Outposts from Reading-Land

My children's English teachers both use the prospect of "silent reading" to badger their classes into behaving. As in, "If you don't settle down, we'll just have silent reading," and then everyone shuts up and behaves. Which means, I guess, that this prospect is so horrific to most kids that they will do anything in order to avoid it. I find this dispiriting.

Chestnut's in-school "book group" is reading The Catcher in the Rye, which she told me: "It's bad. I mean, he talks about prostitutes and killing himself." Huh.

The two books spread open on the bathroom floor?


Yeah, Howard Zinn and Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus. I don't understand it either. Maybe file it under "it's hard to grow up."

15 thoughts on “Outposts from Reading-Land

  1. I LOVED silent reading time. They would let us lie under the desks and I would read the book that otherwise I would have hidden in the lower part of my desk (to read during the rest of the time).
    Also, I love Howard Zinn/Pigeons – there is something deeply perfect about the juxtaposition.


  2. OK, the silent reading threat is deeply unsettling. Also? My dream assignment. Double also: my 5th grade teacher sent home permission slips and then we proceeded to read Catcher in the Rye. (All but the one girl who also had to sit out the Visit to the Other Gender’s Bathroom). I remember loving the experience but have NO IDEA what we could possibly have understood. Phoebe stuff. Ackley boy. The “digression” story. Ours wasn’t any kind of advanced or progressive place; just a very crappy (Hi, Holden!) public school.


  3. That makes me want to cry. Who are these teachers? My kids dream about silent reading time, so I guess I should thank my lucky stars for that!
    I hate to admit this, but I haven’t read Catcher in the Rye. Is this something I have to do?


  4. We had to have a permission slip to read The Catcher in the Rye in 11TH GRADE. But if you didn’t get permission, you read Dandelion Wine, which is a lovely book, so no one really lost out.
    What is wrong with an English teacher that she would use reading as punishment? That makes me want to cry.


  5. Ugh to Catcher in the Rye. Teachers try so hard to be relevant to the angsty teen years and show the darker side of things, that they forget a whole slew of students just hate those kind of books. My daughter in 7th grade wrote a paper on “The Problem with Problem Novels” (heh, heh to get back at her English teacher who only assigned dystopian/dark books for assigned reading). Your poor daughter has my sympathy.
    (I am leaving the “threat” of silent reading alone as it is too disheartening.)


  6. Truly, both English teachers are actually pretty great, I think…they are just using what works. That’s the horrifying part. And yes, they then participate in it.
    And yes, both my kids LOVE silent reading time. I just think the teachers are thinking about “How can I get these kids to BEHAVE” and aren’t thinking, “How am I presenting reading?” Which makes them sound monstrous, but I swear they are not.
    And Chestnut is just not A Catcher in the Rye sort of girl. I was, and still am.


  7. For my sons, it wasn’t the silent reading threat that killed them but the NO RECESS OR PE! Ugh. School.
    You know, I thought about you today as my son and I listened to “Hatchet” in the car. He told me that a friend of his said that it was a book that you read in 5th grade (he’s in 7th and dyslexic), so he was embarrassed. I thought about what you’d say — why are books restricted to age? why can’t you read picture books if that’s what you want to read? etc. etc. In short, A Diamond in the Window has taken up residence in my book-reading soul.


  8. Tell him that a 35 year old with an English degree (that’s me) is reading Hatchet. You read what you want to read, what speaks to you, and what inspires you. Period.
    Not to step on Diamond’s toes, but that just made me really adamant for a moment.


  9. I had to comment on the silent reading time. We got my son’s first semester report card and it said that he is having some behavioral issues because he doesn’t want to stop quiet reading during “reading time” to talk with anyone.


  10. My seven-year-old son’s teacher threatens the kids with “hard sums” if they don’t behave. What is with these teachers using the things they are supposed to be instilling a love of (reading! numbers!) as threats. My son, incidentally, would *love* the hard sums option, but it’s never actually given in maths time, where the same teacher took a break from covering subtraction with borrowing because “that’s all a bit scary, isn’t it?” Grrr.


Leave a Reply to The Diamond in the Window Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.