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Monday, November 15, 2010

We need comic books

At the end of the day groups of teachers will meet here and there and discuss things. You know, who acted up, what our classes need, how kids and teachers are constantly being scr…sorry was about to go on a rant there. We discuss various things that have to do with kids and teaching them. Well today the subject of reading came up.

One of our reading teachers told her administrator she needed books for a class library, this is week 13 of the school year by the way. Other than a teacher and her students going so long without resources this seems pretty reasonable right? Well if you have been working in Duval county public schools long enough you know that which often starts pretty reasonable quickly degenerates into the absurd or worse. This is another one of those cases.

The admin looked at my colleague and said, there are plenty of class sets of books in the library. And you know what she is right, we have Ethan Frome, the Grapes of Wrath and Pygmalion along with numerous other titles that no kid wants to read, why are we being punished they will ask if given. We have class set after class set of the classics, i.e. books that don’t relate to today’s kids, are way above their level; and that they just plain aren’t interested in.

I said to my friend, lets go look maybe we will get lucky. I helped my friend look through all the wasted money spent (there are literally hundreds of books gathering dust stacked up on the floor or in a deep crevice of the library that few venture in to) and after about ten minutes I suggested Animal Farm, partly because it is a pretty quick read and partly because education has become an Orwellian Dystopia which often makes no sense.

We want kids to read and all we provide them are books they aren’t interested in. The administrator didn’t seem to have a problem with this and neither do I bet her superiors all the way to the big office at 1701 Prudential drive though I hope you do. While you are considering that consider this, are you going to do better reading about things you are interested in, or reading about things you would have an almost impossible time relating to.

I looked at her and said you need comic books. I started reading comic books when I was eight. I was a Marvel kid and loved Spiderman, Captain America, the Invaders, Avengers and Defenders. My favorite character was the Vision and android that overcame his evil programming and joined the forces of good. It didn’t hurt that his powers and costume were cool and he married the ultra-hot Scarlet Witch either.

I loved reading comic books and this love of reading comic books developed into a love of reading regular books. By age 11 I was reading Robert H. Howard, H.P. Lovecraft, Steven King, Douglass Adams and others just for enjoyment and this love of reading followed me into adulthood but it all started with that first Spiderman comic book I bought when I was eight years old.

We need to cultivate a love of reading into today’s kids and where I know they are classics, Henry the VIII and the Taming of the Shrew just aren’t getting it done, going to do it. Once again education is providing resources for the kids it wishes it had, ones that love the classics and not the kids it does has, short attention spanned action junkies. We say reading is important but then don’t provide literature that the kids are interested in. This my friends is when the reasonable has degenerated into the absurd.

What my friend’s classroom needs as well as dozens of others throughout the district needs, is comic books and other books that today’s children would be interested in, and no friends I am not the smartest guy in the room nor a rocket scientist, just a master of stating the obvious. If we want to cultivate a love of reading into kids, lets at least give them a chance by letting them read things they might enjoy.

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