BRISTOL, Connecticut, U.S.A. — Students at Bristol Eastern High School are reading for enjoyment.
In recent years English electives have been largely writing, drama and mythology. Once, teachers remember, there were classes that encouraged students to read for leisure, classes whose reading required no Cliff’s Notes.
There were classes like “Sports World” for sports fans and “World of the Unreal” for imaginative readers.
Then came the academy system, by which students study toward career goals through classes tailored for their futures. Classes promoting reading as an enjoyable and relaxing experience fell by the wayside.
This school year, however, two new courses at Eastern, world literature and contemporary literature, are encouraging students to enjoy reading again.
“That’s the goal of the course,” said Pamela Hayward, who teaches world lit. “I hope that it’s what we’re accomplishing. It almost doesn’t matter what they’re reading, as long as they’re reading. We are able to share experiences through the reading. Everyone brings something different to the class, and I think [the students] read some things they wouldn’t otherwise. I enjoyed teaching it.”
“It was things you could identify with,” said Josh Martin, a senior who took world lit. “You could really connect with it.”
“We do get to do things that we don’t in the regular curriculum,” said Alexandra Mikan, who teaches contemporary lit. “When we do American literature we usually only get to the fifties. I was able to go beyond that with this course, to Woodstock and Vietnam.”
“We read ‘The Bean Trees’,” said Lori Magnano, a senior who took both the contemporary lit and world lit classes. “and, as a female, I really could get into it. There was a lot of that in contemporary lit. You don’t read a lot of women authors in other classes.”
“We want students to enjoy reading more,” said Arthur Groth, English department head for the city’s two high schools. “We presented them with a broad base. World literature… any broader and you’d have to do galactic literature. And ‘contemporary?’ That covers the last hundred years. We’ve been doing contemporary literature for a few years at Central. I hope that [the courses] will be around for a while. It’s really all contingent on interest.”
According to Magnano, that shouldn’t be a problem.
“It was great,” said Magnano. “I really did enjoy the reading. We read Stephen King. That was cool. I liked it.”
Joe Wilbur is a Reporter for Youth Journalism International. This story was originally published in The Bristol Press.