Even the most book-obsessed person I know has had at least one bad experience with required reading. There can be so many variables that can either make or break your school reading experience--teachers, other members of the class, your own personal situation at the time, etc.
I'm kind of opposed to having someone else tell you what to read--I think most people are more likely to read something they picked out on their own than they are likely to read something someone else told them to read. I get that class curriculum means that everyone has to read the same thing, and not everyone will like it. So that's definitely a point against required reading. One of my good friends told me once that she doesn't like to read classics because school has made them all seem like required reading.
This, to me, is terrifying. I love classics! The first Jane Austen book I read was given to me by my sixth grade teacher (not technically "required," but pretty close). And I doubt I would have picked up any intimidating, small-page-smaller-print book in the paperback classics section if I hadn't already been introduced to some of them through school. So I don't like the fact that required reading seems to turn some people away from these sort of books.
However, like I said, reading books for school can be kind of a gateway drug into more classics--reading Catcher in the Rye last school year led to reading Franny and Zooey over the summer, and I loved them both.
Plus, there's the obvious fact that required reading is kind of unavoidable. The whole class should be reading the same thing, in order for discussion and learning and to occur. It helps, in fact, when someone doesn't like the book. If twenty people are all agreeing on everything about the book, there's not going to be a great discussion.
What do you think about required reading? Are you for it, or do you think the students should be allowed to choose the books?
Happy New Year and happy back to school.