Tag Archives: English

Youth and reading: Can we revive the world of literature?

The fatal flaw of the current generation of high school and college-aged males is that hardly anyone is reading. Most young male students do not care enough, do not see the value, or do not have the time to read literature. Despite this, reading has significant benefits: it helps your critical thinking, improves your writing skills, and gives you a serious advantage on the SAT. But for most students, that is not enough. It should be enough! Still, a portion of students do have that drive to study literature, but nothing can convince most students to read instead of playing video games or pick up literature instead of another club.

Reading is a female-dominated habit. Even with audiobooks being a popular alternative for men, a Norwegian study finds that women dominate the audiobook market in Norway, with almost 1.5 times as many female listeners as males. Even so, many do not consider audiobooks a whole replacement for printed books. Most people who read audiobooks like to do something else, which takes away part of their attention. 70 percent of audiobook listeners in Norway say they prefer to do something else while listening. However, when listening to audiobooks with your full attention, brain activity is almost the same as reading print books, and most of the benefits of reading print books are experienced.

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In the UK, US, and Canada, men only account for 20 percent of fiction readers. This comes down to a gap in the sexes and a gap of empathy. Females are consistently shown to have an at least noticeable difference in empathy, which can help them be more invested in fictional literature.

This is not cut and dry. Levels of attraction to fiction could be a natural difference between males and females. However, most boys do not need much of a shove to propel them into fiction – it can usually be a good book series or a good school teacher. An astonishing 61 percent of boys asked by the publisher Scholastic agreed that it was after reading the Harry Potter series when they started reading for fun. When asked on the subject, Mount Theology teacher Mr. Brian Shearer, also an MSJ alumnus from the class of 2014, said it only took one class. “Sophomore year of high school at Mount Saint Joe…we had to read more than a handful of novels from American literature…take detailed notes on them, have in-depth discussions on them and rigorous testing on them.” This is what it took to fall in love with reading.

So how can we push students, especially males, to take that first step or get them to actually read, which will spark that interest? English teacher Mrs. Kirsten Nilsen has the goal of “helping them find personal connections,” which allows her to make sure that her students are reading and help actually engage them. She has to get the “at grade level” students, who usually will stay as far from a book as possible, to read and analyze the literature. This is a difficult position, and because of how vital literature is, critical and rewarding.

Mrs. Nilsen also clarifies that the current accessibility of visual media is one of the main things taking away from the print book’s dominance. When asked about reading participation, she stated that over the past ten years, she has realized that reading is not an activity that kids love right away.

To help with this new issue, there seems to be a two-fold answer: Making kids less dependent on visual media and making reading more appealing to their modern taste. It will be impossible for teachers or parents, or anyone in a position of authority to get their kids to read unless they can do both of those. The previously mentioned audiobooks are one way that kids, especially high school students who have phones and other electronic devices, can easily listen to books and engage with literature. Instead of putting on music, teens might want to actually listen to an audiobook when walking to a friend’s house or while shooting basketball.

Audiobooks are a great start, especially for teens that have been accustomed to not reading most of their lives. It addresses the one issue of having literature appeal to the modern palette, but ignores the issue of fixing the contemporary palette.

This goal of fixing the modern palette may be impossible on a large scale. What is not impossible is having children reading at a young age, which will give them the interest and long-term capability to read literature. However, this is just as hard of a task as getting high schoolers to read. It takes a lot of time and effort to get children the exposure to literature required to get this interest.

Feeding children literature that matches their interest, and getting them to read it, will almost certainly result in long-term engagement. But this takes time, money, and effort – time, money, and effort that most parents, caregivers, and teachers cannot afford. For this, some options and methods might take the load off these individuals. Parents can make a point to visit the library weekly or biweekly. As well as having a minimum amount of reading for their children between visits. This will get kids used to the sometimes hard action of reading. It will help teach them how to take care of books, and trips to the library can be quick, easy, and free for most people living in metropolitan areas. There are even programs at many libraries to try to build interest in literature for youth. This past year in Baltimore, the citywide Enoch Pratt Free Library hosted Summer Break Baltimore, a library program for children with thousands of participants. This program involved library activities as well as reading books.

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As previously mentioned, there are ways for teachers to help students actually read and make connections, which is the best way to generate a pro-literature mindset. For younger students, this can be as simple as silent reading time, rewards for reading, or making books easily accessible in the school library. According to the guidelines from Scholastic, the ideal independent reading time is as little as 45 minutes for second grade and up. And most schools already have libraries for students to use. Programs can help usage, as well as teachers using the library for lessons.

Now that we have gotten the very important “how” out of the way, it is also necessary to bring it back up and go into greater detail with the “why.”

When interviewing Ms. Nilsen, I found that one of the reasons it is so important for children or anyone to read is how it uses our imagination. To break down this idea: reading has us use our creativity to the fullest where visual, and even some auditory media just spoon-feeds us how to see everything. But reading engages the mind so much more and allows for a more personal or in-depth relationship with the media.

Empathy. For Mr. Shearer, a Theology teacher, he wants students to use literature to understand: understanding the world, concepts, and, most importantly, understanding other people. Mr. Shearer uses books and articles to help students better understand the world and its people and use texts that are merely advice, factual, or relate to the course.

The literate citizenry is an invaluable asset to, and a long-rooted part of, our society as it has developed. It is a way to gain knowledge and experience. A way to build empathy and understanding. It works our imaginations more and in a different way than anything else. This trend of other informative and entertainment mediums growing their market share will not likely subside anytime soon. However, we can always do our part and do what is best for us and those in our lives.

John Lawrence Lauer is a junior member of the Multimedia Journalism class

Capturing the moment: A collection of essays

Morning at the Mount

I wrote this essay to create a scene that I thought would fit into the appropriate time of the school.  I wrote this essay to create a story about MSJ students during the 1940’s and what their life was like back then.  In this essay I want the readers to understand what it might be like at Mount Saint Joseph during the 1940’s.

“Hey Alex,” called Ben running up to his best friend. “Do you want to go to the mall with me after school today? I need to buy a new leather jacket with the money my neighbor gave me for fixing her car.”

It was an unseasonably cold September day at Mount Saint Joseph, and students were slowly walking down the cobblestone path to their first classes of the day.  The leaves in the trees around them were fading turning crimson. 

“I don’t think I can,” Alex replied.  “I have a meeting with the student council.  Don’t you have detention anyway?”

Mount students on campus in 1949. Photo courtesy of the Mount Tower 1950.

“Oh right, I forgot,” Ben replied sullenly.  

“How did you get detention,” Alex asks.

“I was in class having a simple debate with my history teacher about why Thomas E. Dewey should be elected president instead of Truman,” Ben said, “and the old geezer decided to give me detention for arguing.”

The boys walked in silence down the cobblestone path, listening to the chatter of other students around them.  The icy wind blew against the students like a piercing dagger.  Ben, stuffing his hands deep in his pockets, wished he was at home in his bed away from the frigid September weather and listening to the music of his favorite musician, Louis Armstrong, on the record player he had recently bought.  His thoughts were interrupted by Brother Bartholomew, the headmaster of the school.  He was a strict, but kind man, who dedicated his life to serving God and making the boys of the school better men.

“Belts tucked in, ties straight.  It’s another day of school.  Let’s make the most of it,” barked the headmaster. “And remember, devote this day to making the Mount a better place.”

The boys trudged past the headmaster in silence, watching their breath flow from their mouths like smoke billowing from a chimney. Pushing his sleek blonde hair out of his freckled face, Ben remarked, “I can’t wait to get inside the building.  It is so cold.”

“I know,” Alex replied, “Just imagine what it will be like a month from now. 

The two boys finally approached the doors of the buildings.  For one, it was a gateway to learning, but for the other, seven long hours of misery.

“See you at lunch,” Alex said to Ben.

“See ya then,” Ben replied, heading towards the other building. “If I make it that long.”

An Unforgettable Moment  

I wrote this essay during English class with Mr. Peightel because I wanted to write a short story about two young boys and their adventure up the mountain. I wrote this essay because I wanted to create an interesting story with as much detail as I could. I hope the reader will take away from the story that description can make your essay so much better.

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“ Hurry up,” Peter said, turning around to see his little brother Timmy trudging along the path.  “ We are almost at the top. 

 “ I’m tired,” Timmy replied while trying his best to avoid the roots and rocks under his feet.  “ Can we just take a five-minute break?”  

Reluctantly, Peter walked back down to his brother, setting down his long stick he had found while ascending the mountain.  Then he sat down next to his brother on a fallen tree, wiping the mud off his legs, and listening to the birds in the air and the scampering of small animals, like squirrels, scurrying from tree to tree trying to find enough food before winter.

Timmy sat there in silence, watching a soaring eagle flying down to her nest with what looked like food for her children.

“Peter, what type of bird is that?” Timmy asks, not taking his eyes off the bird.

“I think it is a bald eagle,” Peter replies.

“Do bald eagles eat humans?” Timmy implores, looking up at his older brother.

Smiling, Peter responds, “No Timmy, they only eat smaller animals like mice and other smaller birds.”

“It’s been five minutes, let’s get going, we are almost there we just need to make one last turn on the path.  Trust me, the view you are about to see will be worth the tedious climb up the mountain.”

Guzzling down the last of his precious water from his canteen and picking up his walking stick, Timmy slowly gets up and starts walking next to his older brother, determined to make it to the top.

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After five minutes of the rocky and steep path, They made it to the top.  Looking around, Timmy sees a massive boulder that reminded him of the one from his favorite show, The Lion King.  Once near the edge of the rock, he looked down, seeing at the trees and rivers below and off in the distance the setting sun.  

“Now are you glad you kept hiking to the top, instead of turning back around and walking back down to the bottom?” Peter says.

“You were right, Timmy gasped. This is the best view I have ever seen in my life.”

Putting his arm around his brother, Timmy gazes into the sunset, enjoying these precious moments of silence, trying to implant this moment in his head forever.

Jack Bonham is a member of Mr. Dan Peightel’s Honors Freshman English class