Friday, January 16, 2015

On the Topic of Assigned Reading

Every student has had to deal with this: assigned reading. Everyone groans when they hear that they are going to be reading some random classic that doesn't even have any relevance to today's world and society. I am here to defend both sides of the argument. Basically this post is going to be me arguing with myself on the topic of assigned reading.

My opening statement will be this: if you were never forced to read in school, you would not be a very good reader.

That is a valid point, but I think that kids are naturally drawn to stories, and a lot of parents read to their kids at bed time. When they are being read to, and they can actually see the words, they will begin to recognize sounds and words, and begin to learn to read.

Without the support of the school system instilling a knowledge of reading, grammar, and literature no kid would be that good of a reader. I know a few people who go to a very bad school, and they cannot read well because the school never really bothered to teach them how to read well. Yes, they can read basic English, but ask them a word above an elementary school level, and they would be lost.

Belle, anecdotal evidence isn't valid.

Yeah, I know. What I was trying to say is that school gives you the means to be able to learn, and prosper as a learner and a scholar.

Okay, what about homeschooled kids who don't go to a proper school? They can still read and write and do math the same as everybody else.

I get what you're trying to say, but I they have the letters and sounds being instilled into their brains, so they will still be able to do all the things that people who go to a traditional school do.

Moderator: You are getting off topic. It is not about learning to read. This is about being assigned to read books by a teacher.

Sorry, Moderator. Assigned reading plays a huge role in the development of the student's literary knowledge and critical thinking skills since it forces the student to analyze the text and go beyond what is obvious.

The problem with that statement is that not all teachers force you to go beyond the surface. Some make you look for literary devices such as similes and hyperboles rather than actually looking for the important stuff: symbolism, themes, and other hidden things. It takes a good teacher to be able to make you look for the subtext, and not all teachers are able to teach subtext well.

That is the thing about assigned reading. The facts become less important to you as you grow older. What I mean by that is 1) shameless Game of Thrones quote and 2) as you grow up and get into higher level literature classes, you will look for interpretation rather than what it literally says on the pages. You have to be able to pick apart what the author was saying and be able to determine that killing Piggy means the end of intelligence on the island. It may be ambiguous, but if you can support yourself then it is a good thing.

So what you're trying to say is that assigned reading makes you be able to analytically think better?

That is exactly what I am trying to say because, like math, literature builds on itself. You can read one book, and be able to relate it to another, and before long, you have a huge interconnected web of stories that help you understand what you are reading better. When Piggy's glasses broke, you knew that intelligence was slowly fading away, then in another book, a character's glasses break, and you can connect the two instances and form a hypothesis that they have similar meanings to the story.

I see your point, but its the main purpose that literature is written to entertain its audience? When you read a book for school, the teacher makes you read when you don't want to, analyze when you don't see anything worth analyzing, and spend ages on a 30 page book. Being forced to read and annotate takes the fun out of reading.

It is all about your perspective on the whole thing. If you see reading as a nuisance, then you are going to hate reading it, but if you see reading as fun, you are opening your mind to enjoying the story. And honestly, annotating isn't that bad if you know how to annotate well. The purpose of annotating isn't to know where every simile in the book is, but instead to help you remember where things are for future events (tests, essays, discussions). If you only annotate what is important to you, or where you can see a theme/symbol in the book, you mark it, and maybe write a few words to help jog your memory on why it was important to you.

Not all teachers are like that though. Some force you to keep a 95823487 page journal of where every little detail of the book is, and check to make sure you have 6489 annotations per page. That kills the book.

Yes. I agree. When a teacher is too nit-picky about how you read and annotate your book, then it takes the fun out of it, but if your teacher checks that you annotated the book in your manner, then you should be fine having to read it.

What about the content matter? That is always a huge part on you liking a book. If you find the book to be terribly boring and dense, you are not going to have a lot of fun reading it, no matter how much annotations you have to do.

I also think that the subject matter does factor into your liking of the book, but honestly the books you read for school aren't always that mad. They are violence and vulgar a lot of the time and that is pretty fun to read. Lord of the Flies was violent the whole way through, and just because the story wasn't that good doesn't mean I didn't have fun reading it. Additionally, To Kill a Mockingbird was one of the best books I've ever read even though I had to annotate every small detail of the book. I also loved Brave New World and Catcher in the Rye. They were fantastic books, even though I had to read them for school.

Even if the book s good, they don't really apply to modern day life now.

That is where you are dead wrong. To Kill a Mockingbird is so relevant today. HAVE YOU SEEN THE NEWS LATELY? Trayvone Martin? Michael Brown? ERIC GARNER? TKAM explained why racism is futile, and how it needs to end, but it obviously hasn't ended. Also, teenagers just like Holden Caulfield exist everywhere. They don't fit in, they're rebellious, they're sad. Everyone can relate to Holden in some way.

Okay, so maybe some of the books aren't terrible, but that doesn't mean that all of them are good, and why cant we just read modern books in school. They will be classics someday, so why not start reading them now?

What you're telling me is that you want to read a book that doesn't have numerous websites telling you exactly what you need to know for the book? The great thing about reading classics is that there is always a Shmoop page for it (I recommend using It's a lot better than the other sites). I have read some modern books in school, however. I had to read Sea of Monsters in sixth grade (I will not even go into the fact that we read the second book instead of the first. They said they couldn't read the first books because there was a movie out. If someone decided to watch the movie instead of reading the book, they would have failed everything).

So what? You read one modern book.

You do know that you are going to lose this argument right?


So I think that this is just going to keep going for a million more words, so I am going to cut it off here.

Moderator: Closing Statements?

Anti-School-Books Belle: I do get what you are saying about needing to read books in school, but the books that we do read are not always the best choice book to be reading.

Moderator: Other Belle?

Supportive Belle: I think that it is the school's job to instill the fundamentals of being able to read into every student. Beyond that it is their job to teach you how to analyze literature. If someone did not like the books they read for school, they should take it upon themselves to pick something up that they do not have to study. School literature is not mainly for enjoyment, it is about learning to read on a higher level.

Moderator: Thank you both for your wonderful debate. If anyone else has anything to add, please give your opinions on this topic in the comments. I should have a new post up soon, so I will talk to you then.


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