Forgive the rambling nature of this post…
I am almost two weeks into my AP class now, and I am finding it enormously gratifying. A big part of the gratification has come from discussions we’ve had around several articles I’ve given them about the effects of reading.
The following things are all true:
- Readers are more likely than non-readers to be active. They attend artistic functions more. They are more likely in just about every way to engage with the community.
- Readers have a better developed sense of empathy than non-readers. Much better, actually. Correspondingly, readers are much better at picking up on the emotions of others in social situations.
- The brain does not appear to distinguish between what you read and what you experience. That is, if you read about it, and the writing is good, you have just experienced it as far as your brain is concerned.
I’ve spent a lot of time talking to my students about these things and about why I want them reading literary fiction for the books they choose instead of commercial fiction. Commercial fiction is escapism, and escapism is fine, but it doesn’t change you. It doesn’t enhance who you are. I’ve read a fair bit of escapist literature in my time, but none of it really stuck with me. But literary fiction? Well, just go look at that favorites page up at the top of the blog.
I read because it challenges me. I read because it forces me to engage with the world. This is something I want my students to experience. For most of my teaching career, it has been a nearly impossible uphill battle. But now I have students who will at least read the books I tell them to read because they care about grades.
It’s doubtful any of them will like everything I assign, but it is my hope that all of them will find one book that really fits. One book they come away from my class thinking, “That’s a great book. That has something to say about the world.” If I can do that, I’ll have helped make them readers and thinkers and active members of the world.
I couldn’t ask for anything more.