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Old 10-08-2011, 03:03 AM   #1
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Why isn't reading "cool"?

i'm just curious if anyone has any opinions as to why reading is considered the domain of nerds and squares.

i'm of the mind that schools themselves teach a hatred of reading through their use of ponderously outdated materials. i don't care how classic it is, what modern 15 year olds would be thrilled by shakespeare? in my high school honors english class i was subjected to barbara kingsolver and the thrilling adventures of Pigs in Heaven. no we couldn't have anything cool like Fahrenheit 451, 1984, Johnny Got His Gun or anything interesting, we got Macbeth and Raisin in the Sun instead.

i understand that shakespeare is "the guy" but tossing kids without much novel reading experience headfirst into King Lear is akin to tossing someone who doesn't have 2+2 down into a calculus course.

if i wasn't already a heavy book reader going into school i would have left with an utter hatred of the art form.

i'm not saying that schools have to go nuts and bring in harry potter or twilight but i do think that something with even an iota of contemporary mores and language would do wonders towards getting kids into reading.

but thats just my theory.

any other ideas as to why reading isn't considered fun or "cool"?
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Old 10-08-2011, 03:17 AM   #2
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It's the Hardy Boys fault.

Or rather, the company behind it, the Stratemeyer Syndicate. Over a 100 years ago, they decided to start deliberately courting children as customers by creating series tailored for them.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stratemeyer_Syndicate

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For decades, libraries refused to carry any Syndicate books, notoriously considering them to be unworthy trash. Series books were considered to “cause ‘mental laziness,’ induce a ‘fatal sluggishness,’ and ‘intellectual torpor.'"[15] Series books were considered to ruin a child’s chances for gaining an appreciation of good literature (subsequent studies have proven this not to be the case[16]), and to undermine respect for authority: “’much of the contempt for social conventions ... is due to the reading of this poisonous sort of fiction.’
So instead, they forced children to read books that adult liked. But as you say, sort of backfired
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Old 10-08-2011, 04:05 AM   #3
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Yeah I don't know...kids grow out of it..I hated...HATED reading when I was in school, now I freakin read all the time.

I still hate Shakespear LOL
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Old 10-08-2011, 04:13 AM   #4
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Originally Posted by JeremyR View Post
It's the Hardy Boys fault.

Or rather, the company behind it, the Stratemeyer Syndicate. Over a 100 years ago, they decided to start deliberately courting children as customers by creating series tailored for them.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stratemeyer_Syndicate



So instead, they forced children to read books that adult liked. But as you say, sort of backfired
it makes sense, its all that 1950s "seduction of the innocent" mentality at play.

i haven't been in high school in almost 20 years but i have no reason to believe things are much different now. maybe someone with high school age age kids can give a sense of the current reading curriculum.

i grew up primarily reading Dragonlance and Forgotten Realms novels and my current reading tastes aren't much different but i can still appreciate Cormac McCarthy or Orwell.

speaking of, i don't think that The Road would be a great stretch to feature in a modern high school class. yea its depressing and there are a few scenes that some might have a problem with but its an interesting novel thats very well written without being completely boring (for lack of a better word).

unless you're doing a serious study, reading should never be work or a chore and unfortunately thats what its presented as:choke down this sleeping pill or get an F.

after generations of parents who had the same miserable experiences with books its no surprise that their kids hate them just as much. i guess i was lucky as a kid that my dad was a reader, he had shelves full of Ballard, Aldiss, Spinrad, a bunch of new wave science fiction and out there stuff that showed me that books were more than just door stops.

when i have kids i'm going to do my best to instill a love of reading, god knows they'll be surrounded by enough books lol.

Last edited by xg4bx; 10-08-2011 at 04:18 AM.
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Old 10-08-2011, 04:36 AM   #5
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I agree with the original post, and I would add, that the books have changed but not gotten any better, IMO.

The stuff my kids have to read has become more contemporary, but it is more focused on imparting a message. The books all seem to involve poor children raised by dying caregivers (often the biological parents are already dead or missing). These children usually live in some less favored culture: a lower income country, a repressed minority, or a similar downtrodden life style. The kids themselves are bullied and treated unfairly.

IMO opinion depressing books don't make fun or interesting books to read. Your opinion may well be different, and that is the exact issue. If your goal is to encourage kids to read then you need to have them read things they consider fun, not what you or I enjoy.

At the grade school level this approach is encouraged. There are several systems that rate books based on their reading level and length. Students are encouraged to read at their level, but they are allowed to pick whatever they wish.

By the time they get to High school, this approach is dumped. Selections are chosen for the student and it seems the selection criteria is that the book must either 1) be old enough to be a "classic"; thus requiring the reader to labor at translating the work into their modern day mind set, or 2) posses some deeper message on the lives of the poor, downtrodden, or otherwise dispossesed by mainstream society. It's no wonder students don't choose to read once they graduate.
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Old 10-08-2011, 05:27 AM   #6
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It was a balance in my school. You got Shakespeare (which I never regretted by the way), but you also got The Outsiders and A Kestral for a Knave.

I also found A Separate Peace easier to relate to and I loved Lord of the Flies. There were also options (though not in my school) for Left Hand of Darkness.

But I do think others struggled and I definitely don't think any of the curricula over the years actually promoted a love of reading. The slightly heavier mix of the "classics", the focus on studying the book rather than enjoying it and the essays (especially exam essays) made the whole process a chore rather than a delight.
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Old 10-08-2011, 05:33 AM   #7
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Reading isn't cool? Oh, hell, now you tell me.

The portion of the population that reads outside of work/school is very small -- can anyone give us a number? -- but within that slice of the population, you'll find every possible kind of person, including power couples and glittering celebs. I'd love to know if sociologists have answered the question of just who the readers are.
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Old 10-08-2011, 05:48 AM   #8
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Huh, well don't I feel odd, because I thought Macbeth and A Raisin in the Sun were cool.

To be honest with you, I think a lot of it is there's so much information that kids have to absorb now in so little of a time that reading for pleasure is a foreign concept to many. I do think schoolchildren are subject to information overload, much more than when I was a kid. And I guess it isn't cool because for many it's hard to separate reading from the "obligation," if that makes sense.
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Old 10-08-2011, 05:58 AM   #9
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Thought the Hardy boys, and serials in general, was a rather enlightened reply. Never knew the resistance towards new'ness was as vicious back then, thank you all for the information.

I'd go more with basic psychology though. What defines "cool"? Let's make it more personal, what are the qualities that adhere to a cool person? Is it the jock that surrounds himself with admiring peers and cheerleaders? I'd say that the concept of what is cool is a mutual understanding between individuals, the pack or swarm mentality. The coolest, or most admired / envied, person is the alpha of the pack. Would a person be cool if he had nobody to be "cool" to, after all?

Reading is a solitary action. It's on the large part anti-social behavior, even though I (personally) love discussing what I've read with other people afterwards. But the act itself remains a personal and reclusive event. There's steps you can do to alleviate this fact, a room full of people could listen to an audiobook for instance but let's be honest, how many of us have ever done that (or even -want- to do that)?

Thus, reading cannot be cool since you're not part of a pack when you do it. I'm no psychologist so I might very well be talking out of my behind here, but that's how I've always seen it.
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Old 10-08-2011, 07:07 AM   #10
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They still read....

I wouldn't be surprised if the % the population of young people who read now was higher than it ever has.
Certainly my son's primary & secondary schools encouraged, with success, non-exam reading, and despite TV, video games, increased sports facilities available outside of school, etc..., I'm heartened by the amount of young 'uns who do usually have a book/reader with them at sports events , for example.

Only fairly late into this century was "universal literacy" an aim, and achievement, and although reading to exam purpose is crass, but necessary, a lot go beyond, and stick at it.
More parents now see it's important that their children read, and never forget what competition reading faces in this high-tech era.

You could say it's a miracle we still have any reading for pleasure ......
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Old 10-08-2011, 07:36 AM   #11
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Perhaps the real problem is awful teaching and awful parenting.
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Old 10-08-2011, 08:19 AM   #12
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Why? cause video's cooler and the media tells us so!
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Old 10-08-2011, 09:04 AM   #13
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Originally Posted by TFeldt View Post
Thought the Hardy boys, and serials in general, was a rather enlightened reply. Never knew the resistance towards new'ness was as vicious back then, thank you all for the information.
Same here, I loved reading them. Course my parents also provided me with vintage Donald Duck comic books, National Geographic, and the bedtime story was almost always something from mom's big stack o' pulp sci-fi and fantay. But to be honest, "intellectual laziness" be damned if it gets the kids to actually reading. Most of the runts I see at work can't even read aloud, they just call out words without actual comprehension of what they're reading and then cause trouble when they figure out the teacher knows they're illiterate. They're so afraid of reading by that point that they can't comprehend that reading could be fun and entertaining.

The fact that the textbook contains only boring garbage doesn't help either. The children aren't learning that reading is fun, they're being taught that reading is hard labor going all the way back to 6th Grade when they first encounter a literature textbook and find out they're expected to be able to read at their grade level. Don't ask me what they're doing with them in the elementary schools, but I doubt it involves real education.

Although if anyone today were to complain about the Hardy Boys encouraging "intellectual laziness," I'd point to the fact that SpongeBob is proven to be more damaging to a child's attention span than any work of literature, cheap trash included.

Quote:
I'd go more with basic psychology though. What defines "cool"? Let's make it more personal, what are the qualities that adhere to a cool person? Is it the jock that surrounds himself with admiring peers and cheerleaders? I'd say that the concept of what is cool is a mutual understanding between individuals, the pack or swarm mentality. The coolest, or most admired / envied, person is the alpha of the pack. Would a person be cool if he had nobody to be "cool" to, after all?
Basic tribal behavior. For there to be an "us" there has to be a "them" we can reject. Although I'll bet dollars to donuts the jocks are only interested in the girls because their tribal programming tells them to. *evil giggle*

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Reading is a solitary action. It's on the large part anti-social behavior, even though I (personally) love discussing what I've read with other people afterwards. But the act itself remains a personal and reclusive event. There's steps you can do to alleviate this fact, a room full of people could listen to an audiobook for instance but let's be honest, how many of us have ever done that (or even -want- to do that)?
Dunno, people used to cluster around the radio to listen to the old radio shows before the era of TV. Some of them were pretty good, cheesy sound effects aside. I used to have some records and cassettes from back in that day- Flash Gordon, Sergeant Preston, The Shadow, ones like that. But since visual entertainment has replaced auditory entertainment, that era has since passed and most people born in the '60s or later probably can't comprehend it anyway.

Quote:
Thus, reading cannot be cool since you're not part of a pack when you do it. I'm no psychologist so I might very well be talking out of my behind here, but that's how I've always seen it.
From where I'm standing (minor in Anthropology, and considering going to grad school in that field) you're bang on. I don't put much stock in shrinkology, though, so YMMV.

Last edited by teh603; 10-08-2011 at 09:08 AM.
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Old 10-08-2011, 09:28 AM   #14
Hamlet53
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Well I think the really cool people think reading is very cool.

Seriously though from what I have seen in my local school system to much emphasis is being put an treating the whole experience K-12 as vocational preparation. The desire to bring technology into the classroom, supposedly to prepare the children to compete in the technology driven world, has become almost a cult hysteria.

I am very involved in my local library and see it there. When children of all age come into the library it is almost always just to use the available Internet connected computers, and that as often as not to play games, get onto Facebook, etc. It seems that very few are there to check out a book and read it.
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Old 10-08-2011, 09:36 AM   #15
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I was soaking in a hot bath and reading a book when my wife stormed in screaming, "Don't you want to do anything?"\
"I'm doing something. Something I enjoy. What did you have in mind?"
"Well, wouldn't you rather go to the mall?"

A man at work wanted to know why, when he brought up an issue, I knew about the issue and research that had been done and projects that had been tried in other places. I explained that I read. He responded that I was "cheating".

I tested everyone who worked for me and discovered that almost 25% were functionally illiterate. They'd all finished high school, many had some college or were in college, and two had college degrees. We did a reading improvement class and everyone who took the class improved. We discovered two employees with forms of dyslexia who had gone through 12+ years of school without anyone noticing.

If the schools taught sex the way they teach reading, by the time the kids reached puberty they wouldn't want to do it.

Last edited by patrickt; 10-08-2011 at 09:38 AM.
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