Reading… but not for homework

Before writing this, I watched a video by John Fish in which he explains the horrific truth about our educational system. I instantly felt inspired to write about my experience with reading. I highly recommend watching it here. He’s a Canadian too!

Remember those dreadful days of high school when your English teacher presented the class books for the semester and no one was allowed to complain? No one could suggest a different book, because it had to be a part of the curriculum list that hasn’t been updated since Shakespeare was alive. The teacher would sometimes even hate the book she had to discuss with us. What’s wrong with this picture?

When I was a young child, reading was my escape. Morgan le Fay would wisk Annie, Jack and I away on an adventure in the Magic Tree House series. I still recall how excited I was when my mom bought me a new Geronimo Stilton book for Christmas. Authors like Beverley Cleary, Laura Dower, Jack Canfield & Mark Victor Hansen, Cornelia Funke, Jeff Kinney, I could go on…. So many books were dog-eared and bent out of form because of my obsession with reading. It was like words could transfer me to a new environment even though it was just black and white on the page. So then, how come when I got to high school and suddenly my favourite thing to do was being graded, I fell out of love?

My bookshelves got dustier, my brain got cloudier, and I felt forced into reading classic novels. As well, my classmates and I had to agree on specific opinions about a book or else we would get a bad grade. I probably would have eaten up these literary gems if it had not been required by my school board to like them. Due to the fact that we knew our book studies ended with us writing an essay, I started to develop demonic strategies when I read. I became less interested in absorbing the lessons in a certain book, and more worried about making sure I could find sources for my argument. Suddenly, I had to read on a deadline, and my comprehension suffered in some ways. I read faster, but more messy. Constantly having to memorize page numbers so that the teacher knew I had actually read the book. What’s silly now is that I can’t let go of these habits when I try and read for fun. I shudder to think of how messed up my brain is from the intensities of my high school learning. I am not even going to talk about the redundancies of MLA citing.

Without getting too dramatic, there were benefits to reading in the way my high school asked us to. I am able to back up an argument by laying out clear examples from primary sources. I am confident in reading out loud with added character traits if needed. I am capable of reading multiple books at one time. Finally, I know the context of the famous Hamlet quote “To be or not to be”. So, not everything about high school English was bad. My Gr. 12 English teacher was one of my favourite educators ever. She taught me to be creative in my writing and take chances outside of the typical essay format. I could even tell that she, herself, didn’t agree with some of the curriculum standards.

If I am going to reflect on the impact of reading, I need to look at a timeline of my obsession with books, starting with the younger part of my childhood. My mom says I started reading chapter books at age 4. That means that before I was instructed to read, I loved books. This is of course due to the fact that my parents scheduled reading time before every goodnight. It is embedded in my brain as a positive and relaxing activity for my mind.

As I mentioned above, the Magic Tree House books were so special to me, and they probably were the first series I ever grew a crush on. I think I must have read at least 25 of the books in a line-up of 58. They were like medicine to me. Mary Pope Osbourne, I owe it to you to begin a reading addiction that would last my whole lifetime. Then, I believe I moved onto wittier books like Elisabetta’s Geronimo Stilton, Dav Pikey’s Captain Underpants, and Megan McDonald’s Judy Moody. Unlike anything I had ever seen, these three series gave me more colour and imagination. The words could suddenly be painted onto the page rather than typed. My expansive mind was taken to new worlds and I got to laugh more along the way. This period of ages 4-6 is what I like to call “The Simpler Years”.

When I turned 7, I knew that I wasn’t just a child anymore. I was a REAL person. So naturally, my interests shifted to books about history, philosophy, and boys. I remember taking trips to Chapters and leaving the children’s section behind. I wanted to read what my mom was reading, but she guided me to fiction novels that would suit my maturity more sufficiently. Dear Canada is a series of very educational books that showed me the saddest historical events through the eyes of a child. It was written by use of fictionalized diary entries from children who lived during times of war and poverty. Although the topics were deeply profound, I was able to learn about Canada’s history in an honest way. As well, I found solace in a book called Chicken Soup for the Pre-Teen Soul. Written by real-life pre-teens, Jack Canfield & Mark Victor Hansen compile an master list of anecdotes that prepared me for growing up. I read this book from a pre-mature philosophical standpoint and the whole series was my first self-help books. Then, my friends, came a HUGE obsession with a series titled From the Files of Madison Finn. These books held me captive while I learned about Madison stumbling through middle school. Funny enough, she has a sort of “blog” where she uses her laptop as a diary. I started my own diary on my sister’s old laptop, and I had to make it a private folder (to which I lost the password for). I wonder what sort of crazy stuff is lost in cyber-space now! Laura Dower’s series also gave me a chance to read about the confusing stages of having a crush. Madison’s crush is on her classmate Hart Jones. He is a mystical creature that still gives me butterflies. I mean his name is HART! Let’s call this period of ages 7-9 “The Mature for My Age Years”.

Grades 5, 6 and 7 were a different story, pun intended, because the thickness of the books got WAY bigger. Now, I was double digits and ready to tackle the big guns. I want to call this period “The Twilight Years” for the obvious reasons… Stephanie Meyer had my full attention. Suddenly, I was reading about sexual vampires with lust and confusing emotions. I read all four books, plus the novella The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner, and saw all the movies at least twice. Team Edward all the way!!….. yeah, it’s so stupid when I think about it now…. But, I cannot lie when I say I don’t remember reading much else when I was ages 10-13, except for maybe The Hunger Games or The Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants. These years set me up for hardships of relationships.

Here is where it gets depressing. During the years of 2011-2016, I barely read for fun. Generally, if you saw me reading, it was because I had to read it for school assignments. Shakespeare, Harper Lee, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Agatha Christie, Arthur Miller and others became the only authors on my radar for a long time. Additionally, I had less time to sit down and read because my schedule with competitive dance heated up and the internet grew as a cultural phenomenon. During the summer, I focused on dance training more, but I would never take that back. I just feel so sad that most of my teenage years did not involve leisure reading. To be truly honest, I am wondering if maybe my mental state of mind collapsed because I let go of meditative reading sessions that clear my thoughts and sooth my psyche. This period is unfortunately called “The Lost Years”.

In conclusion, I want to renew myself. I can see that reading has been a positive part of my well-being and I am hoping that the school boards across the globe will take a different approach to literature so that more young adults will be inclined to read instead of reluctant to read. If I take the time to close my laptop and phone, I believe it will send me towards a genuine path to happiness.

For some fun, please enjoy Carrie Hope Fletcher’s song that I love. Click here.

Be good at everything.

Wrote this while applying for post-secondary scholarships and I actually think it is some of the best writing I’ve done so far. Who knew?

July 15, 2016:

A very multi-dimensional person once told me that to be named a great thinker, you must dive into various strands of human intelligence. It is boring for humans to be great at one thing. Moreover, it is ignorant and narrow-minded. Using the shoes on my feet and the curiosity in my soul, I remember that when you learn with an optimistic view, your experience will result in more discoveries, and more opportunities for success. I pack my schedule with classes in mathematics and science for concrete ideas to store in my brain. I regularly attend classes in the arts to find my voice in my community. Not only that, I know that learning never stops, and so I look towards my future years as a student to take on new journeys of revelation.

Piano Man (Last time dancing it version)

I wrote this parody song for my dance partner, Chris, when we competed with a duet back in highschool. It was our first year as a duo and every time I think back to it, I smile with delight. We got to dance to “Piano Man” by Billy Joel and it was some of my most enjoyable moments onstage. Video link here.

May 30, 2015:

(to the tune of Piano Man)
It’s (around) 9 pm on a Sunday,
The younger tappers shuffle in,
There’s a special boy sitting next to me,
Making love to his rum and gin.
Now Lisa is hard core teacher,
Who never has time for fun,
And she’s talking with Ginette,
Who’s new to the scenète,
But knows that it’s not for life.
Now Ashley is practicing fouettés,
As her mom calls her on the phone.
Yes, she left at the studio with loneliness,
But it’s better than being at school.
(Instrumental music)
Now the bow ties look like a carnival,
And the lifts look like we’ve had some beers,
But we move to the song, and laugh the whole time, and I say “Man, I love dancing here.”

🙂

A thank you note to the creators of Kim Possible

Dear Bob Schooley and Mark McCorkle,

Thank you for making a television show with a female protagonist.

That’s just the surface level, though, because I recently looked back at the recurring themes and character developments that went on during the course of the series and wanted to touch upon the significance of Kim Possible as a role model to young kids.

When I think about how important it is to create a television show for children, I remind myself that the people in charge of producing, writing and animating/directing are usually well into their adult lives. That means that they are having to think through the mind of a child, who could be almost a third their age. The way that kids adapt to growing up is influenced by the storylines of their favourite TV characters; the choices they make come from subconsciously remembering what happened on their television screen. Therefore, the delicate effort that must be made by the executives at Disney or Family Channel has an intense weight on the audience that is targeted. I take this to heart because I have always wanted my parents to be happy with the shows I watched. Or else, they wouldn’t let me watch. Makes sense, right? Being a kid was so simple.

Thankfully, Kim Possible was a great show for kids. It included action-packed scenes of unique adventures each episode. It included a hilarious dynamic between super-heroine and male sidekick that developed into a loving and successful partnership. It included villains that were of different cultural backgrounds, giving kids a view into their respective countries. It included a young protagonist that used her martial arts skills to launch her own company that was promoted by herself, along with her technologically-advanced computer guy. A naked mole rat came into this equation, as well. How you, as the creative team of this show, did all this and ran for 4 seasons with 2 movies is very impressive.

If I analyze Shego’s character, I can see how she is actually the most progressive role model for young children. She has powers and skills that match her to Kim Possible but she was a villain. Shego took matters into her own hands; her neon green hands that spew gas and other cool stuff (my younger self is coming out). One of my favourite episodes of the series is the Season 2 spectacle called “Go Team Go” where we are treated to the backstory of Shego and her crazy family of superheros. This narrative changed the game for me because it shows the audience that villains have intentions behind their decisions. It reminds me of “The Incredibles”. We can never relate good vs evil to a black and white concept due to the fact that so many people just want what they want. Shego was always a bad-ass biotch, but she wanted more for herself. She saw her potential.

Ron was such a great comic relief because he was able to take any dangerous situation into a neutral zone. Nothing stopped him from laughing or screaming about Kim’s adventures, and however he reacted was just how he was. It defined his character to be open about his emotions, a quality that isn’t usually explored with boys. The relationship between Kim and Ron grew so gracefully, as well, throughout the series. Initially, they were too mixed up for each other, and would never work as love interests. However, they took time to build a trust with one another and that is truly a mature choice for teenagers. She chose the nice guy who was scared to death most of the time. He chose the aggressive and busy girl who was secretive. What a balance between the two. Also, Will Friedle is my ultimate crush so BIG thank you for that! ❤

All in all, this series has a level of education that is so fitting for kids and honestly, I wish it still ran on television programming. I still like watching it. If there’s one thing to take away from it, one should always strive to do the impossible.

I want to extend my appreciativeness to the whole cast and crew behind this show for letting me into the world of Kim Possible and influencing a whole generation.

Love Brianna