A Response to Required Reading

Dawn Stogsdill

If you have ever gone to a high school you have probably come into contact with the concept of required reading. But if you have not then it is basically when a teacher (usually in a english class) requires the entire class to read, take notes, and test on a book that is approved on by the board of education. If you have ever had this happen then you also probably know that the book that the teacher assigns for the class are often stale and more than likely written in 18th or early 19th century. As you can imagine these texts are not a joy to read and often student will not even attempt to read the book and instead read summary on web sites like sparknotes rather than trudge through a book written entirely in old english. So the question is why are we making students read or in most cases pretend to read books that have no appeal to them instead of letting them go to the library and pick out a book for themselves?


Most people say that having required reading helps the teacher have something to grade on oppose to the anarchy that would happen if a student chose. This is all well and good until you realise that their are test out their for almost every book and students can take notes over what they are reading and have that graded as well. It might even be proactive to have students have class discussions on there individual books instead of piggybacking off of what the teacher or other students say in class. It is a lot easier to cheat when all the class is reading the same book.Other people might say that in order for students to voluntarily read the classics like The Great Gatsby or To Kill a Mockingbird they would have to be forced and that more modern books would be favored by a younger generation. To this I have to say that some students will enjoy reading those books without prompting from a teacher and that the job of these required reading is to cultivate a love for books and help students practice comprehending texts so it would be more productive for a student to read Harry Potter rather than just read the spark notes on A Scarlet Letter, because in the end having a student read a book while understanding it and enjoying it is more important than protecting the tombs of books that the board of education cling to dearly.


Required reading is a long standing part of a high school curriculum but their are better ways of doing it than just handing out the same hundred year old book and basically saying have at it. Teachers could get a similar or better results by having the students choose from a list of classic books.  This would allow the student to be exposed to good literature but also get the chance to enjoy what they are reading and with no shortage of classic and modern literature to chose their would be no reason not to do this. Having a student in control of their own literary choices is important because it will be their choice after graduation to continue to read and by exposing them to books that they do not like you may inadvertently turn off a student from reading in the future. It is more important to have students love books than just read them, and tradition should not stand in the way of letting people read.