Physics and Literary Freedom

When I was in elementary and middle school, I loved to read anything and everything I could get my hands on.  Even the reading assignments that I was given, such as book reports and reviews, gave me the freedom to choose what I wanted to read and how I would present the book to the class.  That all changed the second I went to my first high school English class.  The teachers started telling me not only what to read, but also how to read and then prove that I not only completed the reading but understood it as well.  I hated this method.  No longer was I reading interesting things like The Outsiders and Number the Stars, but instead I was reading books that were irrelevant to me in almost every way.  To be fair, I did enjoy some of what we read, but the majority of it was dry, dull, and took up most of the time I had previously allotted for the books I actually wanted to read.  However, this was just freshman and sophomore year, and it became even worse during my junior and senior years.

During my junior and senior years of high school, not only was I reading stuff that was even drier and duller than previous years, but the amount required each night was doubled or even tripled.  As such, since this increase was reflected in all of my classes, I was incapable of completing all of my work each evening and would then have to choose between losing sleep or skipping breakfast to finish it all.  My wellbeing suffered all over stories that were hundreds of years old and all written by people I could neither relate to nor cared to do so.

It can be said that some of the works we read were important from a historical context, such as To Kill a Mockingbird or Macbeth, but arguments can be made that they are no longer relevant from a literary standpoint.  As such, teachers should instead be introducing, within a literary context, works that are not only contemporary but diverse and relevant.  Additionally, teachers need to also take a step back from choosing the books for the students, and instead give them criteria to meet in order to ensure a well-rounded literary education that they will be more inclined to not only complete but enjoy as well.  Penny Kittle, as was seen in the video, gave her students the freedom to choose what books they wished to read and saw a dramatic increase in not only number of books, as this is a difficult number to utilize in comparison data, but the number of pages read skyrocketed.

Book Love only builds upon this point with Kittle’s idea that nonreaders can become readers when given the time, opportunity, and encouragement.  As such, can it not be said that there is no such thing as a “nonreader”?  Instead, we should think of everyone as being potential readers in order to better align with the aforementioned goals.  This concept is very similar to a science concept I learned when I was in high school Physics.  The difference between a potential reader and a reader is the same as the difference between potential energy and kinetic energy.  Potential energy exists from the object’s presence at a precipice of sorts.  Once the object tips over that precipice, then the energy is transmuted into kinetic energy.  With this in mind, we should be presenting those potential readers with the time, opportunity, and encouragement to tip over that precipice and transmute from potential readers into readers.

Sourced from faungg’s photos on Flickr

One thought on “Physics and Literary Freedom

  1. I loved the comparison between Physics and reading. I also liked your comment on teachers telling you how to read. I never wish to say anything bad about teachers because I will be one hopefully 🙂 but it is true when reading assigned books teachers subtly tell us how to read the book. They are looking for us all to get the same thing from the book because that will tell them we have mastered the standard but not everyone reads the same book the same way. It’s not fair to expect that from readers and it turns them off from reading. Thanks for the great read!


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