Thursday, February 7, 2013

What's the purpose today of continuing to read novels and short stories in English Class? (posted by Mr. Eaton)

As a middle-school English teacher, I make a habit of asking myself: What is the purpose of English class? What is the best use of each day's 54-minute class? What are the real-world English skills I should share with students (the adults and innovators of tomorrow)?

Of course, being passionate about language, I understand the important value of constantly improving our vocabulary, punctuation and grammar. Those skills, while quite dry and mind-numbing for some students (and, I'll be honest, adults too), are the nuts and bolts of improving our communication and articulation with one another.

In the ever faster and immediate methods we humans communicate and express our ideas with each other (emails, texts, tweets, blogs, comments, Facebook statuses, etc.), it is more essential than ever to use the perfect word (vocabulary) and punctuate it correctly for nuanced meaning. We can't rely on expressing nuance through emoticons; what does a winking sideways-smile face mean exactly? More than any time in history, this generation has an absolute, real-world need to harness the power of precise vocabulary, grammar, and punctuation.

But, what's the real-world purpose of reading novels and short stories in class?

In these speedy times, where the bulk of our communication is through sound bites, text messages, tweets, blogs,  and 1000-word Flash Fiction stories, why should classroom time be filled with the time-consuming process of reading those dust-covered, archaic tomes labeled novels and short story collections? Why spend weeks examining what happens when children are left alone on a deserted island in William Golding's Lord of the Flieswhen you can watch a one-hour episode of CBS's  Survivor? Why read David Drury's short story "Things We Knew When The House Caught Fire"  which is set against the backdrop of class divide in a wealthy Bay Area community called Larkspur when, with the same time-commitment, we could read five French-oriented Larkspur blog posts and a related article in San Francisco Chronicle?

I have an answer.

Yes, I have an answer, I believe, that proves that reading books is the most important activity in school. In fact, it is a reason our entire population should turn off their computers and put down their smartphones and pick up a book, or e-reader—I have no beef with that. But, before I blab on about my answer, I'm interested in comments about what you think.

Why do you believe it's important to read novels and short stories? Or, if you think it's a waste of class time, then employ your grammar, punctuation, and vocabulary powers to articulate why not.

Please comment below and join the debate.


  1. I agree with you because waste our time in the internet it will not help us learn new thing.

  2. I disagree with you because the internet can teach you a lot of things, or the internet can help you on (projects, articles, etc.) Just think about this, your students get the information for their articles from resources and what are those? Internet. But very interesting to read your article.