Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Summer Reading/Reading in Summer

Hello everyone! I hope you are all having an absolutely wonderful hot and sticky summer, filled with evil cackles and many, many books.

Recently I've found a little corner of my backyard completely shielded by trees. I have strung up colored silks on a rope and now how have my own, otherworldly space. The light that filters through the trees meets ruffage on the ground and is a misty green, creating the illusion that I'm in a sort of limbo between the real world and my own. There is now a hammock in the center of this space, higher off the ground than any other hammock I've seen, and I've decorated it with flowers and leaves and, most importantly, books. There's nothing nicer than swaying in my book hammock, listening to the silks flap against the wind and the green sunlight sparkle through the trees.

When I am back there, I find it best to read books of completely alternate universes, because it is the perfect setting to lose myself. I've read lots of Harry Potter between those trees, as well as Utopian/Dystopian novels and Holocaust fiction. I just think solitude in the prettiest place I know is an excellent area to really think.

What have you found yourself reading this summer? Is it hard to read books when there is a world of summer and computers available to you? Or does the summery freedom make you read even more? I admit, I sometimes get caught up in the wonder of my laptop and neglect to think about the boundless worlds of books I could be immersing myself in. It happens to the best of us (she says humbly.)

My other topic in this particular post is summer reading assigned by school. This year (summer before eighth grade) we were assigned Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. I was pretty excited, as I had never read this book and heard such wonderful things about it. But as I read, I found it getting tougher to keep my interest. I was bored by this classic and rather upset with myself. Why wasn't I enjoying it? Why did I find it humdrum, rather than fascinating? The explanation I at last arrived at was that I simply didn't have the context to appreciate this book yet. I was not reading it in school, with a teacher explaining to me how something is funny or decoding a reference or joke. Instead, I was ploughing through it on my own, trying only to finish. I don't think that is the way one is supposed to read Jane Austen. This is an instance in which I think the structure of school would have helped. There would be daily discussions and I would probably see the meaning behind the dialogue and action. Being assigned a certain number of pages would also have made it more manageable, I think. I am a fairly advanced reader, and that helped me understand what the words meant, but I couldn't make myself understand what was so wonderful and special about this book.

What is your view on school summer reading? Should schools leave us to our own devices during the break or is assigning books a good thing? Do you think some books are better read with the structure of a class?

Happy summer and happy reading!


Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Reading in School

Ever since basically fourth grade, my class has read novels. Together as a recreational sort of thing, aloud with assigned characters and lines, and, mostly, silently with tests and quizzes on the content of the books. Generally, I think, it is a pretty major part of a school's English curriculum. But does analyzing the grammar and making lists of characters and story elements sort of take the pleasure out of reading a book? I can read a book and be perfectly satisfied and thought-provoked without having written essays about the setting, theme, mood and all that. At the same time, however, I find myself more aware of what the story is about, if I'm conscious of all of the technical aspects.

What do you think? Does going over a book in class take the fun out of it? Or does it really depend on the teacher and how the book is being taught? Is it better to read just on your own? I'm not sure yet, how about you?

Monday, September 22, 2008

me... whatever that is

My name is Briar Kasvi, which means plants, in Finnish. The very fact of my name is only the tip of the iceberg in my own personal peculiarity. But it's ironic because I absolutely can't stand vegetation of any kind. Well, trees are allright. They have a satistying thump to them when kicked. But anyway. I was born in Finland, though I don't bother to be a citizen there as I've hardly ever even seen the country. I generally travel a lot, with my older brother, Chaz. But as for what I'm like, I'm afraid I can't help you too much there. It's kind of hard to hang on to your identity when it changes every few months. I mean, for the six weeks I spent in Norway, my name was Briar Svulst. And then, before I knew it, we were in Russia and I was the new and improved Briar Poct. But our passports and stuff say Kasvi, because that's where we were officially born. Chaz just likes to have us completely immersed in the culture of wherever we're staying, so adopting local names seems reasonable, I guess. I really like traveling, and thinking, and reading, and even writing. Monkeys make me laugh, and I absolutely LOVE cream puffs. I had them this one time in Spain and I've been trying to perfect my recipe ever since. I think the biggest magic there is, is in books. Because immersing yourself in a book can be just as incredible as immersing yourself in a different culture. And if you're scared, and feeling like an outsider, books can offer solace and friends that don't judge. So books are great, anyway.