Negative effects of required reading


Sarah Craft

Commonly assigned novels, many of which have been in the high school curriculum for decades.

Every school year, students share a common dread: required reading. Whether it is the books that students have to read over the summer or during the school year, it is not unusual to hear the groans of loathing from students. These negative feelings towards reading have created many students that resent the activity altogether. 

The purpose of mandated reading is to encourage students to read literature that holds significance to today’s society or helped shape the past. However, instead, it causes people to hesitate picking up books later in life because of the resulting negative experiences. For this reason, school-mandated reading should be discontinued, as it does not benefit students’ relationship with reading and literature. 

Required reading is used to create a uniform environment in the classroom and to make sure the same material is being taught, but there are other ways to accomplish this. By having English classes focus less on the specific content of books, such as giving comprehensive reading quizzes, the teachers could instead have broader assignments that highlight the class’ ability to analyze a book. 

For example, a teacher could have their students look for symbolism throughout their individual books and write down what the author is trying to accomplish. The activity would not only demonstrate the students’ understanding of what literary devices are, but also if they can correctly identify and interpret them on their own. These types of activities do not require every student to be reading the same book. They offer the same educational value while also giving the students the freedom of choice in the book they analyze. 

Another reason why schools use mandatory reading is that it ensures that all students are reading at the same reading level for school. Some people fear that by getting rid of mandated books, students will start to read books below their reading-level, or that they will not be encouraged to expand their comprehension level. 

To solve this problem, teachers can give a list of approved books to students, and if a student wants to read a book outside of the list, then they can get it approved by the teacher. This will allow the teachers to have control over the reading level of their students and it would also allow them to make sure that the books contain the literary concepts that they want the students to observe. While providing a list of approved books does limit the students’ freedom of choice to an extent, it will still allow them to have some control over the books they read rather than none. 

Giving students the freedom to read what they want will limit the distaste students feel for reading, encouraging them to continue reading outside of school and into their adult lives. Mandated reading only suppresses people’s interests in literature, for the benefits it presents can be accomplished with other methods.