How school ruins reading

Amy McNeel

When an English teacher asks students to take out their books, their request is usually followed by animated groans and rolled eyes. In my pre-college schooling, required reading was never enjoyable and I, like many of my classmates, got stuck in the trap of online summaries and SparkNotes. 

We had absolutely no desire to waste our time reading books that were too hard to understand and too boring to want to even try. Our education system emphasizes the need to read and dissect books written long ago with words that are overly complex and nowhere near relatable. With this emphasis, reading becomes a tedious and annoying chore instead of an enjoyable experience. 

To be brutally honest, school ruins reading. What do I mean by this? I mean that our education system twists what should be a love into a hate. High schoolers are forced to read books such as “To Kill a Mockingbird,” “The Great Gatsby” and “Fahrenheit 451,” all of which were published decades ago. 

These books, although prime examples of incredible writing skills, are not necessarily enjoyable to a teenage mind. Instead, they are difficult, slow, and their meanings and story lines are not relatable. School is about learning, but it’s also about helping kids develop a passion for their learning. When schools assign books that are boring and irrelevant in the eyes of the student, they halt the growth of that passion. 

Furthermore, schools place too much of an emphasis on annotations and the dissection of books. When I was in high school, I spent hours outside of class reading and writing annotations in an attempt to comprehend what I was reading. It made the stories even slower and more lackluster. 

My teachers wanted me to pay attention to each symbol, each character description, each use of figurative language and parallelism. They taught me that knowing and analyzing every single crevice of a story is more important than actually enjoying the story as a whole. 

Due to schools’ strict reading requirements, the idea of reading for pleasure is a foreign concept to many students. And who can blame them? If students are first introduced to reading by boring, irrelevant books, the love and passion that can come with it will not take flight. In school, kids need to be exposed to reading that is interesting and relevant to them. It seems there is a stigma in schools that modern works of writing are too shallow to be taught, and this is a stigma that needs to be eliminated.

Of course, reading is a skill that needs to be learned and studied, and schools are right to require it. However, schools should not require certain books but rather allow students to pick readings of their choice. For me, I hated reading up until my sophomore year of high school when I had an assignment to pick a book of my choice and create a presentation on it. 

I chose “Divergent” and loved every single second of reading it. From that moment, reading has been a love of mine. If students are given the ability to pick their own readings, they will better understand the value of reading and learn to appreciate it. 

Reading is something that we all have to do in our daily lives, and in schools, students should learn to love it instead of hate it. I hope that schools will soon stop ruining reading. It’s time to stop forcing books upon children and start allowing them to build their own love for reading.