High school was a challenging time, and it included a lot of homework in different subjects like history, sciences, and math (yikes). Like many other students, I did required reading for my English and Spanish classes. However, I didn’t enjoy the books, despite my love of reading.
Some of the required reading books were To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury, and Crónica de una muerta anunciada (Chronicle of a Death Foretold) by Gabriel García Márquez. At the time, I simply viewed those books as part of my schoolwork; something to read quickly to finish my assignment and pass the class. Looking back now, I’d guess that many of my classmates probably shared my thoughts on having to read these stories. Many of my classmates might’ve missed out on how interesting those books could be, too.
Assigned Books Can Make Sense (in hindsight)
It’s easy to dismiss books assigned in school or not read them at all; sometimes students choose to watch a movie based on the book when it’s available. But it turns out that there are books on the reading list that are assigned because they’re actually worth the read. A lot of them are considered classics for some reason or another, having a wide readership outside of schools. Yes, this means that people actually keep choosing to read them!
Gabriel García Márquez for example, is one of the most celebrated authors from Latin America. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1982, among other accomplishments.
You’ve probably already heard of some of his works, like Cien años de soledad (One Hundred Years of Solitude) or El amor en tiempos del cólera (Love in the Time of Cholera). Because of his achievements in literature, it makes sense that students would be exposed to his writing, as I was.
I’m not suggesting that all of the assigned books will be enjoyable after a revisit, and reread. To be honest, I’ve forgotten plenty of the titles that I had to read in high school. No one will love every book that they read, and that’s normal. Reading with my current perspective however, might result in a different opinion of a book that I read as a younger reader.
A Need for Diverse School Reads
There are several ways in which school reading lists need to be improved upon, which includes more works by underrepresented authors, and by writers from communities outside of the United States. Reading those stories could greatly benefit readers, at a time when diversity and inclusion still need to be improved upon in publishing. At the same time, assigning more works by contemporary writers that speak to our times, in addition to the classics that are commonly assigned, could positively expose students to today’s literary landscape. The past is important but so is the present.
Reading books for school doesn’t have to be, and shouldn’t be, boring at any age. Representation in children’s books needs to improve starting with the youngest readers, all the way up to the oldest teens.
It’s important for assigned readings to be interesting and for students to connect with the story. Students may reject reading all together, if they can’t connect with what they’re required to read. This means that it’s necessary to analyze which books are included and excluded in school reading lists.
While there is more work to be done in this realm, the good news is that there are already teachers, school librarians, authors and others, that are working to make diverse books more accessible in schools. Students are also part of these efforts.
That being said, it’s possible that you might be able to discover some good book selections on school reading lists – and that realization may just happen once you’re done with school.