Schools often find it necessary to make their students read books that they think will broaden their horizons and open up new perspectives for them to see. They put best-sellers and critically-acclaimed novels on the reading list, and they expect them to have big impacts on their students. I will say, this sometimes works. Sometimes, students’ lives are truly changed by the contents of a book; reading is awesome and a great way to expand your knowledge. However, forcing people to read novels they aren’t interested in for the sake of trying to expand their knowledge isn’t going to work, as it rarely has worked for me.
I have just recently had to read “Walden” by Henry David Thoreau, and I did not enjoy the read at all. I love works like this, I truly do, but I typically enjoy them and learn more when I personally choose to read them. Something as complex and knowledgeable as “Walden” should be a book that one chooses to read themselves. You need to want to read yourself in order to actually learn something and enjoy it. When you are assigned to read something for school, it tends to lose all appeal unless you were planning to read it soon anyway.
When you’re only reading something because it’s your assignment, you don’t truly understand what it is you are reading. You just skim for the basic information and get out of it what your teacher or professor expects you to. If you personally choose to read something, however, you are going into it wanting to find something, whether it’s a better understanding, a new meaning, or anything. You’ll process every word and think of multiple perspectives to try to figure out several different meanings to each sentence. “What did the author mean by this?” you may think. “Is he trying to convey this, or is he taking it from this angle?” You may find yourself exploring possibilities that very few people have deciphered out of the text, and that’s where your true knowledge is gained.
Even best-selling novels can lose their appeal by being a required reading. I remember specifically not enjoying reading “To Kill a Mockingbird,” and “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time,” and most of the reasons were because I had to read them. "The Curious Incident" is written in a totally new perspective of an autistic boy, and, as a writer, I probably would have respected and enjoyed that interesting new style if I chose to read the book. Instead, I dreaded every moment, and each unique writing style used within to capture the mind of an autistic boy annoyed the crap out of me. I personally can’t even remember the plot to “To Kill a Mockingbird,” because I daydreamed whenever we went through it in class and skimmed the assigned chapters in my study hall beforehand. These two novels have been hailed for their achievements, and I know it’s entirely possible that I wouldn’t have liked them anyway even if I chose to read them; however, being assigned them was a huge factor in the reason why I didn’t, and I know I’m not the only one who has felt this same way about a school-assigned reading.