And Julie is right.
But to what extent?
Look, I love to read. And I want everybody to love reading as much as I do. I love reading into things and understanding stuff and being able to analyze better than a lot of adults I know.
But forcing kids to read things they aren't interested in and that they won't understand isn't going to help.
A lot of the problem with kids in high school, especially on the lower levels, is that they hate to read. Once the first few grades of elementary school passed and we started being forced to read things that were above our grade level (Shakespeare in fifth grade) or we weren't interested in, they lost interest. And nobody bothered to revive it.
In every school curriculum I've ever seen, nobody bothers to let kids help choose what they're going to read and analyze. They're forced to read Merchant of Venice in eighth grade. Who the hell understands Merchant of Venice in eighth grade?! I certainly didn't.
And I'm somebody who has always loved the classics and loved reading. I read adult lit when I was eleven; Pride and Prejudice and Jane Eyre were both read before I was 15. All Things Great And Small has proudly sat on my shelf since I was 12.
But I still hated the books I had to read in school.
And the analyzation? It was terrible. It was all authorial intent (which doesn't exist) or details that we didn't care about. Maybe if we talked about the story as a whole and who we liked and why and what it said about the story - maybe that would have gotten my attention.
But it never did, because by the time I was allowed to study in that manner, I was in an AP class.
And the kids who needed that most? Weren't even in honors.
So I agree. Kids need to read and understand more.
But not things that are dry. Incorporate texts that they want to read. I'm a firm believer that the first week of school should be allowing students to choose what they'll be learning for the first semester of high school. Teach them how to analyze and read with books they're interested in and books they love.
Once that happens, bring in the classics; bring in the texts that need to be read; bring in all of the things that you want to do.
But none of it will work without fostering a love of reading first.