Discussion: do schools have it all wrong with books? Would you change something to the assigned reads? Do they reach their goal?

Hi dear friends!

Today (and the whole week) I am away from home training hard for work!

That’s why this post has been scheduled (for once) and why I will keep it simple and straightforward because I want YOU to do the dirty work LOL

Today’s topic is schools and their assigned reads.

Do you think that schools reach their goal with their choice of mandatory readings? Or do they miss it completely? Would you do it differently? How?

 

I think that school’s goals are on the one hand to have students get to know their history and culture; on the other hand to make kids read.

I will speak from my European upbringing perspective but from what I’ve read it seems to me that US schools work the same.

 

Me and my kids had/have assigned reads.

Usually they were classics like Balzac, Victor Hugo, Baudelaire, Edmond Rostand, Zola, Camus, Ionesco, Kafka, etc.

Molière aside I hated these reads! Yet I loved reading. And my kids feel the same.

Why did school choose these reads? Because they were part of our history and our culture.

I get it that it’s important to have culture and know about our past and history. Truly I loved history and I love art and culture in general.

But I found these reads BORING! And hard to read.

 

My solution

Make a summary of the books!

You want your students to know all about the social class struggles of the 19th century? Just have a summary of Germinal!

Then have your students read the summary and one meaningful, powerful scene from the book!

Give them arresting quotes. Quotes can say so much!

Follow with a debate with your students where you’ll instill all cultural references, conflicts etc.

Of course if your student want to read more then give them the whole book! But don’t make it mandatory! Give them a taste. Make them want it! Like a teaser! 😀 

 

If you want your students to read, request that they read at least “x” books but let them choose the books!

Reading must be pleasurable.

If they are lost because they have never read, give them lists with YA books and describe their topics!

If they like to play D&D give them something like the Throne of Glass or Eragon or the Shadowhunters or …

If they like sorcery then it will be Harry Potter or any other books about witches and sorcerers.

If they like history point them to Salt to the Sea or All the Lights We Cannot See or ….

If they like contemporary and are gay or lesbian give them Simon and the Homo Sapiens or

If they like topics around racisme give them The Hate U Give or A Very Large Expanse of Sea or…

If they like sciencefiction give them Lifl1k3 or Skyward or Dune or …

If they like mystery or thriller give them One of Us is Lying or We Were Liars or…

See what I mean?

 

Now do tell me: what do you think of school assigned reads? Would you do it differently? Are you satisfied with what your kids have to read?

Thanks for reading!

PS I’ll do my best to comment back asap but being away from home it might be some days before I get back to you.

Sophie

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31 Replies to “Discussion: do schools have it all wrong with books? Would you change something to the assigned reads? Do they reach their goal?”

  1. I think they should assign more reading here in the US. They give them assignments all year and plenty of book reports and most of the time they get to pick what they want but they do pack in some classics. I don’t know each country has their own thing for learning to read.

    Mary

    1. BewareOfTheReader says: Reply

      So basically you think the kids in the US don’t get enough reads assigned Mary? Here they get about one book per month.

  2. I read somewhere reading has fallen by 30%. Let’s make reading something a kid wants to do. I so agree with you Sophie, classic books with summaries and excerpts. Let them read what they’re interested in. Maybe older they will go back and really read the classic book as their tastes expand. Excellent post Sophie!

    1. BewareOfTheReader says: Reply

      Thank you so much Dani!!!

  3. My 6th grader was in Challenge ELA this year. She is an avid reader and is constantly begging to order from Amazon or go to the bookstore. I can honestly say that her class this year has really hurt her love for books and reading. She finds the books old and boring and can’t connect with the class reads in anyway.

    They also had a 40 book challenge, where they had to read on their own, keep track, and review a certain number of those each quarter. I thought at the beginning of the year that she would nail this! However, while it seemed like their was choice, there really wasn’t. They were given a list of of genre’s they had to read a specific number of books in and very few were truly “student choice.” She started to dread having to choose yet another book she knew she wasn’t going to enjoy . . .and honestly, I don’t blame her. I see nothing wrong with having to read and try a different genre, but to have to read 5 when it’s something you don’t like, it’s painful.

    1. BewareOfTheReader says: Reply

      Oh no!!!! And that’s why I am raging against schools right now!

  4. Ugh. I loathed assigned readings. The less I like a book, the slower I read. But even my classes that gave a list of choices, rarely had ‘good’ choices. I really like the idea you had of using summaries/quotes and discussion. Then, if the student wanted to read the book, I’d give them extra credit assignment. I also agree using more contemporary books to engage students. Books don’t have to be classics to teach and explore ideas. In fact, they would be better because we really need to focus on the present and not the past if we want to really reach kids with relevant ideas.

    My favourite required reading was in 9th grade- Jurassic Park!

    1. BewareOfTheReader says: Reply

      Extra credit assignment that’s a brilliant idea Aislynn!!!!!

  5. Though I did not necessarily love every one of my required reading books, it forced me to read books I probably wouldn’t have otherwise read, and I often find that many other people read these books too. I do wish that there were more “new classics” mixed into the curriculum, and that maybe some actual YA books were included. I remember one of my students telling me she was uncomfortable reading The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo for her English class. Even though it was more modern, it maybe wasn’t the best choice for the class.

  6. I totally agree with you, Sophie! School assigned reads are totally boring!

    1. BewareOfTheReader says: Reply

      Exactly!

  7. Oh boy, I really and truly disliked assigned (aka forced) reading in school. I have such memories of struggling through hefty tomes that I had zero interest in and did not enjoy. I have always been a reader so it wasn’t that I didn’t want to read. But being told I HAD to read certain books? I definitely chafed at that. And all these years later, I can’t really say that I see any benefit in it. I still don’t view it as a particularly effective learning/teaching experience. I’m all for promoting the importance of reading and literacy but I don’t think forcing kids to read certain books is the way to do it. Giving them options seems a much better alternative.

    1. BewareOfTheReader says: Reply

      I think options are better too Tanya but of course once a rebel always a rebel!

  8. I nominate Sophie for Minister of Education … globally! Yes, like you, and I’m sure, everyone in a western cultural upbringing, we all had to read assigned books that were dreary historical and culturally significant. But no one “loved” them. We all struggled and, I think, in part, not just because the language is dead in these books to us, at the time, but because the teachers didn’t help either. Uninspired themselves.

    There was only one English Lit teacher I remember who made this assigned reading interesting, because she made us all dress up and enact out the book, as if we were doing a Shakespeare play! It was suddenly interesting and fun.

    But I’m with you. Stop forcing this down kids throats and let them read something up to date, and in keeping with the language of the day. Later, if a person is going to University to study English/French/German literature, then yeah, sure, they’ll read some of the classics.

    1. BewareOfTheReader says: Reply

      Hahaha I don’t know if I’d do a great Minister Alexandra but yes, bring it on!

  9. I think forcing kids to read, in hopes of making them enjoy reading, is kinda iffy. and I get that they want to introduce the kids to classics or history or whatever- cultural touchstones- but my experience was if I was forced to read something boring, it was the LAST thing I wanted to do! I think your ideas make a lot more sense! Summarize, tease, make it fun- much better. 🙂 I’m putting you in charge lol.

    Letting kids choose their OWN books is crucial too, I think.

    1. BewareOfTheReader says: Reply

      Hahaha I will soon be head librarian in charge of the reading programme if I follow your advice Greg 😉

  10. I really hated feeling like I was forced to read something in high school. Spark Notes were my friend, haha. It wasn’t that I was against the books themselves, just a mood reader that’s rarely in the mood for classics. Some people love classics, but I’m not one of them. I can appreciate them for what they are, but that’s about it. I even avoid retellings of classics. I feel like teachers should modernize their reading in a way that promotes enthusiasm for books and stories. Too many kids these days are disinterested in reading, and reading is one of the best assets in the world.

    Awesome topics of discussion!
    Lindsi @ Do You Dog-ear?

    1. BewareOfTheReader says: Reply

      Exactly Lindsi! As you said some really do adore reading classics but most don’t. Kids should have options and they too are moody readers like us!

  11. Ugh, I hated assigned reads in high school – the one thing I truly enjoyed was AR reading (Accelerated Reading), but that was only because I accumulated points quickly with reading Harry Potter and Twilight, LOL. One thing I would change is having assigned reading, but allowing readers to choose from a list of recommended reads with a mix of classics that survived throughout time and novels that have come out in recent years that are just as relevant. Some people can’t afford to read outside of school so when there are strictly assigned reads, some people hate them and then they hate reading, which results in well… less reading happening because they’re not enjoying it.

    1. BewareOfTheReader says: Reply

      Sophia at my kids school some years they worked with a big list of books among whose you had to choose to read two for example. I recall perusing the list with my kids and going to read the summary and the reviews on GR. It was not a bad policy that year.

  12. Forgot to tell you, I hope you are finding some time for a bit of fun while on your business trip.

    1. BewareOfTheReader says: Reply

      Oh Laura you’ll know all about my trip in a few hours 😉

  13. It’s been way too long since I was in school. I think I remember two books that were assigned. I do recall my son reading one of the same books I did. That needs to change with the times, not stay the same.

  14. Ugh I cant even begin to say how I hate the assigned reads in my sons school, and my son hates them! They have just started something called accelerated reading…they read a book and then have to do a test on it to make sure they understood it and took it in….if they get 100% they move up a level.

    Whilst I think making sure they understand the book is a good thing, the questions are pitched way too advanced for their ages…..and when my son doesnt get 100% it makes him feel like he has failed. And that’s not good!

    1. BewareOfTheReader says: Reply

      Well Caro I totally agree with you! On the one hand it’s good they are making pupils read but on the other hand they should handle it accordingly to their age and interests!

      1. Exactly! Its always a trial to get my son to read, he hates reading…..I dont even know where he gets that from!!!!

        1. BewareOfTheReader says: Reply

          Don’t despair Caro! Give him some time 😉

  15. I agree, Sophie. It’s past time for schools to update their curriculum.

    1. BewareOfTheReader says: Reply

      Well Jacquie I am pleased to see that whatever the continent we are living on we agree onto this important topic! Now we must act!

  16. They still read Shakespeare and many other books I read years ago, but the curriculum has been changed to include things like Maze Runner, stuff about the Iraq conflict, and so on. They are trying to be more Modern here in the US. I think classics are essential. However, current reads are essential as well.

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