The Trouble With Required Reading


What is it about required reading that just makes it so… frustrating? Is it because I often bristle when told what to do and refuse to do it, even if it was something I wanted to do? Is it a little bit of rebellion that simply makes my academic life less enjoyable and easy? Why do I hate required reading so much?!

I love to read – that’s no surprise, obviously – but I hate required reading. Looking back on the many different books I’ve read in elementary, high school, and now college, there are very few, if any books, that I can say “wow, I loved that book – I’m so glad my teacher forced me to read it!” That doesn’t mean there aren’t any books that I didn’t like – but because I was forced to read them, I automatically disliked them at least a little.

That’s why I want to start rereading books I already read for school – I want a fresh start with them, one that isn’t bogged down by book reports, analytical papers, and tests. I want the freedom to read them on my own terms, without school coming into play – and I don’t think I’m the only person who feels this way.

So, why do we shove required reading down students’ throats?

I understand that we need to read books as a part of academic life, but does it have to be this way? I’ve had some teachers that have had good ideas, like giving us options of books to read or just reading books to read them. I had a teacher who assigned two Harry Potter books, and even though I had to write a paper about one and do some quizzes on the other, I didn’t care nearly as much because it was a book that I already loved. I’ve also had assignments where I was able to choose things I already liked – analyzing a song I loved, rather than a cliched poem, for a poem analysis; and doing a whole project about Dr. Seuss, because he’s a poet too and just way more interesting to me than Emily Dickinson or some other 1800s poet (although, to be fair, Emily Dickinson has an interesting background – and our teacher said she was one of the few we couldn’t pick, so I guess I shouldn’t have even brought her up). I was able to choose my subject, and that made it much more interesting to me – and I think the same can work for required reading.

I know that it wouldn’t work all the time – if everyone is reading their own book, or even if there are only three or four different choices, it’s harder to have a class discussion about the whole thing. I don’t think this is a method that can work all the time, but it seems like a good way to break up the tedium of required reading every once in a while.

Does anyone else have any good suggestions for dealing with the problem that is required reading, or are we just stuck learning to dislike some books because we’re tired of writing so many papers about them and analyzing them half to death?


6 thoughts on “The Trouble With Required Reading

  1. I know exactly how you feel about required reading, it can be such a pain. However, for the books I have been suggested to read for school for assessments, I have so far completely loved them. Sometimes I think required reading can open you up to new ideas and new books you never thought you would pick up and you never knew you would love. Still it is a pain.

    1. That’s awesome! I know it’s stupid, but it’s like there’s a little voice in my head that refuses to like anything because it’s much better to be a rebel and hate everything I’m forced to read, even though that just means I’m stuck being miserable while reading, which is NO FUN! I think a lot of required books are required for a reason, though, which is why I definitely want to go back and take a second look at many of them so that I can see them with unbiased – or at least less biased – eyes.

      (and sorry this comment is so late – I’m just now catching up!)

  2. Funny thing is, one of my favourite books was a book I had to read for Literature in ninth grade. It was so different from any book I would’ve picked up for myself but it challenged me so much as a reader and as a person, I was glad it was required reading. Then again, at my school, the focus was on the sciences, so while everyone had to take Chemistry, Biology & Physics, Literature was an optional class.

    When it came to summer reading lists, I almost always ignored the books unless I already had the intention to read them before I received the lists. I would spend my summers reading way more books than those lists contained and yet I had no motivation to read the books that I was technically required to read. I mostly thought the required books were dull.

    1. That is so great that you get so much out of a required book! I really do wish that they were all like that, but that just isn’t ever possible, unfortunately.

      And that sucks that your school cared way more about science than the language arts. I hope they realize that both subjects can be vital to a student’s growth!

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