A writing prompt given to my son last year asked him to create a list of five things. I’m revisiting it this year because 1) the list accurately reflects his thought process, 2) not only is it thoughtful and creative, it’s funny, 3) public schools, 4) he killed it on his PSAT, which is not related but brag-worthy anyway, and 5) today is his birthday. This is his list.
By upper elementary, I reached expert levels for ditching school. My parents had kids at a young age and were too busy figuring out their own lives to pay much attention to my whereabouts during the school day. They trusted the public school system to deal with me. Why else would we hire teachers, attendance clerks and truancy officers? It’s not that my parents didn’t value my education, they just had a lot going on and knew other people had their backs. I could slip them all. Only one obstacle stood between me and a day of freedom–Sid Griffin.
Back in high school, teachers provided me with the skills that helped when a book challenged my ability to pay attention. Without that influence and as a slow reader, I fell into a pattern with comfort books (easy-to-read books read primarily for relaxation). Tackling a book like Wolf Hall, with its lack of antecedents, or The Good Death, with its dense factivism, diminishes my TBR consumption from slow plow to long slog. I’m not sure why I decided to read Wolf Hall and The Good Death concurrently, but I did. I’ve always had self-punitive reading tendencies. This post is for those of us who choose to go beyond comfort books and need a refresher on tips and tricks to tackle challenging books without returning to the demoralizing practice of gutting through it.