The Dilemma of Required Reading

A look at student opinion of the required reading at Woodside.

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Amelie de Leon

Some of the books that are required reading in english classes for Woodside students.

Amelie de Leon, World News Editor

Every high school student is familiar with required reading, yet the opinion of the common high school experience varies widely among students. The Paw Print reached out to Woodside students to look into how students feel about the required reading for their English classes.

The required reading in Woodside English classes varies widely, from the nineteenth-century novel “Wuthering Heights” by Emily Bronte to the more recent “Born a Crime” by Trevor Noah.

“I don’t really mind [required reading] because I don’t read normally, so it’s good to read a book sometimes.” Woodside sophomore Arianna Gerola said.

Although students expressed that required reading would not always be their personal first picks for reading, many still saw value in reading the books assigned in their classes.

[The required reading] were good books to read for English class,” Woodside high school senior Grace Jau said. “I felt like I was a better reader after reading them because they were difficult to read.”

General appreciation for required reading was a common opinion across the grades at Woodside. 

“[Having required reading] can be annoying, but I definitely think it’s good,” Woodside junior Michaela Velleno stated. “Even if you think it’s boring, you still obtain some kind of knowledge.”

One negative aspect that multiple students pointed out was not being able to find relevance in some of the required reading for their English classes. Woodside freshman Sofia Kalberer read “Jane Eyre” for her Advanced Standing English I class.

“I didn’t like [“Jane Eyre”] as much because of how outdated it was,” Kalberer said. “It was interesting to see that time period, but I couldn’t really relate to it.”

On the other hand, Woodside senior Gabrielle Melamed found some value in reading old books while doing her senior thesis on the 1818 novel “Frankenstein.”

“I like when we connect [required reading] to today and how it’s relevant,” Melamed said.

This sentiment is shared not only by students but also teachers, including Woodside AP English Language and Composition teacher Mark Reibstein.

“[Classics] are not meant to be preserved in stone,” Reibstein stated. “The only reason why it should ever be a classic is because it has meaning to every generation. A great work of literature does touch on things that are transcendently human.”

Reading for pleasure and school-required reading do not always go together in students’ minds.

“If I wanted to read [for fun], these books would never have crossed my mind at all,” Velleno stated.

Some students feel that it is not necessarily the text itself that turns them off to reading but instead other factors.

“Just reading is not bad, but the forced annotations really take away from the reading,” Woodside junior Shai Dickman said. “[Annotating] felt like it took away from the experience of reading it.”

Others felt that required reading did not take away from their joy of reading, but instead the time they had to read.

“I’m just so busy with school … that I don’t really have time to read for pleasure,” Melamed stated.

As society evolves, so do required reading lists.

“What we teach needs to be flexible, and dynamic, and changing,” Reibstein said.

Debates over the opinion of required reading continues among students, but at the end of the day, it is there to help students learn.

“It’s important [for students] to love reading,” Reibstein said. “If we’re turning people off to reading, then that’s a bad thing, and we need to look at that.”