Reading for Fun

18 Jan

Life is busy! Between teaching full-time and having a four-month old baby, every moment of my day is spoken for. I always encourage my students to find time to read for pleasure, no matter how busy their schedule is: “If you have only five minutes, read a few pages of a book.” I admit, my advice is hypocritical; I rarely have time to read for pleasure. When I do read, I am usually focused on the novels I teach or lesson preparation. This year, I am resolving to do more pleasure-reading. While this will certainly preserve my sanity, I think it will also make me a better teacher. After all, how can I encourage my students to have a rich literary life if I don’t nurture mine as well?

In my attempt to do more enjoyable reading, I recently started the first book in the Hunger Games trilogy. My students have been raving about this novel for nearly a year; however, I was hesitant to give it a try. I am usually not a fan of adolescent literature. I know that probably makes me a bad Language Arts teacher, but I just can’t “get into” most stories with a teenage protagonist. Today I finished The Hunger Games, and OH.MY.GOSH! I am so glad I persevered through my reservations and read this book!

Katniss Everdeen , the sixteen-year-old protagonist of The Hunger Games, lives in District 12, a coal-producing region in the country of Panem. Existence in District 12 (and most of Panem, for that matter) is marked by starvation and desperation. After her father’s accidental death in a coal mine, Katniss must use her hunting prowess – a skill punishable by death – to support her mother and sister. Almost 75 years before the book begins, District 13 upsets the control of Panem’s ruling body, the Capitol, by inciting a rebellion. The Capitol responds to this insurrection by leveling the insubordinate district and creating a deadly competition called the Hunger Games. Each year, the remaining twelve districts must provide two tributes to participate in the Hunger Games. These tributes, a boy and girl between the ages of 12 and 18, serve as a painful reminder of what can happen when Districts disobey the Capitol’s absolute authority. When the 74th Hunger Games commence, Katniss knows the odds are not in her favor – the tributes are chosen by lots, and Katniss’s name is on many of the eligible slips. What she does not expect, however, is that her 12-year-old sister Prim’s name will be drawn instead. In a desperate attempt to save Prim’s life, Katniss volunteers to serve as a tribute in her sister’s place. As she enters the arena and faces the brutal challenges that await, Katniss must find the will to survive and return to District 12 as a champion.

I lost sleep over The Hunger Games! I found myself saying, “Just one more page,” until I could no longer will my eyelids to stay open! As I mentioned before, I am not usually a fan of adolescent literature – I often dislike the self-focused, one-dimensional characters included in today’s teen books. But I really enjoyed Katniss Everdeen! Suzanne Collins does a remarkable job of demonstrating Katniss’s strengths as well as weaknesses. I was touched by Katniss’s compassion for Prim and Rue, yet I found myself chiding her in her exchanges with Peeta. Collins also portrays Katniss’s internal conflict realistically as she fights for her life in the arena. Many teen books seem to oversimplify complicated issues, but Collins acknowledges the inner turmoil her protagonist faces as she makes crucial decisions in the game. Katniss doesn’t want to kill her competitors; however, if she doesn’t defend herself, she won’t make it out of the arena. Like the saying “Desperate times call for desperate measures,” the extreme conditions in the arena force Katniss to do things she wouldn’t ordinarily do.

On a side note, this is the first book I read on my Nook. Before I finished The Hunger Games, I made sure to download Catching Fire. I couldn’t bear the thought of waiting to read the next book in the trilogy – even if I only had to wait for the book to finish downloading!

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