How to: Stay in Love with Reading as an English Teaching Major (As told by Hyperbole and a Half Cartoons)

As an English teaching major in my senior year of college (somewhat…I’ll be done soon), I have often faced my biggest fear: falling out of love with English. 

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It started like all relationships. I became infatuated. I read… and read and read and read and read. There weren’t enough books assigned in school or on the library shelf to satisfy my hunger so I wrote…and wrote and wrote and wrote all the stories that didn’t exist but I wanted to read. I was a written word junkie, I tell you!

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So when it came time to pick my college major, I knew it had to involve English. Originally I just chose teaching because I needed to make money. I was idealistic, but I knew that the world wouldn’t just automatically pay me for reading. I had to trick them into paying me! As a teacher, I would get to read and write and get to talk about both all while doing this:

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So basically I outsmarted the system. I breezed through my required core classes, just waiting for my opportunity to sit in high-level English classes and chat with other academics and feed my love of literature and learning!!!!

I had my early English classes that were SUPER easy, and I was essentially conquering the world one sonnet at a time.

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Then my classes started getting harder. They wanted me to read more, and the material was harder. Obviously, I knew this would happen. But what I didn’t realize was that I would get burnt out on something I once loved. Instead of being excited to learn about new works, I didn’t even read them. I didn’t even show up to class. It seemed boring and useless. I had had too much! I was trying to focus on being in every school activity, have a social life, and waste time on the internet so I left myself no time for my English work. At that time, I was also beginning the classes for my education minor. Instead of being all “YAY! Teaching is great!”, my first class was taught by an abrasive professor who basically told us we were stupid and racist. I thought the class was a good idea, but it made me miserable. Something was wrong. I HATED everything about my major. I didn’t know what to do.

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This would continue for months. Couple that with depression and anxiety, and a job I hated, and I was in a crappy situation. I started to like my classes and become interested, but I had no drive. I knew everything that was covered in my classes, but I never turned in the assignments. My mind was screaming at me to stop, but I couldn’t do anything. It felt like I was suffocating. I knew that in order for my life to get better, I had to make a change. No. CHANGES!

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I cut out everything that was making me unhappy. I quit my crappy job. I stopped doing things that weren’t helping me. I started re-focusing on what I wanted and how I was going to achieve my goals.

As far as English, I took a SINGLE summer class. We met once a week for a few weeks, and I absolutely loved it. The professor showed us new ways to utilize technology in the classroom, and I actually READ the books we were assigned. It felt like I was cleaning a filthy window, and I could finally see!

I read and read and read over the summer, and fell in love again. This fall, I have a class on teaching literature, and I actually get to teach a REAL classroom of REAL students in a REAL school. By finally getting to experience and learn about what I want to do for the rest of my life, and it was AWESOME!

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So, for now, I’m back in love with English. I’ve stopped viewing it as a chore and started viewing it as a privilege. I took a break from it. Yes, it’s OK to not love it all the time! I didn’t know this so I’m telling you. It’s fine to not want to read every word ever written. It’s alright if you hate doing mindless assignments or even assignments at all. I learned that a rut is not the end of my life. There will be ruts throughout my life, but I will NOT allow them to stop me from doing what I want!

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After actually getting to do what made me excited again, I’m ready to tackle it head on. I’m not going to lie and say that I do all of my homework or do it with a smile, but I’m better. When I got to talk to students about why English is awesome, I was like- holy crap, I’m RIGHT!

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Getting to talk about and practice for a real classroom made everything seem real. I was no longer just learning the basics of driving, I was behind the wheel!

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Read these comic in their actual context and laugh your head off at: http://hyperboleandahalf.blogspot.com/

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30 Day Book Challenge: Day 28 – Favorite Title

Studies show that people only have seven seconds to make a first impression.

I think it takes maybe two seconds for a book to make a first impression. The first things a reader notices about a book are its cover and title. Those two pieces can hold a TON of information and function to draw readers.

That’s why titles have to be memorable!

For that reason, I chose Sherman Alexie’s The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian.

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Goodreads Summary:
In his first book for young adults, bestselling author Sherman Alexie tells the story of Junior, a budding cartoonist growing up on the Spokane Indian Reservation. Determined to take his future into his own hands, Junior leaves his troubled school on the rez to attend an all-white farm town high school where the only other Indian is the school mascot. Heartbreaking, funny, and beautifully written, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, which is based on the author’s own experiences, coupled with poignant drawings by acclaimed artist Ellen Forney, that reflect the character’s art, chronicles the contemporary adolescence of one Native American boy as he attempts to break away from the life he was destined to live.

I LOVED this book! I hope I get a chance to teach it in my classroom. It’s wonderfully written with a balance of humor and heart and honesty.

Some teachable topics for this book:

-Identity, especially for minorities

-Graphic novels

-Banned books

-American history

-Discrimination and prejudice

I think it also appeals to those reluctant readers because the novel is accessible and relatable. It brings home a serious, thought-provoking message without sounding preachy. There are also PICTURES! Like this one!

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I hate the assumption that pictures in books are meant for children. There is an ever-growing audience for graphic novels that are renowned for their literary content. The pictures in this book add to the story and make it more diary-like.

Finally, this book with an amazing title has recently been banned in New York which, as many readers can attest, makes a book even more interesting!

30 Book Challenge: Day 27 – The Most Surprising Plot Twist or Ending

The hard part about this post is that I can’t tell you WHY this book has the best plot twist AND ending. So here are a bunch of GIFs that summed up my reactions to Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl. Read my review of the book here!

When I got halfway through the book:

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When I finished the book:

 

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As I stated in my review, I can be a pretty cynical, know-it-all reader so when I book surprises me, I’m basically astounded. Gone Girl did it and kept on doing it the entire huge book. Read it. It’s so worth it!

30 Day Book Challenge: Day 25 – A Character I Can Relate to the Most

I’m on the home stretch of this challenge! Only five more days! I thought this would get easier with time, but basically every other question stumps me. For this one, I kept thinking about which character I most wanted to be LIKE. There are plenty of qualities that I wish I could borrow from my favorite book characters.

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I could go on for days about how much I love The Hunger Games, and I think it’s because I identify so much with Katniss Everdeen. By no means am I an expert archer or survivalist, but I’m good at making tough decisions. I have had to take care of my younger sibling a lot, and I would do anything for him. Katniss and I operate on the same wavelength. We think logically, but our emotions can sometimes hinder us. We believe in fighting for others’ rights, even if it isn’t easy. Most of all, we value people above everything.

 

30 Day Book Challenge: Day 23- A Book I’ve Wanted to Read for a Long Time but Still Haven’t

As younger readers, we complain about having to read the classics, but (especially if you’re an English major) you thank your stars that someone forced you to read them! The Great Gatsby, Romeo and Juliette, Moby Dick- they’re classics for a reason. They mean something in our culture, and we’re still talking about them years after their publication. To get a lot of cultural references, you have to know about these books, even if it’s just a Wiki-based knowledge.

Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger is one of those books that EVERYONE knows and talks about.

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It’s a favorite coming of age tale. I have an English professor that gives it to each member of his family when they become a teenager. It’s a staple in classic and YA literature. People have posters of the cover and talk about how Holden Caufield is SO them!

And… I’ve never read it.

It wasn’t taught in my school! I just really want to read it because I need to know what all of the fuss is about. But it’s sat on my TBR shelf forever and ever. Maybe I’d really love it and want to teach it in the classroom. It’s clearly a novel that appeals to teenagers.

HOWEVER! I think now is an opportune time for me to start the novel because a movie about Salinger is coming out, and I’d like to have some primary knowledge of his work before I see it. Apparently, they’ve found FIVE new manuscripts that will be published posthumously. Isn’t it awesome when classic lit gets a moment in pop culture fan fare?

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I just have to find time to fit it into my schedule with the other billions of things I have to read for classes…

30 Day Book Challenge: Day 22 – Favorite Villain from a Book

The thing about evil is that it doesn’t always come in a large box labeled: EVIL. A person who is evil doesn’t always look like a devil or constantly do things that are clearly wrong. No, the thing about evil is that it has a way of disguising itself. It can be cloaked with good intentions, smiles, and pink.

I think Delores Umbridge from Harry Potter is an awesome villain because she’s not a Voldemort- type evil. She operates under the guise of trying to improve Hogwarts. She smiles and likes kittens and pink. This is what we have to watch out for people! Satan didn’t stroll into the Garden of Evil forcing people to sin. He disguised himself and persuaded Eve by making her believe she was doing the right thing.

Also, as a future teacher, I find Umbridge even more deplorable because she represents everything that is awful about the American education system. She’s a government employee appointed to come into the school and standardize things. She wants to turn it into a learning factory. She doesn’t care about the welfare of students. She micromanages the teachers, inhibiting their ability to do their jobs. She implements tons of rules and takes away the magic (haha) from the classroom while denying the students true learning opportunities or the chance to discuss real- world issues (like VOLDEMORT!).

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The only good thing about Umbridge, is that she inspired this character in A Very Potter Sequel

30 Day Book Challenge: Day 21 – Favourite Book from my Childhood

I’m cheating with this entry, but this is my blog so I’ll make the rules!

Back in the days of elementary school yore, when Scholastic book fairs were like school holidays,

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and they sent these things home with us so we could beg our parents to order us things (and it was hard for them to say no because they’d basically be telling you not to read),

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I was obsessed with The Bailey School Kids series. And it was a great series to fall in love with because there were over EIGHTY books!

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Basically, the books have a Scooby-Doo-like formula. The kids became suspicious of a figure in their lives like a lifeguard, teacher, or other adult because, let’s face it, adults are super strange and mysterious and always seem to have secrets.  They suspect that an adult is a mythical creature like a vampire, skeleton, witch, etc. Then they collect a bunch of reasons why they believe that, for example, their camp counselor is a werewolf.  This may seem a little outlandish, but if you think back to when you were in elementary school, you probably believed a host of crazy things like thinking your teacher lived at school or thinking little elves operated traffic lights (No? Just me?)

These books were brilliant because they capitalized on childhood suspicion and imagination. Plus, the reader never knows if the kids are right in their accusations! Sure, it’s unlikely that the librarian is a wizard.

But you never know…
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Here are some of my favorites:
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30 Day Book Challenge: Day 20 – Favorite Romance Book

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There’s no love quite like unrequited love. The longing. The stolen glances. The sexual tension. What’s not to love?

Here’s the dish on my favorite romance novel:

They parted in disgrace…But desire would bring them back together.

Years ago, in one explosive instant, childhood rivalry turned into wild passion for Jeremy, handsome young Duke of Rawlings, and Maggie Herbert, the object of his affections. Unfortunately, the ensuing scandal found them banished to separate corners of the world.

Now fate has joined Jeremy and Maggie again– for a long-overdue dance of desire as uncompromising as the lovers themselves. Jeremy, a decorated soldier, is determined to claim Maggie at last. And Maggie, engaged to be married to another man, finds her secret fantasies of Jeremy spinning out of control. All that stands between them and the steamy passion the years can no longer chain is the past– and a present steeped in jealousy, intrigue, and danger…

Ok- I love the characters so much because they’re hilarious and passionate. I love stories about love that endures, especially with fire and passion. To be honest, the love scenes are descriptive enough to get the point across while being tasteful.

Also, this book is by Patricia Cabot AKA Meg Cabot! Read about my love for her here!

I have read and re-read this book book to the point that the pages are distressed. It’s no longer in print, but I found an edition online and got Meg Cabot to autograph it when I met her! Needless to say, this was my method of brown nosing her, and it totally worked.

30 Day Book Challenge: Day 19 – Favorite Book Turned Movie

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Sometimes when the stars align, hell freezes over, and we all hold our collective breath at the same time- a book to movie adaptation is just as good as the book. Obviously, this is a rare occurrence, but it IS possible.

Stephen Chbosky’s The Perks of Being a Wallflower is one of those rare occurrences.

The story of teenage Charlie’s adventures were perfectly translated onto the silver screen this past year. I was so nervous for how they would make the movie because the characters and the narration fit together in the novel’s world so perfectly that I didn’t think any adaptation could do it justice. I was pleasantly surprised when I saw the movie! I was disappointed that they didn’t play up the whole Charlie being abused thing and they skimmed over some of the other more serious issues, but overall I was pleased. I think it captured the book’s feeling and the character’s heart and quirkiness. The casting was perfect. I also think that it helped that Chbosky, the author, helped adapt the book to a screenplay. I honestly think this should be standard for book to movie translations.

30 Day Book Challenge: Day 16 – My Favorite Genre

Young Adult Literature

I’m an English major so I read a wide variety of works. I’ve been introduced to so many genres in the past few that I didn’t even know existed! It’s good to read things from every genre, but I keep going back to YA.

Why I love YA:

It’s interesting that YA, compared to other literary genres, is relatively new in the world of words. It is believed to have grown in the 1920s and really started flourishing in the 1970s and 1980s when it became clear that there was a serious demographic gap between juvenile lit and adult lit.

I, like many other YA readers, don’t consider myself a “young adult” in the strictest term, although the age limits are loose and constantly fluctuating throughout generations, but I still enjoy reading the genre. I think it’s because being a young adult is such a defining period in our lives. You start to grow up and figure out who you are. This is super difficult! We all remember the struggle. And at any age, we can all relate to feeling like we don’t have everything figured out. (Do we ever feel like we do?)

YA appeals to me because we can always be reminded how much we can change and how the world can be a scary and beautiful place. No matter how old I get, I will sometimes feel like I don’t fit in. I’ll deal with serious issues. I’ll remember what it felt like having a crush or falling in love. I’ll know what it’s like to have that one best friend or inspiring teacher or that girl you hate. I’ll relate to being frustrated with my parents or my hair.

Maybe we never really grow up, or maybe we’re always growing up. Either way, young adult literature is there to help with stories and characters and words.

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