Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Opinion, Rant, Same Thing: Required Reading

As the second semester passed and my class began reading one novel after another, I heard many complaints about the required reading. These comments ranged from "this is so stupid and pointless", to "why this book?", to "I hate reading". Well, now it's my turn to weight in, and you guys too (our comments section is always looking for more thoughts, especially in the issue based segments)!

I'd like to address all of these comments directly. First off, to the boy who called reading critically "pointless", how wrong you are. No, you might not personally have to write about a book outside of high school. However, this attitude that reading critically is simply to make you miserable is completely false. By reading between the lines you achieve higher levels of empathy of others' lives and experiences, and you'll be able to communicate your own feelings more effectively. Can you call those tools useless?

To the girl who complained about the book choice, not every book can be "taught". There's a reason To Kill A Mockingbird and Tom Sawyer are found in more classrooms than, say, City of Bones or Twilight. Just because a book is taught in a classroom does not automatically make it boring, just as not all YA novels are trashy because of their lack of symbolism and allegorical meanings (as some literary buffs might assume). Teachers don't choose these novels to cause headaches. They want to challenge their students and teach them different ways to look at text and the written word. More than that, required reading is in place to teach us about times, people, and lives that aren't our own. Many of us have no idea what it'd be like to live in the middle of a genocide or how to decide between nature and nurture during the Great Depression. In novels such as The Diary of a Young Girl and Of Mice and Men, the readers come much closer to the emotional state than any textbook could describe.

I'd be kidding myself if I didn't speak of the downside to required literature. For many students it ruins their view of reading from a very young age, convincing them that reading is always boring and too hard. To those people I'd say this: all you need to do is find the right book. Not everyone is going to enjoy Romeo and Juliet, and most of us don't understand it. That's normal. There are plenty of other books out there. The curriculum of your English class does not cover the entire library of literature.

Reading in the classroom serves many purposes in helping to sculpt more rounded and understanding individuals. While not all material is enjoyable it all has a very distinct purpose. So instead of complaining, maybe stop and take a look at the text and try to empathize with the characters. You may be surprised by how similar you are.

What do you think? What was the best required reading book you ever read? What was your worst? Feel free to leave your opinion below! To hear more on this subject, hear best selling author John Green's thoughts on the subject here.

1 comment:

  1. Hm! These are good questions, and a post that seems quite relevant, wouldn't you say? :)

    To answer those questions, then: my favorite required reading book would be either The House of the Scorpion or The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian. And I actually did enjoy To Kill A Mockingbird quite a lot! On the flip side, The White Mountains was something I really didn't like, and Tom Sawyer can, to phrase this lightly, jump off a cliff (yeah, I really didn't like those books. Apologies, Mark Twain!).

    So what do I think? I think that most of the books given to us in middle school or even high school are sometimes too advanced for us to understand. Take Of Mice and Men, for example; to even begin to grasp the depth and themes in the book I had to use online resources, and even then, it was sort of like "how did that draw that conclusion from this section of words when all I did was read them and go 'okay'?"

    This is an interesting topic, and perhaps should be taken up for debate. Kudos to it as well, by the way, very nicely written! :)