Why is Book Report Writing Complicated?

It sounds like the easiest assignment in the world, right? Here's the gist: to you read a book. You grab a piece of paper and write on what the book was about. You add a little of your own thoughts - what you thought of the book, or how you reacted to it. Then you finished up and turn it in. It seems so simple when you lay it out like that, right? So, how come students struggle with book reports every single time they're assigned one? You don't have to develop random support or evidence, you don't have to come up with a compelling thesis - it's just a book report. So why is it so hard for students to write them?

There are many unfortunate reasons that book report writing has become increasingly complicated. First of all, the texts themselves play a crucial role in the severity of book reports. In today's education system, teachers are repeatedly using outdated texts irrelevant to the concerns of the modern world. For example, the text To Kill a Mockingbird is an iconic novel demonstrating the conflict I racial relations during a prejudiced time. This text, however, was written in 1960, and completely relevant to the time: civil rights activists were at their peak, Martin Luther King Jr. was leading protests and racial tension was high. This text, however, does not serve the same purpose or lasting impact in our modern society. The biggest problem with book reports today is simply this: the books that students are reading are not relevant to their studies, and therefore uninteresting. These texts often include a variety of problems. They may include vocabulary no longer in use, which will force the teacher to provide extensive explanation; they may even include concepts foreign to students, which heightens misunderstandings and also causes the teacher to spend more time explaining and less time having students read. If schools would update their curriculum texts to more modern material, it's likely you'll see a rise in book reports grades.

The other issue causing book report difficulty simply lies in the writing itself. Book reports require writers to walk a fine line between 'telling' and 'informing'. Even some teachers have trouble determining whether this line ends and begins. Yes, in a book report you must relate what happened in the text: but when have you said too much? At the same time, you're supposed to provide insightful critique or a meaningful reaction to the book. What if your reaction doesn't seem 'real' enough - or what if you just didn't have on at all? There are many reasons book reports are difficult for students, and none of them have to do with the student.

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