[Letters] Reading is food for the soul
When is the last time you picked up a book? Korean students are undoubtedly prominent English test takers, and usually receive higher scores than most other foreigners. In the SAT, there is the Critical Reading section, the section which is usually deemed the most difficult. However, many Korean students seem to be quite successful in this section. Why is this?
Most teachers in Korea ask students to read a lot of books in order to develop their Korean reading skills. Does the same apply for English? It is doubtful whether or not there are more than a small minority of students who even read a book in English if it is not needed for class.
During winter vacation I began reading books. It was a hobby of mine that I had not practiced properly for many years; most of my free time was used in various activities, most of which rarely involved sitting at a desk. Because I had no morning schedules, I could stay absorbed in my book until 7 a.m., and quite often did so.
Many students can present their high SAT or Toefl scores, but I doubt that many of them ever opened a book of their free will. When I was reading Dickens’s “Bleak House,” a rather intriguing novel, the question most students asked me was what class the book was required for. It seems that perhaps Korean students have grown so used to adhering to the school curriculum that they are either unwilling or uninterested in reading books.
Perhaps it is not really the students’ fault. It is undoubtedly true that the current state of Korean education leaves almost no room for anything but results; attempting a digression from the built-in system is perhaps foolish in the current situation. The few books that are encouraged to read are usually the “must-read” books, books that are quite likely to make an appearance in the SAT or AP tests. Reading books for enjoyment is not exactly frowned upon, but it is most difficult to do so. Instead of trying to cram question types and how to solve them, instead of memorizing words and phrases, instead of blindly struggling through dull questions on the topic of the article, reading books should be encouraged.
We still say that autumn is the season of reading. To put it bluntly: yeah, right. The season of reading? That seems more like what kindergarten or elementary school teachers would really say. Teachers of all grades could say it, but not that many would mean it. To most students and teachers in high school, and even the middle school students, it is much more important in the twisted education system to just stick to taking tests. What about a problem with reading skills? The answer is to simply go to an academy. They will definitely be able to help, for they have been cramming “test knowledge” into students’ heads for years.
The system should not be like this. Reading is really food for the soul. We are not soulless shells. We should be encouraged to read for our own enjoyment and benefit. Park Sung-hyun,
Korean Minjok Leadership Academy
with the Korea JoongAng Daily
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