To read or not to read


photo by Fajita Marino

Students are assigned a variety of books to read in their English classes, from Shakespearean classics to more modern literature.

Frantically, junior Alyssa Gaytan skimmed the pages of “To Kill A Mockingbird”, scanning for keywords and events, important symbols, character traits, whatever she could find. Every few moments she glanced up at the clock, reminded of her deadline later that day.

A quiz over a part of the book Gaytan had not read.

When the class had been assigned the reading, Gaytan had assumed that she could get by, relying on her previous knowledge of the book and vague memories from a middle school read-through.

“I was like, ‘Yeah, I’ve got this,’” Gaytan said. “‘It’s okay, because I remember like two character’s names and it’ll come back.’”

I remember like two character’s names and it’ll come back.

— Alyssa Gaytan

Her confidence dropped when a friend told her of a quiz that day over the four chapters they had been assigned— the four chapters that Gaytan had thought she could skip.

When quiz time finally came, Gaytan panicked. Some of the questions she remembered from seeing the pages mere moments before…to others, the answers seemed elusive no matter how hard she thought.

“I ended up getting like a C, so that’s not my proudest moment,” Gaytan said. “But also, I’m pretty proud of it.”

Gaytan is not the only one who has skipped sections of assigned reading. In fact, in a survey of 76 students, only 12 percent said they always read the assigned books.  With the time constraints of clubs, other homework, and sports, it can be difficult to find time.

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This epidemic continues despite the fact that a vast majority believe that their teachers can tell whether they read or not. With a staggering 84 percent of students thinking that their teachers can tell whether or not they read, many students continue to skip the reading.

“[There is] not enough time to read, so it gets very difficult for me,” sophomore Sydney Daniels said. “I usually do try to read the book.”

Another force driving students away is  lack of interest. With little choice in the books they are assigned, students often find themselves wading through old fashioned language for a story that simply does not hold their interest.

“It was either boring and didn’t appeal to me or I didn’t feel like annotating it,” senior Pablo Barrato said.

Being forced to read at all can also drive students away from the work. While quizzes and tests are meant to keep students honest, the looming threat can take steal the interest from activities.

Regardless of their reason for skipping the chapters, students who do not read still need to prepare for class. With looming quizzes, discussion questions or class activities, a basic knowledge of the material is necessary.

“I had finished the book in the past, therefore I had enough knowledge to participate in the lesson,” sophomore Emily Taylor said.

While some, like Taylor and Gaytan, have background knowledge already, others must find another way. A favorite is to read Sparknotes before class. About 85 percent of survey respondents who skipped reading claimed to use Sparknotes. Other favorites included asking friends for a summary or skimming through the assigned reading.

Many students used a combination of the above in order to achieve the highest rate of success. Regardless of what methods they used, nearly every student prepared in some way. In fact, only 1.4 percent of respondents did not prepare.

“It’s difficult to find interest in books when I feel forced to read for a grade,” sophomore Katie Howell said. “Reading is fun on its own but the idea of annotating and reading for a grade kills the fun in it.”