As a student, required reading has almost always been a part of my reading life… but is it always necessary? 📚 Let’s discuss!
Sometimes required reading is helpful, and encourages kids to read even during times when they would not want to. Other times, however, students might end up disliking books completely, if they start to see reading as a “chore” or they claim it is “boring”.
I believe it really depends on the types of books being presented.
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I don’t know about you, but as a child in the United States, I personally was not required to read specific novels for class until I was in 6th Grade (at age 11).
Before that, we were required to read any novel we wanted, as long as it was age appropriate and met certain reading requirements. On average, we only had to read between 4-6 novels a year, depending on how complex they were. The smaller the book, the more we had to read. Then we would take an online quiz to see how much we remembered/understood.
But when I was introduced to “required reading”, it was actually not a “chore” at all! I was very lucky to have an English teacher who only gave us two required books for the year: The Hunger Games and Alex Rider: Stormbreaker.
Yes, you read that right. I read The Hunger Games for required reading at school!
I realize now that most people don’t read those types of books for required reading, but that honestly makes me so sad. My class spent the entire semester reading The Hunger Games, and I had never seen my classmates so excited. We would read about one chapter a night, and half a chapter in class. That semester was so much fun, and it really introduced the whole world of reading to my classmates who had previously hated reading and books.
Isn’t that what required reading should be about? To introduce children and young adults to a habit of reading and learning?
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Despite the story I just told you, most children in the US don’t actually read The Hunger Games in class. However, classes do tend to read Lois Lowry’s The Giver. Because of that, and the fact that I know a lot of people have read it in general, I’m going to use it for this example.
I read The Giver on my own, but my younger sister read it as required reading. Either way, I believe The Giver is an excellent choice for required reading in schools because most of the themes and topics discussed throughout the story are still prevalent today. Also, it’s just a great book to introduce kids to reading. Based on what I’ve heard, it seems like most students actually enjoy reading it, and I think that’s a great achievement.
The next year, my sister’s teacher assigned Percy Jackson for their required reading! (I would have loved this, by the way. The Lightning Thief is great, especially for Middle Grade students.) Her teacher used it to demonstrate Greek Mythology, and incorporated other Greek stories with the lessons, and I know other teachers who do the same. Percy Jackson helped students understand and have fun with the material designed for their age group.
That kind of “required reading” is okay by me.
Required readings should encourage kids to enjoy reading and learning! What’s the point of assigning a book if students will just give up on reading because the book doesn’t make any sense to them?
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Unfortunately, I found a lot of cons with required reading, but I’m only basing these off of negative required reading experiences.
Most of the time, if you see students enjoying required reading novels like The Giver, Percy Jackson, and Where the Red Fern Grows, that’s pretty much where the fun ends.
Once kids and teens reach a certain age (say, around age 14), they’re expected to read about more important topics, such as World War II or slavery – historical fiction rather than fantasy. While this makes sense, and I fully support learning about history, sometimes kids need help to understand the importance of such things and transitioning from fun topics (like Greek Mythology) to harsh topics (like racism). In other words, kids need books which represent more difficult subjects in a way which relates to them and what they are familiar with, instead of books which have the most monotone and textbook-style tones ever.
Another problem I found with required reading is that teachers tend to make students figure things out on their own, rather than helping students make sense of the plot and its meaning.
For example, I was at one point required to read To Kill a Mockingbird (I think at age 13), and I pretty much hated it up until the last chapter, and I don’t think I understood the full purpose of the book even then. Why? Because I also don’t think my teacher helped us to really understand or appreciate what was going on. She just made us read it chapter by chapter.
The problem is not that teachers are assigning difficult books. Instead, the problem is that these “heavy topic” books are being used to teach students about the world, instead of being used as a tool to teach. When students learn about Greek Mythology from Percy Jackson, teachers don’t expect students to grasp Greek stories on their own!
I know that certain books for required reading have been deemed “Classics” (such as To Kill a Mockingbird and Romeo and Juliet), but those books will just continue to get older and farther from topics of today. Maybe if teachers realized that kids need a wider variety of books, required reading would not feel like so much of a “chore”.
What do you think about required reading?
✨ Should it be obliterated entirely, or should more teachers just learn to teach the novels in a better way?
✨ What books would you have wanted to read while you were in school?
Don’t be shy! I want to hear all your thoughts!
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Happy reading, everyone! 😀