Most teenagers have now returned to the mundane life of education, whether that is Secondary School, Sixth Form or University . And, for those studying Literature, a new academic year means a new required reading list. A list of all the prose, poetry and drama you are obligated to read in order to complete your studies this year.
No doubt, as the same with every year, you have that urge to ignore your required reading list, because who needs to read the entire text when you have Google at your fingertips? You, you need to read the entire text, and there are many reasons why.
A Little Background
I didn’t begin avidly reading until around the age of 15/16. However, I always completed the required reading set by my English teachers in school . I studied a wide variety of prose, poetry and drama throughout my 5 years at Secondary School; and from the age of 11, I never found a required reading piece that I did not enjoy the study of. That was until I hit Sixth Form (year 12 & 13) and was told to read Pat Baker’s The Ghost Road – But that is matter to be discussed later.
During secondary school, I, alongside the majority of the teens my age in the UK, read the following:
- Holes by Lois Sacher (Novel)
- Tempest by Shakespeare (Play)
- A Midsummer Night’s Dream by Shakespeare (Play)
- The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas by John Boyne (Novel)
- The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time by Mark Haddon (Novel)
- Macbeth by Shakespeare (Play)
- Romeo and Juliet by Shakespeare (Play)
- An Inspector Calls by J. B. Priestley (Play)
- Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck (Novella)
- Lord of the Flies by William Golding (Novel)
- And a poetry anthology that I am unable to remember the name of.
I read and engaged with the majority of these texts. Even if I did not like the text itself. I found an interest when studying the themes and use of language, alongside the class activities which accompanied my studies.
For A Midsummer Night’s Dream my class was split into groups and tasked with recreating our favourite scenes. We watched the movie for Holes, Of Mice and Men and Lord of the Flies in between reading chapters. And a theatre group were hired to perform An Inspector Calls for everyone in my year. My school supplied entertainment surrounding these texts in order to make them easier to engage in. However, even though the movies and plays provide more entertainment for some students than reading the book, we didn’t learn as much from them.
Gaining a Unique Perspective
The issue with relying on Google for your answers is that, those answers and ideas have been recited by thousands of students. Unless you delve deep, you only encounter the same thoughts, feelings and quotes that many before you have found. With your exams and coursework, you receive marks on how unique the ideas you discuss are. If you repeat the same internet drivel, like hundreds of other students before you, you will lose marks – both in your exam and your coursework.
Also, studying literature is primarily about coming up with unique interpretations of a text – copying ideas off Wikipedia defeats the purpose of studying literature.
You May Not Like the Book, But There is Always Something to Gain From it.
I always presumed that I would adore Jane Austen’s literary marvel, – Pride and Prejudice – a required reading novel from my Sixth Form study of Love Through the Ages. However, I never completed it.
Maybe, if I gave it a chance, I would have finished and loved it – like millions of people before me. Maybe I adored my Secondary School reading list, because I was made to read it in class, and therefore I gave it the opportunity to impress me. And, for the most part, all my completed required reading left an impact.
In Secondary School, I learnt about the savagery of mankind, how to be patient with people who are unlike myself, and how death is a fact of life – literature taught me this, when life couldn’t. During my educational life I have lived in my ordinary bubble, I was influenced by the people around me in my local area, and I had not seen the world, therefore I was, and still am, naive. I still have not seen the world, but literature taught me how to be kind, how to be accepting, and many other lessons I would not have learnt if not for these books. I definitely would not be as open minded if it was not for literature.
Even when I did not engage or agree with a text, I still took something from it. I may not have finished Pride and Prejudice, but I will still remember Elizabeth’s reliance and Jane’s quiet, polite nature. The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas taught me to be curious, but cautious. Holes taught me to be kind and accepting. All of these traits, I apply to my personality today; and will do until the world impacts me enough to replace the need for them.
The True Reason
The reason why you shouldn’t ignore your required reading list, especially while in Secondary School, is because, when you are in school, you are impressionable. Sometimes, life makes you pick up bad habits, habits which may go unnoticed by yourself; while literature makes you notice the bad habits and traits within the world, and teaches you how to counteract and grown away from these behaviors.
Yes, completing the list will aid with your studies, but you also need to understand the novel. The message, the themes, and the impact it left on your character. There is no purpose in studying literature if you only ever read the required novels to achieve a grade; literature offers more than a grade, it has the ability to alter your outlook on the world. And you have to be open to that.
Did you stick to your required reading list? How has literature impacted your behaviors? Leave a comment down below!