You can give a kid a classic, but you can’t make them read

There are Americans who proudly proclaim they don’t read for pleasure. There are countless students moving through high school right now who resent reading a little bit more every day.

This is a problem. How is the United States supposed to remain competitive internationally if our citizens are losing interest in prolonging their education through the written word? You can’t learn everything from T.V. and social media.

What I’ve found is two things: one, people whose parents didn’t read to them as kids don’t read as much as those who do, and two, students are discouraged to read because of their English classes. It would be hard to enforce parenting techniques in a widespread way, but there is something we can do about my second revelation.

The problem with English curriculum is the books we are forced to read. They are old. A lot of the time, they are boring. Students today have a hard time relating to, say, “The Catcher in the Rye.” And English teachers can moan and groan about the “classics” all they want- the bottom line is that we’re not getting anything out of these books, unless we like them.

I read a lot, and I hated “The Catcher in the Rye.” On the other hand, I loved “Lord of the Flies.” But I didn’t read it because a teacher made me. I sought that book out on my own.

Teachers should let their students choose their own reading material. For one thing, they’re more likely to read it. And secondly, they’re more likely to gain knowledge from it, and develop reading habits, if you guide, rather than enforce, reading.

And yes, it’s important to have a class book that everyone reads. Choose modern reading material. Last year, in sophomore English, we read “The Kite Runner” by Khaled Hosseini. Most people enjoyed it, because it was written in a way they could understand.

I wholly believe that a lot of classic literature is overrated and should be saved for English majors and devoted readers. Let modern students learn about theme using “The Maze Runner” by James Dashner, and metaphors with “The Fault in Our Stars” by John Green. Let these modern books become the new classics- and inspire generations of teenagers to read.

 

Modern books that high schoolers will read, and that are well written, too

  • “The Hunger Games” by Suzanne Collins

This book is already used with freshman English classes at SHS, and for good reason. It has great usage of theme and social commentary. The heroine, Katniss, is refreshing and relatable (and female! I cannot stress this enough!), and it doesn’t hurt that there’s a top grossing movie to go along with it.

  • “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” by Stephen Chbosky

This is heavy subject material, and it’s, in my opinion, a much better coming of age story than Holden Caulfield’s. It’s a great way to discuss worldview in the classroom, and it invites readers to take their own stance on life.

  • “Fast Food Nation” by Eric Schlosser

Nonfiction books can be modern, too! If a teacher wants students to really feel the  impact of the food industry, they should read this book instead of, say “The Jungle” by Upton Sinclair. The material presented is just as difficult to swallow, and way easier to understand.