I was lucky to have fantastic teachers throughout my life. Teachers who worked hard, inspired me, and encouraged me. I would not be the person I am today without their influence. But there was something they omitted in my instruction, something our educational system ignores, which is a prime reason more children do not read.
I was in my junior year of college, working my way through lit courses as an English major, before any professor asked, "Did you enjoy this book?" Up to that point, every class had been about the work and toil of reading.
Think back to your junior high and high school English courses. You probably read things like George Orwell's 1984 or F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby. And you probably spent a lot of time discussing character development, symbolism, foreshadowing, and other academic topics. All of those concepts are undeniably important. But isn't enjoyment equally important?
In this country we teach literature in a way that beats all these heavy topics into children's heads, makes it seem like hard work and toil to open the pages of a book, then we bemoan the lack of reading. Or we complain about kids devouring Harry Potter or Twilight novels instead of working their way through Henry James.
Now, everyone on this website is a supporter of independent bookstores so it's safe to assume that we're all readers. But how many more people would be here if teachers stressed the enjoyment of classic literature? I had a high school English class in which we spent months slaving over The Lord of the Flies and The Scarlett Letter. To this day, I can't stand to peruse even one page of those novels, even though I know they are classic pieces of world literature.
Maybe the educational system has changed in the years since I was in high school and junior high. Possibly the phenomenal success of the boy wizard and the vampire teens have changed the way kids look at reading. Hopefully, things have gotten better. Hopefully, children and teens are now being encouraged to enjoy great books, as well as understand them.