Books are not meant to be disliked

Forced reading leads to less interest in the activity itself

More stories from Elizabeth Gosling


Photo by Kendall Ruchti

Gosling enjoys reading in her free time, but the hobby seems to fall on the wayside during college.

The summer sun’s morning reflection on the lake subtly invites you to leave your cozy bed and come outside. The large elm trees provide a perfect hanging spot for your hammock, and you climb in with your favorite book in hand.

With no plans, you spend hours in that hammock reading, completely immersed in the story as the gentle wind rustles the pages.

Sooner than you think, the sun goes down and the wind grows stronger. It’s time to go inside. You continue to read into the night, finishing the story the same day.

As the summer comes to a close, college professors send welcome emails for the looming start of the school year. They request reading the first chapter of the course textbook and crafting five discussion questions for the first class.

Although you spent the summer reading, this homework is not the same. Reading forced on students by a professor could ruin their interest in the activity.

Reading textbooks is not only required for many classes, but takes the fun out of pleasure reading. Before going to college, parents and teachers encouraged the students to read, citing the activity’s ability to boost creativity and help people improve their writing skills. As a young child, my parents would take my sister and I to the library often, and our imaginations would grow each time.

A 2016 study from Jeffrey Wilhelm and Michael Smith included two student viewpoints on books teachers forced them to read as part of the class. One student said when the teacher made them read the book, students focused more on what the teacher wanted the students to understand, instead of discovering it on their own.

On the other hand, if students were to pick up the book of their own free will, they may have been more interested and learned more instead of focusing on what the teacher wanted students to understand.

Everyone is different and picks up various lessons from the books they read. With a professor dictating what kind of books students read, they are implanting a scholar’s vision, endorsed by other people holding doctorate or master’s degrees.

Instead of picking books for students, professors should challenge students to find their own books relating to the subject.

In fact, professors in other countries give students the opportunity to choose what books they read. For example, study abroad returnees from England said professors give students a list, letting them read books that align with the subject and also spark their interest.

This way, students are still able to do pleasure reading alongside learning lessons that pertain to the class, and acquiring skills beyond the course syllabus.

In the case the class has multiple sections, teachers would also be able to learn from students, and each class could focus on a specific branch of the subject.

For instance, if a class was interested in a specific branch of psychology such as health psychology, they would be able to study that instead of general psychology, while still achieving the class objectives.

Letting students take responsibility for their learning makes school more interesting because students are able to think outside the box and create new meanings for themselves, according to Lev Vygotsky and other education scholars.

From a young age, we are taught to read. Parents read books to children in the hope of making them smart. However, forcing people to read certain books should not take over the hobby fostered at a young age.

As the summer winds down and friends reunite, let not the books be closed in sorrow, but in fondness for the next break for a new book to be opened with a renewed sense of curiosity.