Saturday, November 22, 2014

Why Kids Hate Reading (Or at Least My Theory)

Somehow I landed the jackpot of English teachers this semester. He's one of the best I've ever had, although I must say he doesn't have much competition (my most previous English teacher once took eleven weeks to grade the speeches she assigned). Nevertheless, this guy gives me a lot to think about during the day, and his ideas and teaching methods suit me well.

About three days into the semester he began going over the assigned reading we'd be receiving during the semester. It's a well known fact that once you enter high school you read classics until there's no tomorrow. The Count of Monte Cristo, Of Mice and Men, The Great Gatsby, etc, etc. By no means is anything wrong with this—classics should be continually read and enjoyed—the problem is that the latter never happens.

To be blunt, 90% of kids in high school do not read for fun. Ever. A majority of the time when a person carries a book around, it was spurred by a relentless English teacher who—heaven forbid—is forcing them to read a book.

I've been doing a lot of thinking about what ignites the hate that kids have for reading. It's not that they've always disliked reading. Kids in elementary school often read like it's their job. They willingly pick out books from the library and they don't need teachers on their backs forcing them to get through the book.

That then begs the question. What transforms kids into hating reading?

I have come to the (unscientific) conclusion that required reading creates a hate for reading.

No one likes to be required to do anything, no matter how much they like it. And at first the required reading is okay. In my latter years of elementary school and all of my middle school years, you could essentially read whatever you wanted as long as you were reading. In middle school you had to read 40 books every year. Although you had to read a certain number of books under each criteria (10 nonfiction, 5 classics, 20 fiction, etc.), you had a lot of leeway of what you did and didn't read.

But then required took on a whole new meaning. You had to read this book and only this book. Writing style didn't suit you? Too bad. It was a romance novel and you loathe anything and everything about relationships? Doesn't matter. Not a fan of the author? Suck it up. Not to mention most of the required reading is classics that were written in a language that is your own and yet seems like an entirely different tongue most of the time.

The cycle of forced reading of dull books presents a disdain for reading among students. They develop the sense that all books are boring and a waste of their time.

Back to my current English teacher. We're reading Ender's Game, which is not a classic by any means. It's a fairly recent book and written under the genre of science fiction, and honestly it's one of the first books I've been required to read that wasn't written a century ago. It's astounding at how well my peers have accepted the new notion of being required to read an actual interesting and intriguing book (although people are still complaining as all teenagers do, but the amount of people is far less than usual).

But I'm interested in what everyone else thinks. A small part of me doubts my "required reading creates a hate for reading" theory. If kids love to read up until they're required to do it, then why do we even have a need for required reading? If we completely bypass the method of forcing kids to read, then will they still continue to read?

Then I began to wonder though, if we don't force kids to read the classics, will they still continue to read them on their own? But then again—like I mentioned before—classics should be both read and enjoyed. So do we gain anything by forcing kids to read classics if they don't enjoy them?

Just a little thought for everyone during their weekend.

Have a fabulous day.


  1. This is so true! Personally, I love to read-- even books that we have to read for school. But I know a LOT of people who would say otherwise :) Great post!

    1. I feel the same as you. I generally enjoy reading (required or not), and I get all happy inside when my teacher announces we're going to the library to check out the next book we'll be reading in class. VERY few of my classmates feel the same way as me though haha. Thanks for stopping by! :)

  2. I don't know about others but I think kids hate to read for leisure because of schools and curriculum.Pressure to read a lot for school curriculum and its boring subjects makes them hate to read during free time-personal experience :P
    I've been wanting to read Ender's Game for a it better or worse than the movie??

    Neal Kind
    Daily Diaries

    1. I agree that the continual pressure to read tends to create a loathing for reading, and by the time kids reach middle school or high school they're completely done with it. I personally thought Ender's Game was pretty awesome, and the movie did the book no justice. I broke my own personal book before movie rule and watched the movie first (although at the time I watched the movie I had no clue there was a book), so I didn't catch all the book to movie adaption mistakes, but there were quite a few. The movie leaves out a huge side plot in the book (among other things), and I definitely recommend you read the book! :D

  3. I always had fun reading books, until I was required to read certain books. Mostly because it wasn't clear to me why I had to read a book written in the Dark Ages about a fox who hang a bear by its balls. I continued reading for fun, but when it came to required reading I hated almost every second of it. Not always because I had to read to book, but most of the time I had to like the book, no wait, I had to love it just because it was a classic. If I didn't like the book and came up with some strong arguments, my teacher was not amused. That's what I hated: being forced to like books that are just shitty.

    1. I completely understand this! I've had a generally good experience with required reading as there were only a handful of books that I loathed and struggled to get through, but I also did notice that it takes me a lot longer to get through a required book than it usually does with a regular book. Teachers don't seem to factor in the fact that many of us might not find the book to be our cup of tea. I personally despise romance novels and one of the worst required reading experiences of my life happened when I had to read a book that was particularly boring to begin with, not to mention there was no action only "he loves me, but now he doesn't love me, why can't he love me?" type struggles. But I digress.

  4. We don't really have "required reading" in Irish schools, but I find your take on it very interesting! I agree kids simply won't read classics if they aren't obliged to, but if they just cultivate a hatred for them there is no point anyway. Also, you should definitely be allowed to choose the book!

    This will make us sound like a country full of illiterate morons, but in the two-year English course I'm doing now, we only have to read one book and one Shakespearean play. Students don't read during the school year because they're too busy memorizing school books, and they don't read during the summer because they're on a break. I'm not sure if requiring them to read more books would just make them hate reading even more, because that may not be possible.

    Our education systems attitude to reading is completely different, for example; all the reading is done during class-time so the teacher can point out which bits we need to memorize, which bits to skip, and which bits are relevant to the topics we're supposed to write about in the exams. The Irish course is slightly better because it includes short stories/book extracts as well as a novel (the MOST PAINFUL, but easy-to-memorize novel in the universe), but then again, no one has ever enjoyed something they "have" to read because they approach it with an already fed-up mind.

    Very interesting post, and sorry for the length of this ramble :)

    1. No problem with the ramble as I am positive I've left many comments on your blog that are borderline novellas haha. I feel your curriculum probably works better than most of the states' curriculums here in America. Making the reading classwork instead of homework is genius in my opinion as one of my biggest pet peeves is when my peers don't even finish the book yet find some way to half ass the ending test/project and come out with a decent grade. Also it allows teachers to explain confusing sections or vocabulary to the students. You have no idea how many times I've wished my English teacher was next to me while reading a novel so they could explain a part to me.

      Thanks as always for your insightful comment. You have no idea how much I love learning about the differences and similarities we as students face. :)