Friday, December 2, 2011

    Things My Students Say: "Reading is like dark chocolate, only old people like it."

    Way back when I used to teach high school, a group of students in one of my sophomore English classes said:

    Reading is like dark chocolate, only old people like it.

    This was from the same class that came up with "Mrs. Oster is as white as a sheet of paper" when we worked on similes, so there you have it.

    Anyway, the chocolate comparison really stuck with me, and it made me think about this: If you hate dark chocolate, and if the only chocolate you've ever tasted in your entire life has been dark chocolate, then you could spend all your days walking around believing that you hate chocolate. But of course, all it would take is one small bite of a piece of smooth, creamy milk chocolate for you to realize that you don't hate chocolate, you just hate one very specific type of chocolate.

    And this, my friends, is exactly the problem we  face with books and reading. All too often, we beat the love of reading out of our kids at some point between third and sixth grade*, and by the time they hit high school the mantras of Reading Sucks and I Hate Books are so deeply ingrained in their psyches that they really believe these ridiculous notions. But books aren't the problem, it's their lack of exposure to really delicious books.

    And this, my friends, is how The Chocolate Spectrum was born.

    Behold, The Chocolate Spectrum

    The Chocolate Spectrum is a very simple thing to use:
    1. Take a sheet of paper and draw a big two-ended arrow across the middle of it (The Spectrum). 
    2. On the left end of the arrow, write your least favorite type of chocolate. I'm talking about the chocolate that you absolutely, positively, wouldn't ever eat by choice. (For me, this is ultra-dark chocolate with walnuts. Ick.)
    3. On the right end of the arrow, write your favorite type of chocolate. Think of a piece of chocolate that you want to eat so much that you'd be willing to harm a small child to get it. (For me, this is a maraschino cherry covered in milk chocolate. Move over, kid, I'm on a mission.)
    4. In the middle of the arrow, write down the type of chocolate that you feel pretty meh about. You wouldn't hurt a child to get to it, but you wouldn't exactly walk right by it if it was left unattended in the office break room, ifyaknowwhatImean. (For me, this is a Hershey's miniature, the milk chocolate version.)
    5. Read a lot of books. For each book you read, place it on the spectrum based on its deliciousness factor. In time, you'll get a great picture of the types of books you love, and the types of books you hate. Voila! The Chocolate Spectrum has done its work. 
    6. Optional yet recommended: I find that my enjoyment of any book is greatly enhanced if I eat while reading. Don't take my word for it, try it for yourself. 
    Now, let me address the common responses I've gotten to this Chocolate Spectrum idea:
    • "I hate chocolate, so this doesn't work for me." Please. You're a liar and I don't associate with liars, so move along. Nothing to see here. 
    • "I am allergic to chocolate, so are you saying that I am also allergic to books?" That's preposterous. A) You probably aren't really allergic to chocolate. Your mother just played a trick on you as a child to help you maintain your figure by giving you an aversion to the very human desire to stuff one's face with chocolate as an adult. B) If this is a legit allergy, please see the next bullet point. I have a brilliant recommendation for you, there. 
      • (Also, I'm allergic to strawberries, so let me say that I sympathize with you. How many times have you told someone about your allergy to get "Oh, that is so TERRIBLE! I LOVE CHOCOLATE! You are really missing out." I get it with strawberries all the time. Thanks, people, that makes us feel better. Remind us about how much we're missing because of an allergy that is completely out of our control.)
    • "I love all chocolate. I have nothing to put on the left end of the arrow." Yes, this is a common problem. My husband suffers from this same ailment, so you have my sympathies. Feel free to replace "chocolate" with "cheese" or "bread" or some other food that has many varieties, and about which you have varying opinions. (For me, I couldn't do a Cheese Spectrum because I have yet to meet a type of cheese that I don't love. Harvati with dill is my favorite, in case you're wondering about Chanukah gifts.)
    • "This is BS. You can't trick me into liking books by making me associate them with chocolate. Nice try." Oh, really? Is that so? Come see me during my office hours.
    And . . . there you have it. Books are like chocolate, yes, but they are not all like dark chocolate. Some books are freshly made milk chocolate infused with natural vanilla and a hit of fresh mint leaves. Some books are extra dark cocoa smeared with a toffee-and-peanut butter paste that will just melt in your mouth. And yes, some books really are like an old truffle that's been sitting in one of those heart-shaped boxes on a Walgreen's shelf for too long, waiting for a guy who needs to make up for something STAT to come along and purchase it. You know the kind, it has that white film covering the bottom. *shudder* Those books exist, too.

    The trick is to figure out for yourself which books fall on which end of your spectrum. And stick to the ones that veer to the right, okay?

    Oh, and the best part? Unlike chocolate, books won't ruin your figure.

    *I do not know how or why this happens. In all my years of teaching and Reading Specialist-ing I've noticed this trend: Kids love reading in the primary grades, and at some point between third and sixth, a lot of them become haters. If you can tell my why this happens, please do!


    Allie said...

    My favorite ones are the kind that you literally just can't get enough just have to devour the entire box or bag or tin at once. THAT is the best kind of chocolate. I mean book. I mean both. Nom nom nom.

    Lori Oh said...

    Oooh, me too. Dystopian fantasy novels do it for me, especially if they're in a series.

    P.S. I've seen you with cookie tins, and I'm staying far away.

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