Hey loves! I’ve seen so many posts about assigned reading in school, and whether it’s good or bad, and I’ve always thought about it, but never written a post of my own. But instead of arguing whether of not it’s good, I wanted to just be honest and share why I dislike it, and why I’ve come to terms that that’s okay.
At first when I joined the online bookish community I felt obligated to pretend to like school reading when in reality I don’t. In fact, one of my very first posts was my top ten favorite books of 2018, and that post was a total lie because I pretended Pride and Prejudice and Gatsby were some of my favorites in order to seem cool because everyone likes Pride and Prejudice right and who would I be if it wasn’t one of my favorites I’ll seem so educated and cool! In reality, I did like those books, but they were nowhere near my top ten favorites. So now I’m going to list a few reasons why I, as a current high schooler who is subjected to daily required reading, dislike it.
It’s Not Relatable
In my free time I read almost exclusively Young Adult, and I love it because it’s so relatable. I am the same age as and share many experiences with these teenagers. Most required reading books are classics that take place in the far past and with adults, and I really can’t relate to the lives of French aristocrats during the revolution as in A Tale of Two Cities. Even some of the books with teenagers can feel outdated and I personally think they wouldn’t be beloved if they were released today: for example, Juliet was only 12 and she and Romeo met and then killed themselves for love in the course of three days (instalove anyone?)
Dense Writing Style
Young adult books are really easy to read. The characters think and speak in the way that we do today and the writing is clear. I think I’m not alone when I say that I don’t really like fluffy, extremely descriptive purple prose, but that’s basically what the writing style for classics is. I am really not down to read Raskolnikov from Crime and Punishment describe socks for five pages straight, and I’m sick of people speaking in a way that I have to reread the passage five times to understand what the heck they’re actually saying.
So nobody I know understood The Sound and the Fury. I read the entire book, understood nothing, then looked it up on Sparknotes and wrote my entire essay on that, and got the same score as a classmate who didn’t read the book. The classics taught in advanced high school classes have a very high reading level, and combining complex themes with dense style, they can be very hard to understand. We need guidance and teachers to explain the books to us, and having a bad English teacher can make anyone frustrated or hate reading..
This might just be my school, or it may be a lot of other schools as well–if you’re a teen, let me know in the comments below! At my school, we have these infuriatingly hard “quote quizzes,” which basically just test our ability to memorize the text. When we read Pride and Prejudice last year, we didn’t write an essay on it nor did we take any tests on content and themes or any of that; instead, we had fill in the blank quote quizzes where we were given a quote from the book and asked to identify the speaker, who they are speaking to, who they are speaking about, and who their parents were.
In other words, we aren’t reading the books for enjoyment of the themes. We’re reading them to memorize the text, which is stupid and impossible. It makes everyone hate reading and the books. When the education system is set up like this, reading books becomes a frustrating chore and can quickly turn someone who read and understood and loved a book…but missed a quote and got a C on a quiz…against it.
Procrastination… Makes It Overwhelming
Procrastination. The thing is, everyone procrastinates reading. You can blame the students and say if we just didn’t procrastinate we would enjoy the books more or whatever, but there’s no use pretending it isn’t a thing; last week, my AP Lit teacher asked who was caught up with the reading…3 people out of 40 (I was not one of those 3). If we’re assigned 100 pages a week, but won’t be tested until the essay at the end of five weeks, we’re suddenly trying to read 500 pages the night before the essay, which becomes overwhelming and impossible. Yeah, I can read a 300 page contemporary in a day, but trying to read just 200 pages of dense Hamlet in one night basically made me have a mental breakdown.
I’ve always felt like there was a sort of pressure to support required reading as a book blogger. Maybe it’s because I’m surrounded by adult bloggers, and the older you are the more appreciation you get for classics. Maybe it’s because there are so many people here with (or studying to get) English degrees, who are teachers or librarians. Whatever the reason, I felt surrounded by people praising the literary merit of classics and didn’t want to come across as a shallow teenager with no “respect” for classics or whatever.
Is required reading necessary for school? Sure, probably, and I’ll suffer through English class the way I suffer through calculus; I’m not trying to argue yes or no. Instead, I’m accepting that I dislike required reading, but I still love YA and reading in general, and that doesn’t make me a bad book nerd.
Do you enjoy reading classics? Do/did you enjoy required reading in high school? I’d love to chat in the comments below ❤