In essence, here are the 4 ways high school reading makes the author (and I would argue a whole lot more kids) hate reading.
Required reading is not motivational. I would agree with this statement on behalf of many readers. The classics are not exactly pertinent to contemporary readers. That is, by the way, because they were not written for adolescents but for adults. Of course, this can be addressed by an enthusiastic teacher who truly does love a particular classic and can generate that enthusiasm to the kids. Or, even better, use contemporary literature as a ladder to the classics.
You are not permitted your own opinion about the assigned books. The only opinion and interpretation that matters is that of the teacher. When asked what they think about a treading, the correct response is to parrot back what the teacher or critic expects. If I require a text, I need to be open to kids telling me that they did not find the text as interesting as I did. My job is not ot persuade them that their opinion is wrong. My task is, instead, to show them how to state their opinon and then back it up with evidence from the text.
If it is popular, it is not rigorous. SIGH. I hear this one all the time. I have even read about it in countless articles, blogs, and standards. It is FALSE. There are plenty of YA books that are as rigorous or even more rigorous than the texts generally part of the canon. Even if we define rigor very narrowly (lexile, grade level), there are literary works from the YA field that measure up (though I hate this type of measurement). And if we are talking layers of meaning, again, there are contemporary books that offer that as well. But then...
Reading is not supposed to be fun. I think the perfect example here is poetry and how it is addressed in schools. In elementary grades, kids get lots of humorous poems and verse. Shel Silverstein, Jack Prelutsly, Arnold Lobel, J. Patrick Lewis, and so many others are part and parcel of primary grades. Then suddenly some where in middle school a switch is thrown and the poetry that connects is replaced with roads less travelled, with darting snakes in the grass, and with reflections on fields of flowers. There is a chasm, one into which we lose so many readers.
One of the things I love about teaching children's and YA literature is seeing the joy and love of reading shine through once again. Just last week, a students raved about participating in #titletalk and about reading WONDER, one of the books I had given as door prizes in class that day. It reminded me about the power of a good book at the right time in the right hands. Oh yeah, I wrote about that, didn't I?