Why we shouldn't judge books we haven't read

Why we shouldn't judge books we haven't read

We know, of course, that you can’t judge a book by its cover. But what about the assumptions we make about certain texts before reading them? Why do we make them, and are they harder to shift? One look on social media at the moment, and it’s hard not to see people commenting on books they haven’t read. It’s a curious phenomenon, whereby assumptions load people’s responses to how they may – or, indeed, may not – feel about a book. This got me thinking: what about our students? Do they bring their own assumptions to the texts we study in class, and what problems does this come with? Most English teachers can easily regale you with tales of first introducing a Shakespeare text to a class with wild enthusiasm, only to be greeted by hormonal moans and groans about how boring or difficult it will be. It is a truth universally acknowledged that someone in every class will declaim, “But it’s too hard!” But this is the beauty of timeless texts – we have the privileged position of being able to tackle those assumptions head-on, rising to the challenge and showing students that there is something beautiful and relevant to be found in every text: a lesson in humanity, a timely challenge to our views, a life we have not lived. Once the preconception of difficulty is removed, an English teacher is more than capable of igniting the pleasure to be found in Shakespeare. This doesn’t just come with Shakespeare ...
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