Looking back on my past two years in Taman Rama the one thing I really hope I instilled in my students is to not be afraid. When I started here the very mention of the phrase, “reading and books” for most students made them revile and roll their eyes with shouts and cries of “Eww books”, “I hate reading”, “Wait read while we’re still alive?”
And I get that, reading isn’t for everyone, novels comics, manga, instruction manuals the written word is outdated. Why read when we have things like YouTube and TikTok? Why even bother with taking the time to appreciate words on a page that require attention and thought when I could be watching that famous North Korean pop group BST or Kimmel Kardashian twerk her butt for the millionth time.
You see as a teacher I want to introduce my students to things they would never normally want to experience by themselves. Youth is wasted on the young is a common expression I hear, and to an extent, it can be. You see being older, I want to show my students the things I’ve learned to enjoy from when I was in school all the way up to what I do now at 100 years old! And while I may be a dinosaur to some of you, trust me when I say there are things out there that can change your world and the best part is you don’t even have to leave your house to experience them.
You see literature gets a bad rap for being too difficult or too complicated. Reading is hard, and why even take two pages to describe a flower in a million different words? I get it, really I do, and it’s true writing can be complex and long, it can be boring and repetitive, but it also can be something that teaches you kindness. It can be something that helps you not feel alone all the time. Literature whether written, spoken read, or even eaten? Can change who you are as a person.
I remember growing up with no television or cellphone or computer when I was your age, all I had were books, and what I found, as I read more and more, is that as more things changed around me, as I grew up throughout school and high school, the more emotions I experienced, the fights I had with my friends, the first crush I had on a girl even the pressure of not knowing what I would do after school, all of that didn’t bother me as much when I was reading.
You see reading and writing for me has become my safe space. I place I can process, share and explore different things with myself and now with you today. So many of my students, “You guys,” view reading as an obligation something you HAVE to do because the TEACHER SAID SO, but it’s important to remember it’s not because we love torturing you, I mean sometimes it is! But it’s because we want to give you something you can have and use for the rest of your life, something you can feel safe doing anywhere and at any time. Literature is a portal to another world when the world around you gets too much, or at least for me, it was that way.
And you know, the really wonderful thing about literature is that it’s that and more.
So if there’s anything I hope you take away from this club and from me is to not be afraid. Don’t be afraid to persevere when your teacher gives you a novel to read or an essay to write. Don’t be afraid to try books and comics or write in your journal even if you have no idea where to start.
Literature is wide and different, it’s quirky and beautiful, scary and romantic and it’s waiting for each and every one of you.
All you need to do is just try.