What books should be taught in high schools?

What books do you think should be taught in high schools?

    • I think this should be required to be read by everyone! ❤️

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    • Just started audio today. I’m always driving my kids around so this is how I read half my books

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  • From the list, my number one choice might be the Harry Potter series. There is a depth of substance that goes beyond the pop culture phenomenon.

    • I remember reading this in high school. Some of the kids in my class would break down into tears as they tried talking about it and their tablemates would try to comfort them.

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    • Anything about the Holocaust. This is something we all need to be reminded of.

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    • This book made one of the biggest impacts on me in high school. If my kids are not assigned it I will still have them read it.

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  • Something kids can relate to…and enough of the stories where kids, dogs, and parents die on the poor protagonists all the time.

    • Agree! Hated Where the red fern grows, etc

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    • Julia yes! My 13yo had to read that last year. Why are they picking such depressing stories?

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  • Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson. Only book in high school where I felt like I could relate to the main character.

    • Just read that book and loved it!

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    • Katie Have you seen the movie? They did a pretty good job with it and Laurie got to have a cameo role in it.

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    • What there’s a movie?? I didn’t know that

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    • Katie I think you can find the whole thing for free on Youtube.

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  • The Unwind Series is so powerful, the depth of discussion and analysis that could happen in high school would be amazing. The Red Rising is also another that could really be amazing. It has so much in it to dig into. So many characters for students to identify with and really explore.

  • I think it should be somewhat open to the student’s choice. Some kids aren’t going to enjoy the classics (I loved to read then, but I hated Ethan Frome that was assigned). I think it’s more important to stress a love of reading than focus too much on theme and symbolism, which I always felt should be open to interpretation.

  • As a former high school English teacher, it is all about teaching the joy of reading. Teaching the students that it really doesn’t matter what they are reading just so they are reading and enjoying what they read

  • I teach at a high school. The required novels are “Of Mice and Men”, “Lord of the Flies”, “To Kill a Mockingbird”, “Great Gatsby”, and some Shakespeare, short stories, and poetry. However, students are required to pick novels of their choice (off of a list of over 300 books and plays) to read outside of class. “To Kill a Mockingbird” is generally the favorite book of students.

    • I taught at a high school where the literature curriculum was similar, In addition to Mockingbird, Lord of the Flies and Gatsby,we were thorough with Shakespeare with most students reading Romeo and Juliet, Julius Caesar, and one other, ranging from Hamlet, Macbeth, or A Midsummer Night’s Dream. They also read Orwell, Homer’s Iliad, and sometimes mixed in A Tale of Two Cities, Cry the Beloved Country, and A Prayer for Owen Meany. What I have loved is years later running into many former students who tell me how much they value their background in literature!

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    • Our sophomores read “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” and I joked that I would be hosting a Summer Solstice party at 5:45 a.m. on June 21 at a local park. I’ve been thinking about whether any of them are coming this week!

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    • My sophomores also read Midsummer, Rand’s Anthem, usually A Tale of Two Cities (but we did not get it in this year due to flu x 2 for me!), and Sophocles’ Antigone. Repeaters read Kafka’s Metamorphosis instead of Anthem. I also have a require independent read each nine weeks, and I am thinking about increasing it to two reads a nine weeks. They are given a book list of around 500 books ranging from classics, to mysteries, sci-fi and fantasy, tough stuff, and non-fiction. That is where the truly get to explore the lit they love. The Unwind Series, Night, The Outsiders, Animal Farm, and 1984 among others in these comments are all there. This year, we are adopting a new textbook, and I am looking at making some changes.

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    • As for Shakespeare, freshmen do R&J, sophomores Caesar or Midsummer, and seniors do Macbeth. My drama class has done Twelfth Night or Taming of the Shrew. Drama also does Medea or Oedipus Rex, Everyman, and a few others, usually ending with A Streetcar Named Desire.

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  • Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson.
    12 Years A Slave by Solomon Northup.
    Crank by Ellen Hopkins.
    Anything that deals with real world societal problems and human differences to help prepare them for what they will find and encounter once they’re out on their own. That way they can develop healthy relationships and respect and they can better understand certain situations.

    • I loved that book. It started out slow, but once I got into it I couldn’t put it down. The book was required reading for all freshman my first year in college and we even had Greg Mortenson speak on campus.

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    • My girls devour Ellen Hopkins’ books, and some of the boys do as well.

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  • I agree with the comment what the kids want to read. Maybe compile a list from here or the 100 (minus 50 shades 😵) and brief summaries and have the kids vote.

  • The Things They Carried is a big favorite. It’s tricky to teach, since the author classifies it as “a book about how to write a book,” but there are a million conversations, debates, and research papers just waiting to pop

  • Caitlin Alifirenka – I Will always write back
    Alan Gratz – Refugee
    Benjamin Alire Saenz Aristotle & Dante discover the secrets of the universe.
    RJ Palacio – Wonder.

    • Refugee. I just read that a few months ago. Made a very big impact and I quickly bought a copy to keep on my shelf

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  • Should any book ever be “taught” How about teaching the importance of reading and try to instill that in t he students. If grammar, spelling and writing skills don’t have to be taught (at least in some states) why should only certain books be taught

  • History should be taught through historical fiction. The classics should be introduced. Shakespeare should be watched. Literary terms taught from award winners. Then let students select from any of the above and contemporary fiction. Teach them a love of reading by not forcing entire books upon them.

    • Was just going to recommend historical fiction too! In addition to reading, generates interest and understanding of history. Books set in different culture than one’s own; geographic, ethnic, racial, religious, etc. Also biography/autobiography selection can be pretty exciting reading, spark career/field interest, provide more accurate look at things that sounded glamorous or exciting.

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    • I had a really good history teacher in high school but I don’t think it really came to life for me until I read historical fiction. I think understanding the thoughts and values surrounding historic events are so much more important than memorizing dates and names.

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    • The Bible should be taught in church.

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    • In an elective theology class. No one should be forced to read that unless you’re willing to introduce other religious texts from multiple religions.

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    • The Sutras would be far more beneficial.

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    • One of the best university level classes I had was The Bible as Literature. The professor made it very clear that it was not a class to promote religion and I remember we still had one or two who would try to sneak in their own denomination ‘s beliefs. It would take a strong teacher to keep it from becoming a religion class so I would be reluctant to suggest it.

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    • I actually agree, along with other religious texts. So much literature is based on religious themes, even when they are not overtly religious. My AP English teacher had us read excerpts from the bible to help us understand universal themes used in (mostly Western) classic literature.

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    • Karen ha! I didn’t read you comment before I wrote mine! We are entirely in agreement!

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    • I read portions of the King James Bible as literature in AP English in my public high school in Maine in 1989-90. It was taught SO PROFESSIONALLY. Not at all as “you have to believe this,” but as “much of Western Literature and Art reference the Bible – this is literature you need to know if you study English Literature.”

      My parents are very devout Catholics and actually had misgivings about me reading the King James Version (technically not recognized by the Catholic Church)!

      How can you know why we say “she extended an olive branch” or “they treat him like he walks on water or something” or “oh lighten up. This isn’t the Suffering of Job” if you don’t know the story?

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    • There are many reasons to read The Bible.

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  • I think there should be more modern books on the curriculum. The local high school is still teaching the same classics I read in school and while I appreciate the importance of many of those books, they also need more books that are based in the world teenagers are living in.

    • Definitely agree with you on this!

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    • I read about that in college and watched Miss Evers’ Boys. I can’t recall a time where I was totally disgusted with human logic in my life.

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    • Annestasia While I think we need to teach the great things about America in grade school and high school, I think we must not hide from the atrocities that have been committed…..and continue to be committed.

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    • I completely agree. I don’t believe the curriculum in schools exposes our students enough to the real history of this country. They try to hide the bad stuff while exaggerating the good.

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    • Annestasia And then when they grow up and find all the things that were concealed, they often feel betrayed enough to discount the good stuff about America.

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    • I have thought about bringing in at least excerpts from Imbeciles about the Carrie Buck case to align with the Council of Eugenics in Anthem for that very reason. We cannot let these kids walk through the world with blinders on and thrust them into reality on graduation day.

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    • Jennifer Besides, much of this type of atrocity happens while they are still kids. Carrie was 17 when she was raped by foster parents nephew.

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    • Linda, this is why the kids are constantly checking out my tough stuff selections, which include Go Ask Alice and the works of Ellen Hopkins. The voice of the character has to be believable and relatable to the reader. Some of my kids have opened up in major ways by reading these books!

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    • I love teaching Night, kids really get into it

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    • Megan This book changed me. And I am still after all these years reading wwll history . Just finished The Nightingale . Oh my goodness, what a teach this would be♥️

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  • And in reality , we are at the mercy of the teachers! I loved the years I homeschooled . Our reading curriculum was wide open .

    • But in some home school situations, they are pure propaganda.

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    • My parents preferred that we not read anything written after about 1960. While there are some great older books, and I don’t want to belittle the classics, only reading older books can perpetuate things that ought not to be perpetuated.

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    • Well, I chose a program called Calvert. A brick and mortar school in Baltimore with the most amazing homeschool program. Rich in history and choice. My son, now in law school credits his 4th grade year with the beg of his love of history.

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    • Linda, I actually think where your personal beliefs lie, there is your own propaganda. I forged my own path based on a ton of objectives. I have 2 successful children now forging their own lives ! One is a political consultant and the other a law student .

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    • Speaking personally, I didn’t feel I was at the mercy of my teachers when I was in school. I read what I wanted to read. Assigned reading made me MORE of a reader, rather than less of one, because I read the books I liked on top of the ones that were assigned (happily, sometimes those two categories converged). The high school years were when I was discovering my adult tastes through writers like Franz Kafka, Umberto Eco, Jorge Luis Borges, Clarice Lispector, Friedrich Dürrenmatt, Peter Handke, Thomas Mann, August Strindberg, Suetonius, Virgil, Euripides, Edith Wharton, Sinclair Lewis, Albert Camus, Kurt Vonnegut, Eugene O’Neill, Don DeLillo, and many other writers we weren’t assigned. Through high school I was also introduced to Homer, Thomas Hardy, Chinua Achebe, Arthur Miller, Alan Paton, Fyodor Dostoevsky, Giovanni Boccaccio, Sophocles, Molière, and other favorite writers.

      In my experience, the education I received helped mold my tastes just as much as my leisure time reading did. Often times I’d read something because it spun off from something I was assigned. I was so blown away by “The Odyssey” that I bought “The Iliad” and then “The Aeneid” by Virgil to continue the story. I liked “Oedipus the King” so much that I read the whole trilogy. Earlier this year, I also read “Sophocles II”, a collection containing his other tragedies, “Ajax”, “The Women of Trachis”, “Electra”, and “Philoctetes”, and that’s certainly due to the exposure to his great play in high school. I read the whole trilogy Achebe wrote (which continues with “No Longer at Ease” and “Arrow of God”), after I belatedly found out it was a trilogy because of how much I liked “Things Fall Apart”. Moreover, I was inspired to read other Nigerian writers like Amos Tutuola (“The Palm-Wine Drinkard”), Buchi Emecheta (“The Bride Price”), and Ken Saro-Wiwa (“Sozaboy: A Novel in Rotten English”). Just yesterday at the Friends of the Library book sale I bought two novels by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, another Nigerian writer. These are probably authors I wouldn’t have picked up on my own but for the prodding given to me by being assigned texts from outside my background in high school.

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  • Any book on basic, classical logic. Honestly, I wish I’d been taught some thinking rules BEFORE college.

    • Gamut’s Logic Language and Meaning would probably work.

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    • Yes, this exactly. Luckily, I didn’t need it because of the fact that I was reading lots of philosophy, even academic philosophy, but it would have been useful and saved time for me to not have to puzzle this stuff out on my own. Being a young atheist before “New Atheism” was a thing, I was curious to see if my atheism were intellectually justifiable and the only way to investigate the subject at that time was to dive into the deep end of philosophy with books like “Critiques of God” by Peter A. Angeles (ed.), “The Miracle of Theism” by J. L. Mackie, and “Atheism: A Philosophical Justification” by Michael Martin. Martin’s book in particular was heavy on formal symbolic logic and reading it was something of a struggle.

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    • Aristotle’s Poetics plays a role in my classes with rhetoric being discussed in English and speech and the theory of tragedy falling into drama and English.

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    • Yes! I taught this at an arts school in Tacoma and still got in trouble 😕

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  • Mix it up! To present one focus area could kill the desire to read for pleasure. A challenge (classic), something funny, something non-fiction etc.,

  • The suggestions here lack strong African American titles. Zora Neale Hurston, Maya Angelou, Toni Morrison (though maybe wait until college for her). And American-Haitian writer Edwidge Danticat. Love her work.

    • I also love James Baldwin and Jamaica Kincaid 💙

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    • Katy Thank you. I will check them out.

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    • I think a lot of schools cover African and African diaspora authors already, even twenty-some years ago (which is when I was going to high school). I was assigned “Invisible Man” by Ralph Ellison, “A Raisin in the Sun” by Lorraine Hansberry, “Things Fall Apart” by Chinua Achebe, etc. And in addition to the full-length books we were expected to read, our American Literature textbook had numerous selections from Harlem Renaissance writers like Langston Hughes and Claude McKay, an essay from W. E. B.’s “The Souls of Black Folk” was included, as well as extracts from “Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass”, poetry from Phyllis Wheatley, etc.

      And being a theater nerd, I was also reading lots of black playwrights on my own. I first discovered August Wilson in an anthology titled “Famous American Plays of the 1980s”, which included his play “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” (part of the Pittsburgh, or Century, Cycle of plays, which I subsequently devoured as fast as he was writing them — and, by the way, the adaptation of his play “Fences” is the best movie I’ve seen in years), read Amiri Baraka’s “Dutchman”, Wole Soyinka’s “Death and the King’s Horseman”, Anna Deveare Smith’s “Twilight: Los Angeles 1992”, Suzan-Lori Parks’ “Venus”, and saw productions of Parks’ “The America Play” and Don Cheadle’s “groomed (the unrefined technique)”. The latter is a very fine play but it’s now sadly forgotten, probably because it’s also a response to the L. A. Riots and therefore may not strike producers as timely. It was only four years past the riots when I saw the play but the memory of it is still green. Even his Wikipedia page doesn’t mention it!

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    • A couple of teachers in my school have started teaching Yaa Gyaasi’s Homegoing and Colton Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad. The students have responded really well to these, especially Homegoing.

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  • In my high school days we would read six books a semester plus do up to four book reports/analysis a semester. Each year we read a variety, and some are still on the reading lists at my grandsons’ school. Out of their classes, the favorite has been One Flew Over The Cuckoo’ s Nest and HUCK FINN!

  • Fahrenheit 451. It’s timeless and pertinent to media consumption and freedoms in today world. Any age can relate.

    • A mentor once instructed me not to even think about it. Her words were something to the effect of “Don’t give them the gun to shoot you with.” We are in a very conservative area. I have fought to keep Anthem, because it is in my curriculum due to the kids wanting it to be in there. I have fought to keep Ellen Hopkins on my independent reading shelf, and Fahrenheit is there too. I encourage kids to read it, but I cannot do it as a class study with all of my kids, sadly.

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    • Jennifer, yes very sad. A true classic. Students are cheated when teachers are stifled from using quality, classic literature. You can only do what you can. Have a list of banned books on top of a pile on a counter top or your desk and some kid will see it accidentally!

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    • I know some who make a shelf of banned and challenged books for Banned Books Week and put caution tape around them with “Do not read these!” signs. I may start that this year. That will get them reading! Forbidden fruit is extra tempting! 🤣 Seriously, my parents all have to sign a disclaimer with their student before they can check things out of my library. The disclaimer says if they and/or the kid are offended by a selection, it is the kid’s responsibility to return the offensive book, get another one, and complete the assignment ON TIME. No excuses!

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  • I’m a high school teacher and I believe all high school kids need to be exposed to coming of age novels-it’s what we are about. I love Huck and Holden. I’ve fought for Song of Solomon and last year I taught A Lesson Before Dying (amazing discussion and thinking about author’s purpose vs protagonist and character). Also my students love The Crucible which seems current and important to consider. We also dig intensely into The Things They Carried.

    • It used to be part of Sr High curriculum.

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  • Fewer miserable and depressing books. More non fiction. More inspirational. How about Hidden Figures, The Night Circus, Much Ado About Nothing, Pride and Prejudice, Confederacy of Dunces, Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter

    • I totally agree with fewer miserable and depressing books. Why kids are forced to read Lord of the Flies still astounds me. It is one of a few dreadful books that are forced on young people. They should have some leeway as to what books they want to read. Maybe give them a list of 50 books and let them pick 10 to read (or whatever number of books comfortably can be accomplished in a school year).

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    • Pamela, standards guide what we can do. We have to teach different forms. I would love to just do novel studies. Unfortunately, curriculums are moving toward more and more excerpts. My colleagues and I agreed we will sit down together before school starts so we can each maintain the stories we believe it is important the kids read in their entirety.

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    • Jennifer I hear you. I teach too. Just thought of something cool that I developed that might appeal. Historical fiction. Short. Novels in a series of self contained vignettes in chapters. Companion books. A Long Way from Chicago and A Year Down Yonder by James Patterson. Set around the Depression in middle America. The former from a grandson’s perspective, the latter from a granddaughter’s — kids can choose. Serious and sometimes poignant but also very, very funny. The central character, Grandma, begs readers to explore morality — what does it mean to be a good person? Probably more middle school than high school. Wonderful as part of a project about the Depression.

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  • I love teaching The Great Gatsby. But I would also love to teach A Prayer for Owen Meaney and The Perks Of Being a Wallflower.

  • Life in a Jar: The Irena Sendler Project by Jack Mayer

  • I strongly think the books should reflect what they are learning in social studies. Of the books I had to read 50 years ago, I think Red Badge Of Courage, Scarlett letter, Return of the Native, James Fenimore Cooper, Shakespeare and The Odyssey should still be taught. I feel Animal Farm, Silas Marner, Death in the Family, On the Waterfront, and Of Human Bondage can be replaced with something else.

    • This is precisely why I have kept A Tale of Two Cities every time I have thought about swapping it with Great Expectations or Wuthering Heights. My tenth graders study World History, including the French Revolution.

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    • Jennifer I read Tale Of Two Cities in nineth grade in anticipation of reading it in tenth grade. Ended up in regular English where we read Death in the Family. Honors English read it and Greek plays and I’m not sure what else. Ninth grade was World History and we read in honors history Animal Farm, The Prince, The Communist Manafesto, and On the Beach since this was during the Cold War and Vietnam. In fact our World History book started with Japan and worked East from there. We never got further than Russia!

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  • Esmeralda. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian. Tulsa Burning. Even the Glass Mountain. Many kids are living with parents who are mentally ill. Need to read stuff that could help.

  • Beowulf in both Old English and modern translation. I had to struggle through it and so should every high school fereshman.

    • That reminds me, I need to get the Tolkien edition.

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    • Beowulf was a waste of time for me.

      I remember nothing of it but the headaches it caused me.

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    • I didn’t read “Beowulf” until I was a freshman in college, but my instructor’s forte was Old English. It was a terrific experience listening to him recite “Beowulf” in Old English.

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    • Billy Have you seen the recording of Benjamin Bagby reciting “Beowulf” in the original Anglo-Saxon? If you haven’t, I’d recommend it. I believe you can get it from Netflix.

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    • Yes, we listened to a recording. It is truly a work that is meant to be heard.

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    • Kevin No, I haven’t. Thank you for the recommendation.

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    • Beowulf has always been part of the senior curriculum in my experience, but it is on my independent reading list.

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    • Old English is pretty much a foreign language compared to Modern English. Are the students going to get language classes first so they’re able to understand the foreign words on the page?

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    • Annestasia There are dual-language editions of the book. I have a copy of the celebrated Seamus Heaney translation in a dual-language edition.

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    • The copy we read had the Old English at the left page and modern translation on the right. We read the modern on our own for understanding the story and listened to the Old English to appreciate the poetry of the original.

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    • So you never actually ‘read’ the Old English. And without the translation that someone already did for you, then you wouldn’t have been able to understand what was going on.

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    • We used the Old English to learn about the peom’s structure…alliteration, rhythm, lenghts of each line etc. Listening to a book and reading a book have virtually the same benefits. We followed along with the book while listening. I found both the story and the “sound” of it captivating.

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    • I love foreign languages and I often find myself listening to music in many different languages. I don’t understand much of what is said, but I can usually find a comment or two with a translation. The band Leaves’ Eyes has a song in Old English called Meredead.

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  • Some good Canlit to include might be Barometer Rising by Hugh MacLennan and Fifth Business by Robertson Davies. I would also suggest Oliver Twist by Dickens.

  • My freshman year high school world literature teacher was better than any college or post-bachelor’s lit professor.

    It’s not what you read as much as who is teaching you.

    • My high school English teachers were stars! So grateful for Miss Cunningham and Mr. Little at Newtown H S in Elmhurst NY.

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    • Yes! A marvelous book and even better as an audio book. The only book I’ve ever felt that way about.

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  • Without naming specific books, I’d like to see a greater emphasis on books that bridge the gap between young adult and adult fiction, because one of the drawbacks of assigning young adult books is that they’re rather homogeneous in their vocabulary and syntax. They don’t challenge kids that much, so as a result students get stuck at a reading level several grades below . I’d like to see kid-friendly classics being mixed in with more modern YA fare from about 11 – 13, which would gradually prepare them for having to read adult lit as high school and college students. It doesn’t necessarily matter what they’re reading, so long as it strikes the balance between being not difficult enough and too difficult. The problem with assigning nothing but YA is that publishers are incentivized to train YA readers to keep on coming back, rather than expanding their horizons to different kinds of books.

    However, I’d like to see Ovid’s “Metamorphoses” taught in high schools. Aside from the fact that it’s an excellent work in its own right, it’s also the basis for an extraordinary amount of subsequent literature, art, opera, etc. I think a lot of people are handicapped when reading great literature by not having a foundation in classical myth. And if “Metamorphoses” isn’t taught, they should at least teach Thomas Bulfinch’s “The Age of Fable” or Edith Hamilton’s “Mythology: Timeless Tales of Gods and Heroes”. But Ovid is probably best, because it was largely through him that the great writers of the past became acquainted with Greek mythology.

    • Well … I read Ovid’s Metamorphoses in high school … in Latin.

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    • Oh my yes. The book not the movie

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    • I’ve never seen the movie. Not sure I realized there was one.

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    • The movie is heartbreaking. Watching the boy crawling under the fence and knowing what was going to occur pulled at me. Wanted to reach out to him.

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  • As a high school English teacher, I would add a few points for consideration: there are very few schools that leave the choice of which pieces to read up to individual teachers. They teach what is on the state or local curriculum. Even wealthy schools still read actual texts and they cost $$. We can’t simply go out and order whatever book we feel like. Next for those who (like my students ) complain that all the books we read are depressing…People don’t generally write novels when life is going swimmingly. It is when the world crashes around us that humans write to explore life’s great mysteries and tragedies. Additionally, we try to select books that require a skilled guide. No kid needs a mentor to read most YA fiction, but it takes a well-trained person to introduce the inexperienced to Shakespeare or Dickens. One person’s enjoyment of a piece doesn’t necessarily qualify it for classroom study: at least two books recommended on this thread are either wildly historically inaccurate and/or the author’s veracity in reporting events has been debunked. Remember too, all who want English teachers to teach history, that we are not history teachers. We do teach setting and context, of course, but our primary role is to teach how to develop critical thinking skills by practicing how to read, write, speak, and listen. Having said that, I try to give opportunities for free reading choice in class. The majority of my students (advanced and not so advanced sophomores) don’t read. They don’t have the ability to sit quietly in repose and truly read without being distracted endlessly by their phones. This is, alas, as true for my honors students as for any student. I encourage all the readers on here to adopt a few young people beyond your own family to share the love of reading with! Ask your non-reading friends to help us develop a love of reading that provides a model for our communities. We are seriously in danger of becoming a culture that does not read.

    • My high school never taught Shakespeare or Dickens and I took advanced lit classes.

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    • My daughter took AP English and we signed off for the teacher to go outside the core curriculum… I was all for it!!! She got to read a few selections that where thought provoking and made her uncomfortable…. it was a great class.

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    • And then I forgot to write what I DO teach to sophomores: The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde, The Taming of the Shrew, Lord of the Flies (personally hate its darkness but it’s brilliantly written), A Tale of Two Cities, To Kill a Mockingbird, and Anthem.

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    • Eileen, I am impressed you can get all that in with your crew! Do you not do any excerpts?

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    • Jennifer That is with the advanced class. DJMH and Anthem are both very short. We read all of TTOTS in class.

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    • Eileen, ah. I yearn for an advanced class that I can do that with! I am in a small rural school. My drama class does Shrew or Twelfth Night while my sophomores do Midsummer. The sophomores also do Anthem, A Tale of Two Cities, and Antigone in their entirety along with required independent reads each nine weeks.

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    • Jennifer There’s irony. We were never taught “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”, but the drama class produced it when I was a sophomore (I played Duke Theseus). We were only taught the tragedies: “Romeo and Juliet” in 9th grade, “Julius Caesar” in 10th grade, and “Hamlet” in 12th grade. However, we did get assigned “Twelfth Night” in 7th grade because a local theater company was doing a production, which we were taken to see after finishing the play.

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    • Kevin, several years ago the Folger Shakespeare Library did a major survey about which seven plays students needed to be exposed to. That was when I changed my strategy and asked to do Midsummer and Twelfth Night with sophomores instead of Caesar. Curriculum changes have reduced me to one Shakespeare as of late for English, sadly. The Folger published a wonderful series of books full of lesson ideas for the seven works. The series is called Shakespeare Set Free. The seven plays kids need to be exposed to according to the survey’s results were: Romeo and Juliet, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Twelfth Night, Othello, Macbeth, Hamlet, and Henry IV Part I.

      Personally, I believe it is important for the kids to be exposed to his comedies and his tragedies. The kids usually are surprised how much they can relate to the comedies – especially Midsummer with the four lovers! I literally had a girl scream it was her life! Sadly, I am not kidding. Mere weeks before we started reading it her parents had called the cops after she snuck out with a guy they did not approve of, which was a super Egeus move. Several of my kids said Midsummer was their favorite piece we read all year this term, but I made them get up on their feet. Shakespeare is to be acted, not listened to on a record or read while sitting in a desk bored. Some may differ on that. Yes, the kids butcher some of the language. Yes, it is painful to hear at times, but I think it is important for them to read it. It helps them find the rhythm of the lines and get lost in the beauty of them.

      In drama we have to talk about adaptation of a work from one form to another. Last year’s group wanted to read Twelfth Night after I told them the Amanda Byrnes movie She’s the Man is a riff on it. When this year’s crew chose The Taming of the Shrew, we looked at 10 Things I Hate About You.

      Oh, and it blew their minds that Batman (Christian Bale) was Demetrius in one of the film adaptations of Midsummer we looked at in English. That is always fun.

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    • For a homeschooling mom, this is great info. I am constantly looking at book lists trying to decide what are the most important books to cover with me boys. They are just starting high school and the lists differ so much that it is madding.

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    • Absolutely, and thank you. My AP students read at least four books every year that I personally disliked, but the College Board didn’t ask my opinion and those books are considered classics. I still don’t like Heart of Darkness or Passage to India or Tess of the D’Urbevilles or Moby Dick, but my kids never knew that – I hope. The choice of texts, as you have said, was largely limited by the state curriculum or by the AP curriculum, but I suspect you and I did the same thing and brought in one or two pieces we really loved.

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    • Here is my problem with the books you mention, they are all by white people. We are possibly becoming a Nation who does not read because teachers follow the white canon and blame school boards and administrators instead of championing novels and nonfiction by and about the faces staring back at us when teach. I teach History and English and my school district encourages us to collaborate with each other. Teaching novels as close to the time period that the history teachers are teaching. Diversity in novel choices has hooked more of my students to read than slogging through Dickens or Shakespeare. When my students see their faces in the novels I teach and the history we explore they feel a part of history not a sightseer of it and want to explore their history through reading.

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    • Lisa, I can understand that concern. Each school is different. However, I am in a district that is 98% white in the rural south. I have my diversity in my independent reading library in a major way, and I try to be mindful of that when picking selections. What I can teach, as noted by another above, is limited by what I have available. If I want a classroom set of something, I foot the bill for it. We are adopting new books this year, so you have given me something to think about as I plot next year’s course. Thank you.

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    • Lisa We have been working on that! Too many dead white European men! We’ve added Kindred by Octavia Butler and we do a close read of “Letter from a Birmingham Jail.” I do A Raisin in the Sun with my regular level kids (and squeeze it in if I can with the enriched groups).

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    • Jennifer even a majority white should dig into a novel that can expand their awareness of the world at large. When I want classroom sets of a book I create a project on DonorsChoose. I also have created my own classroom library with my own money. I am very lucky because I teach in an alternative high school the number of students I teach is much lower than colleagues in “regular” high school. May I suggest Mother of Rain by Karen Spears Zacharias set in Tennessee during the 1940s. It may have the face of your students in it. There is another novel set in Florida that my class enjoyed Slow Way Home by Michael Morris. Both are diverse for my students as the protagnists are white. Expansion of their experience can be diverse which includes the two novels above, my students are primarily Hispanic and they enjoyed Slow Way Hime because the experiences of the child in the book mirrored some their own experiences we had great discussions. I’m not backing down on my belief that all faces should be represented in the novels we present to our students. Sometimes their faces aren’t there, but who they are is.

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    • We’re not asking teachers to implement this stuff, we’re dreaming that school districts would.

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    • Lisa, I have tried donors choose and had zero success with it. I have taught Raisin in the Sun, To Sir with Love, letters and speeches of Martin Luther King, Jr., the Harlem Renaissance, etc. I never said I taught exclusively white authors. That notion is ridiculous to me. We read things with viewpoints very different from their own as much as we can. I too have created a classroom library with my own books. It takes up three big bookcases, and that does not count my classroom reading books. I am all about universal ideas and themes, and I am a big believer in presenting them. It is just challenging to do at times when you have 60-80 kids in a course and that course is one of four different courses you teach.

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    • Arpie, most teachers share that dream, I would say.

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    • Thank you for teaching ❤️

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  • A variety of different contemporary books as well as the classics. It’s sometimes (often) hard to distinguish the YA books from adult books. The Book Thief is a good example of this. There are so many worthwhile books for every age.

  • Books that really engaged me in high school:
    the last book in the universe
    I never promised you a rose garden
    Go ask Alice
    Star girl
    The hobbit
    A great and terrible beauty trilogy
    The secret garden, a little princess
    Books by Todd strasser
    Books by se Hinton.
    Books by Scott westerfeld
    Books by tamora pierce
    Peter Pan and Alice in wonderland and through the looking glass
    The looking glass wars
    If you can introduce kids to books that don’t worry about challenging them and just let them enjoy reading, they may just read forever. And that’s the best thing you can learn at school—to love to read, cause you’re gonna forget at least half of everything else.

    I did not like most classics in high school and resented having to read them, despite loving to read. In college and beyond I’ve learned to love them but I was stubborn then.
    I loathed: death of a salesman (still can’t stand this one)
    I didn’t like flat land. Or a raisin in the sun.
    I liked a separate peace. Of mice and men. ferenhiet 451. Huck Finn. Romeo and Juliet. Damien. I wish we’d done more Shakespeare. I feel like you really have to teach Shakespeare, you can’t just read it, the language is too different and the references too obscure. But once you get it, it’s brilliant and really fun to read.

    • Ditto on Go Ask Alice. ( it scared me way back when)

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    • Kids still read it, and I call Crank its contemporary counterpart.

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  • The Things they Carried by Tim O’Brien. I taught it to seniors, and it was enthusiastically embraced by all.

    • I had to read it in high school. Loved it! I went to Vietnam the summer after high school 1995. Not much had changed there since the war compared to now. While I was there President Clinton declared it a country again.

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  • A number of books by Maria Padian address issues that young adults face.

    • I read Wrecked aloud to a class of seniors after she came to our school and did a reading from it. Taking the time to read it aloud and discuss it as we went along was one of the most powerful things I’ve done, ever, as an educator.

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    • My 7th graders read her first book, Brett McCarthy, in literature circles. Outgrowing childhood friends is a theme that they related to and were glad to discuss.

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  • A few plays by Shakesphere…To Kill a Mocking Bird…some Historical fiction…or fiction about other countries….Diary of Anne Frank…

  • Books that show the TRUE history of the US and other countries, instead of the sanitized version taught today.

  • I have gotten many chapter books for my students. I have taught cinder by marissa Meyer, Legend by Maria Lu, Maze Runner by James Dashner, Percy Jackson and the lightning thief by rick riordan, The house on mango street by Sandra Cisneros, and many others. I have expanded the kids worlds and hopefully gotten them interesting in audiobooks as well. I like to have the kids listen to the books.

  • See Penny Kittle’s thinking on this and her list. She is an amazing “guru.”

  • Silent Spring and Collapse. Both make you ponder.

  • Banished Children of Eve and Charming Billy, both tell the truth of treatment of Irish immigrants who came fleeing the famine by Americans.

  • The Chosen, by Chaim Potok, brought the Jewish world to my almost exclusively white Anglo-Saxon Protestant students. James Baldwin’s Fire Next Time opened up a new world, too. Their Eyes Were Watching God, by Zora Neale Hurston, was always a favorite. Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice showed us that we’re all human.

  • Well, not anything with common core, that’s for sure

    • Well I disagree as the Common core suggests The Odyssey, MacBeth, Jane Eyre, Pride and Prejudice and To Kill a Mockingbird. And those are just a few of the outstanding books recommended by CC.

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    • My problem is not those Common Core suggestions; it’s the timing of them. You cannot convince me that sophomores get as much out of Macbeth as juniors and seniors.

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    • Nanci that argument could be made for almost any book…as a teacher and someone who majored in English I think introducing Shakespeare in some form from late elementary to middle school has real value. Also in my opinion MacBeth‘s themes are accessible to most 10th graders.

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  • Sound and the Fury – great one but honestly too difficult for lots of folks to attempt outside of class. I read it it school and had a hard time with re-reading!

    • It’s too complex for most highschool students. But totally agree that it requires guidance.

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  • The Handmaid’s Tale, The Bluest Eye, The Chocolate War, To Kill a Mockingbird, Speak, Of Mice & Men, Hamlet, Julius Cesar, & Othello, Joy Luck Club, The Book Thief, 1984, Raisin in the Sun. Books that expose kids to different cultures, life experiences, & perspective. The whole idea of Walk Two Moons..spend some time in someone else’s story & it connects you to that person ❤️

    • Loved the Bluest Eye and Sula!

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    • The Bluest Eye made me cry Hard to do

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  • Instead of specific titles, I think they should choose genres and give the kids a choice of ten titles within the genre. More often than not, teachers assign what they enjoyed or what they have taught into dust.

    • Those are kind of dated, don’t you think?

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    • “A is for Adam” and followed with a sobering couplet: “In Adam’s fall, we sinned all.” I don’t think so.

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    • Well they are very advanced for reading skills , use essays by pope, Emerson etc in the 6th grade reader

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  • I think that teachers should throw out the lists they have that include dead white men authors and create a list of books that are more contemporary and meaningful to kids today!

    • The dead guys need to be introduced but not completely read. Those books become the ones we go back to as adults to appreciate (or not) as adults.

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    • I see your point, but I’m not going to rule out an amazing book or play just because it was written by a dead white man. Over the years I’ve had so many students (students of various races and genders, by the way) inspired by Hamlet, The Great Gatsby, and A Tale of Two Cities. However, I do agree with you that our reading lists should absolutely evolve to include more diverse perspectives.

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  • There should be a balance. Perhaps a grade wide required reading of one book for all classes and teachers to pull lessons from that changes every year. Something that is popular in society that year. For the year a classic play, classic novel, classic poetry sample, the same in modern, a book the teacher is passionate about, a controversial or banned book, a children’s book, and each student should pick a book they like with no restrictions to “sell” to the class.

    • Great idea. Maybe kids wouldn’t be so turned off to reading if they read books as you’ve suggested.

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  • 8th grade and my best school experience ever. Teacher gave a list of well respected books and said that for each book read and reported on we would receive a little extra credit. My best grades ever…and I still remember some of the books.

    • Shoot! I didn’t think of that on my list- love that book.

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  • Question. I am thinking of Socrates here. The idea of teaching a book is problematic. It is the other way around. My intent here is to succinctly circumvent (perhaps worthy) debate and give a shout out to the art of the written word.

  • As a long-time teacher of English ( 46 years and counting) my experience is that most books are ruined by teachers who insist on teaching one “special” book. All readers need choices and the affirmation that reader response is personal; no book is “the one” and every reader’s opinion of a book is the correct one.

    • Couldn’t agree more! I teach English through the workshop method where students choose their books. They read independently, in book partners, or book clubs. The learning is focused on reading strategies, writing/talking about the books. I usually do an all class novel once a semester once I know the class’s interests and needs. I’ve found that the traditional way of teaching English turns kids off to reading and this way turns them into passionate, engaged readers!!!

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    • Ann and Megan wish I had you as my teachers long ago.

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    • Thank you, Patricia Naqvi. Obviously, I could have retired a long time ago (Actually, I’m a Professor Emeritus) but I love to teach and I love helping students to realize that they CAN write and that good writers are good readers and good readers are good writers.

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  • I think poetry should be taught–poetry that is not oblique or obscure. Poetry by people like Frost, Dickinson, Mary Oliver, Gwendolyn Brooks and many others. Just 4to 14 lines on which to focus. It will help to develop a sense of the language and the playfulness it can have.

    • Include some poems to make them think such as “Dulce et Decorum Est” and “What They Did Yesterday Afternoon” by Warsan Shire. Avoid all poetry books with “staff written” poems. I’m a retired banker and bookseller so I’m talking through my hat here, but I have talked with young people about falling in love with poetry by simply showing them how to read it. Mostly they want to either sing song it or pause like there’s a period at the end of each line. No wonder they don’t understand. And, if you want to give them one full of allusions and imagery like “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” at least give them a hint that he’s talking with his cat. OK…removing my know-nothing teaching hat now.

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    • My dad loved poetry. When I was a kid I remember him reading some of Poe’s poems to us. I always enjoyed “Annabel Lee,” “The Bells,” and “The Raven.” He had a wonderful speaking voice and would use it so effectively to enhance the readings. I remember he used different voices for each of the different types of bells, which always made it fun and a joy to hear.

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    • Patricia I teach “dulce” in my world history class along with “Flanders fields.”
      “Invictus” is painted on the inside of my door.

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    • While at college, I heard Ferlinghetti read his poetry. It changed everything.

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    • Ryan I thank whatever Gods there be for my unconquerable soul!

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    • Loretta, I love Poe. I am going to fight to keep “The Masque of the Red Death” even though it is not in the book we are adopting. I get Usher and Raven instead. I will probably do them as well, but my reading of Masque on Halloween with special lighting and connections to The Phantom of the Opera (novel and musical) has been a Halloween tradition for my sophomores for over ten years. I intend to keep it. It is something kids still talk about to me years after they were in my class. The Monkey’s Paw isn’t in the new book, so Usher and Raven can go there. Plus, I use Dickens’ pet raven Grip to connect him and Poe as contemporaries..acquaintances as well but not friends per se.

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    • Jennifer, that all sounds wonderful and very exciting for the kids.

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  • Great books, but I’m never sure where to start. Fourteen year old freshmen are still pretty young. If you start at the beginning and teach ancients first, you get into some pretty complex works. If you decide to go backwards and teach modern first, you get into a lot of complex politics, war, etc. I guess I would go with the ancients over the modern, though…. And each year I would make certain to include fiction, non-fiction, biographies, histories, scientific works and poetry from the time period under study…. Perhaps just selections from some of the longer works, but perhaps an in-depth study of one major work each semester, as well (or one for the entire year, even)….

    • PBS aired the documentary as well

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    • Our history teacher showed the kids the film toward the end of the year, and the kids came back to me for the book. 😊

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    • In the book Laura H explained that teachers of history knew this was a problem, WWII is / was much more then D-Day, Hitler and Germany. Another example: the history of Truk Lagoon vs the USAF and U.S. Navy. Black chapter in U.S. history!

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    • Laura Hillenbrand wrote the book Unbroken

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    • Another book UNDERGROUND RAILROAD Author Colson Whitehead

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    • The Making of Donald Trump author David Cay Johnston would be a good read for a high schooler

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  • Oh my! As a high school English teacher I find these suggestions…interesting 😊

    • As a retired school librarian I tried my best to get the English teachers to try different ways to get kids to want to read.

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    • Graphic novels have been a big help in this lately in my classes. You just have to be sure the writing is of good quality and the content is age appropriate. Lots of my kids are into anime, so manga is a natural fit.

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  • Amen from a fellow English teacher. I am consistently surprised when people believe we just get to choose whatever material we want.

  • So here’s a question, and I mean this in a completely snark-free way: Is it valuable to a student’s education to read an assigned book they might not like or agree with? Or is it better to allow students to choose whatever they want to read? (OK, 2 questions actually)

    • There is value in both. Sometimes you get lessons you didn’t expect from books outside of your comfort zone. Also there are skills to learn from assigned books. But doing a free choice also has merit. It is important to have both. Kids need to read things they are assigned as well as choices. There is always a kid who finds a favorite when you assign a novel. I read Cinder by marissa Meyer with mostly boys and they LOVED it and they never would have chosen it.

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    • Both. Assigned books are important to teach students reading comprehension and content and HOW to take in a novel so they can then take one in on their own.

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    • The dead guys need to be introduced but not completely read. Those books become the ones we go back to as adults to appreciate (or not) as adults.

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    • How do we know if we agree with a book, if we don’t read it?

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    • I’m glad to see there’s support for both. It’s easy these days to live in a self-curated world among people and ideas and experiences of our own choosing. It’s important to get out of the echo chamber and be exposed to new worlds, even if we think it’s a chore.
      Sandy, I have to respectfully disagree with allowing students to read excerpts of dead white guys. Reading bits and pieces takes away the integrity of the work and doesn’t really show the book as a whole or allow the reader to experience it as the writer intended. It’s kind of like having students study famous works of art or sculpture by only looking at 2 square inches of the piece.

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    • Great point about getting out of your own echo chamber

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  • Agree with Katie and {{Stephanie}}. Journaling with students about books of choice or facilitating book blogs of choice books is valuable. Yet group discussions on common reads can be so beneficial.

    • That is why I love Socratic Seminars! I also like Wikis, but I didn’t use mine last year due to the fact lots of kids did not have net access at home.

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  • The Things They Carried and Home Before Morning–both real perspectives on Vietnam

  • At least one book per year should be the student’s choice (with teacher approval).

    • I require my students to read one independent book per month with approval (7th grade). They get some time to read in class daily and write me a letter about a literary element in their book at the end of each week.

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    • Stephanie I wish my kids middle school English teachers required this assignment! Not only would it expose them to new books/authors/genres, but it helps build the habit of reading. Love this idea!

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    • I do literary letters too! Also, have a book matrix where they are required to read in different genres through out the year…

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  • Everyone should have books by Wallace Stegner and Willa Cather on their reading list

  • I love teaching To Kill a Mockingbird. So many lessons.

    • So many quotes to live by..Atticus is such a beautiful example for us all.

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    • Atticus and Scout are my two favorite characters.

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  • Well reading is a reflection of culture and history. As a former teacher of literature, I think it’s not so much about choice of what students like to read but learning about historical perspective and exchanging opinions and creating understanding and insight. Jayne

  • Ishmael; To Kill A Mockingbird; Kindred; Tale of Two Cities; The Help; The Kite Runner; Harry Potter; Anne of Green Gables; The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.

  • My grandson read The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch this year. He is not a reader at all but this book had an impact on him. I agree with Lee Kupperman that exchanging opinions, creating understanding and insight, and thinking for themselves are very important for high school readers.

  • Shakespeare, classic poetry, Dickens, Chaucer, Hawthorne, Doyle, Verne, Dumas, Tolkien, Cooper I think we need to teach the classics again. I love Harry Potter but language wise it’s 5 th to 6 th grade. We need to expand minds and teach skills. There is a desperate need for rhetoric and to teach kids classic english. Shaw had a point in Pygmalion, How you speak read and write determines social class, by not teaching our children proper English , we are making it harder for them to escape and better themselves

  • I always hated it when the teachers “assigned” books to read. A list at least to choose from would be good.

  • Whatever books they want so long as they are challenged and taught to think critically.

    • In a classroom there must be continuity for a teacher to grade and control. Many things can go on at the same time especially individual reading.

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  • I like the idea of whole classes reading the same book to discuss and analyze but I also like choice. Maybe at the beginning of class they could vote on a few from the lists of books the school has in sets.

    • District curriculum dictates what books are to be read as a class. When my 6th grade teacher decided to ditch the basil readers for everyone reading Men of Iron by Howard Pyle, a Reader Digest series that later would become SRA, and journals on our free reading, she was threatened with dismissal for not following the curriculum. She was the best teacher and we learned so much from her but no school district will allow experimentation. Part of my frustrations as a teacher. 😢

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    • Roberta, it really depends on the district. I have worked in three in my career. The first was very flexible, the second basically handed me a syllabus and informed me that was what I would teach period, and the third is somewhere in between – open to change, trusts the teacher, but also concerned with how parents will react. If you can prove to them why the change should be made with research, the admin in district three will usually agree to it. At district two, it turned out they did not have classroom sets of Shakespeare’s Othello, which was on my syllabus! That was about the only input I got to give. We ended up doing Midsummer and Twelfth Night in its place after I discussed it with the head of our department.

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    • If the school has classroom sets to use! Some schools do, but most do not in my experience.

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    • I grew up in the Detroit Public School system. Our teacher bought the books from Scholastics for us so we could highlight pages. Hopefully she got a teacher’s discount. I was an elementary school teacher. My first district required we turn in weekly lesson plans to the office besides yearly and monthly overviews. I doubt anyone does that because I have walked into classrooms as a sub and there is nothing, not even a personal plan book!

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    • Roberta, quite often teachers are urged to keep their plan books and grade books with them in and out of school in case of emergency. I know that it is second nature with me to grab a grade book/playbook before I leave my room for the day because that has been ingrained in my brain.

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    • Cara you can understand the frustration for me as a sub with no clues. Thankfully most teachers post the day’s schedule on the board before they leave so I have that. I had one second grade class where we spent most of the day doing Weekly Readers and my games because not even the other teachers had a clue as what was happening. I also had one 6th grade teacher who left me the same lesson plan 3 times! At least I knew the students and the school so I could wing it but I refused further assignments for this teacher.

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    • Roberta– I definitely understand. As a teacher I usually leave lesson plans, but if not I kept a box with sub plans written on it. There were about 100 different worksheets run off for the class that I knew ahead of time they could do.

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    • Cara I had my reproducible books, art projects, and challenging games with me all the time. I have given most of my stuff away now that I’m retired.

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    • Ann In this case, the “other lands” would seem to be the United States. I looked at the PDF of the 2018 books and there were only four authors on the whole list who weren’t American: Garth Nix (Australia), Sandra Uwiringiyimana (DRC), Carrie Mac and Leslie Livingston (both Canada). Marie Lu was born in China, but she was only 5 when her family moved to the United States, and she’s American by nationality. “Young adult” books as a separate genre is largely an innovation of American publishers, so lists of YA are going to be biased toward American perspectives and writers.

      Also:
      “The books are selected by the readers themselves, so they are bound to be popular with middle and secondary school students.”

      This is the same reasoning that would say because “Fifty Shades” was a bestselling series that everyone in this book group is bound to like it. It’s really striking to me that they tout this as a selling point without thinking of the fact that there may be a reason why we don’t let children set the curriculum in other classes — because they don’t have the experience to be good judges of what they need to know — and applying that same logic to the present case. If this had been the approach when I was in high school, we would have been reading the “Animorphs” series and I would have hated my English classes. It is a bit patronizing to be fobbed off with books just because they have teenage protagonists or because other teenagers supposedly like them. But it is a great scam for the publishers. By constantly renewing the lists of must-have books, they obviate the possibility that schools will choose public domain books that can be bought cheaply from discount publishers, and the possibility that the book will be so well-known (even if still in copyright) that used or library copies are plentiful or that many parents will have copies in their own possession. That was what happened when my school assigned its read-it-because-it-has-a-teenager-in-it book, “The Catcher in the Rye”. I borrowed my parents’ copy off the shelf at home. Instead, they’re trying to foster constant demand in schools as well as at home for an endlessly renewable stream of recent copyrighted works.

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