Required reading lists: real or myth?

Good morning/afternoon/evening, fellow bookworms!

Now one thing I’ve noticed is that a lot of people online (I’ll be honest, this is mainly from reading captions on Bookstagram posts) seem to have “required reading lists” from their schools. But that wasn’t a thing when I was at school…not at my school, anyway.

If you’ve read my post from a few days ago (a rant about a library that wasn’t a library), you’ll know that, in my opinion, my old secondary school had some odd ideas about things. Mainly the library.

So I wasn’t sure if it was just my old school that didn’t seem to have required reading lists. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t as though we never read books in school, it’s just that we were never given a list of books that we had to read or even a list of recommended books relevant to a subject.

In my first year of secondary school, I remember our English teacher telling us that we had to always bring a book with us and throughout my 5 years of school, there were random English lessons where we would just sit and silently read a book of our choice for the full hour.

The only books I remember having to read for school are Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird , John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men and J. B. Priestley’s An Inspector Calls (‘m not sure if this last one counts as it is technically a play, but I actually really enjoyed reading and watching this, so I’m including it anyway).

Both Of  Mice and Men and An Inspector Calls, we read in class, going round the room and taking it in turns to read a paragraph aloud (I used to hate this – I had to count ahead and work out which paragraph was mine, long before it was actually my turn to read). But I don’t think this counts as “required reading”, certainly not in the way that I mean, because we didn’t actually have to go away and read them ourselves, all of the reading was done in lessons (only I bought myself a copy of Of Mice and Men and re-read it – my old English teacher would be proud).

However, To Kill a Mockingbird was different. We started off by reading this in class, but then, as everyone reads at different paces, were given several months to finish the books. We were given some lesson time to read this too (e.g. “if you finish your essay, just read To Kill a Mockingbird until the end of the lesson”), so, again, I really don’t think this counts. Side note: I found my copy of this on my bookshelf earlier this year (see the featured image) so it looks like I never handed it back in; belated apologies to my old English teacher, who will never see this post. 

It goes without saying that college was different. In History, we were given lists of suggested reading; both fiction and non-fiction books based on the time period of each paper we studied for (The Tudors, Luther and the German Reformation and the Witchcraze). Surprise, surprise, I actually read some of the books on these lists. And kept the lists for future reference.

Obviously, if I had taken a course such as English Literature at college, this would have been different and I would have been issued with a list of books I needed to read. But, like I said, college is different to school and lists of required reading would not be necessary in a lot of subjects.

So to conclude this longer-than-intended blog post, I’m not sure if required reading lists are real (in schools). Maybe it was just my school or maybe it’s just in the UK that they’re not a big thing, who knows?

Did your school give you lists of required reading? Leave a comment, along with your country, down below! Let’s discover whether this is a myth or a real thing!

Elanor 🙂