Discussions & Rambles // Should schools have required reading? 📚

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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My Experience

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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The Pros

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. 

The movie won’t help anyone understand anything, though. Don’t watch it.

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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The Cons

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”.

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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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You can be my friend on Goodreads! 📚

Happy reading, everyone! 😀

Starry Sky Books-13

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18 thoughts on “Discussions & Rambles // Should schools have required reading? 📚

  1. This is SUCH an interesting discussion! It’s so cool that you got to read The Hunger Games for school – I definitely never got to do that. But I did read The Giver way back when!
    I wholeheartedly agree with your argument – many of the books that kids are required to read for school are just chosen because they’re “classics,” even though they’re really dense and depressing and the kids have no way of relating to them. Of course required reading’s main purpose isn’t to get kids to love reading, but at the very least it shouldn’t make them HATE it! Putting books on the curriculum that kids will actually enjoy reading is so important to make them appreciate literature and relate it to their own lives!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. One more thing because I have more Thoughts™. I’m not against classics being assigned, but so many classics just aren’t relevant today, especially to kids. I read Great Expectations in high school and HATED it because it felt so outdated, but in the same class I read Jane Eyre and LOVED it because, even though it’s over 150 years old, many of the themes stayed relevant and I could relate to Jane as a character. Okay, that’s it, I’m done 😂

      Liked by 2 people

      1. I’m so glad this discussion caused you to have so many thoughts! 😂 All thoughts are welcome!

        I haven’t read Great Expectations or Jane Eyre, but I see what you’re saying! Sometimes you might like a classic book for personal reasons, and of course some people are going to feel more connected to the classics than others! I’ve felt that way about certain books before – I recently read Beowulf for class, and even though it’s hundreds of years old, I loved it and I even teared up at the end! 😂

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  2. I love this post! I’m so jealous that you got to read Hunger Games for school! Honestly, I get why schools think we should have a knowledge of the classics, but I’m so sick of required reading and hate most books we have to read (eSPECIALLY Dickens omg A Tale of Two Cities made me want to kill myself), and honestly I know that a lot of high schoolers never read because school has made them hate reading so much… :/

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you! 😊

      Yes, I agree that knowledge of the classics is very important to students, but I also think teachers should maybe choose more exciting classics to read? That would be so much better!

      And also yes, I know that most of my high school classmates never read for class because they just didn’t want to, and they never even tried :/

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Definitely agree that it can depend on the books (and how you’re taught as well). That’s very cool you were set hunger games and it got people reading! I really think that reading in school should be about enjoying it and learning. Great discussion!

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Love this post! The best English class I took in high school was a reading class. That’s it–all you had to do was read. Come to class, get your book okayed by the teacher, and do some analysis when you finish the book. It was pretty much entirely self-directed and really fostered a love of books for everyone in the class, since you could read based on your own interests. Wish all of school had been a little more like that.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! 🙂

      That class sounds great! That kind of reading, especially with younger kids, could help students to not only learn to like reading, but also to learn what kinds of books they enjoy. Many times, kids think they don’t like reading because they haven’t found their genre yet! If every school was like that, I think the reading rates would be much higher!

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  5. Honestly they should ask kids to read books but not choose the books for them. Just give pointers as to page length and genre but not more. Because even reading 40 pages that I have no affinity for can be a chore!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. My experience is very different as I grew up in Italy so our whole school system is different. We did have required reading, mostly in summer, and depending on the teacher we would either had to prove that we did read them or not. All the books they suggested were either classics or some form of literary fiction, no Percy Jackson for us! But I did go to a humanities high school, so a love for reading was kind of required to begin with.
    Personally I think that required reads should be more suggestions than obligations (unless the teacher wants to really do a lot of work on a specific novel), so that students who just can’t get into a specific book won’t have to force themselves to finish it. But I do think that it’s useful to have teachers guide kids to read books they otherwise would never pick up, and after all they’ll have their whole lives ahead of them to read whatever they choose.
    Ahah, sorry for the long comment, but I love this discussion!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I also had required reading in the summer, sometimes! 🙂

      I very much agree that required reading should be more of a suggestion. While I think children should be exposed to older books and classics, I do not think it is a good idea to force them to read those books (and only those books).

      And don’t worry, no comment is too long for a dicussion! Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

      Liked by 1 person

  7. This is such a lovely discussion! I didn’t enjoy required reading until I was in high school. I guess in my middle school classes I didn’t get to read any books that I wanted to read. That could be because I was overseas in a military run school for dependents but either way they didn’t have required reading I enjoyed. In HS though I really got into reading classics and other books like that the school had on hand. I didn’t love them all but I do feel like I enjoy reading because I tried all sorts of different books. I think we should definitely keep required reading in schools but hopefully publishers and districts can make good deals to get modern books into schools too. ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I didn’t grow up in the US so I had a very different experience. We didn’t have required reading until high school where we had to read classic novels written by authors of my country. While it was really very interesting, I had a hard time with it AND I HATED the experience because it was in our national language – not even a modern version of it. So, I basically had a very hard time understanding everything about the books! We also had to report out each chapter in class and still using the traditional national language so it was hard. Up to now, I haven’t picked up those novels again. It would have been better for them to modernize the books so that it would be easier to understand. I actually had to get the English translation because it was easier to understand!

    As someone who loves reading romance and historical romance, I haven’t read Jane Austen. It wasn’t required reading for us and now, I just feel like the writing feels outdated for me and I have never really wanted to read the books.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s very interesting! I can’t imagine having to read books in an unfamiliar language.

      And I agree that a lot of the classic novels seem outdated. I never read Jane Austen either, but I think if I did, my teachers would want me to read it to understand what the time period was like, rather than to enjoy it or connect with it.

      Like

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