I Will Pay Somebody Large Sums of Cash

Okay, students, we get it. You hate the books you’re assigned to read. No, don’t be polite, tell us how you really feel . I sympathize. I had to read THE PEARL in high school too. Are you all right? You look pale. Let me get you a drink of water. Why, yes, you heard right. They were torturing kids with John Steinbeck’s most depressing book when I was in high school too -THIRTY YEARS AGO. Some kids at my school were luckier. They read THE OUTSIDERS. What’s that you say? They forced you to read THE OUTSIDERS too? Wow, lucky you. You got to read a novel as old as me written by a girl as young as you. Mmmmm…edulicious.

I’m sorry, I didn’t get that, I couldn’t quite hear through your wracking sobs. What did you say? What do you mean “more recent books”? Who is Hannah Moskowitz? John Green? Who’s that? Markus Zusak? Cory Doctorow? Laurie Halse-Anderson? Ellen Hopkins? Walter Dean-Myers? Who are all these people? Stop it! You’re freaking me out! Are you telling me that OTHER BOOKS suitable for teaching in school have been released in the past forty years? I don’t believe it.

And anyway, what are you complaining about? Being forced to read depressing books that don’t interest you and that you don’t like is just part of life. Why just the other day one of my husband’s clients said to him: “I’d love to get this contract signed for you so we can begin designing the interface, but before I’m willing to do that, I really need you to read A FINE BALANCE by Rohinton Mistry. It’s just part of our standard operating procedure. You understand. Oh, and I’ll be testing you on symbolism and the depiction of colonial violence.”

And the other day, the contractor who is rebuilding the front porch he tore apart informed me that he expected a ten page report on ANNA KARININA along with this month’s check. My doctor made me analyse three Sylvia Plath poems before she would do my pap exam. I made my waitress at The Boathouse recite “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” before I tipped her. Heck, my whole block had to read and discuss JUDE THE OBSCURE before the city would fix a burst water main. That was a hell of a week.


You know what teachers, schools and schools boards? Treat teens like adults and let them choose their own damn books.

Rant over.

11 thoughts on “I Will Pay Somebody Large Sums of Cash

  1. LOL. And Green and Zusack AREN’T depressing? 😉

    I agree that students and teachers should pick new books to read, along with the classics. There needs to be a mix. After all, if I hadn’t been subjugated to Walt Whitman’s rambles in “Leaves of Grass,” I wouldn’t have understood half of what John Green was rambling on about in “Paper Towns.” Even freaking “Twilight” references English literature all the freaking time. And among the books/lit I consider to have actually changed my life, I count “Night,” “As I Lay Dying,” and “Their Eyes Were Watching God,” all of which I was forced to read in high school.

    That said, I think I was really lucky in my teachers/school system because the attitude was very liberal. What students read was selected on a classroom-by-classroom basis, not mandated by a higher authority within the school system. So, we got to read “The Way to Rainy Mountain” while the other teacher had his students read “Huckleberry Finn.” It was nice in that we had different things to complain about — I mean, discuss — at lunch period, lol.

    1. Perhaps it might be better if kids CHOSE to read PAPER TOWNS and then sought out Walt Whitman on their own. Same goes for TWILIGHT. If even one twi-hard eventually ends up reading WUTHERING HEIGHTS or whatever then we win right? But if we turn a teen against reading all together by forcing WH on them then everyone loses.

      BTW Markus Zusak depressing? No, sad, yes, but not depressing. John Green I don’t really like. I just put him in there because he’s trendy. 😉

      1. It’s all about the method, right? Some methods work for some people while others work for different people. However, I’d argue that what kids/teens don’t like about reading in school is having to read and analyze, or read and write about the book. School takes the enjoyment out of reading by making it “work” — students have to do additional work rather than just read for fun. If a teacher chose Paper Towns or Twilight for classroom work and discussion, students might like it — but they’d probably hate working on it, and so would enjoy the book less.

        Also, it isn’t always the case that kids will pick out books on their own. They might be more active children who find sitting and reading boring, or maybe their parents never showed interest/encouraged them to read. If their first experience with reading is sitting in a classroom and having to analyze “literature,” then of course they’ll hate reading, but probably not because of the school system. On the flip side of this, a kid who already loves reading won’t be turned off of all books just because she hated Great Expectations in 8th grade (which I did, lol).

        However, I’m completely in agreement that there are modern, contemporary, and “popular” books which are “literary” and can — should — be taught in classrooms. Heck, literature like Jane Eyre, Oliver Twist, and Shakespeare plays were popular entertainment in their time; we only decided they were literature after the fact.

  2. Oh, funny post, Gabrielle. And I completely agree. Teens should choose their own books to read, at least part of the time. Heck, even if it’s a graphic novel, they’re still READING! I’d even argue that with the internet, teens read constantly. Just in a different way than we did. Short bursts. Text messages. Our brains are changing and there’s nothing English teachers can do about it. So let them read Ellen Hopkins if they want to, for crying out loud.

    1. That’s right. Other literary experts, such as librarians, have a very different idea of what literacy is than teachers and school boards. My DD learned to read, very young (3-4 yrs old) from playing video games. Now she’s a very enthusiastic reader well ahead of her age.

  3. I totally agree!!!!! Had a conversation w some middle school teachers on this subject and they had no idea what’s out there. Bc they don’t read ya. sigh.

  4. Good rant. You sound like me when I called my daughters school about the book she was reading THE ELEPHANT MAN and the fact that she was struggling with a certain part because it did not make sense. No why it didn’t make sense? “They”, aka school board book selection committee, had cut out two pages of a scene that they felt would be too disturbing to read…..yup. THEN–it was explained to me why this particular book needed to be read and discussed, the social issues, empathy, great literature etc etc. THEN I said why the heck cut out pages of it?!?! Use another book, insert list authors kids could pick from that could achieve the same result…anyhow, it still flabbergasts me and that happened many years ago.

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