If I could use one term to describe myself, it would be “reader.”

Ever since I was a little kid, I have loved to read, and the 245 books in my personal collection attest to that.

For me personally, reading has been a lot more than just a fun pastime. It has also improved my writing, my vocabulary, my speaking skills, and simply improved me in countless other ways.

Statistics show these skills are improved in all people that read frequently. Yet most Americans spend less than 20 minutes a day reading, and 24 percent of American adults haven’t read a book in the last year.

Some people would say that those who don’t read have only themselves to blame, but I disagree. I believe that disinterest in reading stems from a lack of interest in the books people have been exposed to, rather than a dislike of books in general. In our educational system, reading courses tend to focus almost exclusively on classic stories, such as Romeo and Juliet, Animal Farm, Of Mice and Men, and The Great Gatsby. And while these are good books, comprehending them requires a lot of reading between the lines and background knowledge. Put yourself in the shoes of a 16-year-old kid, trying to use your knowledge of the Russian Revolution to understand the themes of Animal Farm. Sound fun? I didn’t think so!

And how many kids are burned off reading forever after spending a month trying to decipher the works of Shakespeare, which were written only a mere 500 years ago? To put it plainly, the books we make our children read, while classics, are not necessarily enjoyable for the vast majority of students who read them. So how do we fix this problem and get people interested in reading again?

For me, the answer is simple. Schools need to let students choose what books they read and not the other way around. Students should be given options that will appeal to their own personal interests. If a student reads a book about something they enjoy, the chances they will enjoy the books they read are far greater than if they are made to read something they don’t like. If a student likes basketball, let them read an autobiography by Kobe Bryant. Or if they video games, Ready Player One would be a great option. Many students would enjoy either of those books a lot more than Catcher In The Rye, which was voted by a wide margin the least liked book among York High School students (according to a survey conducted by yours truly).

By giving students choice, I believe many of the students who are turned off on reading would actually enjoy it again. Of course, some students would keep using Spark Notes on every book they were told to read, but I believe that number would decrease significantly. By giving students choice in what they read, we give them the opportunity to choose from literally countless great books out there, and we also get the chance to create lifelong readers from those who would otherwise have spurned reading.

Here are a few books that I would personally recommend to anyone who is interested in history, crime or action novels and looking for something new to read.

1. Enemy At The Gates -- This book is an epic tale about the greatest battle in human history, the Battle of Stalingrad. It provides excellent historical information, as well as gripping eyewitness testimony from every side.

2. The Guns Of August -- This Pulitzer Prize winner gives an in depth account of the opening battles of the First World War, as German troops rush toward Paris facing an unprepared force of hastily assembled British and French troops.

3. Stonewall In The Valley -- This book describes the Shenandoah Valley Campaign of 1862, in which Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson repels 3 Union Armies of nearly 60,000 men with a scratch force of 17,000 militia, using tactical skill, hard marching and plenty of luck.

4. To Rule The Waves -- This book gives us a gripping account of the rise of British Navy, from the defeat of the Spanish Armada to Trafalgar and the Battle of the Atlantic.

5. The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes -- For anyone who enjoys mystery or crime novels, Sherlock Holmes is a must read masterpiece. This collection of 44 short stories and four novels is also great for anyone who just wants to read one or two stories a day.

6. Red Storm Rising -- One of Tom Clancy’s best works, this book explores what would have happened if war had broken out between the West and the Soviet Union during the 1980s. I highly recommend all of Tom Clancy’s books, especially the Jack Ryan series.

Thank you for READING my article. Now go and find something you’re interested in and READ some more!

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