Students recount importance of reading

Abby Kempf

It is the night before the big test, and the textbook reading the teacher assigned the day before has been left untouched. The frazzled student vigorously flips through the pages of the several chapters the teacher assigned, but of course it is in vain. There are too many words to read and too little time to do it.
Sound familiar?
For a lot of students this is not an unusual scene. 40.8 percent of students reported that they completed their reading when studying for the exam, according to an American Reading Forum study. Another 18.7 percent said they didn’t complete the assigned reading at all.
So what is the impact on RBHS classrooms?
“Those who don’t read the text miss out on the essence of the piece,” senior Hannah Chen, an Advanced Placement (AP) Literature student, said. “They may be able to get the facts through Sparknotes, but they cannot experience the writer’s style and feelings.”
Chen is a part of a class that is very dependent on the assigned readings. In Advanced Placement Literature class, the teacher constantly hands out new texts and, in order to participate at all in class, the student must read them.
“So far we have read two plays: ‘Medea’ and ‘Oedipus Rex.’ We have read eight poems, including ‘Invictus,’ ‘Because I Could Not Stop for Death’ and’ We Grow Acquainted to the Dark,’” Chen said. “I read all the pieces, but not everyone does.”
However, reading is an integral part of many less obvious classes, such as AP Psychology class.

Senior Ethan Forte is a member of Austin Reed’s AP Psychology class. Forte said he reads the assigned chapters in the textbook about two-thirds of the time. A myriad reasons can prevent Forte from getting his reading done.
“Usually [when I don’t do the reading] it is a day when I have extracurriculars and not a lot of free time, or I have work or other assignments that are definitely for a defined grade that I have to get done,” Forte said. “When I do have time to read but I still don’t, I am usually too tired to actually try and put in the effort to read.”
But when Forte doesn’t read, he feels the repercussions of not completing the reading on time. His learning is impacted when he cannot understand the class discussions that are so heavily based on the reading.
“It feels like I have missed a lot of content that I could actually be contributing to class discussions when I don’t read,” Forte said. “It makes it hard to understand what is being talked about and actually learn from the class because I don’t have the fundamentals down from the reading.”
Reed, too, thinks reading the textbook equips members of his class with the knowledge they will need to be successful, not only on tests but in classroom discussions and interactions.
“I think [reading] is really important. I think the most important things are the big, critical thinking ideas and the ways that psychology impacts your life. Sometimes in our class discussions kids can get those ideas too, but I think the reading provides the detail and the evidence that really helps people understand psychology at a deep level,” Reed said. “Since this class is graded so heavily on a lot of tests and there is the AP test, there is no doubt that knowing the details pulled from the reading can help you.”
Reed can also see a clear, half-and-half divide between the readers and nonreaders. He notices that certain types of students are more apt to complete the reading that other types.
“It’s the typical AP kid that typically reads: the kid who wants an A, is very driven, will do whatever it takes,” Reed said. “I think the ones who don’t read are the ones that struggle to see the relevance in their life, and they just think it’s boring. Those type of people are the ones who I don’t think necessarily read as much as they should.”
[quote cite=”Ethan Forte, senior”]It makes it hard to understand what is being talked about and actually learn from the class because I don’t have the fundamentals down from the reading.[/quote]The question of where that motivation comes from in those “very driven” students still stands. Chen possesses intrinsic motivation that pushes her to read. Students that don’t read, she said, lack that internal drive required to do work that won’t be directly evaluated.
“I think that in the end, the student must take responsibility for their own learning. If they don’t do the work, that is their own choice,” Chen said. “The whole purpose of AP Literature is to explore the world through literature, so reading is pretty important.”
Forte also feels the drive of self-motivation and personal interest, like Chen. However, Forte also knows that his grade is affected by his individual choice: to read or not to read.
“I know it will help me get a good grade in the class because I can just tell the tests where I read more are almost always a higher score and it gives me notes that I can look at later,” Forte said. “[Psychology] is an interesting subject so I don’t mind reading [the textbook.]”
While these students believe that motivation must come from within, Reed still tries to gear his students up to read by showing them that although the reading seems unimportant now, it can have real impact on their lives.
“When I talk about it, I try to talk about it in an interesting way. When you get my age, adults always talk about, ‘I read this.’ People just talk about it very naturally so I try to break down the barriers and show that this is not just another daunting textbook; it is actually very interesting,” Reed said. “It helps you understand life, so to encourage people that way may help some.”
art by Stephanie Kang