More classics, please!

Kristin Barrett, Staff Writer

Before entering high school, I had the impression that, in English class, I would be met with Shakespearean romance, Hemingway’s prose, maybe even a Jane Austen novel. And the only reason I was aware of these authors and their works was because they are talked about. Regularly–including witty references on TV shows, or overheard in a conversation drenched in intelligence and sophistication. Why, in my junior year, have I not read as many classics as I thought I would have? Where are the great, unforgettable authors? 


Not only are classic works of literature full of intricate vocabulary and captivating characters, they’re talking points. In life, being able to discuss a book with a superior, a coworker, or a friend can be a valuable tool. I’m not sure if I can have a nuanced conversation about a forgettable, young adult book I read once in English class written in 2017 that few have heard of. One of my favorite teachers, who is now retired, snuck significant works into the curriculum my eighth grade year for which I am forever grateful. While my friends were reading historical fiction and realistic fiction by young adult authors, the titles of which they could barely remember for their book clubs, I was truly learning from our class readings of Lord of the Flies and To Kill A Mockingbird. I was under the impression that this was my introduction to adult literature, all those books I had heard of throughout my childhood but never read because I assumed they would be taught to me when I got to high school.


Switching from classics to contemporary novels in classrooms stems from the idea that students should be able to relate to what they’re reading. But, when I was younger, what stuck with me when Dr. Seuss week would arrive each year and authors would visit my elementary school so that reading can be an escape from reality. Drilled into my brain from a very young age was the idea of reading being a fun and productive way to take a reader’s mind off of their own struggles and admire the adventures of someone whom they would never meet. Maybe this is why I enjoy fiction–to me, books are meant to be admirable learning tools, not simply a mirror of my life.


As I begin my junior year of high school, I have started to read classic books on my own. I am nearly finished with Little Women, and next in my queue is The Scarlet Letter. I would have preferred to read more of these books in a classroom setting, having rich discussions. For now, I’m happy to take matters–and many of these classic works of literature–into my own hands.