Study Guides Can't Substitute for Reading

By Ashley Harris ‘15
Sparknotes, Cliffsnotes, and Shmoop are becoming
increasingly popular among students. Students are turning away
from reading assigned books and relying more on these study
guides. Consequently, this frightful shift from reading is hurting
many students, and many miss details and vocabulary that can
only be obtained from reading.
Study guides offer chapter by chapter summaries of
the book. They give up the main idea and what happened in the
chapter. Online study guides from sparknotes.com, cliffsnotes.
com and shmoop.com include features additional to the chapter
summaries such as character analysis, important quotes from the
book, themes, key facts and quizzes. Cliffsnotes.com includes
practice projects and shmoop.com has flashcards. Sparknotes
even has a free app. But they all lack one thing: the author’s
actual words.
“The book has details that go beyond the plot. With
summaries, you completely miss the writing style,” said Ms.
Kaczmarek, English teacher.
Authors have their own writing style and technique.
Reading a book captures the style, technique and all the details.
According to “10 Benefits of Reading: Why You
Should Read Every Day” by Lana Winter-Hebert, some benefits
from reading books include vocabulary expansion, memory
improvement, stronger analytical skills, improved focus and
concentration and better writing skills.
All high schools students are required to take an
English Regents exam to earn a Regents diploma. The new
Common Core English Regents asks you about writing
techniques, as opposed to the old Regents, where the critical lens
essay asks you to use literary devices with examples from books
to prove a quote. Teachers purposely give you books to read to
help prepare you for these exams, help you improve your SAT
score and expand your knowledge. To not use this advantage is
completely absurd.
“I have a lot of work so I start falling behind on the
deadlines. There is no time to read especially for junior year.
You’re already overwhelmed,” said Jenifer Guzman ‘15.
There is no time to read the book, but there is time to
download an app and read 20 chapter summaries plus character
analysis. Instead of listening to music or logging on to Facebook,
take the time to read. Train and bus rides are the perfect time
to catch up on a chapter if you are falling behind. If students
invested as much time in reading the actual book as they do
reading the study guide, they would be scholars.

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