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Cultured Butter: Thoughts on assigned reading

Assigned reading. These two words represent one of the most dreaded parts of any English class. Picking up a book you would never have considered reading otherwise, and being told that you need to finish it within a month (or something, timelines vary). Most of the time, it really feels like there’s no point in reading the actual book when a quick look at Sparknotes will do all the work for you. Then the teacher asks for oddly specific details to find out if you really did the reading, and you lose points. It really seems like a lose-lose, and it makes reading anything an unappetizing prospect. And that’s a real shame, because books are great!

The way I see it, assigned reading is completely different from reading for fun. You don’t get to pick the genre, you don’t get to read at your own pace, and the language is almost always old and confusing, since books need to be “classics” to be read in class. A new book can’t be an example of good writing, that would be ridiculous! At least ten years of heavy literary analysis must pass, otherwise it’s just pulp fiction!

The next step is assigned free reading. This is almost perfect; you get to pick your own book, and you can (mostly) read at your own pace. The only problem is, it’s assigned. Knowing that you have to read a book by the end of the semester just makes it that little bit harder to read.

In my mind, the best kind of reading is the reading you do for yourself. Pick out a book that interests you, find a time that works for you, and go to a place where you can be comfortable and just… read. Read for as long as you feel like it, and just enjoy the book. Fiction, nonfiction, graphic novel, biography, whatever you want. But I really think that if you get a chance to read on your own, you should take it. It just might make reading for school that much more bearable.