I'm not particularly aware of what parents and teachers worry about these days, having long passed that stage of life, but I know that for a long time, parents have been concerned that kids are not doing the things that concerned my generation's parents and teachers because we were actually doing them. Case in point: Reading.

For decades, schools have found it necessary to push children to read books. And I can see why, given the number of adults who simply don't read books, once they are done with school. They weren't reading for pleasure back when they were captive students, but rather because books were assigned—so it's hardly surprising that they don't read now that they are free.

I hear responsible parents these days admonishing their children, "Put down your phone/iPad/Nintendo and go read a book!" Or so I'm told; maybe they've given up by now. But I'm sure the schools are still telling kids to read. Pretty sure, at least.

That's not what I heard growing up. My parents were both avid readers, but I was more likely to hear, "Put down that book and go outside!" That wasn't exactly onerous, at least not when we lived in Upstate New York with a large, undeveloped section of land just across the street from our house. I spent nearly as many happy hours exploring the woods and fields as I spent exploring the worlds of my books. "Put down that book and get your chores done" was not quite as welcome a call.

Side Note: Our parents may have had a point.  Here's something my dad wrote after I visited the eye doctor for a yet stronger glasses prescription.

Dr. O’Keefe never offers any advice for arresting Linda’s rapidly increasing near-sightedness except to make her get outdoors more and not let her bury her nose in a book.  I think that we really need some advice that is better thought out. [More than 20 years later, the doctors could do no better than this when our eldest daughter was experiencing the same problem.]

Teachers and parents these days (where by "these days" I'm referring to anything after about 1980) have been so desperate to get kids to read that they have lowered their standards and expectations almost as if this were a limbo contest. "I don't care what he reads, as long as he's reading."

Contrast this with my mother, who tried to enlist the help of our elementary school librarian to get me to read something more challenging than the horse stories and science fiction I was devouring. Or my sixth grade teacher, who solemnly advised my father that "Linda should improve the quality of her reading." I'm certain that he was correct; I'm equally certain that my father's attempts to encourage me in that direction, beginning with bringing home from the library a Jules Verne compendium, were not a resounding success.

Reading has always been my passion, and in my eighth decade I have not yet outgrown horse stories and science fiction. However, I think even my sixth grade teacher would be pleased with my much-expanded selections. It's possible that the most credit for my habit of reading should go to the fact that we did not have a television in the house until I was seven years old, nor a computer till after I was married.

One thing I know for sure: there will always be an X, a Y, and parents and teachers who will exhort their children, "Stop doing X and go do Y."

Posted by sursumcorda on Sunday, April 28, 2024 at 6:03 am | Edit
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Definitely among the readers of frivolous fiction, altho' I only recall my parents chiding me for reading my flashlight beneath the covers long after bed-time.



Posted by Grace Kone on Monday, April 29, 2024 at 12:12 pm
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