Originally Posted by ApK
Schools attempt to expose children to a cross-section to hopefully find stuff that they like that they wouldn't have picked up otherwise. The book you dreaded reading is perhaps the same book that launched the kid in the next row on a life long love of reading. And they are apparently making reading, and many things, more interesting than when I was a kid. My kids come home singing about their spelling words...I HATED spelling.
I, personally, never had a problem with books assigned either at the high school or university level. Some kids do. My suggestion - and I'm not a language teacher - would be to offer choices within a given genre. This is a problem in the old pBook environment, but should be opened up significantly with eBook availability.
I have always loved reading. My wife grew up out in the isolated sand hills of western Texas and books were her replacement for neighbor kids to play with. But some kids don't like to read and I have some ADD and ADHD nephews in the family who never could sit still long enough to read much of anything as children. Somehow you have to try to find something to capture their interest that is, at the same time, of some cultural, literary value. It's not easy.
Metaphorical issues - yes, I agree that many books are over-analyzed. We each see through our own lenses shaped by education, training and experience and we tend to see what we want to see. As an adult, I attend two library reading groups because it gives me an assigned book to read from lists generally regarded as "good literature" that I often would never think to read. That follows up with a group discussion of what others saw in the book. Sometimes I miss things with which I agree; sometimes I think the analysis goes a bit too far.
We can ask living authors what they meant. But then, how many authors are honest enough to downplay the complexity and metaphorical imagery that readers see in their works. It's flattering to be though of as more cerebral than you really are, and it can help sales as well. On the plus side, good authors leave imagery to the mind of the reader - which is perhaps why movies made from books seldom excite readers who have developed their own imagery.