Thoughts on Thursday: Required Readings


Required Readings

The new school year is already underway throughout the country. With every new year usually comes a list of required summer reading for advanced classes and very defined required readings for high school English courses.

For some this is a nightmare waiting to happen. For others it’s like a dream come true. Get out those sticky tabs, Post-Its and colored Flair pens.

As a teacher in today’s world of digital students, I have seen that our reception of reading is largely dependent upon the experiences and successes (or failures) we’ve had with it. But sometimes there’s a book that happens to break through to us.

How did you feel about required reading in school?

It depended on two things: the book and if was a summer reading requirement or an in-class requirement.

I was one of those nerdy kids. I loved to please my teachers, I loved to read and I loved to learn.

I talked in a previous post about the required readings that I loved. Surprisingly, or not so surprisingly – depending on how you look at it – there were several.

However, there was at least one book (sometimes more) on the required summer reading list for Pre-AP/AP classes that I did not read simply because I didn’t like the book. I didn’t do so well on the assessments at the beginning of the year, but it was a low grade I was willing to take. Since I was a high-performing student, I could off-set this low grade with the rest of the work I did throughout the semester. (Just to clarify: I didn’t lowball my summer reading list simply because I knew I could make up my overall grade later.)

I remember distinctly stating before sophomore year that I would not read Great Expectations (Charles Dickens) after trying to read the first chapter. This past summer I tried to pick up this book again and listened to it on audiobook. I DNFed it 1/5 of the way in.

I absolutely refused to read the assigned Louis L’Amour book for either my freshman or sophomore year. I don’t even remember which book was on the list, but I refused to read it because Louis L’Amour was my grandmother’s favorite author and I was struggling heavily with her death. It was too painful for me to even try because of the connections I associated with the book.

My senior year I shut down my own reading of Beloved. After that scene toward the beginning of the novel – you know which one I mean if you’ve read it – I. Could. Not. Even. Even though I was a very mature kid, that was just beyond what I even wanted to know or read about.

I also hated Catcher in the Rye with a passion, and my teacher loved it. I’m not sure why because she would have snubbed Holden in real life. No question.


How did you feel about required reading in school?

Where there any novels that stood out to you positively? Negatively? 


11 thoughts on “Thoughts on Thursday: Required Readings

  1. I’m actually for required reading. I read a lot of books I would never have read if it wasn’t for that and while I didn’t love a lot of them it did expose me to quite a bit. And if you’re lucky enough to have a truly good English teacher it can be a fantastic experience. But I’ve also never had a problem with the whole being told what to read like I know a lot of people do. And for the ones I really hated (anything by Falkner) there were Cliff Notes. At my kids’ high school you can choose to do required reading or not depending on what level of English you take which is I think is a good compromise.

  2. I’m a little of both; for and against it. I’m a sophomore in college and I have tons of required reading. I do take my classes online and they’re only 5 weeks so it definitely is more intense. I’m ending a class this week, the text book is over 3000 pages, and of that I have read just about 2000 pages. All required reading. In this case, I’m against it because it is just too much, especially about poets. I’m not a fan of poetry. Haha. If it were less reading, I would be for it because it would help me write my papers.

    In high school, it seems like all we ever did was required reading. But it was all in-class or for homework, and that I am for because you do read books you wouldn’t have before and it broadens your views. Pointing out themes and plots and writing in general is great when you’re in high school because it prepares you for what to look for when you go to college. However, outside summer required reading, I’m not for it but I’m not against it. Reading in the summer is fantastic, but some students want to read for fun and not A Tale of Two Cities, which will boggle down their minds when they deserve a break. Haha.

  3. My school isn’t really strict on required readings, mostly we’re just asked to make a summary of the book or read together one or two chapters from the book but I’d always get excited to read the required readings!

  4. Great Expectations is the worst! I was forced to read it in high school and then again in college (oh, the joys of being an English Lit major!).I hated it both times. I tried to listen to it this summer because it was a SYNC download. I was hoping that as an adult, perhaps, I would enjoy it more. I was also hoping that having it read to me might help as I enjoyed the Sherlock Holmes mysteries that were part of SYNC in 2014. I hated it. I hated it so much. Pip was whiny and stupid. Joe just got on my nerves. And Estella…what a b! 🙂

    My big beef with required reading is that it is mostly dead white guys. Now white dead guys did write a lot of stuff and some of it is well written. It just seems like some lit teachers are stuck teaching the same old stuff over and over again. Yes, classics are classics for a reason, but live a little and find some diversity! 🙂

    Terri M., the Director
    Second Run Reviews

  5. I hated required reading, but I never could figure out why because I’ve always been such a reader. I think I don’t like to be told what to do and when and what to analyze. I do it as the spirit leads. Who knew I was such a rebel! 🙂 Thanks for sharing this at Booknificent Thursday!

  6. It’s been a LONG time since I had required reading, especially of fiction. I know I hated Lord of the Flies and really, really hated Ethan Frome. I also remember being one of the only people in my junior English class who actually read Walden instead of the Cliff Notes, and then getting a C on the test when everyone else got As and Bs.

    In college, I had to read Heart of Darkness in both 19th and 20th century lit. classes, since it was published in 1900. I wasn’t a fan, and really wished the professors had communicated better with each other. I also didn’t like White Noise, and while I appreciated being required to read Things Fall Apart, it wasn’t something I actually enjoyed.

    Otherwise, I enjoyed most of what was assigned, partly because I do like classics. Bring on the Dickens and Hardy! Scarlet Letter! War and Peace! Macbeth! I just didn’t like having to read at my classmate’s pace. In 6th grade I remember taking A Separate Peace home to finish, because I got the impression that I might cry at the end, so I wanted to do that in private. (I was right.)

    In the middle school where I work, we are moving towards more free choice reading and less focus on the whole class novel. I’ve been enjoying it a lot!

    • Wendy, you are a better reader than I! I hated Scarlet Letter, but loved Macbeth and King Lear. I suppose I’m a picky reader, to match the rest of me.

      I teach 6th grade and our students have free choice reading and this year we get to do a class novel, whereas before we were doing book clubs with limited choices that didn’t go well in terms of pacing.

      I hope you have a good year!

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