Required Reading: Necessary or Negative?

Connor Howe, Reporter

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“Ugh.” This is the most common phrase one hears with regard to required reading assignments. Most students find required reading books to be tedious and boring, which is why they tend to cause conflict between students and teachers. While most teachers are firm believers in the necessity of required reading, students desire more literary freedom.

For example, Junior Nick Couch expressed his feelings about assigned books by stating, “NO, I do not even like them a little bit.” Junior Paige Deschapelles was slightly less adverse to the idea of required reading and said, “Even though I don’t like the books we have to read for English class, I feel like they are the basis of our literary foundation.” These common views indicate that many students do not enjoy the books they are assigned to read, but some do believe they are beneficial to the educational experience. While the Juniors at King do not particularly like the books they read in class, they do feel as if they are an important aspect of learning.

Sophomores also gave similar responses to questions about the school’s assigned reading list. For example, Maya Mandova said, “I wish we read more classics, because later on in life and during college I think it’ll be important to have read them in high school.” Kayla Litchman added, “I want to read more popular books and less random ones that no one has heard of.” In the case of the Sophomore class, it is evident that most students enjoy reading classic novels more than they enjoy reading the obscure novels that they are assigned to pour over in class.

Students are obviously feeling some discontent when it comes to required reading, but several teachers in the English department also wish to weigh in with regard to the topic of assigned reading.  Teachers such as Mrs. Patten, head of the department, provide interesting comments about the process of choosing books for the different English classes at King.

Teachers can all agree that a lot of time and thought go into the process. For example Mrs. Patten said, “We get together as a department and talk about each grade and class individually in order to decide what books we think students will enjoy. More importantly, we choose books that are helpful in building literary foundations. For example, the ninth grade reads Lord of the Flies because it teaches them about figurative language.”

Mrs. Patten also revealed that students do have some say in what they read. If there is a book that students obviously do not like, the English Department does take that view into consideration. After the Juniors read The Scarlet Letter and the English Department got overwhelming negative feedback, the teachers decided to switch The Scarlet Letter with Doubt, a book Juniors seem to enjoy.

In addition to Mrs. Patten, Mrs. Manganello also shared her views about the school assigned books. Like many English teachers, Mrs. Manganello believes that even if students do not enjoy reading, they must find a way to immerse themselves into their assigned books in order to understand the point of reading classic literature.

She added that, “There are some books that have been around forever in the school and have withstood the test of time and there are others that are replaced each year.” This explains how certain books, like Huckleberry Finn, have been used for years while others, like Things Fall Apart, only last for a year or two.

Some of these essential novels are very challenging, which is why most students turn to SparkNotes for help. The teachers, however almost unanimously advise against this method. For example. Mrs. Patten said, “Our teachers go deeper than any SparkNotes writer has the ability to go.”

Dr. Gigante added, “It isn’t good for students to use SparkNotes because if they do not work to understand the books they read, then they will never feel accomplished after finishing the assigned books.” Lastly, Mrs. Manangello said, “SparkNotes are bad because even if they are correct, they only give people plot points and no analysis, which is what is most important when studying or reading literature.” Generally, the teachers in the English department are of the educated opinion that SparkNotes takes away from the literary learning process.

In order to improve school reading, there needs to be more communication between teachers and students. If this were to happen, then perhaps students would enjoy school reading and might even find themselves starting to read outside of school.

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