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?