English Review/Post

Bloggers in the Attic – Required Reading

The Bloggers in the Attic is a discussion chain. And what is a discussion chain? Well, it’s pretty simple and with few steps.

Me and other eleven bloggers united together to discuss a common topic, covering the whole arc of February, and sharing our unique perspective. Camilla @ Reader in the Attic created the initiative with the wish to create a discussion space that could explore a normal topic for different part of the world.

The rules to participate are pretty simple. So, if you ever wish to take part in the future discussion, please just comment under this introduction and first post. Every topic will be discussed bi-monthly, so the next round will be up in April. There’s plenty of time to join in, but the best option is always to enter early.

Here’s a link to all the other lovely participants. You should definitely check them out!

4th–  Kal @Reader Voracious
6th – Lara @Naija Book Bae
8th – Isabelle @Bookwyrm Bites 
10th – Sam @Fictionally Sam
12th – Dany @Dany’s Book Blog
14th – Ben @Ben’s Reads
16th– Kerys @The Everlasting Library
18th – Clo @Book Dragons
20th – Lauren @Northern Plunder
24th – Lili @Lili Star Reads

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It’s no surprise that I love reading. We all do.
(Also, it’s no surprise that this post is up late … #procrastinationqueen) *

*Okay, I wrote this post a day late … but then my laptops just decided to fuck me over. One didn’t want to connect to the internet at all and the other just kept randomly deleting whole paragraphs! I had to rewrite a large chunk of this and I feel like it’s not as coherent and eloquent as it was before … but I’m just done. I can’t get it better right now and I really wanted to get this up today!

But, if I do love reading then why do I have such a complicated relationship with required reading?

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I should probably first give you a little inside of how it works here in Germany.

When I went to Highschool (or the German equivalent – Gymnasium) we had to read for German class, English class and our 2nd Language class (Spanish in my case). But it wasn’t very standardized. Like, there wasn’t a definite curriculum that was for all of Germany.

Everyone in that school had to read the same books, you couldn’t choose one for yourself or anything. We also had no school library or something like a reading class? Where everyone is sorted according to their reading level?? I think that’s how it is in America? Also, so Summer reading or anything like that.

It was different from state to state, from school to school.
What all the books in both schools I went to (and all the other schools I’ve heard from) had in common though, is, that they were all classics. No genre fiction, no contemporary fiction.
Now don’t get me wrong, I do like me a classic from time to time, and I am glad we read some of those in class but I wish we had at least one or two books more recent, or god forbid one not written by a white man? It also creates this way of thinking that reading isn’t reading. That some books are more valid and that you have to read specific books to be considered a proper reader etc.
But that’s a topic for another post.

 

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What I want to focus on is a lot more personal and why I have struggled with required reading.
The thing is, I am not against it in any way, shape or form. I love that we want to encourage young people to read more. I do think it is important to cover the classics and learn about all the different literary epochs and what influenced literature over the years. (Especially since they let you experience certain historical eras/events better.)

But, confession time: I haven’t read a single book that I was supposed to read for school. Not one!
I tried. And I tried again. It just didn’t happen. I would read the beginning and stop after a few chapters. Always. No matter if I liked the book or not.

We started reading plays in German class. And they are hard to get into. I thought at first, that that was the reason why I always stopped. But when I couldn’t finish other books (Brave New World, Metamorphosis) either, I figured out that I just … don’t tend to do well with having people telling me what to read. I’m stubborn and I know it’s silly, but if people tell me to read a certain book, watch a certain movie I lose my motivation to do so. (Which is a little funny if you know how I was in school. I was (at least for the first 10 years, very scared of not doing my homework etc. I was the ‘good kid’ … but yeah. Don’t come between me and my love for books!)

So, I haven’t finished a single book. I still really enjoyed talking about those books though. And it was one of the only times where I actually actively participated in class. No one ever noticed that I didn’t read the books. I actually had quite a few teachers tell me that they noticed how thorough I read the book and stuff like that.

(Honestly, if you know the beginning and the end … you can guess the rest pretty accurately. And for the exam you get a scene to analyze anyway, so the text is right there … no need to read it beforehand) (Also for things like Romeo & Juliet … everyone pretty much knows the story anyways. At least the basics. And I actually danced that play about 16 times around the time we were supposed to read it … so yeah, I knew the story probably better than some of the people who skim read the whole thing.)

I loved discussing these books. Way more than reading them. Analyzing what the text means, what certain characters motivations are and what influenced the author. Take Kafka for example. His work is so connected to his life, his relationship with his father and it shows in every story of his. I read quite a few of his books last year, and I now really appreciate the lessons we had about him. Because I wouldn’t have looked up how his strained relationship with his father affected his work on my own. And I think it’s actually quite hard to understand his work if you don’t know anything about his life.

Faust is another book I was supposed to read, I loved it and have absolutely no clue why I stopped. Other than the fact … that, well I was told to read it. But I really want to read it now.*

*(I’ll probably read it in March for the Rereadathon – give a book a second chance).

If you get anything out of the books you’re supposed to read depends so much on the teacher though. After I changed schools I had the worst English teacher ever.* And he was kinda a literary snob. He basically told us that you can’t be intelligent or educated without having read Shakespeare. Which, I get it. He is a famous dude. But like … that is not a requirement to be intelligent??
But that’s beside the point. A bit. What I wanted to say with this is …

I only enjoyed the discussions about the books we read in school. Since, you know, I didn’t actually read them. But discussions need to be … well, discussions. You need to be able to state your opinion, back them up with facts and talk about the different perspectives. You need a teacher that actually wants to hear what you think, encourages new thoughts, ideas and thinking outside the box. A teacher who doesn’t just want everyone to repeat the same thing over and over.

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In my second school, I had the feeling the students never really learned to critically read and discuss a book? Which like, I think is the whole point? To encourage people to read and actually think about what they read? That’s useful in all areas of life whether or not you stay in the field of literature. Critical thinking skills are just so important and being able to discuss properly, backing the arguments with facts etc. And books are an amazing way to learn that. (Which is also a reason I think it would be good to widen the variety of books being read in school. So the students are actually engaged and passionate about it)

If the students get the feeling they have to say exactly what the teacher wants to hear, they lose all motivation to read classics. It starts to have the opposite effect than what was intended, no? It took me a few years out of high school to attempt classics again. and only because for half a year, I have a fabulous English teacher (who always called me Marie … but I digress). She was weird. In the best way possible. You never knew what answer she wanted?
At first, everyone hated her because no one knew how to answer her questions but slowly everyone started to just say what they thought and we had real discussions, really heated discussions with people having polar opinions and she only encouraged that. We could write whatever we wanted if we could back up our claims. I once wrote a paper about women and men. It was extremely sarcastic and full of stereotypes and just …. more tumblr style than anything. I wrote it with my best friend and we had so much fun doing it. But we debated afterwards if I could actually hand it in that way. I wouldn’t have done that with any other teacher but she loved it.
In contrast, my other teacher gave everyone a bad grade when they didn’t interpret it the exact same way he did. Which is ridiculous if you ask me. Every reader experiences a book differently. Which is the beauty of reading!

*(He is literally the only person I ever really hated. Not only as a teacher but more so as a person (he was a huge reason why school was hell for me, but that’s another story))

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So, in conclusion. I do think it is important to read and discuss books in class, but I wish they would include a larger variety of genres, time periods and authors. And while I haven’t read any of the books I am still glad we talked about them in class and I’m gonna read some of them now.


I feel like this post has no real point other than telling you my personal experiences and struggles with Required Reading (which aren’t only because of what we read, but more so because I am a stubborn reader??) but I hope you still enjoyed it?
What are your thoughts on this topic? Did you read the books?
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3 thoughts on “Bloggers in the Attic – Required Reading

  1. Exactly! He was overall a really bad teacher (never really read our papers etc) but that irked me the most. I love discussions. I love seeing things from other perspectives, the hear about thoughts that I would have never had but that I could understand when the person explains why they reached that conclusion etc.
    And thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I love discussing literature. There are some required readings I did in school, and some I didn’t. I think it’s great that you were able to turn that paper into your teacher. She sounds like a good instructor. As for the other teacher you mentioned, it seems so wrong to give someone a bad grade for having a different interpretation of the material. I mean, that’s the whole point of discussion; to see what everyone got out of what they read.

    Anyway, I really liked this post.

    Liked by 1 person

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