Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Should Students Read Less Fiction?

Think about it. A book filled with words written by a human being really is a kind of magic. Especially when the book is a good one. Yes, we humans are capable of making magic with words.

Consider also the poetry which has lasted over the years from common people like Wordsworth, Sandburg, Teasdale, Longfellow, Keats and of course, Will Shakespeare, whose plays are the finest prose/poetry ever.

Novelists like Dickens, Hugo, Tolstoy, Michener, and Hawthorne were no superhuman beings. They were people like you and me who sat with pen and paper and worked magic with words that have lasted for so long. To list them all would take far too much space here.

I read an article a few weeks ago that has stayed in the back of my mind because it bothered me. Federal guidelines for teaching literature are suggesting that English teachers in our country make sure that 70% of the reading material is nonfiction.  They are not requirements but suggestions, which school districts will consider. All well and good until you look at the other side. Fiction is only allotted 30%. What that will do is cut down the number of classics that students are required to read as well as the present day novels of note. 

I have nothing against nonfiction, but to create this unbalanced scale for what kids today are asked to read saddens me. Those suggesting this inequality might say that students will pick up the fiction to read on their own. I don't buy that. A good portion of the student population today is so into video games, wii games, internet, social media and texting until their fingers have callouses that I doubt they have much time or interest in picking up more fiction to read on their own. Yes, there will be some, but more than likely the ones who could use this extra reading and all it offers will not be participating. 

Will the next generations miss the magic that novelists and poets have given us? With all my heart, I hope not. 

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