Archive for Reading

Banning Books in My Town

During a book club meeting a couple of months ago, one member—a respected, outspoken woman—mentioned in passing that one of our school librarians had received many complaints about a particular book. Another member countered that statement, by explaining that, as a librarian herself who was friends with the librarian in question, she knew that only one complaint had been received. The conversation ended there.

It started me thinking about how the loudest, but not necessarily most knowledgeable, person is usually heard most. That goes for almost everything, really. The squeaky wheel and all that.

If you don’t challenge your own and others’ assumptions, you’ll never know the truth. That’s not to say that you have to be contrary about everything (a good reminder for myself), but to think critically about everything you’re told is good practice. Don’t fire questions at the supermarket produce manager about how sure he is that the oranges actually came from the central region of Florida. Do question if it’s labeled organic and it looks like it’s not.

Back to loudmouths and book banning. I find it astounding that parents—well-intentioned parents—fight to decrease the amount of information their children have access to. Children who consume book voraciously rarely become degenerates or serial killers.

I don’t have data to back me up there. Just go with it.

I feel students should be allowed to read anything they can that’s appropriate developmentally. That’s the gray area and the common path for folks seeking to ban a book. They think it’s not “appropriate.” Well, it might not be appropriate for your little snowflake, but mine is fine, thank you very much, and I’d like my kids to have access to more information, not less. I’ll decide and take action if necessary. You can keep your book banning to yourself.

I was happy to discover that there have been no reported limitations in the past few years to our local libraries. But limitations can happen earlier on, in the decision not to carry a title or teach a book. Those are the easily hidden decisions that force us to be vigilant. Or they should.

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Reading Speed

According to an eReader interactive quiz, I read more slowly than an 8th grader. Okay. That’s nothing new. I’m methodical in my reading. I read every word, often more than once. If the author and myriad prepress eyes thought the word was necessary, I’m not going to argue with them. For what it’s worth, I got all three review questions correct, so my comprehension is decent. Improving my reading speed would likely improve my ability to bring in more cash, though. Hmm…

Reading

As a master at invisibility and not making an impression on people during high school, I skillfully avoided reading assignments given in English class. This extended somewhat into college, where I wasted many a taxpayer’s dollars (I received immense amounts of financial aid), not to mention my own mortgaged future (I graduated with loans up to my eyeballs), fooling around instead of working. One of the few high school assignments I actually remember reading is The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, which inspired me so much that I wrote an extra-credit assignment in Huck’s voice. My teacher loved it, and I mistakenly interpreted that as, “Wow, you should do more of this!” When I submitted the second piece in Huck’s voice, my teacher hesitantly but kindly accepted it. I can’t remember if she ever graded it, but I got the message that I’d milked as much out of the assignment as I was going to get.

The regret I feel at not taking advantage of such mandated book clubs led by professional book lovers drives me now in my adulthood to read what I refer to as the classics. I am reading 1984 and The Scarlet Letter right now, having just finished The Sun Also Rises. I have to rely on my own insights instead of benefiting from my instructor’s guidance. Consequently, I believe I’m missing out on truly appreciating some of these works. I patiently read through The Sun Also Rises, but can’t say I enjoyed it. I admire Hemingway’s sparse use of language and the impression that so much is left out. I finished the book feeling as if so much more was left unsaid. But I cannot say that I enjoyed the process of reading it. I merely tolerated it.

As for The Scarlet Letter, which I am reading on my Kindle, I can say that I am enjoying it. Hawthorne’s prose is more intricate, and the Kindle’s dictionary feature has saved me from confusion many times. What I love about this book is the imagery. The reason reading is a favorite pastime for me is that I visualize everything I read. I see it in my mind and Hawthorne, a master of description, easily enables me to do this.

I’m a sucker for novels about a dystopian future, hence 1984. It is not what I expected, but that’s not a bad thing. I’m a little stuck right now, in the middle of Goldstein’s manifesto. I understand its use as a device, but it interrupted the book’s flow and I find I’m slogging along through it. I’m looking forward to Winston’s voice.