professornana (professornana) wrote,
professornana
professornana

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Policing the fun

I am growing weary of the word "fun" being used to describe independent reading. The very definition of the word FUN is almost dismissive in nature, fun is something for amusement or lighthearted pleasure. When we use this adjective to describe independent reading, I fear we are adding to the already mounting criticism of this activity by those who call for more rigor, more complexity. They are the same who will assert that "fun" reading will not do for close reading analysis; that books that do not meet certain measurements are not "worthy" of classroom discussion.

Don't get me wrong: I am not opposed to reading for pleasure, for enjoyment, or even for amusement (though I think they ate all separate kinds of reading at least for me). What I do object to is this notion that if we are not reading something for information or for analysis, it is somehow worthless in education. And concomitant with this is the notion that ALL reading needs to be for formal analysis and discussion.

I have been tempted time and again when I hear parents in the bookstore tell children that they should read THE DEERSLAYER and not I'LL GIVE YOU THE SUN to see what they check out for their own reading. Sorry there ma'am, no bestseller for you. Go one over to the "literature" section and find yourself a classic to read. I would never do that though I must admit it would be interesting to see the reaction of adults being treated much like their children are in school.

I had an interesting conversation with a mom in a bookstore one day when I saw she was moving from display to display in the YA area and not seeming to have any luck. So, as I will do (much to the dismay of my BH), I walked over and asked if I could help her. She was looking for a book for her son, a middle school student. She has said DEERSLAYER in hand. I asked what other book her son had read and enjoyed. She left with a couple of books by Will Hobbs (he loved Hatchet and other Gary Paulsen books, so we went with some adventure and survival titles). I know the mother thought I worked for the bookstore, and I did nothing to indicate I did not (people tend to think you are too weird if they find out you are just trying to be helpful).

There are those (not ones who read this blog) who would deem this reading as "fun." Dismissed. Not the kind of book worthy of the classroom, worthy of talk. Maybe that is good, though, as it does not reduce THE MAZE to multiple choice quiz questions, essay questions, and close reading charts.

Does the fact that I read "popular" literature make my reading just for FUN and not for LEARNING? Am I only reading deeply enough when I am reading professional literature? Perhaps if I read FIFTY SHADES OF GREY we can talk about it and do some close reading (ick!)? Shall I measure my level and Lexile and print out a list?

But back to the point I want to hammer home (using my sledgehammer of late): stop using the word FUN to describe reading books, especially books for independent reading. We need to be aware of our own use of the word (I know I am guilty of this). I had dinner this past weekend with Lester Laminack at Kylene Beers' home. Lester had made this observation: "'meaningful'" is more important than "'fun.'" I concur. I think all reading for me is meaningful. I learn something if only how to tell good from mediocre and bad. Maybe we need to replace our use of the word FUN with MEANINGFUL. We need to be able to communicate to the world outside that independent reading is MEANINGFUL.
Tags: fun
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