Saturday, September 20, 2008

Curl up in bed with a good book.

This morning, Ujwal was desperately looking for old issues of The Reader's Digest. I asked her why. The reason startled me. A Grade 8 student of hers attending an ICSE school had been asked to write a book review. The condition was the book should not be a "classic". Ujwal was trying to help her find a "book digest" that was appropriate to her level and that she could manage to read over the weekend and write a review of. This is unconscionable sadism on the English teacher's part if you ask me. An 8th grader who probably reads only school books, that too under extreme duress as likely as not, and spends her leisure avidly watching the Idiot Box and gossiping about Hritik Roshan and Salman Khan should not be asked to write a book review. To be a book reviewer, you have first to be a book lover and a book reader. When she was here this summer, I listened to Avantika blithely complaining about having to read Hemingway's The Snows of Kilimanjaro and the review she had been asked to write in school. When I ribbed her about Ernest being the greatest American writer and a Nobel Prize winner no less, she didn't seem overly impressed. If you must teach a contemporary 8th grader writing skills, please teach her how to write a better SMS, text message and email. If you must make her write reviews, please ask her to review the latest soaps and movies. I could go on and on foaming at my mouth on the subject. Instead, I will direct you to my earlier pearls of wisdom cast here:

P.S.: By the way, for people like me who actually curl up in bed with a good book (my latest is Girja Kumar's BRAHMACHARYA Gandhi & His Women Associates), there is actually such a thing as a book specially printed sideways to make it easily readable in bed. The only catch is, they have at present in print only "classics", maybe of the lapsed copyright kind.