Quick disclaimer: School’s education systems and the books assigned to each grade vary hugely, for they depend on a wide range of factors — countries, curriculums, the school’s priorities, etc. Sadly, getting books and education is still a privilege. However, there are things the system can change for students to have a better overall experience.
Let us face it: school systems are old. I could go on and on about how, as they aren’t updated, they are causing much more harm to students than people want to admit. And with school comes mandatory reading, so the books chosen become tales as old as time. There are thousands of children and teens out there who gave up on reading because they were forced to do so, and will never find out what it feels like to get invested in stories and live the most wonderful adventures.
An investigation made by the American Psychological Association in 2018 revealed that only one in every 3 children read daily because they enjoy it. One year later, the National Legacy Trust found out that 72.2% of people aged from 12 to 14 do not read often for pleasure (study made in the UK). Most articles blame it on social media, but schools hold as much responsibility for this.
When someone tells me that they dislike reading, I tell them that it’s because they haven’t found the right book yet. I can assure you, not every teen out there will enjoy reading about the misfortunes of an old white man who lived in the 17th century. To allow teens to choose the books they will be reading, schools, alongside teachers of all grades, should make a diverse list of novels, poems, biographies, and everything in between — emphasis on diverse. Chances are, that when students pick the book they feel drawn to, they will not only enjoy it much more, but they will have a chance to relate to the characters.
Of course, we can’t talk about mandatory school reading without talking about reading controls. Ah, I remember classrooms before book quizzes. Those who had read the book tried to summarize it in 30 seconds for those who hadn’t. There were also people who could care less about the reading control. It became part of a rather long list of reasons for us to feel unmotivated to go to school. After all, no one likes to be forced to do anything.
I’ve said it once and I will say it again: student’s ability to choose matters. Instead of long quizzes that ask you for the name of the character’s dog, why not have more dynamic activities? Acting out pieces of dialogue for the theater kids out there. Writing poems inspired on characters for the authors-in-the-making. A debate on the book themes if you’re like me and you like to have a healthy argument. Comparing and contrasting characters from different books. Quick activities that teachers can grade while they happen. This way, students will actually come to interact with the book and come to discover the pleasures of reading.
I’ve had the most varied experiences with books for school. I’ve loved some novels and picked up more works from the authors. I’ve procrastinated reading for the night before the test because reading felt like a chore. I’ve even fallen asleep while reading because I was bored to my core - yes, I’m looking at you, Verne. If I’ve developed a passion for reading and writing, it is most likely not because of school. It’s time to change that. School systems should adapt to students, not students to old, rusty curriculums.
is a young planster with too much passion and too little time on a day. She has been telling stories for as long as she can remember, whether they are thoroughly researched flash fiction pieces or improvised bedtime stories.