I’m finishing up work on my own book right now, but I thought I’d throw this out there. It’s about summer reading in junior and senior high, and reading things that are otherwise not going to cross your radar. It’s pretty much taken directly from a comment I left somewhere else, but I thought it interesting enough to share, because I also think it applies to our quilting work, learning to do the things we don’t necessarily care for so we can be better disciplined and able to do all the quilty things.
In my teaching career, I’ve taught 5th through 12th grades (history and Latin, at the same time!), and college kids as a TA (history and Latin). In my personal experience, the kids that were best able to handle the college workload and make the most out of their education were the ones who could manage to do the work they found not to their liking all the time, which, frankly, will turn out to be a good deal of what they’re asked to do. They were the ones who realized that they didn’t have to like what they read or the exercises they had to do, so much as be able to understand it and apply what they learned.
And, most significantly to my mind, they were most often the ones who realized that the key to a good college education was often tied to the ability to stretch their mind by learning and doing things that are outside of the things they are comfortable or just like to do. Their answers were uniformly more thoughtful and creative, and more often showed a greater degree of insight and interest in the world around them. In group work, they were the problem solvers and leaders. They were doing the drudge work, but making the effort to see how it could benefit them beyond the grade in the classroom. The benefit to them is not only in terms of the material they learned, but also the active practice of discipline.
On a different more existential level, one of the reasons literature is assigned–in both history *and* in English classes–is because as a human being our individual experiences are self-limiting based on what shape our lives have. Reading literature is a way to learn about the human experience, through facing problems and loves and fears and dreams that we may never experience directly ourselves. Relating to a character or not can sometimes provide guidance as to who we are and what we value most about ourselves and our larger world. Through reading, we can learn compassion and empathy, and also how to distance ourselves emotionally from characters that disturb us. We learn to think about why we are drawn to some things and not others. We learn who we are. By reading things we’d otherwise not expose ourselves to, we stretch ourselves in new ways. So. That’s why I think summer reading is necessary and important.
* I use the word “apology” in the sense of the ancient Greek ἀπολογία (literally “apologia”), which was first used as a literary device by Plato in the 4th c. BCE: It means to make a defense of your beliefs through the systematic use of information.