9 out of 10 students agree that assigned reading can be boring, and 9 out of 10 teachers think their students are just lazy.
If students do not want to read the actual book, they can 1.) read summaries or 2.) do nothing. 10 out of 10 students and teachers would agree that option 1 is more beneficial than option 2.
When a student decides not to read an assigned book and instead reviews online summaries, such as CliffsNotes, SparkNotes, or Shmoop, they usually know the book well enough to pass a multiple choice reading comprehension test or an argumentative essay on the symbols and motifs. They can talk generally about its themes and characters, and they can even formulate their own opinion on the book’s ending. These online supplements are great at producing precisely the information students need to do well on tests; they even have practice tests themselves. These websites are so popular because of the read-now-take-this-test structure of teaching and assessment found at schools across the nation.
However, these supplements should be compliments to the reading of the actual book. Utilizing chapter summaries and character analyses cheats the reader out of the purpose and magic of sitting down with a novel. Enveloping yourself in a story is a privilege, and one that is often passed up. In reading online tools such as CliffsNotes, SparkNotes, or Shmoop, you gain the facts but not the gusto that losing yourself in the pages of a good novel entails.
Understandably, many students argue that the books they are assigned in school are never “good.” Indeed, it is hard for anyone to read a book that they find boring, and no one should chastise another for believing a certain piece of work is not interesting. Students should be encouraged to read assigned books and motivate themselves to follow suit. If they still opt for the online summaries, it is not the end of the world, but years from now they might just happen upon a book they ignored in school. They might open it, begin to read it, and discover all of the hidden treasures—semantic eloquence, proverbial wisdom, and the inside jokes of English teachers everywhere—that they denied themselves when the web fed them raw facts to pass a test.
So, try to read the book, use the online tools available, and do well on exams.
If you still don’t want to read, promise yourself that you’ll pick up that copy of A Tale of Two Cities or Les Misérables in a few years to give it another chance, because you might happen to enjoy it: that's just how life works.
And so it goes.