The Literary Canon…or better known as “The Classics,” are the books which have been said to have stood the test of time…
So…why am I talking about this?…because, I am sick and tired of people say they don’t like to read. Reading is imaginative, it opens the senses and stirs the soul, it provokes and intrigues the mind…I am sick of those who cannot write a proper sentence…who go through the world leaving a mess of poor grammar/spelling, and crappy text messages in their wake. Literacy and competency are two of the most important skills you can have in your arsenal when going into the real world (along with social skills, obviously)…they are your bread and butter, your peanut butter and jelly, your Jake and Elwood, your Harry and Sally…without one, where would the other be.
This makes me wonder why people are this way. I have come to the conclusion that it was the way they were taught in school. It all leads to the books on the literary canon (most famous works, deemed a “classic”), the ways in which they were taught, and how we were shown to view reading and writing. The way I have grown up studying literature seems different to others experiences, whom I have talked to in the past. They act as if it were drudgery to read a book from “the canon.” They described horror stories of teachers forcing them to read books outside of class from the canon, having countless tests/quizzes and never being allowed to read anything else. Yet, my time spent studying literature was quite the opposite.
Ever since I was young, the literary canon, or better known as “the classics,” were the books assigned in my classes, although, my teachers always made reading these books exciting/fun and they would always let us read whatever we wanted. I remember in 7th and 8th grade reading, Tom Sawyer and Anne Frank, in which we all would get to read the different parts of the characters. We had weekly trips to the library and would get quizzes for books we chose/wanted to read.
All throughout high school, we read the classics, Catcher in the Rye, To Kill A Mockingbird, A Separate Peace, The Great Gatsby, Romeo and Juliet, Macbeth, Rebecca, The Crucible, and the list goes on. We had great discussions and free writing exercises. When we finished reading the Canterbury Tales, we each were given a character from the tale and were given a project, to make Facebook pages for them (I got The Knight). We had teachers who supported our Harry Potter addictions and who assigned The Secret Life of Bees and Lovely Bones as our summer reading. Teachers who told us to read a book by Christmas Break and then our first day back from break we sat in a circle and shared our individual books and book reviews. Teachers who let us creatively write and gave us fun prompts so we could enjoy ourselves.
They encouraged us to read outside of class and gave me book suggestions. I not only read more contemporary books, but my teachers’ love for books and the literary classics soon rubbed off on me. I became excited to read books on my own that were considered “classic;” the books that had stood the test of time, Dickens, Melville, Louisa Alcott, Shakespeare… I soon realized why these works were so beloved and realized that they were some of most influential, beautiful pieces of literature I had ever read. I discovered Charlotte Bronte and Kurt Vonnegut. I fell in love with Jane Austen and she became my favorite author (next to my nostalgic and enduring love for JK Rowling- who I plan on eventually meeting some day). I have never met a book I have not liked, except for one, who shall not be named.
This kind of teaching style has broadened and brightened my view of literary works, and expanded my knowledge and vocabulary. I studied the “classics” and contemporary works and in a free environment with teachers who loved literature, allowed me to love literature and made me want to read “the canon” works on my own. This, my love of writing, especially on the school paper, and being given the freedom to read and enjoy whatever I wanted is the reason I have chosen writing/literature as my major and career.
It makes me sad to see generations of kids grow up disenchanted by the art and beauty of the written language. People of today need to learn a valuable lesson…make reading fun and let kids read what they want…quit shoving video games and electronics down their throat,…let them be imaginative and creative, two things many in the world are seriously lacking. Give them a ferocity for reading, creating and learning…they will grow up never losing that spark, never settling, and always reaching for the best, beyond their potential and wildest dreams. To quote Steve jobs, let them, “Stay Hungry.” and “Stay Foolish.” One day they will thank you…and, I guess all I have left to say is:
Mom, Dad and to all my past English teachers…thank you.