We all remember those unanimous groans in class when a teacher assigned a new required reading. But were the books really that bad?
To answer that question, I recently re-read Catcher in the Rye, a book I absolutely hated in high-school. Going into it, I couldn’t remember any concrete details or scenes from the book besides the word “phony,” so I was curious if the book was as bad as I made it out to be.
Lo and behold, on the second read through, I found myself laughing out loud with protagonist Holden Caulfield and his angsty tendencies. The book was dare I say, witty and perhaps even mildly entertaining?
In that movement, I realized maybe the books we were forced to read weren’t actually terrible, rather it was the circumstances surrounding the reading that shaped our perceptions of the novels. From juggling books with other classes to reading under intense deadlines, all the joy of reading was sucked away.
The more I thought about it the more I resonated with this conclusion. So after further thought, here are the key takeaways of why we hate the books we read in school.
Ain’t Nobody Got Time for That
There’s nothing more frustrating than when teachers act like their class is the only thing you have going on in your life. In reality, you weren’t just reading a book, you were balancing it with homework and in-class assignments from six or seven other classes.
Factor in extracurriculars and simply enjoying life and there’s little room left over for joyful reading sessions.
If you’re a teenager and an adult asks you to do something, it’s only natural to want to do the exact opposite. The mere act of being forced to read a specific book, rather than picking your own material means direct submission to an authority figure.
Teachers can order you to read the book but it doesn’t mean they can make you enjoy it.
Hey do you remember that quote Montague told Romeo on page 73 of Romeo and Juliet? Neither do I, but teachers seem to love throwing obscure quote questions into their weekly reading quizzes.
Unfortunately, in their efforts to check our reading comprehension, teachers often place emphasis on memorizing facts rather than appreciating the content.
If you’re a procrastinator then assigned readings are a nightmare. Sure, you may have a week to read each chapter but no matter how hard you try, you can’t help but put it off till the last day it’s due. But it’s not your fault.
See, with so many daily assignments, it’s only natural to push off the long-term stuff for a later date. However, when you have to cram all that reading at the last minute, there’s no room to enjoy or even process the book.
Losing the Spark with Sparknotes
We’ve all used Sparknotes before, there’s no shame in it. Sparknotes is an amazing solution to all the problems listed above. Still, there’s no denying that some of the magic is stripped from the book when you just get the shorthand version.
You may know all of the major events and scenes but all of the meaning and personal connection to the characters and plot points is lost in the brief synopsis that Sparknotes gives. So while Sparknotes may help you get that A on your next quiz, it won’t make the story very entertaining.
So if you’re feeling up to it, maybe it’s time to give those school books a second chance. Who knows, you might end up surprising yourself!