I know, when all of the girls in high school were reading Jane Austin, I fell asleep every time I picked up one of her books. While my sister raved about how wonderful Charles Dickens is, I had to listen to an audio book just to get through one of them. And forget about the Bronte Sisters.
So when I went to tutoring, I wanted to gag when the vice principal handing me a copy of Jane Eyre and asked me to read with a group of juniors. First, let me explain a little about the tutoring I do. I volunteer at an inner-city charter school for high-risk teens. That means many of these kids have been written off and are convinced school is pointless. So how was I supposed to read a book I HATED with a group of three African-American boys from D.C. and get them to enjoy it?
Needless to say, I didn't really succeed. I laughed with one of the boys about reading Spark Notes (I think I finally convinced him his teacher would notice). I kept threatening to read in a British accent at the top of my lungs so another of the boys would stop talking (he was sufficiently frightened at that prospect). We joked about reading the first three chapters, last three chapters, and first page of all the chapters in between so we wouldn't have to suffer through the entire novel. I think I might have waisted more time with them than actually encouraging them.
But the third boy kept telling the others to be quiet and get reading. He sat in a corner, reading to himself. He had fallen behind the rest of his class by not reading the first assignment, so he was kind of on him own. But pretty soon, he was ahead of his two classmates. When the bell rang, he took his time finishing the chapter and slowly put the book into his bag, letting his classmates leave without him.
I had to ask, did he like the book? Yes, he assured me with honest intent, he very much liked the writing style. We then spent a few minutes talking about the story itself. How it's about a woman who finds happiness in change. While she had a horrific childhood and little luck with love, she still became a compassionate person who was able to forgive and love. He liked Jane, and he understood her.
You know, I might like Jane Eyre a little more for the understanding that came from an unlikely source. I might not be totally converted, but maybe I too can change.