Required Reading: My Experience

Hello voracious readers and welcome to a brand new project my friend Camilla @ Reader in the Attic started that I am so excited to be a part of!

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The Bloggers in the Attic is a discussion chain. And what is a discussion chain? Well, it’s pretty simple and with few steps.

Me and other eleven bloggers united together to discuss a common topic, covering the whole arc of February, and sharing our unique perspective. I created the initiative with the wish to create a discussion space that could explore a normal topic for different part of the world.

The rules to participate are pretty simple. So, if you ever wish to take part in the future discussion, please just comment under Camilla’s introduction and first post. Every topic will be discussed bi-monthly, so the next round will be up in April. There’s plenty of time to join in, but the best option is always to enter early. Also, take a look to the group banner 💖

Learn more about Camilla’s Discussion Chain in her post here!


This month’s topic is about required reading. You can follow along on the discussion by checking #DiscussionAttic and #DAFebruary for our monthly topic on Twitter.

Before I get started, I want to take a moment to acknowledge that I recognize that I am not the biggest authority on required reading for high school. I graduated in 2002 and over the last seventeen years (oh my goodness, I feel so old) the publishing landscape and educational system has changed drastically in the United States. I graduated before Common Core and three years before the SATs changed from 1600 to 2400. As such, I am don’t feel comfortable talking about required reading on a wide scale because I’m no longer in the demographic, and I feel that current teens experiences on how required reading should change would be more useful. 

I want to approach this month’s topic from the lens of my own personal experience oh so many moons ago and the lasting effect that it had on my reading habits. So first, a little bit about me! I’ve always been a voracious reader, consuming books from a very young age. I was always reading, and loved stories of ancient Greece, Rome, and Egypt – my love of mythology started at a very young age – as well as all the Goosebumps titles and Babysitters Club. But as I got older I found my reading interests changing drastically.

Required Reading Shaped My Reading Preferences

By the time that I got to middle school, my English classes were moving towards the required reading format of high school (I was in GATE classes, which essentially was honors for elementary and middle school). I found myself still reading for pleasure but the books that I was reaching for changed. Gone were the days of Nancy Drew and Dean Koontz (which I lovingly “borrowed” from my gran’s shelves), making way for what I like to refer to as my 20 year stint as a book snob.

Popular Required Reading Books

I fell in love with William Shakespeare and Edgar Allan Poe, which honestly helped fuel my passion for theatre. But it didn’t stop there – I adored almost everything that we read in high school – except for The Grapes of Wrath, that book is literally the worst thing I have ever read and I still hate it today with the fiery passions of hell. But a combination of being in the “Smart Kid Classes” and being given required reading that was beholden as the pinnacle of literature meant that my view on the value of books changed.

My intelligence was a big part of my identity growing up, and reading books of significant literary merit was my way of being different. I became an obnoxious book snob and spent twelve years of my life after high school only reading the classics. Sure, I enjoyed all the books that I read but I also closed myself off from amazing stories and experiences long after I graduated high school. It wasn’t until I was thirty years old that the walls I had built around genre fiction began to crumble.

The side effect of being told the classics were books of significant literary merit meant that I felt genre fiction wasn’t worth my time. That new fiction wasn’t valuable. The only books that I remember reading in high school published after 1950 was Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe and A Separate Peace by John Knowles. This sent a very clear message to me that any books published after 1960 were likely not worth my time ~as a smart academic~ and that only literary fiction addresses serious topics that make us think. And it would be more than a decade before I realized how wrong that programming was.

Sidenote: this is also the reason I didn’t read Harry Potter until I was 30 years old! By the time Sorcerer’s Stone was published in 1997 I was only reading classics. I didn’t even hear about the series until like 2004 – and I sadly snubbed it.

I wish that we had read genre fiction

The thing that I am honestly the saddest about is my effectively blacklisting science fiction as not worth my time. I assumed it was all just silly monsters and not not as good or important as literary fiction – which honestly cannot be further from the truth! It baffles me that my education didn’t discuss the various genres available and their value.

Image result for edward james olmos on science fiction gif
Edward James Olmos said that if Battlestar Galactica had aliens, he would scream, die, and quit the show.

I didn’t realize that speculative works like 1984 and A Brave New World or that Slaughterhouse Five were works of science fiction. The way we were taught didn’t distinguish them and we discussed them as literary works. It wasn’t until I started reading the genre more widely that I realized what they were, that the themes of humanity and possibility are prevalent and that the genre is bonded by looking forward to a potential future and acting as a warning beacon.

📝 Related post: 7 Reasons I Love Science Fiction

For me, the emphasis placed on literary fiction meant that I missed out on countless stories I would have loved to read. A main reason that I fell in love with Kurt Vonnegut’s work is that I read Slaughterhouse-five during my senior year and read everything he ever wrote because I enjoyed it so much.

📝 Related post: A Book That Changed My Life

I wish that we had read contemporaries

Based on my own experience, I wish that my literature courses and required reading had a balance between the classics and contemporary fiction. There are certainly seminal works of fiction that we should all read but I do worry about the importance placed on the classics. I think it is equally as important to read fiction that more accurately reflects the modern struggles and depicts situations relevant to high schoolers / young adults today.

In looking at the popular, award-winning books published between 1998 and 2002 when I was in high school and there are a number of books that could have been included in my curriculum, including Ian McEwan’s Atonement, Zadie Smith’s White Teethand amazing literature recognized by the National Book Awards.

What does it mean?

Ultimately school is to help us grow into functioning members of society, teaching us what we are told are valuable skills that we will need to be adults. However, I wasn’t taught how to do my taxes or balance my checkbook. I wasn’t taught about credit scores and how to build credit. I was taught how to think in a certain way as determined by my educators – because free thought wasn’t really a thing for analysis until A.P. English!

Philosopher Michel Foucault discussed at length how school is merely an indoctrination tool, and it is worth considering why – at least 20 years ago – the required reading curricula placed such a heavy focus on reading from 1960 and earlier, on books that were written by white authors, on literary fiction. The only work I remember reading by an author of color was Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe, which was also the only story not focused on and set in the West. And I grew up in California, which wasn’t necessarily the liberal bastion it is today but was still quite liberal. 

Given how diverse San Diego was and is today, it is honestly baffling to me that my education was so white. But I never thought anything about it until the last few years. Why is it that I only read one book by an author of color, and the novels we read about the Black experience were written by white authors? This is an example of how white privilege is systemic and pervasive. The underlying message is that not only is the “golden age” pre-1950, but the stories most worth reading are from white authors. Even when looking at the harsh reality of slavery in the United States, we read Uncle Tom’s Cabin by a white abolitionist. It is incredibly important to include the works of AOC into the curriculum so that students can see themselves represented and not continue to perpetuate the idea that classics written by white authors long dead are the pinnacle of literature and more relevant to society today.

What are your thoughts? 

The world has certainly changed a lot since I was in high school, and I certainly hope that the curricula has changed as a result. I would love to see books like The Hate U Give and Anger is a Gift in classrooms to discuss the realities we face today.

Thank you so much for reading my experiences with required reading and how it unconsciously shaped my opinions on genres and reading habits for two decades. I would love to hear your thoughts and experiences in the comments below – what books did you have to read in high school? Did that subconsciously shape your reading habits?

Participants for the February Discussion Chain

2nd – Camilla @Reader in the Attic

4th –  Kal @Reader Voracious

6th – Lara @Naija Book Bae

8th – Isabelle @Bookwyrm Bites 

10th – Sam @Fictionally Sam

12th – Dany @Dany’s Book Blog

14th – Ben @Ben’s Reads

16th – Kerys @The Everlasting Library

18th – Clo @Book Dragons

20th – Lauren @Northern Plunder

22nd   – Nora @Papertea and Bookflower

24th – Lili @Lili Star Reads


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Hi! I’m Kaleena: book lover, runner, wanderer, and philanthropist. Life is an adventurous gift: through the outdoors and books. I run Reader Voracious Blog, where I post spoiler-free book reviews of science fiction, fantasy, speculative fiction, and mystery & thriller.

73 thoughts on “Required Reading: My Experience

  1. Even though I graduated High School in 2009 it sounds like I pretty much had the same experience as you. As a child I loved The babysitters club! (I didn’t read goosebumps because I don’t do scary stuff haha) but in High School it was all classics and that is what we were taught was “good literature” We did read Frankenstein, The Picture of Dorian Gray, and The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde in addition to Brave New World, which seems a little more sci fi than what you read, but still not epic fantasy like LOTR. We read one book by a POC and it was Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, so similar to Uncle Tom’s Cabin in content, I believe?

    The big difference in our school reading seems to be that my 3rd grade teacher read Harry Potter to us. Harry Potter is the first time I really remember becoming obsessed with a book (tho I am pretty sure I was obsessed with babysitters club before that) Harry Potter really shaped my reading habits as they are today. And somehow my love for sci fi and fantasy survived the classic push of High School.

    I don’t remember what I was reading but it was probably some random mass market paper back, and my 11th grade teacher asked me why I would even bother reading it. My answer was that I liked the story. He didn’t seem to understand which is pretty much the perfect analogy for the Required Reading system. If its not a tried and true classic it isn’t worth reading, in their opinion. While I do agree it is important to read the classics, there are a lot of great new books too!

    Great post!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I have always been a spooky girl, but I loved the Babysitters Club so much!!! I did read The Picture of Dorian Gray in the 11th grade I think, forgot about that one! I adored that book, I should re-read it. But yea, it seems you did get more science fiction-y classics.

      I am so jealous that your teacher read Harry Potter to you! That is largely because I was almost in high school when it was first published, so I get it but STILL! I really think that series did a lot for inspiring a generation of readers, and that’s incredible.

      I can’t believe your teacher said that though, that is so sad! It bothers me so much when adults get all judgey with kids when reading, that kind of encouragement doesn’t foster a joy of reading. I love the classics, but they aren’t the only thing worth reading, and that is the narrative Required Reading seems to tell. Thanks for your comment!

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  2. hehe I definitely relate to how required reading shaped your tastes- although personally I was always a total failure as a book snob 😉 (I liked YA and fantasy too much, to the chagrin of a lot of my peers 😉 ) Having been in similar environments though, I really do get what you mean about being told certain books were valuable and other books weren’t. As someone that’s always been a massive fan of genre fiction, I really do believe that a lot of these books deserve more attention! So very much agree with this post!!

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    1. Kudos to you for sticking to your love of genre fiction! I think the downside of me getting required “classics” reading early on was that I personally didn’t have the time to develop those tastes fully. I really truly believe that genre fiction gets such a bad rap, and it wasn’t until I as writing this post that I realized the reason is that we’re programmed to! Thanks so much for your comment!

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  3. It’s interesting how anything old/’literary’ enough has its genre de-emphasised. It’s like, ‘okay I guess this is technically SF, but NO it’s different, THIS is actually good, most of them are still lowbrow crap.’ The hoops snobs have to jump through!

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    1. Wow, you make such a good point! I never really thought of it like that, but there are a lot of classics that I read that are actually genre fiction. Which kind of makes me even angrier about the indoctrination of genre fiction = not worth the time. Thanks so much for stopping by!

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  4. When I was required to read LOTR, I thought I hit the lottery. My schools never had enough money for new books, so mostly we read classics and nothing ever new. I would love to see more up to date requirements and more genre readings. But there should be a balance between new and old.

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    1. …you DID hit the lottery with LOTR! That’s freaking lucky as heck.

      I honestly didn’t think about the cost, and you probably have identified a big reason that the preference for old books is a thing: it’s cheaper. Schools aren’t well funded (at least in the US), so it stands to reason that they would have to make choices based on how much a classroom of books would cost.

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      1. Perhaps I shouldn’t mention we went to theatres to watch the second movie after reading the series. 🙈

        They truly aren’t, even in Canada. The older titles at the school were typically held together by duct tape. I was lucky to get a new textbook, while the new school got Bowflex for PE 😒

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  5. Wow this is such an interesting and important topic! I found myself nodding along with you a lot. I was the only true “reader” I knew in middle school and high school, and I definitely went through a phase where I was a bit of a snob about reading. Even though I graduated in 2008, I’m pretty sure Things Fall Apart was the only diverse book we really read in high school. I went to a private Christian school that was about 99% white, so obviously our education was incredibly white. It wasn’t until college that I discovered non-white literary fiction and classics…and it wasn’t until about 2017 that I really got into seeking out diverse literature in all sorts of genres.

    I had a bit of a mid-life crisis this past year where I decided (after six years) to go back to school with the goal of teaching high school English, so this topic is particularly interesting to me. I know teachers are under certain obligations to encourage their students to read classics, but I hope that one day I can incorporate books like The Hate U Give into my curriculum. Not only do white kids need to read to understand people who are different from them, but marginalized kids deserve to encounter writers like them who are just as important, if not more so, than all the dead white guys (and girls).

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts! I look forward to reading other bloggers talk about this as well!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Christine, and thank you so much for stopping by! I am glad I am not the only person that kind of went through a book snob phase, and WOW at the only diverse book you read was Things Fall Apart as well! The difference here is that I went to a diverse public school, yet we had a similar reading list. That just baffles me. And why the heck was the only book about the slavery experience that we read by a white person?!

      I am so excited for you, and I hope you can get into the classroom and inspire the next generation! Reading diversely really makes people more compassionate, and I feel so strongly that it is important for people to see themselves represented in media. Good luck and happy reading!

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      1. It really is baffling! I’ve always loved reading, but I can only imagine what it would be like as a kid to be forced to read an endless list of books that ignored or misrepresented your existence. If diverse books aren’t in the classroom, then kids won’t learn to love reading, and that’s just tragic, in my opinion.

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      2. I 100% agree here, which is why I am such an advocate for diverse books now! I think it is great that more marginalized voices are being published, and everyone deserves to see themselves positively represented, but there is a lot of work to do!

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  6. I have a love/hate relationship with required reading. I was always a reader so it’s not like I mind reading but some books just aren’t appealing. I hate Steinbeck for example. Just can’t stand him and his whole hopeless characters thing. Like, what a downer who wants to be depressed all day? Not this girl. On the other hand, required reading brought me books like To Kill a Mockingbird which is one of my favorite books. And The Good Earth (which despite also being depressing is a great book). We never read genre fiction back in my day either however my brother’s AP English class read Kindred by Octavia Butler which he gave to me to read and summarize for him and I’m glad because I love that book. Required reading also gave me an appreciation for Shakespeare.

    So…idk. On the one hand it stinks to have to slog through something you hate and it can be a real turn off. On the other hand sometimes you discover a favorite book.

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    1. I also hate Steinbeck! GRAPES OF WRATH IS HORRIBLE!

      I get what you mean though, and I feel the same way because I don’t think I ever would have read the classics otherwise! But looking back on it like 20 years later, I definitely am seeing that it could have been better. Of course, when I was in school the internet was new and shiny (and slow), and the information about new releases wasn’t readily available. The world has changed and I’d like to see the required reading change a bit too. But keep Shakespeare. 🙂

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  7. First, I love this idea. And Second, I totally agree with you about how science fiction is ignored in the canon of required reading.

    I think it’s valuable to a point since I never would have touched the classics otherwise, but I wish there was a happy medium between new and old fiction.

    Recently, I started a TBR-shelf clean up on Goodreads and I was thinking about your 20 year stint as a book snob. Most of the books I added in 2009 are classics and were added just because I thought that was what we were SUPPOSED to read.

    I’m slowly getting better at reading what I want and DNF-ing books I’m not a fan of, but required reading puts certain thoughts in kids heads about what is worthy fiction and what isn’t.

    Great post, thank you!

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    1. I completely agree with you: I never would have read the classics otherwise (except for Shakespeare since I did theatre), but there could and should be a bit of a balance. Another person commented that the classic science fiction stories we read for school like 1984 have their genre de-emphasized, which I think is really interesting to think about. Like yes, there are important works in genre fiction but not important enough to talk about them as their genre.

      I need to do a GR TBR clean-up as well… a lot of my books on there I am no longer interested in reading. Definitely have some books on there I feel I should read, but have no interest in. Life’s too short to waste my time on things I don’t want to read! thanks for your comment!

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  8. “I feel that current teens experiences on how required reading should change would be more useful.” Same, Kal, Same. I don’t think I dealt with Common Core for the most part since I graduated in 2016 and therefore slipped away from some of the standards. I had a similar experience with required reading, though a lot of the books I read in school I HATED and there were few that I actually enjoyed (Hamlet, To Kill a Mockingbird). But also as a kid in elementary, middle and high school, we were always encouraged to find the books that we enjoy while also appreciating the literary works as well.

    But from what I know, I would love to see more diverse works in required reading, something that was DEFINITELY not a thing during my K-12 years aside from a few. Being one of the only Asians (hell, I think I was THE only Asian until 3rd-5th grade, moved, then became the only Asian until 10th-12th grade), I know I would have loved to read works from Asian authors describing their experiences because I felt I was the only one? Everyone else made it seem strange that my mom was kind of overboard, haha.

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    1. I love that you were encouraged to find books to read outside of the required reading, I don’t remember having my teachers doing that! Thanks so much for chiming in, and I totally agree that it would be amazing to see diverse works in the curriculum. I wish you could have felt seen by at least one of the required works.

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  9. Interesting! My experience with required reading is so different, since I schooled in Nigeria and the reading was a bit more diverse. We had the obligatory Shakespeare and Hemingway for Literature classes, but a lot of what we read were by Nigerian authors/playwrights.
    The closest thing to genre fiction that we were assigned was The Siege by Helen Dunmore and Purple Hibiscus, and those were very still very serious reads.
    I’ve heard that some American schools are actually assigning The Hate You Give to students, which means progress is being made (slowly).
    Required reading didn’t quite turn me into a literary snob, it did the opposite. As much as I loved reading all the books, it’s one of the reasons I decided not to study English Lit (The idea that a lot of books had literary merit because they were older or written by certain people did not appeal to me. That and the fact that I was over being told how to interpret literature).

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    1. Thank you so much for sharing your experience, I am really interested in what required reading looks like in other countries! I’m glad your required reading was more diverse, and I find it interesting Shakespeare seems to be Important everywhere.

      I have seen some tweets about The Hate You Give being in some classrooms, and that is AMAZING!

      I definitely can see why required reading would turn you off from studying lit. I much prefer being able to interpret literature on my own and having discussions.

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  10. Oh that was such an interesting read, and so different!

    Im not that old, but I did graduated hight school in 2012… so still quite a while from the “new generation” xD and for me it was the entire opposite ! See, I was not bilingual at that time and space yet; my brain just *couldn’t* understand how someone could be thinking and talking in two languages and UNDERSTAND IT!! so what I did ? I never finished any books they forced us to read in english xD ahahah I BS-ed my way through the tests and … I somehow succeeded (mind you, we were having class discutions and what-not. so I had a general idea to base myself on)

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    1. I honestly am so impressed with bilingual speakers, it is truly impressive to me! (Sometimes I find myself thinking in broken Spanish for some reason which is weird.) I don’t blame you for BS-ing your way through books you had to read in English, that would have been difficult!

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  11. This was pretty insightful! I’m not from the US so my experiences with required reading are a bit different when it comes to the books read – we read half of European/generally Western canon type of writers (Dostoevsky, Goethe…) and half local ones – but I agree on the lack of contemporaries and especially genre fiction. I’m a long time SFF (especially fantasy) fan and I hated how they looked down on it through…pretty much all of my education. Even had a teacher say something in the vein of “Oh you like fantasy? Do you read any sci-fi, there’s quite a few books with literary merit.” I still wish I could recommend her some excellent, literary fantasy I found since 😂

    And it’s funny, they teach books like 1984 as something separate from the filth that is genre, but in my local library, they’re grouped together with the rest of SFF (as they should be).

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    1. “Oh you like fantasy? Do you read any sci-fi, there’s quite a few books with literary merit.”

      OH NO THAT IS SO RUDE! Ugh and people wonder why genre fiction is looked down upon – we were all programmed to during our education and that really bothers me. I literally never thought about how the genre for required reading is de-emphasized until this post, and I can’t stop thinking about it. Thanks so much for your comment and stopping by!

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      1. It was not that exact wording, but this was pretty much the implication – and by extension, it also bothers me that some genres are considered more “worthy” than others. Sci-fi over fantasy, fantasy over romance, etc; you see this shit all the time online. And it’s so 🙄

        And yup. Even as children (say, about 11 y/o – well above picture book age, but still kids), I remember realistic fiction was emphasized in class, as if SFF was something one outgrows. Outside of class, sure, we had a Harry Potter fanclub. But in class? No fun permitted.

        And then they wonder why kids stop reading after a certain age…

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      2. I completely agree, it is really no wonder kids stop reading for fun & that the genre stereotypes persist when we are practically trained from an early age on what is “worth reading.”

        I really wish I had been younger when Harry Potter was published. I was in high school by then and missed out on the fun of an explosion/shift in the MG/lower YA publishing landscape. I am jealous of everyone that got to grow up with HP.

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  12. English/literature classes in Indian schools are different from the US ones. We never had full books to read. Instead, we’d have textbooks with short stories and excerpts from popular works of fiction. These textbooks also had novellas like A Christmas Carol and plays like Julius Caesar.

    While there are a lot of complaints I have about the Indian education system, I’m so happy I had English teachers who stressed the power of stories irrespective of whether they were classic or contemporary.

    My favorite memory is of my 6th grade English teacher making me read Robinson Crusoe fully, all because we had an excerpt from it in our textbooks. And a few weeks later, The Half Blood Prince released and she let me and my friends read it during her class.

    She gave a new release the same importance as a classic and I appreciate it to this day. ❤️

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    1. Wow, I kind of like the idea of having readers with excerpts and short stories, that is really cool! Especially since there was an emphasis placed on the power of stories, and I wish I had that approach to my literature classes.

      You need to find and thank your sixth grade teacher, that is such a beautiful thing she did and that’s incredible. I am jealous!!!! Thanks for chiming in, I liked hearing a bit about how the Indian schools approach required reading!

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  13. I tried to read many of the classics at the end of high school and into college. I felt like I had to because people told me that was right. Not only did I not appreciate some of those books, but they really turned me off for reading. Even worse, we always had required summer reading with tests and essays when we returned from the summer. The book selections were snobby and not my favorites. I loved reading, and all I wanted to do all summer was read what I wanted. Instead, I had to worry about getting my hands on these books (the library was always out and books are not cheap as a teenager…even though I came from a working-class family), and then remembering what I read. Bombing a stupid test 2 months later would start you off with a bad grade. The whole system was a mess…and the kids who didn’t like to read just took the bad grades…so basically the program hurt readers. Love this idea for February! Rock it!

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    1. Oh goodness, I blocked out summer reading from my memory! That was literally the WORST and it was always like 4-5 books and a paper and exams once class started, and I just wanted to climb trees or read some Dean Koontz. My experiences seem very similar to yours, and I agree that the system was a total mess. Hopefully it’s less messy now? Maybe?

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  14. I didn’t get to read genre fiction -by choice- until my second year of COLLEGE and I really wish it would have happened sooner. Even if there was a rotation in genres and we checked off lists. I see that there is a method and a purpose in reading classics but these days, there is so much to be gained in diving into a wider variety of genres and more contemporary fiction.

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  15. I agree. I feel like the schools are in a bit of a rut with required reading. It is a shame because I don’t feel that my kids (I have 3 teenagers) are getting to experience enough to make them WANT to read outside of school In fact, it is about the last thing they want to do. I find it sad that just doing the same thing, reading the same stories I read in high school (29 years ago!) doesn’t do anyone any justice. I understand why it is necessary, but I feel like they need to branch out more.

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    1. Awww, that’s a bummer that your teenagers have the same books! I think things are slowly changing, at least in pockets, but I am really suddenly interested in how these books are chosen and what can be done to inspire change in this area.

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  16. Oh, Kal that is a really beautiful discussion. I really liked it.

    It was genuine to hear your reading history. I have to say that it reminds me of the time in which I felt embarassed to say I liked fantasy and such because it wasn’t seent as a valide genre or a lesser one.

    One part of me would like to hop in class and see how things goes in, to see Italian teens reacting to diverse reads, but I guess it will be a huge time before it happens. Majority of books are English and Italians are very adverse to learning other languages (this just annoy me so much).

    I’m always worried to POC Italian teens, because if I look around at my peers, or little younger… jeez, the ignorance.

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    1. Thank you so much, Cam! I am glad that you liked my post and I hope that I did your discussion chain justice! I’m sorry to hear you also were made to feel that enjoying fantasy wasn’t valid as well. I’d love to see teens grow up being asked to read diverse books because I really think it would make for a more empathetic generation. Hopefully someday.

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  17. Thinking back there was in my freshman year a chance to vote for books to read. So that year I read half of Dracula, all of Dead Until Dark, and 13 Reasons Why. I’m sure we read more through the texts but that is all I remember… Also Kindred! I hated that book. It terrified me! I also hated reading The Bluest Eye. I don’t need to read a book about a dad raping his daughter or whatever the heck that was about. I surprisingly liked The Scarlet Letter. I didn’t particularly like Grapes of Wrath but I would give it a second chance. So I had a mix of required reads outside of textbook reads. I wish I had known what The Bluest Eye was about beforehand to opt out. I’m still annoyed at that teacher till this day.

    I think I might have been considered a book snob by others because I read in my classes in between taking notes. But I wasn’t at all since I read a lot of dystopian, paranormal, fantasy, and contemporaries. I tried reading A Brave New World on my own picking it out. However, I stopped early on when there was a line about electrocuting babies. Honestly, it was kind of nice back when I browsed books in real life. I found so many great books that way. I browse books online now which is nice but I kind of want to start doing this again irl.

    I don’t really care who writes the books I read as long as I enjoy them. I can understand your thoughts though. If you want you can always seek those books out. I think I’ll start browsing around my library and I’m sure I’ll find books by anyone and everyone. I really enjoyed this discussion btw 😀

    https://shesgotbooksonhermind.blogspot.com/

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    1. WOW, that is so neat that you got a chance to vote on the books to read! A nice mix of old and new as well, that’s lovely. I remember my senior year being given a list of books that we had to choose ONE from to read and do a presentation on. That’s how I found Kurt Vonnegut and my love of science fiction (albeit it took me about 10 more years to realize it was sci fi I loved) because I picked Slaughterhouse-Five. Barring memorizing & reciting The Raven for an assignment and my hatred for Grapes of Wrath, that is the biggest memory from required reading.

      Thanks so much for your comment and sharing your thoughts, glad you enjoyed the post!!!

      Like

  18. I really love this post and I can relate with going through the same “classics only” stint (albeit, a much shorter stint). My little sister (11) had to read I am Malala in her 6th-grade class last fall and a teacher friend of mine is using A Man Called Ove in her classroom. While classics are very important and play an important role in literature, I think it’s really exciting to see some more modern books become incorporated in the required reading.

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  19. I was also a huge fan of mythology! And Babysitter’s Club and Goosebumps! I remember so many people thought that I was smart, because I would read a lot – and it was annoying because to me I wasn’t (smart), I just read a lot.

    I did try to read the set books in high school, but if they were too boring, I’d just search up explanations and summaries online until I understand it. Because i knew I could twist my understanding of the material I found online into an essay or assignment that looked like I read the book.

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    1. YAAAS SMOL KAL AND DB WERE READING TWINS! I am sure you were smart in your own way, reading a lot is something not everyone does. I know plenty of people that approached their essays and required reading the same way… and that is what I had to do with Grapes of Wrath because I ragequit that book after the turtle chapter. I took good notes in class and read SparkNotes and got an A. Not exactly learning though, which kind of proves my point that they are just trying to force us to learn how to regurgitate what they want to hear and to think the way we are supposed to.

      Thanks for sharing your experiences, DB!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. 💜💜 aw, thanks – I think it certainly was something as most of my classmates probably only read books if it were required reading.
        I’ve actually never read Grapes of Wrath and I’m probably not going to lol.
        Right? Like I’m so bored of teachers telling their students that they have to read the whole book and they can’t SparkNote it because they’ll know – like they won’t? If you’re really good with your sentence structure? My lecturer praised me on my Pride and Prejudice essay and I’m like inside – lol never went past Chapter 5.

        And what’s also annoying is that they place so much value on the essays and getting a high score but did the students even understand it? That’s the issue.

        Thanks, Kal! Happy to read your post!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Do NOT read Grapes of Wrath. It’s horrible. The book opens with like 9 pages of talking about dust moving. DUST. MOVING.

        Yea the whole reading & essay thing is flawed because all my teachers seemed to be looking for was a regurgitation. That isn’t learning if all you have to do is learn how to think like the teacher wants you too.

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  20. “But a combination of being in the “Smart Kid Classes” and being given required reading that was beholden as the pinnacle of literature meant that my view on the value of books changed.” I RELATE SO HARD TO THIS. I also enjoyed a decent number of the books we read in class (particularly Shakespeare and Cyrano de Bergerac), which definitely put me in the minority because we didn’t have honors English until junior year of high school, so until then a lot of the others in my English class would rather have taken an extra science or PE period. I spent so many summers struggling through “101 Books for College-Bound Students” lists of literary greats, so when I found some that I didn’t hate (Jane Austen, Jane Eyre, Frances Hodgson Burnett…) I’d read and reread them to procrastinate tackling Dickens or Tolstoy.

    also, Grapes of Wrath was one of the worst. I’m pretty sure it’s the only required-reading book from high school that I didn’t actually finish.

    at the same time, I’m lucky that my teachers encouraged independent reading – my seventh grade teacher had us keep a reading log, but she didn’t pass judgment on the books we listed, and a lot of my elementary school teachers had a pretty extensive classroom library with all kinds of books (A to Z mysteries, Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, Artemis Fowl, as well as some classics). I’m also young enough (class of 2017!) that my high school teachers belong to the generation of educators who are deliberately slipping more diverse works into the curriculum, so that added some diversity to my reading.

    though come to think of it, even though I went to schools that were about 50/50 white and Asian, we didn’t really read works by Asian authors. there were maybe a few books about Japanese internment, and lots about slavery and the civil rights movement, but it wasn’t until college that I really noticed how US-centric the reading curriculum was. hm.

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    1. I also really enjoyed a large number of the books that we read for school in high school, which more than likely fed into my self image as well. Shakespeare is one of my true loves, but that may be more of the fact that I competed in SoCal Shakespeare festivals for four years. But there is something about the Bard that I absolutely LOVE! I hear you on procrastinating though… still avoiding Tolstoy, and I’ve been trying to read A Tale of Two Cities for 15 years.

      Grapes of Wrath was my first DNF! I tried so hard but I made it as far as the turtle chapter and decided I could do no more! Funnily enough I found my copy on my shelves a few months ago (WHY DID I KEEP IT WHAT IS WRONG WITH ME) and I think I am going to try to re-read it for a blog post lmao.

      I am so happy to hear though that your teachers encouraged independent reading and were a lot less judgey than mine were! Definitely proof that some progress is being made, and I think that is wonderful. But yea… curriculum is definitely US- and white-centric; at least for me I found the books that were discussing the history of slavery, etc were from the perspectives of white people. Which… you have to be wary of history being told by those in power.

      Thanks so much for your comment & sharing your experiences!

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  21. I also graduated high school in 2002 and must say i didn’t have a good experience. I don’t know what books were required in other countries for high school kids, but the ones in my country were… how to put it… Terrible?!

    Like, I seriously couldn’t name one I didn’t hate. I think it’s to do with my age as well, because now Antigone actually sounds quite interesting. At age 14 tho? Pure torture.
    For us contemporary was shit written in 1950s. Again… why??

    I don’t even remember the teacher ever properly explaining anything and the books were just so long, and i never had time to finish them cuz we often had less than a week to do so.
    For the sake of all kids, i hope this is different nowadays.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I am so sorry to hear you had a bad experience, but also who would give Antigone to a 14 year old?! There are definitely books I read at 14-15 that were probably too young, I feel like I read Wuthering Heights when I was 15 and… 15 year olds don’t understand how that isn’t a love story. LOL

      Bummer that your teachers did a poor job of explaining though, I had one bad teacher out of 4 and it was yikes. That was my Grapes of Wrath year, and I am sure that is connected in some way.

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      1. Ah, tell me about it…
        We actually didn’t read Wuthering Heights or anything similar. I read Jane Austen on my own accord during a summer break, haha. I was near 18 tho.

        But… we read all these suuuper serious books by Hungarian authors and i remember one that was about a marriage and war and PTSD and shit like that. I was around 15 and of course i got none of it. :/

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    2. This is such an insightful post! Believe it or not, I’ve never been subjected to required reading. It’s not in our curriculum and even if it were part of my education, I don’t think my school could have provided everyone with the necessary resources. When I was a kid, my public school couldn’t even provide us with enough textbooks. I experienced sharing books with my classmates which was really difficult. Of course, I still ended up being well-educated because my teachers did their best to give me quality education. I’m just sad that my country doesn’t give that much importance to literature. Of course, I’m aware that reading classics can be a challenge but I really think required reading can spark the love for books in a person. I would love more Filipinos to be able to see the magic of reading at a young age.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. WOW, no required reading at all?! Suddenly the whole lack of a reading culture in the Philippines that Shealea talked about last August has a lot more context. I am sorry that an importance on literature isn’t really a thing there, and you are definitely right that it is fortunate we have the exposure to reading in school AND can discuss those more complicated reads in groups / get guidance. Thank you so much for your comment, Rain!

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