Archives: education

When Reading is Stupid

Weekends don’t count unless you spend them doing something completely pointless. – Bill Watterson, Calvin and Hobbes creator

I’m currently in a love-hate-hate-hate-hate relationship with a book series that is as engaging as a four-years-old’s joke.


“Who’s there?”


“Somebody who?”

“Somebody me!”

Split second pause. “Knock-knock.”

The first few books of this series were fresh, zany and completely entertaining. The last, er, thirteen books have regurgitated the same characters, plot line, dialogue, and zings as the initial ones.

It was a tiresome way to spend the weekend, and I can’t explain why I read skimmed through the dang book except I was hoping for some glimmer of that zip I recall from the series debut.

Frankly, even Calvin and Hobbes would have said, “Enough already.”

Literary Confectionary

In 1831, Lydia Maria Child, a no-nonsense woman who championed ending slavery, equality for women, and the habit of reading, advised mothers on how to select books for their children:

I would suggest it is better to have a few good books than many middling ones. . . . A perpetual succession of new works induces a habit of reading hastily and carelessly; and of course, their contents are either forgotten or jumbled up in the memory in an indistinct and useless form. . . . There is much good sense in the Roman maxim, ‘Read much, but do not read many books.’”

The poor woman would bury her face into her apron if she knew how many books I’d read, and, yes, forgotten.

Just as she warned her readers, I was the child who read “a perpetual succession” of books without “forming the habit of observing.” Although I was a voracious reader as a child and teen, I didn’t advance into reading challenging material until my late twenties.

In fact, I’d say my reputation as a fast, avid reader prevented me from becoming a careful reader. When I was forced to read the “classics” for schoolwork, I sensed I didn’t understand what I was reading but wouldn’t ask for help because, heck, I was well-regarded as A READER.

Can we read too much?

This debate on whether or not if any reading is better than no reading has continued 180 years after Mrs. Child’s book for mothers was published.

Last year, when Cynthia McGabe asked, “Is All Reading Good?” she got a flood of comments from educators and parents. Here are a few:

“Read trash just because it is reading? Isn’t that the same as saying, ‘Let them eat cake for dinner – at least they are eating?’”


“Twaddle is an insult to a learning mind.”


“. . . getting a student interested in any type of book is better than nothing at all.”


“Whatever hooks them is wonderful . . .”

What do YOU think? Is any reading good? Or was Mrs. Child correct when she said a few good books were better than a slew of junky ones? Does your opinion shift if you are considering a child’s reading habits?

Fatigue is Your Enemy, or Back-to-School Shopping Mistakes

Each year, on a hot August evening, my mother would announce to my brother, my sister, and me that we had better get ready because it was time to go buy our school clothes.

No matter how much we complained, groaned, threatened or balked, she would not be moved from her plan. We were to be ready to roll by 7:00 a.m. or else, we could go in our pajamas.

We’d drive 2 hours to the largest city in our area where we would spend 12 tortuous hours trailing behind her from

mall to mall to mall,

trying on clothes,

rejecting clothes,

trying on clothes,

rejecting clothes

trying on more clothes,

rejecting more clothes.

Until finally, worn down by the heat, boredom, and bickering over who got to sit in the center of the round clothing rack, we’d give in to whatever our mother wanted us to wear.

Yes, so bored, so tired, so exhausted that I once agreed to a gold version of this:


Yes, I did. And, if my mother bought them, I had to wear them.

So there I was for the first day of 3rd grade. In August. Sweltering heat. Wearing corduroy.

Think of the sweat.

Think of the swish swish swish as you walk down the hallway.

Oh, it was bad. It was really bad.

Of course, sweat can’t top the time I agreed to an outfit – never a good idea – of a green and red plain shirt and solid khaki pants, which were slightly trimmed in the same green and red plaid.

Matchy-watchy, but only to the most discerning eyes. I could live with it.


my mother noticed (after they had been purchased) that the pants were meant to be cuffed – at the shin – so the 6″ wide matching plaid sash – concealed on the inside of the pants – could be displayed.

Agh! Then, obviously without the sense given to a gnat, I walked in front of a science class filled with 6th graders.

Yep. In high waters.

But, my back-to-school shopping fatigue really went into overkill the year I bought my first and my only custom silk screened t-shirt.

It was the year that silk screened t-shirts became all the rage in my small town. I wanted one but my mother thought the shirts were outrageously overpriced.

So we bickered back and forth, but I was determined to start my first day of school wearing a silk-screened t-shirt. So we found ourselves at the bargain rack. She found two – blue and red – each with a Jaws movie artwork emblazoned across the front, and bought them.

I was so excited to have the t-shirt that I didn’t care about the yukky movie with music that made my skin crawl.

I didn’t care that my sister got one. I was just happy to have the shirt.

So off I go on my first day back at school. Ready to be seriously stylish without appearing to care at all about my clothes.

At first recess, I stood talking to my friends because playing at recess was so last year. When two boys – two CUTE boys – popped up at my elbow wanting to talk.

Or so I thought.

I kept noticing their eyes straying to my new t-shirt. Then they’d smile and before I knew it another one had joined us and he’d stare at my shirt too. Then run off to his friends.

Now, lest you think they might be staring elsewhere then you’d be wrong because there was nothing to oogle. Nothing.

So after the sixth boy came by to say “hi” and eyeballed my shirt, I had the nerve to ask what was going on.

Now before I tell you, let’s just take a moment and look at this shirt:

Now get a good look.

Do you see anything that might attract the attention of 10 year old boys?

Yep. There was a naked girl on my shirt which I had never noticed. Not once.

By the time recess was over, a teacher had requested I wear a jacket that had been dumped in the teacher’s lounge from the previous winter, and I spent the rest of the day zipped up and mortified.

And the shirt, the beautiful silk-screen shirt, was buried at the bottom of my closet. I was willing to bear my mother’s wrath to never, ever, wear it again.

So what about you? Did you ever have an AWFUL first day at school clothing experience? Did shopping fatigue every wear you down so much that you were a fashion diaster?