CliffsNotes for CliffsNotes: Now With Even Less Reading!

If there’s one thing that’s wrong with this country, it’s that our poor, overworked, not-nearly-pampered enough children have too much reading to do. Why, there’s Twitter (“#lindsaylohan Hate when i record a show, then i dont have the episode that follows it!”), Facebook (“Yassi is missing old the days”), SMS (“I was like LOL”), not to mention a myriad of long and complex bus and roadway signs.

Pajamas Media

What a shock it must be, then, for these little darlings to show up at school and be told by a teacher that they have to go through the entire 250-page Tom Sawyer! (Bowdlerized version, of course.) Or, Lord help them, the massive 600-page Invisible Man. And let’s not even mention the cruelty inherent in assigning any Dickens novel…

Continue reading at Pajamas Media.

As those who read the comments, and threads mentioned in those comments, to yesterday’s post will understand how difficult it is to have our students read. And now, thanks to the miracle of iPhones and so forth, they don’t have to!

Thanks to Pajamas’ David Steinberg for the tag and head lines.


  1. DAV

    Invisible Man is a strange assignment from a stats prof. Try not to hate me but I fully sympathize and agree with the Amazon reviewer. The NYC white pages are a more exciting read. I prefer the H.G. Wells version even though he titled it with archaic definite article usage. (Monty Python skit of a telecast of a man writing his 35th novel with hissing and booing in the background: ” Oh,No, ladies and gentlemen! The very first word was ‘The’ !!”. I forget the name of the skit).

  2. Briggs


    I won’t disagree with your assessment, but I chose it as an exemplar because that book is very often assigned to be read.

  3. Pat Moffitt

    If you want a kid to love reading don’t start them on a long book that may bore them to tears. I had a HS school course that was nothing but short stories – everything from Hawthorne to Kafka. I found myself anxious to find the great stories and since we were only talking 30 to 50 pages- reading a terrible story here or there was a small price to pay. Teacher was able to expose the class to a wide range of writing styles but more importantly taught us there was treasure to be found within the pages of a book. Fewer pages per story convinced us to take the risk. Interesting the course had more pages of reading than any that followed – and most importantly it never felt that way.

  4. Papasan

    Pat makes a good point. I wasn’t interested in reading anything of Melville’s until I had read Bartleby the Scrivener; and I wouldn’t have known that I wanted to read everything by Conrad before reading The Secret Sharer.

  5. Doug M

    I will confess that I couldn’t stand reading as a young adult. I started with comic books, and worked up from there.

    For those who disparage the genre, I can only point to my own experience.

  6. Doug, don’t feel bad. As a 12 year old I started reading three Zane Grey novels a week and ended up driving the LA public library system mad when they could only find 39 of his 47 westerns for me. And I ended up normal. I think.

  7. RWS

    I’ll confess. Cliff helped me with Moby Dick in the 11th grade. And by “helped” I mean that I never got past page 10 of the real thing. But by then I was already an avid reader. And some fairly impressive stuff too. I believe that part of the problem is simply that no one wants someone else telling them what to read.

    Best book I only read because it was required……The Good Earth.

    The book I’d like to see required for my own kids…..The Housekeeper and the Professor by Yoko Ogawa.

  8. Leg

    Get ’em while they are young! I recently started reading Twain’s “Adventures of Tom Sawyer” to my 8 year old granddaughter. I wasn’t sure how she would respond to it, because the storyline can be difficult to follow without knowing the context of the period. However, she keeps coming back for more – much to my delight. Just explaining to her how a marble could be a great treasure to a child of that period evoked a series of questions that consumed most of one night’s allotted reading time. It has been fun. I am of an age whereby I cannot remember if I read it as a young person or not, but I too am definitely enjoying, and oft challenged by, Twain’s phraseology and idioms. Children in the ages of 8 to 10 are fabulously responsive if you give them a chance, so I highy recommend that you try reading something like Twain’s works to a child of this age. An Aunt Polly line I’ve been using on her and gets her giggling each time – “You been into some other audacious mischief when I wasn’t around, like enough.” Where’s a kid going to get exposed to a word like audacious (note the 2:1 vowel/consonent ratio) nowadays?

  9. George Steiner

    There is no book which in some way would not be useful. Greek proverb.

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