Is High School Grooming Us To Be Readers?

high school readers

I have always believed that books are better than any other medium of entertainment, be it movies, smartphone, YouTube etc. The reason is simple: only with books can I fall into a rabbit hole of mindless exploration where I begin reading in the afternoon with a story about a half-god teenager and find myself reading about how cats are evil at midnight.

In other words, books keep me from falling down an unending spiral of mindless exploration unlike the internet.

Books are always better than movies and no one will ever convince me otherwise.However, I’d be lying if I said that I have always loved reading. There was a point in my schooling where many of my friends and I, who were enthusiastic about reading, gave up on it.

One of my friends who had read five series of books the previous year read nothing but the literature textbook she was obliged to read. Despite English being my favorite subject, I gave up on being enthusiastic about my English classes too, Soon enough, I found myself falling asleep upon opening a book.

My teachers, parents, friends and especially my grades did not take this unfortunate series of changes in my behaviour and enthusiasm very well.

Turns out, my friend and I weren’t the only victims of such a sudden loss of enthusiasm. Every time I look around in the library, there are no eyes thrilled to turn the page; only tired and uninterested ones wanting to be outside. While I love playing outside too, it is sad to see students, in general, lose their enthusiasm for reading.

children bored in class
Children bored in class

Why does this happen?

With a little bit of research, I found that there are certain patterns in which regulations are implemented to get children to read. Although a systematic way of teaching is advantageous in many ways, it falls short to instil a passion to read in children.

Firstly, what a student reads greatly affects the image they paint for themselves about reading. High schoolers are given books like “To Kill A Mockingbird”, “Catcher In The Rye”, “Scarlet Letter” and “The Great Gatsby” to read in their teen years.

In my case, we have chapters and extracts of books written in the 1940s, one of which is, “A Hundred Dresses”.

Books considered to be classics
Books considered to be classics

While all the above-mentioned books are rightfully classics and great to read, they only kill any enthusiasm in a child to read.

With all due respect to the authors, these books are quite boring to teens and tweens. This is because these books are based on topics which need to be dissected and magnified to understand, and there isn’t an engaging storyline to keep active students interested in what is happening.

Such books are called classics because they artfully project the truths of life. But another reason that they are called classics: not everyone can read them. To understand the true beauty of classics requires the experience of life and intellect, both of which aren’t taught in school and thus, cannot be expected out of such young individuals.

These books are to be read to expand your sense of judgement and to gain a wider perspective on life and the world you live in, not to enjoy reading on a Sunday afternoon. Or any time of the day.

Secondly, the way a student reads plays a big role in whether or not they’d like to adopt reading as a hobby. At school, the way to read a book or a chapter is to have students randomly stand up and read. Then, choosing another and have them continue from where the former left off.

While I do believe that class participation is necessary, this manner of reading makes it worse for everyone to read. Students develop a feeling that reading is a chore which needs to be done and get over with. Additionally, this manner causes the quick-paced readers to yawn away to glory and lose interest while the slow readers end up with anxiety upon the thought of reading since they cannot keep up.

This leads me to another question: Is school grooming students to be enthusiastic readers?

Seeing the number of students who yawn during the class, and the amount of yawns our teachers have to tolerate, I’d say the answer is no.

However, our English teachers and professors themselves aren’t to blame. The whole point of introducing reading novels at school (or in my case adaptations and extracts from classic literary works) is to teach children to read. That’s it.

To instil a passion for reading in a child, it needs to be built little by little. If you hand a thirteen-year-old “The Tragedy of Julius Caesar”, chances are, the child would never pick up another book again.

On the other hand, if you hand the same child a copy of Harry Potter, they will learn to find themselves in the story. The plot is intriguing enough and the characters themselves are likely to become a reflection or a fictitious friend of the child.

While books like Percy Jackson and Harry Potter may (deceitfully) sound to be only little children’s books, I assure you, they are not just for kids. Both the stories have a character you and I can relate to easily, a particular picture of the dynamics of life, plenty of morals to think about as well as engaging world-building in it.

It is a perfect start to introduce children to reading novels and as they learn to grasp the essence of the joy of reading, they will reach out to more genres and eventually make their way to reading classics all by themselves.