It is possible to use high school literature classes to promote a reading culture. This will, of course, entail a radical change to the way in which literature is taught in high schools. We currently have a situation where literature is taught as a highly technical subject, one in which there is little enjoyment. In many nations, the kids are given a set of books – novels, plays and so on – to read, and then they are examined to see whether they have mastered the content well. The kids are examined on things like the themes in the works of literature they have been exposed to, the plots of the works of literature they have been exposed to and the stylistic devices used in the works of literature they have been exposed to. This approach is unlikely to promote a love for reading.
The model I propose is one where kids are encouraged to select (for themselves) the works of literature they wish to explore. Just as recipients of government welfare programs nowadays get to select the prepaid credit cards they wish to receive the welfare money through, the kids should also be given a chance to select the works of literature they wish to explore as part of their high school coursework. This is better than imposing works of literature on the kids, and forcing the kids to explore those particular works. Then they should be examined in a non-technical way. They should, for instance, be examined on questions like what they enjoyed most in the works of literature they explored. Or on what lessons they drew from the works of literature they explored. Or on what they liked (and what they hated) about the various characters in the works of literature they explored … and so on. This is better than examining the kids on the themes, the plots, the stylistic devices and so on. With the latter approach, the kids are likely to grow up perceiving reading as an enjoyable activity. They are likely to end up being people who can read for pleasure, people who can explore works of literature on their own initiative. In a nutshell, under this approach, the kids are likely to grow into folks who truly love reading.
I recently shared this idea in a publishers’ networking forum recently, and the publishers seemed to be very positive about it. I am waiting for a teachers networking forum (upcoming in February next year), where I hope to give the proposal to the teachers. Once the publishers, teachers and the folks in charge of curriculum development buy into the idea, there is a high probability that it will be ultimately implemented.