Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Save The Best For Last

Last year, I fell in love with "To Kill A Mockingbird" by Harper Lee. I was deeply moved by the language, the story, the vividness and the warmth of the characters. It wasn’t my first time reading it. In sixth grade I was assigned the book for school, and I found it rather difficult to get through. Rereading it in 10th grade I wondered briefly why I hadn’t appreciated the story before. But the answer was obvious to me. I had just been too young.

I believe there are best times to read certain books. Just because you can read a book, doesn’t mean you should. Books can be understood on many levels, but great books, classic books, should be deeply appreciated. Sixth graders can read Huckleberry Finn, Little Women and Of Mice and Men and “get” it, but these are great books we’re talking about. Books that should be cherished. Over and over again I heard my classmates in middle school (and I don’t exclude myself) complaining about the dullness of supposed “classics” and wondering why on earth their parents and grandparents exclaimed fervently over them. Indeed, my seventh grade English grade dropped 6 points in one semester because I failed the pop quiz on Huckleberry Finn since I couldn’t bring myself to read another page. When I reread it as a Junior I absolutely adored it.

Beth Handman, assistant principal of elementary school P.S.321 in Brooklyn says, “I hate to see the best books in the world go to waste. When I see my favorite series, like the Narnia series, in the hands of a first grader I cringe. That same first grader will read it in first grade and say ‘Oh! Aslan is a lion!’ That really happened, you know.”

What’s the rush to shove these books as kids? Are schools trying to prove that they’re more sophisticated by assigning more sophisticated books to students? Just wait a couple years... Please! It will make all the difference.