My experience with required reading began the summer before ninth grade: The Book Thief by Markus Zusak.
In hindsight, this was the beginning of the end as far as “enjoyable” books go.
While Honors English 9 offered some diverse writing consisting of multicultural texts—such as The House on Mango Street by Mexican-American author Sandra Cisneros—Honors English 10 brought on an onslaught of outdated works such as The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne.
For me, it has never been the question of whether or not books are school-appropriate as they have become even more outdated with every passing year. It can be argued that it is important to read texts from the past to gain insight into history; however, continuing to read outdated books throughout high school is only at the loss of students’ development in the world.
Students simply can’t be expected to fully acknowledge other cultures and the changing world around us when the majority of the texts we read live in the past. Not only that, but engaging students starts with reading works they can relate to, consisting of subject matter that will interest them and inspire them to apply what they are reading into their own lives.
To the dismay of many teachers, students often don’t partake in any reading out of the classroom whatsoever. The institution of texts that have the ability to catch the young readers attention, while still being eye opening and lesson teaching, would help change students’ negative attitudes towards required reading.
As a generation more open-minded than the last enters the classroom, they should be assigned reading that fits the current times and demographics. There is simply not enough diverse literature; Steinbeck is not reflective of the experiences of today’s students.
Nonetheless, these unenjoyable and difficult books to read and comprehend do push us towards better reading proficiency. But, with every passing day, there are works published everywhere that qualify as acceptably difficult in reading level while still providing some sort of relation to the world we live in today.
There is a disconnect between young readers and the books we are assigned—most are tired, redundant, and not teaching us anything beneficial or new that we may take into consideration in our own lives.