All Quiet on the Literary Front

I can relate to the early dislike towards reading. I was one of those kids who brought books from Scholastics but never read them. In fact, the only books I would ever sit down and read was the Harry Potter series starting when I was in elementary school otherwise, it was once in a blue moon that I would pick up some other book. It wasn’t until my freshman year in Murrow High School where I started to like reading a little more. I brought All Quiet on the Western Front after reading it in my 10th grade Humanities class hence it was enjoyable and even made me think a little differently about the world and taught me the art of thinking deeply. While no books have been yet dropped on me in my Junior year, the summer reading requirement of In Cold Blood was enjoyable to me.

I had been recommended the book about a month earlier but never checked it out until it was assigned. Knowing that the book was true and having improved imagery and deep-thinking in Humanities, the book came off more likable, having no regrets about buying it. From then on, I have purchased books more often. I have been meaning to check out The Royal Game by Stefan Zweig but never found it, settling on The Post Office Girl which unfortunately isn’t one of his best works. Lolita, a banned and controversial book is one on my reading list and is even rather enjoyable despite the suggestive text.

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Johnny Got His Gun is another book I have brought mainly because I was so captivated by All Quiet on the Western Front. Unfortunately, with my limited time, I have yet to finish the two books. The Summer Reading Policy that exist in some schools is an effort to increase the reading trend among students as well as strengthen those skills. Only starting 3 years ago in my school (Edward R. Murrow) with 2006’s incoming freshmen, there has been mixed feelings about the plan. Murrow’s policy also doesn’t conflict with ones summer.

Since the assignments are listed on the website and given in school in late May or in June, it can easily be done in weeks given the fact you start early. There is the choice to do it or not but with books out there that could easily become the discussion in a college class, it is always good to have a head start. While some deem the Summer Reading Policy unnecessary and pointless, it does have its upsides. In my opinion, the Summer Reading Policy is nothing more than beneficial when it comes to improving reading skills and allows you to be engaged in some of the best literary works in history. Unfortunately with access to such websites as Sparknotes, students miss out on truly experiencing great writings for themselves.

The problem in reading lies in the ways to fake reading a book. Francine Prose touches on that in I Know Why the Caged Bird Can’t Read. She makes the statement that it is important to see to the fact that high school students are actually reading since less and less attention is being paid to the author’s writings. This can also be the reason why despite the wide range of words in the English Language which happens to be the largest on Earth, only a third of our writing is made up of a mere twenty-two words. Partially, the websites of Sparknotes and Wikipedia are to blame, both making it easy to learn a simplified overview of a book yet it is no more to blame than the utter laziness to take a few minutes out of a day to read 15 pages to a chapter of book a few days a week. In such a case, it is understandable why my school decided to change up the summer reading assignment from having to do the old fashioned summary about the book to the supplying a quote and analyzing it based on your thoughts about what you read.

Our lives cannot be so busy that we have no choice but to quit at reading. There are many things we could give up, such that new reality show or shopping spree. We can spend 4 hours watching TV, 3 listening to the radio or an iPod but only 14 minutes on magazines. The numbers barely are proportional to each other. Whether we aren’t reading because we have that “sudden change of plans” or we just don’t want to, it all comes down to our laziness and lack of will power to do which is no different to such things as exercise or the act of completing any task. A few minutes can truly go a long way but this stubborn trait prevents us from using the most of those minutes, preferably some sort of reading material, may it be poetry, non-fiction, science fiction, newspaper, magazine, etc, lengthy or short.

Even though I’m for the summer reading policies, I can also see the downsides to it. The original set up of the summer reading assignment at my school gave you a list of books to choose from based on your grade level. Now, each grade is assigned one book. Having some sort of variety instead of having one forced down your their throat would possibly result in the student actually considering reading one of the books and doing the work to it. In that case if anyone is to blame for an underdeveloped plot, it would be the student for actually picking the book.

Yet, that is unlikely that only a student knows their own taste thoroughly therefore being able to decipher which best fits you as the reader. Also, some books can be too lengthy, only becoming an issue if you have been given summer assignments in other subjects. It’s possible that the more work that is pushed on a student, especially if the majority requires reading, it wouldn’t be impossible to become overwhelmed with the multiple facts thrown at you from each book. While it is no waste of time, the summer reading can become a tedious task to complete even with an early start. Despite all of this, summer reading policy is beneficial. Even if it can cause a few snags in your summer, it is no more demanding than anything else you have done throughout the school year and it can only prepare you for the next one to come.

The summer reading policy was not set in place for any random reason but for a greater purpose that you may not see at the moment but in the long run could be what brings you to the literary standards needed on that AP or SAT exam moreover that college essay or scholarship procedure. Take the time to think about what the basic novel does for you and how much harder school or even everyday life would be without written text. Reading is no less of a way of communicating than speaking nor is it less of a way to listen to what someone else has to say may it be a personal memoir or the fictional character. It is how the mute man speaks, the deaf man hears and the blind man sees and if we lose that relationship with reading, we can no more truly speak, hear or see in the same way.