Friday, February 15, 2008


B is for Boring

Recently, a colleague asked me (jokingly, I think) whether I purposely choose boring books for my students to read. (In my 8th grade class, we are currently reading Thornton Wilder’s Our Town, which at this point is not exactly gripping my students, and I think a few of them quietly shared their lack of interest with this colleague.) We had a laugh over it, but later I gave his statement considerable thought, and I began to wonder whether I, somewhat subconsciously, do choose books that have more of a dull than brilliant shine to them. I began to wonder if I actually find it easier to teach the students how to examine the inner workings of a book if the book is not immediately mesmerizing. Perhaps it’s similar to finding it easier to appreciate the subtle beauties of the ocean when it’s a relatively calm (‘boring’) day than when a spellbinding gale is blowing. When a book is instantly gripping, we want to race through it, just as we would race across the bay in our sailboat on a thrillingly windy day. While reading a breathtaking book, probably none of us wants to linger over the pages, searching for delicate nuances and hidden undertones. With page-turners, we simply want to turn the pages. When, however, a book appears to have a somewhat dull plot, perhaps it offers a teacher a chance to slow the kids down and get them poking around a bit in the pages.

Hmmm, I thought ... maybe I do purposely choose books that present an initial dullness and dryness, like an ocean cove presents on a calm, cloudy day. Perhaps this gives my students a chance to discover excitement instead of having it thrown in their faces, as happens on a bright, windy day or in an exhilarating book. Perhaps initially ‘boring’ books allow my students to slowly and thoughtfully uncover treasures where they never dreamed they would be – and wouldn’t any teacher be happy with that kind of activity? In the Harry Potter books, my students know there are treasures as soon as they start reading; in the books I choose, a lengthy, strenuous, but potentially rewarding treasure hunt is involved – and wouldn’t most young people enjoy that kind of activity?

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