By Lily Firth
Nearly every student, aside from my fellow English majors, says they don’t enjoy reading, deeming books too boring, long or difficult. Additionally, they’ll claim they do not have the attention span to read or that they have better things to do, along with a multitude of other excuses. As an avid reader myself, it disappoints me deeply. Although many older generations would disagree, I do not think it is our fault that we don’t read as much anymore.
When debating why students don’t read as much as they once did, the most obvious reason seems to the many other forms of entertainment available at our fingertips — movies, television, video games, even our phones have fun pastimes to occupy our minds at any given point of the day. Of course, this is not our fault, as we are a generation raised with this technology and know nothing else, much to our elders’ grievances.
On the contrary, though, what I honestly think is the main reason that our generation doesn’t enjoy reading is our school curriculums. When we are very young, around 5 years old or so, we are given colorful and enjoyable books that hold our attention and invigorate us to read more. Even as we grow older, we still read books that are imaginative, humorous and exciting. If you ask anyone our age, they’ll rave over the books they read in elementary school — “Junie B. Jones,” “Captain Underpants” and “Harry Potter” to name a few.
But once we reach a certain age, around middle school, it seems the number of people who enjoy reading goes on a steady decline. Why? I think because teachers give these strict curriculums — of course, which they are told to abide by — of books that are supposedly educational, but in reality are boring, and usually really really old. Go up to anyone our age and ask if they’ve read Shakespeare, and they will groan and roll their eyes and nod, shivering at the memories of deciphering old, outdated English. Middle school and high school are programming us to hate reading because they are giving us the wrong books. Because our minds are growing so much at that critical age, it is impressioned on us that books are equated to boredom. Also, I need to note that most of these books are written by tired, old, white men — there is absolutely no diversity among their voices as we read them to diverse students.
I remember my senior year of high school, my teacher boldly stated that he was going to work around the curriculum a little, and introduce to us to some books of his choosing that he thought would benefit us. He assigned us Khaled Hosseini’s “The Kite Runner,” a story about two Afghani little boys that wove a story about classism, regret, loss and suicide.
Typically, when I would ask my friends whether they had read for class, they would almost always reply “I skimmed it” or “I sparknoted it.” However for some reason when I asked about “The Kite Runner,” everyone animatedly would reply “Yes! I can’t wait to see what happens next!” My fellow students were exposed to a whole new world, and they loved every minute of it.
Of course, I’m not saying just throw uneducational, vapid, entertaining books at students, because I know that the point of English class is for educational purposes. However, there are so many educational books with beautiful symbolism and thought-provoking themes that are also entertaining. I truly believe that if we changed school curriculums, then we’d have a generation of readers who might put down their phones to read a few chapters because they genuinely enjoy it.