Our topic this week at the SFF Seven is Which “Classic” Author’s Work Do You Loathe and Why?
Mine? THE DEERSLAYER, by James Fenimore Cooper.
Yes, I read it in 5th or 6th grade - because I was forced to - but the scars remain. I had been pushed into some sort of advanced reading pod with other unsuspecting
It was the first time IN MY LIFE that I DIDN'T ENJOY READING.
I mean, my mother read to me every night, until I started reading over her shoulder and correcting her mistakes. At which point, she threw up her hands and just handed me the books. I think I was about six. I was allowed to check out five books a week from the library and it was an effort to make them last. Once I had allowance money, I spent it on books. I read books in class, on the playground, at home, in the car. I even invited my friends to come over and read.
I was that kid.
Probably a lot of you were, too.
So to make me hate reading took a lot of effort. I still remember the woman who insisted I should like this book. When I told her I didn't want to read it, she said I had to.
I loathed everything about it and her.
Many years later I found the Mark Twain essay, Fenimore Cooper's Literary Offenses, which made me feel at least validated in my loathing. But really, at ten or eleven, I wasn't thinking about all those excellent points Twain makes. I hated reading about this guy who was boring and hateful at once, about women being scalped and raped, and about things I had zero interest in.
This kind of thing is how we teach kids to hate reading. I know things have gotten better and I celebrate those teachers and librarians out there putting books into kids' hands, helping them find books to LOVE.
That's what reading should be about.