Discussion

Required Reading | The Bloggers in the Attic

Discussion_ChainThe Bloggers in the Attic is a discussion chain created by Camilla @ Reader in the Attic. She has put together a small group of bloggers who’ll discuss a common topic covering the whole month which allows for us all to share our unique experiences. Her hopes are that it’ll create a discussion space that could explore a normal topic for different areas of the world.

If you’re wanting to take part let Cam know. At the moment the Discussion Chain is taking part every two months so there is plenty of time for you to hop in!

February Theme

This month’s discussion topic is required reading and all things related to it. You can follow all the posts on twitter using #DiscussionAttic, and #DAFebruary for this months topic specifically.

FEBRUARY SCHEDULE

2nd – Camilla @Reader in the Attic
4th – Kal @Reader Voracious
6th – Lara @Naija Book Bae
8th – Isabelle @Bookwyrm Bites
10th – Sam @Fictionally Sam
12th – Dany @Ambivert Words
14th – Ben @Ben’s Reads
16th – Kerys @The Everlasting Library
18th – Clo @Book Dragons 24/7
20th – Lauren @Northern Plunder {you’re here now}
22nd – Nora @Papertea and Bookflower
24th – Lili @Lili Star Reads

Above you can view everyone else’s approach and viewpoint of required reading in their own country.


When first given the choice of required reading as a topic to discuss I jumped at the idea as I felt I had a lot to say about this topic. Now I’m actually sat here typing away with one hand (thank you, yes i’m still broken but i seem to be healing ok) I realise that I’m not entirely sure how to approach this without getting too personal.

I’m sure most of us get told stories about our childhoods, one of my own favourites is about how I’ve always been a big reader – even before I could read myself. Apparently when people were tasked with reading books to me they had to make sure they read every single page, yes that does include the first page with publication information on. Readers soon got smart to not let me see that page so they wouldn’t be scolded for skipping a page – sheesh how dare they?!

Along with this my mom has also bragged countless times that when I started school (age 4, soon to be 5) I was tested and already had a reading age of a 12/13 year old. Now is this a humble brag that she has a great daughter or a slight exaggeration? We’ll never know fully. But what we do know is that I was ahead of my reading age.

This is important information because for me at that age and throughout the rest of primary school my required reading was in the form of a bookshelf of colour coded/numbered boxes that had books of your reading ability in that you were supposed to read once a week, swap to the next one, and gradually progress through the shelf until you reached free reading. All this was to help our reading skills grow and eventually encourage us to continue reading books of our own choice.

This format totally failed me. I vaguely recall that the class all had to start at the same place and those who did well could skip ahead a few.  I’m guessing I must’ve been included in the original skip ahead but there must’ve been a limit because I soon fell behind with this school task.

I have vague memories of cheating and skimming the books so I could provide enough details to move to the next book, and eventually next box. But I also remember in my final year of primary school having a meeting with my teacher who was concerned about my low reading ability because I was so far behind on this required reading shelf.

Yes it took till my final teacher to question why the heck I wasn’t progressing!

I wasn’t struggling or at least not in the sense she was worried about, I was bored with the books they were telling me to read and had simply stopped taking part and just  read what I wanted! Luckily this teacher was great and for the rest of my time there I was finally on Free Reading, well officially this time.

What concerns me though is that no other teacher followed up on why I was doing so badly? Had they simply noticed I was reading other things? Was the rest of my English class work indicating I was well read? Or was this simply not a concern of theirs?

I wont ever get to know these answers and whilst I was reading some, it wasn’t a whole lot, because I definitely had started to grow a stigma to reading. Possibly due to it being on paper that I couldn’t read well or possibly cause at some point reading became like a chore.


But hey its okay because then we have required reading during Secondary School.

Which I have no recollection of.

For real I don’t remember a single book we had to read during this time other than the poetry anthology! I know we definitely watched and studied extracts from A Christmas Carol but reading the actual book? Nah, don’t think that happened. Same applies for Romeo + Juliet too…

Which is totally bizarre because I loved my English lessons in secondary school and one of my teachers was definitely a huge influence on my life and how to think about the world. I respect her so much even all these years later and I feel terrible that no doubt we had books we had to read and I can’t recall them.

Lets be real too she would probably be appalled with writing ability cause I know I could do better but I enjoy this colloquial voice I write in. I’m getting sidetracked now.

When I think of reading during Secondary School I think of me finding my love for reading again thanks to Twilight and The Darren Shan Saga.

So I guess my real input to required reading at this point in my life is that students need to be given a variety of engaging and thought-provoking books that will stay with them and encourage them to read more of their own choices too.


As mentioned I had a very positive attitude to my English lessons at Secondary School which definitely influenced me to take a combined English Literature and Language course at College too.

For the year I took this course our books were The Lovely Bones (ugh), A Streetcar Named Desire, and The Kite Runner. All of which deal with themes of grief and rape. So, y’know a very cheery bunch to read and critically analyse and such.

I think I’m happier with this selection though because there was more diversity and a range of publication years too! So overall I believe my college did something right.


This brings us to the Final Destination of university. I didn’t take an English related course here, instead I was in an arts course.

At the start of the first year we were provided a list of 15 books that would be useful throughout the 3 years. We had to purchase these ourselves, I ended up with 3 or 4 of them because the total cost to get them all was simply too much. I had intended to get the others as the course progressed but I only looked in the ones I had once or twice with no encouragement to actually read them I just didn’t…

I think universities need to make sure that if they’re providing a long recommended reading list it would be ideal if they placed the books in a hierarchy, or indicated which were useful for different areas in Design/Illustration, and also be mindful of the cost of the books their suggesting.

I know cost of books needed at college in the USA is a lot more so I’m definitely not the worse off in this pile of things, but still, £100~ for three books was a bit excessive imo.

Yes I still have these books and I’ll keep them as I do currently enjoy looking at more art focused books in my own time and gorram it you better damn expect me to get my moneys worth!


So those are all my experiences with required reading in education. Or as best as I can remember. Are your experiences any similar?

I’ve been out of education for 3? years now and I’m definitely reading more than I was during education and happy to explore genres myself so I guess it didn’t mess me up too much. If I have anything to thank for the amount I read and my willingness to try new genres it’s definitely because of blogging though.

Whats your input on required reading?
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26 thoughts on “Required Reading | The Bloggers in the Attic”

  1. My mum started me reading before I went to school, so I was a nuisance in primary school. The teacher had to leap-frog me up the reading scheme ladder. In secondary I only remember enjoying To Kill A Mocking Bird, the other books and Shakespeare were endured. I took A level English lit, but would have preferred it if they had offered it in English Language. I struggled through, not being allowed to write essays on books that I enjoyed when it came to my own project.
    Now I enjoy reading and reviewing and discovering lots of new books and authors.

  2. I started reading before primary school and that meant my primary school didn’t know what to give me to read. I was reading in all the spare time I had. Secondary school didn’t care if we read at all, we had the books for English Literature and Language but that was it. I think that is one of the reasons I hardly read in high school. It was only when I went to college that I picked up books again!

  3. You have such a lovely voice on your blog, I really enjoyed reading this! You threw me right back to my days of reading book after book as a child, I miss it!

    Also with you with not remembering much of my required reading during Secondary School. My boyfriend was able to read Harry Potter and Alice in Wonderland for A-Level, I was a little jealous!

  4. What an interesting topic. I remember nothing of my reading experiences at primary school which is sad, I’d love to reflect back and see how far I’ve come and if I’ve always been a reader! Maybe I will have to ask my mum and see if she knows!

    I only recall being assigned a book in middle school in which the Mother dies and I had lost my Dad a year or so before. Long story short, my Mum made a teacher cry because she was so unhappy with how inappropriate she thought it was! Bless her soft little heart.

  5. I had a similar problem with not being engaged with the books that were available in the classrooms and would either skim or read as quickly as I could to finish the book. I would often ask to go to the bathroom and spend time in the library instead until I got caught.

    Required reading is a tough one because it can help us read books we might never touch, but it doesn’t have much leeway for those who don’t fit the mould.

  6. I hated required reading! In my secondary school, you’d get yelled out at if you read ahead and everyone else was too slow! I finished the book (I think it was About a Boy?) and got most definitely yelled at while everyone else was around chapter 5. In primary, we had the whole colour-coded thing going on, and I was on the highest colour. I think it was red? I ran out of red books to read by the time I got to the end of school! So yeah, none of it really worked for me.

  7. “students need to be given a variety of engaging and thought-provoking books that will stay with them and encourage them to read more of their own choices too.” THIS!!!

    I’ve really enjoyed reading everyone’s thoughts on this. It’s interesting to see how others have different experiences. I’d never heard of required reading in elementary school this way. When I was a young child, we’d have one or two required books to read in a year as a class, which left me plenty of time to read on my own. They also had us track how many pages we read each week at one point, and I remember being ridiculously ahead of the game – but again, we got to read what we wanted and anything counted.

    I definitely think there should be a balance. On the one hand, students should be encouraged to choose their own reading material at least part of the time, otherwise they’ll end up resenting reading in general. On the other hand, I do feel that there should be some guidance or some required books that are considered “classics” (although I feel we could always stand to re-assess what qualifies as a classic).

    I like that you talked about required reading in college too. A good portion of what I read toward my English degree are books that I would never want to read again. Granted, some of them were fantastic, but a lot of them I just didn’t enjoy. I kind of learned to separate reading for enjoyment vs. reading for information or education.

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts!

  8. I’m in High School right now and let me just say that I do not care about what they make us read in school. The books are boring and I am barely able to get through them. I think it is the choice of these books that makes so many people not want to read!
    I think that if the curriculum was changed to books pertaining to scenarios about now then all students would enjoy it more and who knows, maybe more people will start to like reading?
    Well, my Grade 9 English teacher had a great influence on me because of how she taught and related everything to our lives. She used a Shakespeare play and put it in such a way that we all understood it, loved it and enjoyed it. I think that even this required reading which seems like a chore can be made interesting if there are more teachers like her!

  9. Okay first of all, how CUTE were you scolding people for skipping the publication page! This is the most precious story and I love it. Honestly the idea of a required reading shelf in primary school sounds kind of neat, but yikes at it not having a method for kids that were reading well ahead and SHAME ON THEM for not talking to you! I was also reading above my reading level and I would have suffered had I been in a similar situation.

    Interesting choices of books that you read in secondary school though, I am surprised your list included The Lovely Bones. Those are all such heavy topics and I can’t imagine that flying in a US classroom, the parents would revolt. This is why we can’t have nice things.

    I am glad you refound your love of reading though, and it is a true shame that when you were younger that wasn’t fostered. I enjoyed reading about your experiences, Lauren!

  10. To be honest I hated required reading. For us in Hungary they always gave books that are very old and we were frankly too young to understand what the books were about. Because of that I rarely ever read or finished a required read. I DNFed so many books back then! I think I only ever enjoyed like two or three. I think that it would be nice if they considered the age of the readers and chose books accordingly.

  11. I had a lot of problems in primary school too. I could read well before I went to primary school but they only had picture books in reception. The teacher once called my parents in because she was worried about my oxygen levels as I used to sit doodling circles during reading time. She even moved me next to the window. My Mum informed her that I was just very, very bored. I missed a lot of school because of my health problems. They didn’t bother to check how I was doing with my reading so it wasn’t until the final year when I did read to my year 6 teacher that they realised I had surpassed all of the colours and should have been on free reading for a very long time. My university was actually really good with their book lists as they did separate the core texts from other recommended reading. The tutors were very helpful if you asked which books you should pick up and the library did stock most of the texts. Very interesting post :)

  12. I was not a reader at all when I was younger so my mom would try to give me her own “required readings” but buying me books and forcing me to read them. This didn’t work much for me because I eventually found my way into reading all by myself. I also did not respond well to required reading at school.

  13. As a lit major in college, something that we talked about in a few of my classes was that diverse literature, like African America Lit, was always its own class, instead of incorporating it into core literature classes that everyone had to take. These classes were always electives, and only a few professors would incorporate them into their class. All this required reading is based on the arbitrary concept of the “canon” and Literature, which should, in my opinion, always be changing. We should always celebrate new voices. I seriously love this series, because everyone’s answers are so interesting! Especially when people come from different places.

  14. I love reading about other reader’s stories <3 And much like you I was way ahead of the required reading. Once out of school I quit reading for a while, for no apparent reason. Thanks for this entertaining post Lauren.

  15. Required reading ruined reading for me for a while. I loved reading, just not the books I was forced to read. I was constantly in detention in year 7 and 8 because my reading record was empty, I just wasn’t reading the books, I was reading others instead and we’d get in trouble for that. The teachers were like “the librarian says you’re in there almost every day for a new book” and couldn’t understand that I wanted to read the YA and adult books rather than the middle grade.
    I was the same in primary school constantly getting told off for just skimming the required reading so I could read what I wanted instead.
    I think that forcing kids to read certain books is a Bad Thing.
    Cora | http://www.teapartyprincess.co.uk/

  16. Wow, really?? you’d figure they’d atleast asked the child why they didn’t participated or SOMETHING — now you mention it, I remember we had something like this .. but we were free to choose whatever book we wanted, had a parent sign as though you read it, and they put a sticker or something on the square. Goal to read as many as we could, Ithink, It’s kinda blurry now honestly.

    I also remember we had to memorize and recitate poems in front of the class aswell xD we had a list and same as you, we needed to recitate one right to move to the next one; random memory I had forgotten..

  17. Required reading was always very hit and miss for me. In primary school I had an amazing teacher who made an effort to help me find books that I would really enjoy when I was up to the free reading stage, keeping my love of books alive. High school gave me some of my favourite books ever (To Kill A Mockingbird) and some of my least favourite books ever (Lord of the Flies).

  18. required reading really does seem to be quite a personal topic, which is probably ironic since I highly doubt that’s what curriculum creators had in mind for making everyone read the same books. yay for good teachers who encourage you to read (and write) in ways that work for you, though it really is concerning that your previous teachers all but let you slip through the cracks in the system. (and honestly, I wish I could forget some of the books I had to read in high school. maybe when I look back after more time has passed?)

    accessibility is definitely another issue that needs to be tackled; I hate how expensive textbooks are, and actually just books in general. it’s an obstacle for many people, and that’s just not fair.

  19. There are definitely some ups and downs to required reading in school. I know the system worked for me but it doesn’t mean it works for everyone. And I am surprised no teachers followed up on your primary reading school issue because that is what they should be doing!! Those are definitely some heavy books to be reading in secondary school and probably would’ve turned me off if I wasn’t seeing any happy narratives. That’s a lot of money for university books but sometimes I think university is just a huge money scheme >.>

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