a lot of Chopin, mazurkas and preludes; there's a fair amount that's real music and not too difficult -- not to perform, necessarily but just so you could read it for yourself. Bach also. There's nothing like reading it for yourself. Even Schnabel doesn't reveal so much as the page itself does.

The great thing about reading in school was poetry. My old-fashioned teachers, especially miss Person, who had ALL the kids from 9th grade on (it was a small school) believed in memory-work, and from 7th grade on, probably, we had to memorize a poem a week and recite it on Friday. "Stars," by Sarah Teasdale. And "Trees," of course. But by 9th grade, also some great poems, Wordsworth, especially, Byron, Shelley, Coleridge, Blake. I memorized "Ozymandias" for my own satisfaction, just because I thought it was so beautiful, and I hated tyranny and so did Shelley and that poem makes you stop being afraid, and "Let me not to the marriage of true minds Admit impediments,' and "The Tyger."

We had to ALL memorize the end of "Kublai Khan,' for which I'll be eternally grateful ("A damsel with a dulcimer in a vision once I saw; it was an Abyssinian maid, and on her dulcimer she played, singing of Mount Abora. Could I revive within me, her symphony and song, to such a deep delight 'twould win me, that with music loud and long I'd build that dome of air, that sunny dome, those caves of ice! And all around should see me there, and all should cry,'Beware, beware! Weave a circle round him thrice nad close your eyes with holy dread, for he on honey-dew hath fed, and drunk he milk of Paradies.'" o my God, what a great poem!)

And lots of the Ancient Mariner, and The Solitary Reaper and the Daffodils, and the Lucy poems and a chunk of the Intimations Ode ("The rainbow comes and goes and lovely is the rose. The moon doth with delight look round her when the heavens are bare, waters on a starry night are beautiful and fair, and yet I know, where e'er I go, that there as passed away a glory from the earth.")

Miss Person herself took courage from poems like these, and when push came to shove -- i.e., when the civil rights movement arrived -- she was on the right side and stood by the humane feelings and virtues embodied in these poems, stood up to threats of all kinds, and counter-attacked ("XYZ, I am ASHAMED of you") and prevented the formation of a segregation academy as long as she lived.

Her other bastion was Shakespeare -- "Friends, Romans, countrymen," and "Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow" belonged there too – they were all about the emptiness of a life lived badly, and embodied the feelings you'd have, and those you cared about would have FOR you, if you muffed your chance in life or saw your duty and did not do it.

Poets really ARE “the unacknowledged legislators of the race.”


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