There’s something that’s been weighing on my mind lately.
So we all know that there are people who like reading books, as well as people who don’t. What I’m wondering is, how has school influenced people’s opinions on reading? Is it something that usually helps steer people towards liking books? Or has it usually deterred people?
When I say school, I’m not talking about getting book recommendations from friends and classmates. I’m also not talking about picking up a book solely because it’s somehow the one book you see every student reading.
I’m referring to whenever the teacher would assign books to read and analyze for English class.
I suppose there might be people who comes to associate the statement above with reading in general, especially if those people aren’t really readers to begin with. It gives them a bad impression, like reading is boring busy work. Sometimes the assigned books just don’t appeal to them.
For me, I’m not sure where I stand. To be honest, for a long time, class-assigned texts were the only forms of reading I did. (For clarification, I’m not talking about textbooks here, although those admittedly were what I read the most.) I was busy with schoolwork or outside studying usually. If I had the chance to read, it would usually happen if I was at the school library during lunch break, and even then there was a likely chance that I was just working on homework instead.
Once I started getting a better hold on my schedule and fixing my recurring procrastinating tendencies, I was able to get in some more free time. Assuming my attention wasn’t drawn towards some idol survival show or something, I would read manga. It was nice to freely read a story told through pictures instead of scrutinizing paragraphs of text.
So yeah, my source for non-manga books has been the classroom for the longest time. In a way, it has helped me branch out to some authors or genres. In 6th grade, the two most memorable books I read for my English class were Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck and To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. I ended up reading more of Steinbeck’s works over the years. And because I really liked To Kill a Mockingbird, I went on to read Go Set a Watchman not that long afterwards. (That book was, uh, something.)
Besides classics, I also got into autobiographical works and memoirs. I often liked reading those kinds of books for my English classes for some reason.
Of course, not all class-assigned books clicked with me. My English class last semester had many assigned books that I personally didn’t like. But at least I was able to read books I normally wouldn’t read (either because I’ve never heard of them, they fall under a genre I don’t particularly read, or because I’m just too lazy).
I know part of why people may not like class-assigned books is that they’re always asked to write a paper on it. The teacher would ask them to analyze the writer’s craft and any themes, even if it can sometimes lead to essays sounding like a huge stretch from how it was actually portrayed. Most importantly, it may kill any enjoyment from reading because you’re now associating it to a grade rather than (possibly) a pleasure read.
After taking several classes that had these assignments, I’ve pretty much grown tolerant towards them. I do think not all books should be examined so thoroughly, since they’re simply not the kind of story that should be used for literary analyses. Thankfully, that doesn’t happen. Only pre-selected books that work within a class’s curriculum are chosen.
On the flip side, I do find that you can get way more out of some books from analyzing them. Some books are naturally rich with themes and a written craft worth studying. If anything, you could come to appreciate those kinds of books even if you personally didn’t enjoy reading them.
Also, look at the bright side, all those essays are preparations for you to make a clear, convincing argument on paper. With the techniques you’ve learned from taking those classes, you can probably make just about anything sound deep.
Last school semester, I took an English class that had assigned readings. This semester, I’m taking yet another. I don’t know if I’ll talk about any of them in this blog, nor do I know if it’s even possible for me to just dump any of my written essays on here. Well, if there’s any solace I have, it’s that at least I’m still reading something every week.