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Assigned Reading is the Worst, By Teen Contributor Riley Jensen

Every year in English class, students are told they have to read some certain books and annotate them. Students are told they have to read these “classics” because they’re “important.” Reading these books alone might actually be enjoyable, but assigned reading is the worst.

First of all, most students probably don’t read these books thoroughly. They’re just flipping through, writing a few notes, and basically doing the bare minimum required to get a good grade. By doing this they’re not even gaining anything from the book itself. In all honesty, they’re probably thinking more about the due date than the actual book.

Also, assigning reading kind of takes the joy out of it. They’re not reading the book because they find it interesting or they want to, but because they have to. It’s just another assignment to students. Teachers want us to remember these books, but we’re just trying to get it done in time.

Teachers are always saying that these books are “important” and we should take something away from them, but I doubt many students even remember half of the words they read. I have read so many books throughout school that teachers have told me are “classics,” but I can barely even tell you all of the books I read in my freshman year. Why don’t I remember them? Because reading them wasn’t my choice.

I understand that not everyone is going to like every single book that’s assigned, but I haven’t really liked any of the books I’ve been assigned. With the assigned books I’ve always kind of been like, “I mean, I guess it was okay.” There hasn’t been a book that I’ve been assigned that I’ve been genuinely excited about.

Also, I get that these books are “classics” and they “teach us something about our past, so we can avoid that wrong in the future,” and all that other stuff they tell us when they talk about the importance of studying classic literature. We’ve all heard it. We all get that these books are a big deal, but there’s new books. There’s new books that talk about new things from a new perspective. Those books are important too. I’ve gained a lot more from reading books that I actually wanted to rather than the ones I’ve been told will teach me something important.

All in all, these assigned books aren’t really teaching me anything. I didn’t even read half of those books all the way through, and I was still able to write full essays about the importance of them and make an A. So, maybe I am learning something, how to fake my way through an essay. But, i’m just saying, maybe assigned reading isn’t as “important” as people think it is.


  1. Patrick Vallez-Kelly says:

    Thank you, Riley, for your post, testimony and perspective. This is important for teachers and librarians to hear. It would be helpful for me if you might be able to name some titles that really landed with a “thud” for you, or some titles that you’ve freely chosen to read that were particularly enlightening or engaging for you.

    Thanks again for posting.

    – a high school librarian

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