As someone who does not want to become a teacher, I find myself a part of the minority in most English classes. It seems that the majority of English majors intend to become teachers, which I think is great, but not something I want for myself. However, because I find so few English majors who don’t want to be teachers, it makes me feel that literature is confined to academic or classroom settings. Of course, there are avid readers out there who perhaps never attended university and are not teachers, but I think on the whole, reading novels seems to be something that a lot of people in our generation don’t do (unless of course, the movie version of a book is coming out, then everyone reads it). My point is that literature is something that is very accessible to everyone, and yet so many people in this day and age don’t read. I’m sure everyone here, as an English major, reads in their spare time, but I really think we are the exception to the general population. And it makes me sad. So, I’ve decided that I’m going to list some of the reasons that reading is essential.
I think it is extremely important to read literature, even as a non-teacher. First of all, I think being a compulsive reader gives you a greater understanding of the English language. You understand how to manipulate language, and effectively and concisely make an argument – which is something many people can’t do. Furthermore, it is pretty conclusive that the only way to be a better writer is to read, and learn to mimic the form. It’s been proven that learning complicated grammar rules will not improve your writing because it’s too convoluted, but being an avid reader will. Kids who grew up reading are almost always better writers than those who did not. Therefore, I think that being an English major, or even just someone who reads regularly, gives you important skills that will help you in any profession.
Another truly important reason to read is because of how much you can learn about the world. People discredit literature because it’s fiction, but that doesn’t mean that it can’t be an accurate portrayal of real-world events. I think that a few of the texts we’ve read in this course have been great examples of this. For instance, The Crazy Man very effectively demonstrates the way in which mental illnesses were misunderstood in the mid-1900s, and how ostracized people with a mental illness truly were. While The Crazy Man isn’t a conclusive means through which to learn about mental illness, I think it’s a jumping off point. And I think that is true for many other works of fiction – they give you a taste of something, and inspire you to learn more about the world. I also found Blink and Caution to do the same thing. Because it deals with the issue of homelessness, and we then had so many in-depth discussions about it, I became interested in homelessness in Canada. I did some of my own research, and I am now writing a research essay for my political science class on the media coverage of homelessness in Canada (it’s a class about media and politics) – all because of our discussions about Blink and Caution. And I’ve read many other books that have done the same thing. For example, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time by Mark Haddon is a great way to learn about autism. It’s a fantastic book that provides a really unique depiction of autism. It’s written from the point of view of a child with autism, and the author of the book spent many years working with autistic children. To me, it’s quite obvious that fictional texts are great ways to be introduced to topics you wouldn’t otherwise have considered. Therefore, I really think that fiction and literature can teach you so much about the world, or least provide you with the groundwork on which to build your knowledge.
This class has been really great, because reading YA literature is extremely relevant. For many students in the class, YA literature is important because many of you will become teachers and will potentially teach these novels. But it’s also important because many of us will likely become parents one day. Reading in general gives us insight into the human condition, and reading YA texts gives us insight into the world of the young adult. Reading YA texts as an adult helps us to know what’s important to young people, and potentially how we can relate to them. Even if we are not teaching the novel to them, reading the books ourselves gives us an understanding of the human condition, and can allow us to be better teachers, parents, aunts, uncles, mentors, friends etc. Ultimately, I think reading is important for all people. It makes us critical thinkers, better writers, more knowledgeable about the world, and gives us greater understanding of other human beings.
I hope I’ve made a good case for why people should read! I’m sure it wasn’t too hard to convince a group of English majors, but I hope you can pass these ideas onto your friends! I asked my roommates and a few of my friends why they don’t read, and the most common answer I got was because they “don’t have time” – yet they have time to binge watch Netflix everyday. Reading can be just as much fun! Keep reading alive!
– Julie Buoy