Books · Classics · Life · Literacy · Reading

Opinion: Are Our Schools Inspiring Young Readers?


Summer is over! Put down that ice cream! Put on your wooly jumper! With the start of September the floodgates of anxiety burst forth for thousands of teachers all over the world. Did the students perform well? Is there anything more they could have done? Will they return to a mountain of letters from angry parents? Whilst knocking back some Ribena last weekend with my teacher friend. I was struck by the amount of pressure there is for all of the pupils to receive a particular grade and the reality that so many hadn’t. I don’t question that the students and teachers for the most part worked to the best of their ability. What I do question is whether the books available on the curriculum are engaging enough. Are they the right texts to inspire and educate children of all abilities?

In England, 19th Century Literature and prose is a heavy feature early on. This hasn’t change much since I was at school (except they do now get to read Sherlock!)

The current choice are:
Dr Jekyl and Mr Hyde
A Christmas Carol
Jane Eyre
The Sign of Four
I thought the choices were quite good. But I’m looking at them from the perspective of an avid reader, who’s tackled the majority of these for fun. They must be a more significant undertaking for the students who have to read them, especially those of lower ability.

When I read them I found them deeply perceptive and artistically written. I also found them incredibly boring. With all the exciting stories in the world are these the best we can do? I’m not suggesting we lay down the Shakespeare in favour of Harry Potter. (Even though that would be amazing.) But I do think that there are far better books out there that are not only educational, but also fun!

My top choices would be:
A study of Lewis Carol from Nonesense poetry to Alice in Wonderland
Grimms fairytales
Short stories of Edgar Allan Poe.

If you could choose the texts, what would you set?

14 thoughts on “Opinion: Are Our Schools Inspiring Young Readers?

  1. I think your choices are excellent! Grimm Tales I think would be a particularly great idea, as fairy tales inform and inspire so many modern day stories and really helped popularise storytelling as an art.

    I definitely think there should be more variety in texts that are studied at school. There’s such a heavy preference for older texts, with many phenomenal modern reads that are more than worthy of study being overlooked simply because they aren’t yet ‘classics’.

    The dense, descriptive language and slow pace often found in classics puts a lot of young readers off though (I know I’ve only recently begun reading classics regularly for pleasure). Making reading feel like a chore for young people is never a good idea.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Exactly my thoughts, there’s so much scope. It would be fun to challenge their perception of what constitutes a Fairytale. I’ve no doubt you could have them develop some brilliant and disturbing creative writing work!

      The idea that because something has endured it’s of more value is insane. Yet somehow it persists. Surely we should be working towards developing a love or reading as a foundation for study as appose to an afterthought.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I have taught BD kids in high school and at University. Seems to me that if you want kids to read, you have to let them read what they WANT to read. The things THEY are interested in. I don’t let others choose the books I should read (I wouldn’t read them), and children are no different. Whether it’s graphic novels, Sci-fi, whatever, it you want kids to read, that’s the only thing that will work. No one wants to be forced to read something they don’t want to read. That’s why so many kids hate reading. The books my grandchildren brought home were terrible. Each one more depressing than the next. I actually told them to read the notes, not than books. None of them read because they hated the books they had to read for school. My daughter and I read constantly. We tried to instill the love of books in the kids but the school managed to destroy that. They also destroyed poetry. I mean they killed it and then stomped on it until there was nothing left. School can be a terrible thing. It’s all about choices. Kids don’t have any.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s only reasonable surely! I can’t see how letting them have a say is a lesser choice than spoon feeding them a 50 year old analysis of a 100 year old book. It makes me so angry that that’s the case. My brother is exactly the same, I keep buying him books and then end up reading them myself rather than leaving them to gather dust! Your grandchildren might just come back to it later on. What’s upsetting is that if they’d had the right experience of enjoying and exploring fiction in school as well at at home, reading would likely be second nature. It’s just not an acceptable reality.


      1. I agree. Their rooms were filled with books and we read to them all the time when they were even younger but school killed their love for reading. As I said, poetry was completely destroyed by a truly nasty, dreadful teacher. Just too bad.


  3. I agree with Callum. I was not a young reader, primarily because the school books were boring, BORING! I associated reading with school, and it was not something I was going to do if I didn’t have to. I was fortunate, though. At age 13, I picked up the Hobbit and I was completely hooked. I haven’t stopped reading since, and I’ve read plenty of the classics over the years, too. If it takes Harry Potter, let it be Harry Potter. To me, the goal is to awaken a love of reading – that’s it. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. So true, I vividly remember attempting a crafty nap during a particularly demoralizing study of Hamlet. The Hobbit would be an excellent choice too. It’s a Classic, it’s interesting and there are fire breathing Dragons. Recipe for success as far as I’m concerned! If Harry Potter was the alternative I’d be up for it. It’d bring so much joy to so many, and so much envy from everyone who had to analyse Great Expectations!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Great Expectations!…I remember that. Ugh. A shame that it was taught to a classroom of kids who clearly weren’t mature enough to appreciate it. My school did a great job with Hamlet. We were given scenes to act out and it was so much fun. My partner and I did a sword fight in a stairwell. I’ve loved Shakespeare ever since and read most of the plays.


      2. It was the best of times, it was the worst of times! I like Dickens now but it was far too much at the time. I avoided Shakespeare from that point on in my Education career, which I think proves our point. It caught up with me later when I saw Midsummer Nights Dream in an outdoor performance and loved it!

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Very good choices, but are you forced to use all older literature? Yes, there’s so much wonderful lit out there, but I feel (sometimes) that the lack of enthusiasm is due to the material.
    At least if you’re stuck in a particular century, you’re trying to find more entertaining reads! I applaud you for that!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It definitely is due to the material. I’m not sure how it works in America, as a teacher do you have a say in what students read? If so we should immediately implement that!

      It’s very uniform across schools in England there are perhaps 10 texts to choose from and they’re all fairly miserable!

      Within what I assume are the parameters there are far better choices than the ones that are being taught. If it was up to me I’d chose some Modern and some Old with the focus on whether they’re engaging rather than whether they’re considered Classics!


  5. I respect teachers and the job they do totally. The education system is broken in a bad way in my opinion and they don’t inspire kids anywhere near as much as they should because the system is stuck back in the 50s or Victorian times.
    It makes me cry to see what it does to some kids.


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