Are we teaching the joy out of reading?

Dalia Dacosta, Staff Writer

Students maintain that the school system has been influencing kids for years to have a negative outlook on reading. In our current curriculum, most of the books students read are outdated to society with no content that sticks out to young readers, they say. This causes kids to label that reading is boring and unappealing. As they grow up, some keep this mentality while others shed their hatred for reading. 

From kindergarten through 12th-grade students are introduced to different types of literature as they advance throughout the school. Throughout their academic careers, kids start to form a hatred for reading. Especially middle schoolers. Most won’t even open a book voluntarily unless it’s for school or forced by their parents.

“…whenever I think of reading, my mind associates it with something I don’t like, and when I see so many words I get overwhelmed. My brain always thinks that reading isn’t fun since it’s work because in school that’s what reading is, work,” said Reid Spadafora, a sixth grader at Glenfield Middle School. 

Reading is introduced in the school system in a way that causes schoolers to put a negative idea in their heads when it comes to reading. Children start their journey in literature-loving it. Pictures books excite their young minds, and the stories are sweet and innocent. Reading is considered something exciting until, as they get older, assigned reading changes that mindset. 

Suddenly when they reach middle school, students are forced to read outdated books, they’re dissecting books written over 50 years ago. How are students supposed to find these stories interesting? If students can’t find any connection to their lives within the text, there’s a high chance they’re not retaining any of the skills that are being taught while reading these stories. If it comes down to just learning the skills, why shouldn’t students be able to analyze books they find interesting?

 “What’s important is the skills you have to become a better reader and writer, … so if I can do that with books that are more interesting, and that will pique your interest more then why not use those,” Nicholas Stambuli, 10th grade English teacher at Montclair High school, said. 

Once High School approaches, they’re told to read classics and put these books on a high pedestal. If these are supposed to be the best pieces of literature out there and students don’t enjoy reading them, they think the possibility of finding one they will enjoy is slim. Teachers are taught to educate students on classics and have them dissect a book written a century ago, then write an essay on it. Students outsmart the grading system by changing their opinion on the book to fit the teacher’s view on it, they’ll get a passing grade and never think of the book again. The curriculum fails to acknowledge this and no changes to it are made.

Most of the books on the curriculum are written by white men over 50 years ago. Many students fail to see a connection to their lives through these books, which affects how much they enjoy them. By changing the curriculum to make it more diverse, students will enjoy the literature more. “I think it’s a good idea, especially because there are many communities not represented in what we read,” said Kimberly Rodriguez, 9th grade English teacher at Montclair High school. 

For students to try and enjoy reading, they need to be able to make a connection between life and the book. When students can see themselves in a character, or plot line, they tend to be more interested in the story. Even in general, whenever a person feels they can relate to either a movie or a song, they tend to enjoy it more. According to Allajah Young-Bey, A senior at Montclair High school.“…I think [modern] books stuck with me because they had components that interested me in each book.” If we work on bringing this to the attention of people higher above we will have a higher chance of having a generation of readers. 

“…I think we should use a lot of more modernized literature stuff that students will see themselves in, and it almost doesn’t matter whether it’s new or old, it’s just, is it relevant? Can students find relevance to their lives in it? Can they see themselves in it?” Stambuli said. 

If we keep using the same methods to teach students about literature, students will detach from reading once they graduate and never look back. A study in 2020 by the Pew Research center showed only 17% of high schoolers enjoy reading during their own time. That percentage can increase if we introduce reading as something interesting instead of something stressful that leads to more work. 

Once we conquer the hatred of reading in young adults by showing them reading can be something used for entertainment, I strongly believe the skills attained, the number of readers, and creative minds will increase.