It is an unfortunate fact that many students do not read every book that is assigned to them for English. Nevertheless, some stories prevail, and even modern day high schoolers can appreciate the classics.
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee is definitely a classic. It is well-written and tells the story of an innocent black man on trial in Alabama through the eyes of a nine-year-old girl. Unlike many classics, students still rave about it. In fact, when I was a freshman, an upperclassman told me that To Kill a Mockingbird is the only good book students read during their freshman year.
An anonymous junior claims he only read two books in high school. One was To Kill a Mockingbird. “I thought that Harper Lee did a fantastic job of putting the book together, and it was just a fantastic story. I enjoyed it,” he said.
As it turned out, I read all six novels that were assigned during my freshman year. But To Kill a Mockingbird definitely was my favorite, and in my opinion is the most well-written. A friend of mine feels the same way after reading all six novels. It teaches the powerful lesson of not judging others until you “walk in their shoes.”
“I do not like reading books that I have no choice in reading and many of the books are quite boring to me such as Siddhartha and Fahrenheit 451,” explained an anonymous sophomore. “The only [book] that really caught my eye was To Kill a Mockingbird, and a lot of people said it was excellent, so I read it, and it was good.”
This shows that some books last the test of time and are still appreciated.
But why don’t most students enjoy novels such as Siddhartha? Maybe because it lacks excitement, unlike the other beloved books. The title character’s adventures do not interest us or give us a feeling of empathy or leave us wanting more. Even though it teaches lessons and is food for thought, it is hard to connect with. It doesn’t deal with common issues that we read about like love, war and discrimination. People naturally are drawn toward books that have characters that we empathize with. Siddhartha simply lacks this appeal because of its topic.
I have heard a few students say they enjoyed The Lord of the Flies. The book was darker and perhaps more male-oriented than other books we’ve had to read and presents a solid question throughout the novel: Are humans savage at heart? This narrative explores the question by telling a tale of young boys making an attempt to survive on a deserted island after a plane crash. Half want to retain order like a governed society while the other half became saves. I can say that I enjoyed The Lord of the Flies as well.
Why are these books more revered by students? That’s a good question. “With The Great Gatsby I think that it’s the poor guy trying to make it in society and the glitziness of it with the parties and the lifestyle, I think that’s all very attractive to students,” explained Ms. Wilkerson, the chair of the English Department. “With To Kill a Mockingbird, I think that it’s the voice of Scout, seeing that story happening through children’s eyes and the innocence of it while showing how cruel humanity can be… students like a narrator who is childlike or near their age, experiencing it through their eyes”
Wilkerson also noted that Brave New World and 1984, two science-fiction classics, are liked by seniors because they feel modern and relevant.
While some students do not particularly like to read, it is refreshing and reassuring that some
books are still appreciated. Everyone values a few of the books that we read for English.\
It is still important to read. Ray Bradbury, the author of Fahrenheit 451 once said, “you don’t have to burn books to destroy a culture. Just get people to stop reading them.”
While students may not pick these classics to read in their free time, they still feel the power of these books in some cases. And such books can teach valuable lessons. Some books may be considered boring, but even they may have a lesson or a nugget of truth. Such lessons promote understanding and can enhance a high schooler’s life.