This is not a review.
I had, for a few moments, considered making this a review, but it’s more fitting/valuable as something else. As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago on Facebook, I’ve given myself a personal challenge to learn to enjoy reading as I did when I was a young kid. School was actually a large factor in why I’ve come to dislike books (coinciding with my interest in what I saw as a superior art-form for storytelling: movies), and since I’m intending to one day teach kids, myself, I don’t want to pass along that personal bias. Plus, if I loved it once, I can love it again, right? The idea of being able to “curl up with a good book”, as I so often hear people say, sounds like such a pleasant idea, so I’d like to reach a point where that actually appeals to me in a literal way.
As part of my major requirement, I’m currently in a Children’s Literature class at Saddleback. We were assigned to read Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (the classic more commonly know as just ‘Alice in Wonderland’), and that’s what I did today. It’s not TOO long, so I read it in an afternoon, but it was definitely a bit of a grueling experience. If I had chosen to make this a review, it wouldn’t bear very high marks… but a lot of that has to do with the fact that I grew up absolutely loving Disney’s animated version.
And that’s what I’m writing about tonight.
I didn’t buy the version of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland that was recommended for our class, which includes critical essays in the back of it. but rather saved my hard-earned cash by renting a copy from the library. The essays aren’t necessary for anything more than our own assistance, so I’m not being a slacker ;). Because of this, before I started reading today, I looked up a few commentaries on the book online for after I was done. After I finished reading this story of madness, though, I went on a search for another topic: the fact that Alice is nothing more than just a kid’s story.
By the time I reached high school, the idea of reading for fun was a far-off thought in my head. That is, as I mentioned before, due in large part to school, itself. In my junior year English class, we spent an exhausting amount of time discussing the poem, “The Red Wheelbarrow”. It’s an extreme example, choosing the most simplistic of works I was forced to over-analyze in school, but it’s exactly what helped spurn my angry dislike of books. The fact that they bored me was because I thought movies were better. The fact that I walked through bookstores and libraries with an urge to burn them to the ground, simply to spare anyone from being forced to read, was due to school. It took me years to get over that, and even still my relationship with books is always on a bit of thin ice. Back to my current college class, we’ve been assigned a group project (which, I am convinced, nobody in the world actually likes), and while my group isn’t doing THIS particular book, the assignment is to present our analysis of the book we’ve been assigned through the lens of a number of topics like feminism, and a number of other annoying things that have no natural place in any kind of proximity to a little story about a girl falling asleep and dreaming of silly things.
That is, of course, my opinion.
I came across a truncated version of this article in my online search for others who might proclaim Alice as nothing more than children’s entertainment, and I thought it was an absolutely wonderful sentiment. Please, if this subject is of any interest to ya, or even if you’re just very bored, take a few moments to go and read it.. I think it’s very worthwhile :). As the article talks about, some will love the crap out of this children’s book I just read – whereas, for me, MY “Wonderland” will always be the insane animated version I grew up with. Both can be okay, of course… we like what we like, but the problem I had in school, and anytime opinion is stated as some type of fact, was that I wasn’t allowed the freedom of NOT exploring every possibility of what every detail in something meant.
I never had a teacher impress upon me the idea that it would actually be okay for me to not want to suck the fun out of something as simple as Alice by analyzing things I don’t think are there, and that my disinterest in wanting to do so didn’t mean that I had to then fight, with disgust, the notion that anyone else might WANT to look at it through various critical concepts. My greatest goal, in teaching kids, will be to help teach them to love education… to love learning, and not just what I (or school) thinks is valuable, but what THEY think is interesting and valuable. My “Wonderland” was Mr. Rogers, and Steve Urkel, and the Hardy Boys, and Star Wars, and Mario, and a whole breadth of things, both deep and simple, and I was drawn to them not because I was told they were meaningful, or because I inherited the same opinions as my parents (a reference to the article above that I hope you read)… but because they interested me. And teaching a kid to pursue the things that interest them, both in action and education, is the kind of love of learning that’ll last a lifetime.
Oh, and as far as my goal to learn to enjoy reading? I’d actually tried reading Alice months ago (while contemplating how best to author a kids’ book), and I barely made it a chapter. Today, I knocked the whole thing out in just an afternoon… and it wasn’t the most difficult thing in the world. I took some breaks, but near the beginning I was about to start internally complaining about how disinterested I was, when I told myself, “This isn’t that bad.” So, hey, we’re on our way :).