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Assigned Reading and Its Long-Term Effects on Students

If you have ever been a high schooler in the U.S., you’ve probably experienced a reluctance to read for school. Whether it’s for a history or English class, teenagers are notoriously unwilling to read books they’ve been assigned. According to data reported by the American Psychology Association, one in every three teenagers has not read a book for enjoyment in years.

Sisters High School English teacher Brittney Hilgers illustrated her thoughts after being questioned on the effects of assigned reading in high schools.

“The amount of kids who want to read differs from place to place, but there’s always a reluctance. My ultimate goal is to put books in front of kids, so in a perfect world I wouldn’t have to assign reading notes,” said Hilgers.

Hilgers has been teaching for over 10 years and discusses her relationship with reading as a college student. 

“You have to choose to be a reader. In college, I was burnt out and I forgot to pick books that I would like. It wasn’t until after I had kids that I got back into it,” said Hilgers.

In 2016, it was reported that the average number of 12th graders that read a book or newspaper every day dropped from 60% in the late 1970’s to 16%. There are numerous theories as to why, with most linking to the evolution of technology and social media that consumes the average teenager.

Many young readers are losing interest in reading due to a lack of connection with the texts they are assigned. The classic books taught in high schools, while excellent examples of literature, are often several decades old. In today’s rapidly changing society, it’s common for young readers to feel disconnected from the characters and themes in these older works.

“I think assigned reading can dampen the reading experience. I know my brother used to love reading when he was younger, but now because he associates it with school he doesn’t,” said Sisters High School sophomore Brooke Duey. “I used to like to read, but now I’m so busy I can’t find the time. I feel like most students have a commitment outside of school, whether it’s sports, dance or something else.”

There are a multitude of potential theories on why reading becomes less popular throughout teenage years, but after interviewing these students, a couple of things were made clear. 

Reading isn’t for everyone; attention spans range and the capacity to consume more difficult vocabulary varies. Being told to read usually sucks the fun out of it, especially when it includes seemingly over-analyzing the text. Books have the potential to give you a new perspective on life, but it can also be challenging to relate to characters that you can’t see yourself in at all.Knowing this, don’t be afraid to pick up a book that looks fun when you see it. Not all books follow the pipeline of “To Kill a Mockingbird” or “The Great Gatsby.” If you give reading a chance again and pick out books that truly interest you, you might even find yourself liking it.