On Reading Books in School

One of the best things about twitter is its ability to start a conversation. A passing comment can spark discussion that you didn’t see coming, perhaps with people you’ve never met. And that’s kind of a great thing, to be a sentence away from millions of different opinions, passions, and facts.

So yesterday, in case you missed it, Nina (@serifinaxxx) tweeted about how she was forced to read Skellig in school and hated it.  We were shocked! We love David Almond (some more than other, *cough* Sara OC *cough*)! How could reading one book in school have put someone off the author for LIFE? Then @lovereadingx named Animal Farm as a hated school text- what was it about reading books in school?!

Next thing we knew, there were outcries from readers, authors and bloggers alike naming books that have been forever tainted by their presence on a school reading list – Lord of the Flies, Hard Times, Little Dorrit, Sunset Song, Birdsong, The Color Purple… and some that were objects of pure hate until after that dreaded exam (see @samarnold_28‘s experience of Hamlet). From this one comment, we were talking about our worst teachers, our top five Shakespeare plays and being spat on by Macbeth (unfortunately for @JaneHoward), amazing teachers (@SweetBookshelf, we all wanted to be in your English class) and even running over a copy of The Great Gatsby (we’re looking at you @rachnmi).

This is immensely cool. Especially since we’re still talking about it – Meg had to study Macbeth three times in three different schools which is pretty crazy! (luckily this hasn’t spoiled the play for her, it just means she’s rather good at quoting Lady Macbeth ).

So, have you been forced to read a book in school that you now hate? Is there an author that you avoid because you can’t bear the memories of reading his or her words aloud in school? Join the conversation here or on Twitter!


15 responses to “On Reading Books in School

  1. I went to a girls state school in Walsall. In one English class we sat in rows of 2 and had to read each text we studied out aloud as a group. One girl would stand up, read out a paragraph, then the next etc. In a Walsall accent. JANE EYRE. Never again.

    • We also had to read aloud Jane Eyre in Year 9 – why is this done!? It felt like the longest book in the world, and impossible to stay awake through various people’s monotone voices. I later re-read it at uni and absolutely loved it – far better reading it myself!

  2. ‘Double, Double, Toil and Trouble, Fire Burn and Cauldron Bubble…’ I remember it as if it was yesterday – sigh! And I’d completely forgotten about Sunset Song – argggh! Obviously put that one out of my mind!

  3. Not that I can think of though I don’t think I’ll ever be able to learn French due to the nightmares. My last English teacher gave me ‘A Clockwork Orange’ and ‘The Wasp Factory’ to read so she did a damn good job.

  4. I have a similar memory of reading out Antony and Cleopatra – I was ALWAYS picked to be Enobarbus. Still love the play though, and as barmy as my teacher was (she had an enduring love for Keats, whom she regularly quoted to us in her strong Welsh accent) she picked some awesome texts – Frankenstein, The Tempest… not so sure about Captain Corelli’s Mandolin though…

  5. Although I did have one english teacher with a completely monotonous voice (I had to quietly excuse myself and do a few star jumps in the bathroom to wake myself up!) I loved the books we read at school! I even retold the Whithered hand from Hardy’s Wessex Tales in finger puppet form when my sister asked about the plot. I think this is mostly due to one truly fantastic teacher and an often completely off-topic A-Level class!

    • I think the teacher makes SUCH a huge difference in how a book is received by the students. I had one teacher who I’ve basically thanked for my current career, and another teacher who almost turned me off reading completely. So here’s to all those fantastic teachers out there!

  6. Oops! I meant finger puppets for ‘The Melancholy Hussar of the German Legion’… although we did study ‘The Whitered Hand’ too.

  7. At school I was given The White Company by Conan Doyle and thought: Great, Sherlock Holmes.
    This is the most boring book in the English Language bar none and I was straight back to the Beano.

  8. Oh, I also remembered my A-level English set text Translations by Brian Friel, an Irish play about language. My teacher took to reading parts of it allowed in French for hours on end so we could identify with what it was like not to be able to understand someone else. At the time I found it hugely frustrating! In the end, I bought myself a study guide and re-read the play myself a week before my exam and finally got it. But no thanks to the French readings!

  9. First, thanks for the mention!
    So…Lord of the Flies I didn’t like before studying, and studying it made it worse. Skellig, was just so slow, too symbolic and with little actually happening. I’m hoping to read Paradise Lost before studying it. I’ve got a few years-I’ll be fine. The Shakespeare that we’re set gets better with studying, and the poetry we’re set is better with studying too.
    My worst experience is with Double Image by Pat Moon. Age 11. We (a class of thirty) were each given a copy of the book and brought to read together on the carpet. And we each had to read aloud in turn. Read out ONE WORD EACH. Nobody understood it. And then the teacher tried to make us do a syllable each. Then we protested and she read it to us like a normal teacher. But…that was terrible.
    Keep going with the discussion!

  10. I think the books I had to read in school put me off reading for ages – there was only one I liked (and still love when I think about it now) – Of Mice and Men!

  11. The only thing I remember loathing was Midsummer Night’s Dream (still can’t understand why anyone would read, produce or attend a performance). Did not like the schools abridged versions of John Wyndham novels (wee horror that I was, had already read all of them and sneered loudly). And am still grateful to Miss McGill for reading The Thirteen Clocks out to keep us quite. An introduction to Thurber – what more can a teacher give you?

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