The Problem With Outside Reading Books (OSRs)


Abby Bozek

Surely all of us sometime in our middle or high school career have been assigned to read an outside reading book (OSR). Because of this, everyone surely understands that you pick a book off a list given to you by a teacher, and you finish the book by a certain deadline. On the surface, I understand it’s purpose. To get us students to start reading outside of the classroom on our own time. Despite it’s good intentions, this rarely works. 

I’m sure all of us have been in the same situation. You have an in-class writing assignment the next day, and you haven’t even picked up your OSR book. Who can blame you? There’s no assigned schedule, and the probability of an individual putting time into their very busy day to read a book they kind of choice is slim to none. Your life will only get worse when you realize that when you are trying to look up sparknotes or shmoop notes for your book that there aren’t any. I’ve been in this exact situation, and have gotten frantic texts late at night from my friends who were in this situation as well. What can be done? Listen to thirteen straight hours of audible to try and catch up at 11 at night? Look up summaries, though those never really explain the entire book? Then what, you fail you writing the next day all because you never had time to pick up a book that came with no schedule? 

I beg the question of why? What is the purpose of this? Teachers must understand the busy lives of students containing school, homework, clubs, extracurriculars, and sometimes even more activities. OSRs truly only measure a students ability to read chapter summaries and reviews of a book, as I rarely meet anyone who completes these books. So yet again, I will beg the question of why? 

I have personally been tasked with reading an OSR this year, and due to my schedule lacked time to read this book. Luckily, there were shmoop notes which helped me but when the in-class writing came, trouble arose. As well as having a sub and a shortened 27 minute period, we had to write four paragraphs with no prompt given to us by our teacher. One may say to just finish it the next day, but the assignment sheet clarified that it was only to be done in one period. How and why did this teacher expect this of us? I know all of my friends in that class felt the same; stressed. Frantically writing down anything you could think to fit the vague questions on the information sheet, one would look around to see all of the regents kids sitting and playing on their phones. They didn’t need to do this assignment. So while the honors kids were sweating, frantically writing, and getting hand cramps the regents students were playing Candy Crush and our sub re-enacting a section of a book he read. So yet again I will ask the same question; Why? 

Simply I may have just had bad experiences with outside reading books, but I truly would love to know why they are given in the way they are. At the very least, a schedule would be appreciated.