Why It’s OK for Kids to Hate Books


Last week I was at Chapters, slowly perusing the different selections of books, when a particular sign caught my eye.  A table was advertising a sale with a colourful sign drawing attention to “Books You Loved From School”.  One of the books sitting on the table was Wuthering Heights, by Emily Brönte.  Now, I know that opinions are different, and that this book is a classic because so many people enjoyed it.  However, all I could think about was how much I hated the book when I had to read it in school.  I remember being annoyed by all the cruelty Heathcliff and Catherine committed in the name of their all-consuming, caring-to-the-point-of-insanity love.  After pointing out the display to my husband, we started talking about all the books that were assigned to us in school that we really disliked.  On my list was The Lord of the Flies (the teacher could never answer my question about what an island full of girls would do differently), while my husband appeared to be fairly irritated by the death of Leslie Burke in Katherine Patterson’s Bridge to Terabitha.  I started thinking that there are quite a few books that are commonly presented in schools that may not appeal to students.  How can we prevent these students from equating these particular books to a general dislike for reading?

I believe that one way to overcome this issue is to teach children that it is OK to hate a book they have read.  Let kids know that if they take a book out of the library they do not have to finish it if it is unappealing to them.  Introduce them to the Reading Bill of Rights.  Don’t be upset if a student dislikes a book you have chosen for the class to read.  Teach them that Newberry Award winners are not enjoyed by everybody.  Create lessons where students are taught how to give reasons why they hate a book (this will give you more enjoyable reasons than “It was boring.”).  Give assignments where students review and rate the books they have read, and post these reviews for other students to read.  Share your own experiences of reading books that you have hated.  Finally, let students know that by understanding what books they dislike, they are on their way to discovering what they do like to read and becoming a more discriminating and sophisticated reader.

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