Saturday, April 21, 2012

I still hate you, RIBIT

I hate RIBIT. 

RIBIT was a Grade Eight reading program, and possibly the worst acronym ever: Reading in Bed. It's Terrific! I think it was a statewide program, maybe even national.It was so cheerfully enthusiastic I hated it instinctively.They gave you a bunch of forms with a manic frog on the front, and you wrote down all the books you read. There was a special trolley in the Goondiwindi State High School library for the RIBIT books. There was also a special trolley for the GRIN (Great Reading in Nine) books. God. But what do you expect from a school that has a sheep framed by some wheat as its crest? 


I hated RIBIT because I was already a reader. It took me about a month to realise that expectations at that school were so damn low that none of the teachers really believed I'd read eight or nine books a week. I got sick of the raised eyebrows when I handed my forms in, and the jokey little "Yeah, okay, eight books...I'll sign it, but I know it isn't true" looks, so I started to lie about the number of books I had read. Just one this week, sir, when you could knock one over at lunchtime if it was particularly puerile. And most of them were. I don't know where they found those books for the RIBIT program, but for a kid who had first got stuck into adult books at around age ten, they were godawful. 

I know that RIBIT was probably great for those kids who were suited to that reading level. For the rest of us though, it was sheer torture. We trailed around the other shelves in the library, desperately wanting to read something else, only to have the RIBIT trolley rolled out again.

RIBIT didn't encourage me to read more. It encouraged me to do something I'd never done before: refuse to read. Most of those books were more than terrible. They were patronising. They treated me like an idiot. 

Never, ever, ever treat your audience like an idiot. Not even if your audience goes to a school that, at the time, was rated as the second-worst performing school in the state. Readers, particularly young readers, need to be challenged. 

This fantastic rant by David Mitchell is mainly about TV, but the point remains the same:




Ah, formal education. Stifling creativity since 106 BC. 
Did school ruin the love for you as well? 

18 comments:

  1. Um, just as he was talking about how much people like a good mystery a shadow flitted across the moon on the left and I completely stopped listening to him. I wanted to know what I had just seen run in front of the moon instead.

    And RIBIT is absolutely the worst acronym ever. Agreed.

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    1. Exactly! How can you respect a literacy program that comes up with an acronym that poor?

      I admit I had to rewatch the video a few times just to catch some flittering shape.

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  2. Yes.

    I got it back after graduating from college, but... that was sixteen years late, IMO.

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    1. There's nothing like critical literacy to strip the joy out of reading!

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  3. I hated the reading scheme of my junior school too. The books they inflict on kids are so dull, no wonder they don't want to read! I read the last pages to convince my teacher I'd read the assigned books. He bought it and let me read books of my own instead.

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    1. i actually got a bunch of fantastic English teachers, starting in Grade Nine, who gave us a lot of leverage when it came to set reading and were always happy to let a dedicated reader pick a different book. It's only now that my sister is a high school teacher that I realise what a pain that must have been -- having to set assessment criteria on a bunch of different books instead of one. Bless em!

      But yeah, the set reading programs were terrible.

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  4. We did not have the acronym (what the hell were they thinkin'?) but we had a similar program. I received thos` dised eyebrows as well. Seriously sucked.

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  5. Does S.H.S. stand for Steaming Heaps of Sheep?

    We didn't have RIBIT here, so I actually got to read some good books, but with writing I definitely ran into a wall.

    In one class we had to write out the steps to a recipe and illustrate it as a poster. Recipes were totally boring to me, so I made up my own: Slug Soup. The first ingredient was "stagnant water collected near a septic tank," and the final key to preparation was making sure the bathroom was open.

    The teacher gave me a B+ 'cause she said it wasn't edible. I said 1) she never said it had to be edible, and 2) it was indeed edible - it just wouldn't stay that way.

    But no good - even though everyone in class loved it, my creative abilities were kicked into the closet.

    P.S. To prove the video's point, I had to look up 6684 feet, and also found a long list of references at YouTube.

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    1. SHS stands for Steaming Heap of something, alright.

      I would have loved your recipe. Trust them to get you on a technicality!

      The video is packed full of references. I learned heaps just off the Youtube comments!

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  6. Oh, I'll have to hold myself back from going into a rant about our public educational system.

    School didn't suck the joy out of reading for me, because I was so up in the clouds, I was barely aware of reading programs or teacher skepticism. I read whatever books I wanted, fill out whatever forms my teacher handed to me, and likely tuned out any scolding I got for not reading the correct books.

    Writing however, yeah, sadly I hated for writing for many years. The formula writing taught in public schools is nauseating, and writing to it was always a chore.

    Awesome video. I have to look up more of his stuff now.

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    1. Writing was the one thing that school couldn't kill for me! I don't ever remember learning "how" to write, but I do remember zoning out and spending a lot of time looking out the windows while my Grade 8 English teacher tried to explain what an "introduction" and "conclusion" were.

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  7. Definitely. I'm not a thick or stupid guy, but I loathed high school with a passion, and combine that with a slow developer and you have a recipe for disaster.

    But I found as I got older my mind opened up and absorbed things I previously wouldn't entertain - like writing.

    I recall most of all, one day in a Maths class. We were studying algebra. Up to this point maths and I were on good terms, and I'm now in the 4th form. Suddenly, without knowing why, I looked at the text book and all the x + y + z - xy crap and asked myself, 'Why? What does this mean?' And from that moment it was as if a switch had been flicked to 'off'. I could no longer do maths - to the point of becoming so bad (seriously) that the maths teacher finally flipped and kicked me out of the class after several weeks of my zero understanding of mathematical formula.

    So for me, school sucked - high school at least. I absolutely loved my junior school days.
    PS: Jen, there's a friend of mine - a fellow writer bod - who I've highlighted under the 'Blog Spot'... mayhaps you'd be kind enough to give her site a look-see? I'm trying to get as many writers her way as possible :) x

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    1. PS: the 'x' is not a kiss, but my signature, due to the fact I'm a thick shite who hated high school ;)

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    2. Don't even get me started on maths! If a train is leaving the station at 2 o'clock travelling at 50 kilometres an hour... I can feel my brain turning to mush in anticipation.

      I failed maths spectacularly in Year 9, and only just crawled back to pass in Year 10, thanks to a maths teacher who tutored me in his own time, and a best friend (hi Kate!) who came to tutoring with me even though she was like a freaky maths genius. She was also a freaky English genius, and a freaky everything else genius. If she wasn't my best friend I would have had to hate her guts.

      xoxo (also my signature)

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  8. Oh Jen thank you for posting this! I totally agree that it seems that children are just being forced to play dummer than the really are. When I moved from Ireland to Denmark my danish school course did not include english lessons until 2 years later. So I was told by teachers to forget all about english instead of being encouraged to keep reading and writing outside of normal school curriculum. When the other students finally started learning the language I was so far ahead of them that I had no place being in the classroom, but was told that I just had to learn it over (I am born bilingual) Thus I lost out on vital years of language practice because my teachers would rather dumb be down to the level of the other students than spend 10 mins of their time on finding an English teacher who could have given me some material or at least encouragement.
    Now I work at a school library and our books are devided into sections to match each individual student. We often have cases of students picking up books that their teachers force them to put back again because "they are not ready for that kind of book yet". Some of these children are highly intelligent but don't get enough challenge in the books that are in their section. I have begun letting them take the books home with them if they come outside of their normal class scheduled library hour because I think they should be given the chance to read what they want and find out for themselves if it is too hard for them instead of having some noisy teacher dictate their tastes.

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    1. Cassandra, it's great that you're letting kids take out what books they want. I personally think kids should be able to read anything and everything, but I was raised by parents who put a lot of value in reading. It's a shame that a lot of schools don't allow the same freedom.

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  9. Glad to read this. Our school has always resisted 'reading promotions' except read alouds by teachers and gentle encouragement to explore. I went through a period of not being able to read for pleasure when studying English (and other subjects) at university. thankfully I had other serious stuff to read and I was an adult by then.

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    1. Hi Angela!

      I think all of us went through that at uni -- where all the fun got sucked out of a book by being forced to read it.

      Luckily, most of us bounced back, but there are still books I can't stand because of it. Looking at you, Heart of Darkness.

      I think it's great that your school doesn't have these promotions. Reading should be promoted as being something fun, and not a competition where the slower readers are made to feel like they're losing, and the faster readers like they're lying. That doesn't encourage anyone to read.

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