What We Talk About When We Talk About Reading

On Friday, I wrote about my choice to teach Animal Farm. One of my students, whom we'll call...

On Friday, I wrote about my choice to teach Animal Farm.

One of my students, whom we'll call Michael R., tried repeatedly to engage with Animal Farm and complete the assignments. But stymied by his middle-school reading level and my insufficient efforts to break down the book, he never ended up finishing the text. He and I sat down recently to talk about why he asked each day if he could burn his copy.

By Michael R., as told to me:

My earliest memories of reading are about comic books. That's still today what I like to read. I like to read Batman and Robin, 300, Spider-Man, Superman, the Fantastic Four, Justice League, Avengers, that's basically it. They're not real, but they bring you in. It's something you can sit down and read over and over again. To me, they give joy. Laughter. And they show the picture–it's pretty awesome.

I so-so like to read. I'm the type of person that I read when I feel like I should or when it's fun, and that's rarely. Why don't I read more? Because I don't find books that interesting. It was hard for me to focus when I was little because when I was little my ADHD was bad, and it was hard for me to focus. My mom put me on pills so I could stay focused and stuff. My grades went up, and I tried to stay focused in school.

Honestly, I think I'm on like an eighth or ninth-grade reading level. My head is normally barely in the book. I know it's not at my grade level yet. It could be, and it will be. When I was little, I never, ever picked up a book. My mom would be like you have to read, you have to, and I would say, "Whatever, Mom." Finally in like eighth grade, that's when I started reading and started enjoying it. But I always read comic books. Always. I used to like looking at the dictionary, too, which is really weird.

I have multiple favorite books. PUSH. The Face on the Milk Carton. Babe Ruth. Lord of the Rings. I also liked Cat in the Hat. I'm serious. Cat in the Hat might be the best book ever. Dr. Seuss is awesome.

I don't like Harry Potter, Twilight, Animal Farm. It's most likely going to be the same with Night, too.

When I read, I feel like I'm in a whole different world. When I read books I like and I'm into it, I feel like I'm the main character and it's describing me, like I'm the person they're talking about. It takes away from everything going on around me and I just sit there and read and keep on. There was one book I read, a medieval book, and my mother walked in on me. And she was surprised I was reading. I mean, I was quiet. She thought something was wrong with me. Sometimes I just play video games, and I don't look at a book, but when I'm into a book I read it.

The other thing about reading is that it could give you a big vocabulary. People are so used to hearing screaming and cursing and then you hit them with a big word and they give you a dumbfounded face.

When I heard about Animal Farm, I knew it was going to be corny. I thought it was going to be a kiddie book, and I thought it was the worst idea to make that book. I'm sorry to the author who made it, but it was the worst book ever. I just hated it. From the middle, before the end, when it actually did get interesting, five pages before the book was done, it was horrible. It lost me. I'm like, huh? I couldn't get into it. I read mostly the whole book, but I got so bored of it eventually I stopped reading it.

I felt like Animal Farm was a disgrace to class. If I didn't have to pay for it, I'd take all of them and burn them.

Brendan Lowe is a Teach for America corps member who is in his second year of teaching high school in the South Bronx. His dispatch for GOOD normally appears on Fridays.

Image (cc) via Ben Templesmith's Flickr Photostream.

Julian Meehan

Young leaders from around the world are gathering at the United Nations Headquarters in New York Saturday to address arguably the most urgent issue of our time. The Youth Climate Summit comes on the heels of an international strike spearheaded by Greta Thunberg, the 16-year-old climate activist from Sweden, who arrived in New York via emissions-free sailboat earlier this month.

Translated from Swedish, "berg" means "mountain," so it may feel fated that a young woman with Viking blood in her veins and summit in her name would be at the helm. But let's go out on a limb and presume Thunberg, in keeping with most activists, would chafe at the notion of pre-ordained "destiny," and rightly so. Destiny is passive — it happens to you. It's also egomaniacal. Change, on the other hand, is active; you have to fight. And it is humble. "We need to get angry and understand what is at stake," Thunberg declared. "And then we need to transform that anger into action."

This new generation of activists' most pernicious enemy is denial. The people in charge — complacent politicians and corporation heads who grossly benefit from maintaining the status quo — are buffered from real-life consequences of climate change. But millions of people don't share that privilege. For them, climate change isn't an abstract concept, but a daily state of emergency, whether it comes in the form of "prolonged drought in sub-Saharan Africa…devastating tropical storms sweeping across Southeast Asia, the Caribbean and the Pacific…[or] heatwaves and wildfires," as Amnesty International reportsare all too real problems people are facing on a regular basis.

RELATED: Greta Thunberg urges people to turn to nature to combat climate change

Keep Reading Show less
The Planet

Millions of people in over 150 countries across the globe marched for lawmakers and corporations to take action to help stop climate change on Friday, September 20.

The Climate Strikes were organized by children around the world as an extension of the of the "Fridays for Future" campaign. Students have been walking out of classrooms on Fridays to speak out about political inaction surrounding the climate crisis.

"We need to act right now to stop burning fossil fuels and ensure a rapid energy revolution with equity, reparations and climate justice at its heart," organizers say.

There's no doubt the visual images from the marches send a powerful message to those on the ground but especially those watching from around the world. GOOD's own Gabriel Reilich was on the scene for the largest of the Climate Strikes. Here are 18 of the best signs from the Climate Strike march in New York City.

Keep Reading Show less

September 20th marks the beginning of a pivotal push for the future of our planet. The Global Climate Strike will set the stage for the United Nations Climate Action Summit, where more than 60 nations are expected to build upon their commitment to 2015's Paris Agreement for combating climate change.

Millions of people are expected to take part in an estimated 4,000 events across 130 countries.

Keep Reading Show less
The Planet
via Apple

When the iPhone 11 debuted on September 10, it was met with less enthusiasm than the usual iPhone release. A lot of techies are holding off purchasing the latest gadget until Apple releases a phone with 5G technology.

Major US phone carriers have yet to build out the infrastructure necessary to provide a consistent 5G experience, so Apple didn't feel it necessary to integrate the technology into its latest iPhone.

A dramatic new feature on the iPhone 11 Pro is its three camera lenses. The three lenses give users the the original wide, plus ultrawide and telephoto options.

Keep Reading Show less
via I love butter / Flickr

We often dismiss our dreams as nonsensical dispatches from the mind while we're deep asleep. But recent research proves that our dreams can definitely affect our waking lives.

People often dream about their significant others and studies show it actually affects how we behave towads them the next day.

"A lot of people don't pay attention to their dreams and are unaware of the impact they have on their state of mind," said Dylan Selterman, psychology lecturer at the University of Maryland, says according to The Huffington Post. "Now we have evidence that there is this association."

Keep Reading Show less