Thursday, December 5, 2013

Read a Damn Book, Dumb Ass

One luxury of my current position is that I am able to read during work hours.  When the study hall students are all well-behaved and studious, I just sit and read, and I love it!  This may possibly be the best part of my job. I also read voraciously in front of my students in order to serve as a positive role model.  Reading is incredibly important, and a large population of our youth has discarded this activity and replaced it with video games and social media.   

Earlier this year I had a student inform me, “I read enough, Mrs. Ryan.  I always read status updates on facebook.  I don’t need to read no books.” 

While I was encouraging and non-judgmental externally, internally I was thinking, “Shit, this kid is a moron.” 
Okay; I will admit that I am a literary snob.  I tried reading Twilight when it was popular; I really, really did, but it was truly insufferable.  I’m thankful that the Suzanne Collin’s Hunger Games trilogy is actually an engaging read, and am far more pleased with the popularity of this series.  Katniss Everdeen is hands down a better role model than Bella Swan. 

In order to relate to my students and make appropriate reading recommendations, I can often be spotted reading young adult literature, though of a higher caliber than Stephanie Meyer.  I hold John Green as the nerd-fighting king of YA Literature; his writing is fantastic and he’s definitely a favorite.  One of my strongest arguments in favor of reading is that it allows us to feel connected.  We know we are not alone when we relate to a character – actual or fictional.  Further, reading enhances critical thinking, vocabulary, and empathy.  It expands our world view and grants us a greater understanding of different cultures and time periods. 
NOT Zelda Fitzgerald!

My current reading selection is a biography of Zelda Fitzgerald, as opposed to the YA choices I usually read while at the high school.  Nancy Milford’s Zelda is a thorough, engaging, and brilliantly composed biography.  While it’s unlikely I would recommend this book to any current student, I also did not expect the following question: “Zelda? What are you reading Mrs. Ryan? Is that book about the Legend of Zelda? Like the video game?”

 I couldn’t subdue my amusement and thus laughed out loud at his question.  I didn’t know who Zelda Fitzgerald was at age fifteen either, but I probably would not have assumed that the book with a faded sepia photo of a young debutante gracing the cover was about a Nintendo fantasy game franchise.  So, after my unsuppressed chuckle, I explained, “No, it’s a biography of Zelda Fitzgerald – wife of F. Scott Fitzgerald, the author of The Great Gatsby.”

As The Great Gatsby was a major motion picture release starring Leonardo Dicaprio just this year, I thought there might be at least a slight hint of recognition regarding my response.  Rather, the student then replied, “Well, who the hell are those people?”

 His response is just one more reason reading matters – so that one possesses a basic cultural and academic knowledge and doesn’t say dumb ass shit to his or her teacher.  Please, parents, make sure your children read! That kid might have known just who the hell the Fitzgeralds were if he put down the remote control and picked up a damn book every once in a while.