University of California
Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter
The Lonely, Good Company of Books
As a child, I was always told that reading was going to be in my educational life for as long as I was in school and as I got older it was only going to get more complex. I never quite understood why books like Shakespeare were so important to my education but I was always told it was so I never questioned it. In The Lonely, Good Company of Books, I completely agree with Rodriguez on his claim about the disconnection of young students’ education and reading lists of books. A student’s education is based on way more than just reading books throughout their educational lives. From personal experience to claims made my Rodriguez to simple facts it is clear reading is not as crucial as it’s made out to be in young student’s lives. Rodriguez made it clear that he was emotionally disconnected from the books he read even though he continued to read more and more. Growing up as a student it is very hard to relate to books that most of the time has nothing to do with what’s going on in one’s life. Even though that is the case for many students’ teachers still encourage reading because they feel over time one’s outlook will change. That’s not the case for most students’. Rodriguez describes how a nun that helped him with reading would always say, “A book could open doors for him. It could introduce him to people and show him places he never imagined existed,” (173) but that is an opinion that doesn’t apply to everyone that reads. Most students’ can’t get all of the benefits out of reading therefore making it not an affective educational tool.
Besides the emotional disconnection, technology also makes it easier for students to learn things visually and orally so reading won’t have to play as big of a role in a student’s education as it used to. Even though reading is very important, it’s ineffective to most students’. Just think, a child is not born with a natural hatred to reading but why then, is reading such a problem for so many elementary and high school students? Many students feel tons of stress and anxiety that comes out of reading which completely takes away from the learning experience.
Rodriguez talks about his family quite a bit in his article and described how they looked at reading as a non-pleasurable activity. Rodriguez claims, “Never did I see either of them read an entire book. Nor did I see them read for pleasure. Their reading consisted of work manuals, prayer books, newspapers, recipes…” (172). This is a very common case for many students’ parents and that plays a huge role on how students’ feel towards reading. Growing up, if a child only sees their parents, which play a very big influential role models, reading because they have too, that’s how the child’s mindset will be as well throughout their educational career and life. From personal experience, growing up as a child I had a mother who was very much into reading all types of books. When I was assigned books from reading lists to read my mom would not only go and buy a copy of the book, but she would read it for herself so we can discuss it when we both finished it. This encouraged me to read because I saw how much enjoyment my mom got from it and I wanted to share that experience with her. Growing up with a household like this made me look at reading in a positive way, but very little students have similar upbringings and parents that put that much emphasis on reading.
Rodriguez also describes his lonely experience he has with reading which is very common for most students. Not being able to relate to a character or storyline could be extremely disconnecting which leads to this lonely feeling. Especially with reading lists that are typically assigned in schools, not being able to choose to read something you are interested in but something you are told you should be interested in is typically not a good experience. It’s very difficult relating to these books by Shakespeare, Homer, Aristotle, and Plato which is all made out to be very important books for a student’s learning experience. Rodriguez shares, “While reading Plato’s Republic, for instance, I needed to keep looking at the book jacket comments to remind myself what the text was about. Nevertheless, with special patience and superstition of the scholarship boy, I looked at every word of the text” (175). Just that statement alone shows the hardships of understanding these “important” books like students’ are expected to. If one can’t understand the context in which they are reading, the learning experience is then affected and ineffective.
From personal experience, growing up as a kid I always loved reading the little books during class like, The Cat in the Hat and Junie B. Jones, because they were entertaining and relevant to something in my life. Yes, they were simple written books but, I enjoyed what I was reading and completely understood what I was reading which led to learning whatever lessons hidden in those books. I never realized I was learning because it was such an enjoyment but, as I got older and reached the books I was told I had read to do well academically I felt similar feelings as Rodriguez. I felt very empty and not satisfied after reading these “important” books. For many, I had to read summaries just to understand them which just played as a distraction itself. By the time I was done reading these books and we would review them in class, I realized I learned little to nothing. I couldn’t remember anything in the books and never got that fulfilling, relatable experience like I used to when I got to read what I wanted to read. Reading from thereon out felt like a burden and not a learning tool. Reading played such a negative role in my education because it was more confusing and stressful than impacting and educational. Even now, as a student in college, I find myself with the same disconnection I’ve struggle with since I began reading these “important books”.
Many people claim reading feeds peoples’ imagination, and helps spark the brain for learning but that’s not the case for all people. Many people claim reading is a process that develops with practice and that there are certain aspects of reading, such as fluency and word recognition, which can be learned overtime. Yes, that is all true but those basics must be mastered and not every student has the ability to comprehend all of that. Students can repeat words on a page all day long but if they don’t have the necessary comprehension skills they will not be able to make predictions about what will happen next, identify the plot, recognize the important characters, clarify confusing parts, decode the meaning/ lesson of the overall text, and most importantly connect what they are reading to their own experience and prior knowledge which once again, makes the reading ineffective. Reading is a tool that will always be used in the educational world but, the emphasis on it should definitely be evaluated. Now in 2013, there are so many variations of different learning tools that a more affective one could be put to use in exchange for so much reading just so it can be affective to the majority of students and not just a small portion. Yes, reading is important to some but, reading does not play as big of a role in a students’ education as many people think.