I am starting a book club at my school, and I am trying to find books that teens will like and that my administration can live with.
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Maybe you could check with the librarian for titles directed at teens that are always being checked out. The librarians also no doubt know which ones are going to meet with the approval of administration. It is hard for me to keep up with what the kids are reading!
My students almost unanimously enjoy The Kite Runner. I have offered it as one of five choices for an independent reading unit, and in conferences with my students, they always have a lot of say and make a lot of personal connections, even though they have never been in a situation like Hassan and Amir. Although the novel does have the one tough scene, the rape of Hassan, the passage is only one paragraph long and doesn't use overly course language. I think the ages and relationship between Amir and Hassan are appealing to students who find themselves reading to discover how their actions and choices will play out in the end. Many students don't like the ending, wishing that it was "more happy," but that is a great place to talk about why author's make choices in how they are going to tell a story.
Good luck with your book club!
You have to have administrative approval?!
I require my students to read independent novels every Friday - and try to steer them away from classics and other "required" reading. I want them to read for pure pleasure. Some favorite authors who get passed around include:
- Nicholas Sparks (The Guardian was read by a few boys who liked it)
- Walter Dean Myers (mostly boys)
- Sarah Dessen (mostly girls)
- PC Cast (mostly girls)
- Ted Dekker (boys and girls equally)
Not sure if you've heard of "Goodreads" but it is a way to catalogue what you've read and how you rate books. Tons of my students have found me on there and I can always see what they are reading, what they've liked, etc. It is really cool for those who read a lot.
The Lovely Bones is a good choice that the admin probably won't veto. A Time to Kill is another one that all my students absolutely love...it's a big book, but a very quick read as it engages all students.
First and foremost, kudos to your extracurricular effort! Without knowing the age group of your students, I will give you a list of great book-club reads with grade suggestions in parenthesis. Overall, let me recommend Books That Don't Bore 'Em by James Blasingame as a source for wonderful young adult literature.
1. The House of the Scorpion (8-10)
2. The Kite Runner (11-12/AP)
3. The Shadows of Ghadames (5-7)
4. Ellen Foster (7-9)
5. The Giver (6-9)
6. Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance (11-12)
7. Christ in Concrete (10-12)
8. The Joy Luck Club (9-12)
9. Snow Falling on Cedars (11-12)
10. Love that Dog (5-7)
I have to second the previous posts that suggest The Kite Runner. It is a terrific novel and kids (especially young high schoolers) can really relate to it. Ditto The Giver. I would also suggest The Outsiders (as well as S. E. Hinton's other teen novels). Since your administration apparently needs to be appeased, I also agree with allowing your librarian to OK the books. If they're acceptable for the school library, they'll be OK in your classroom. I can sympathize with your concerns concerning your principal's approval. I was once reprimanded for showing the film, The Princess Bride, to my middle school class. It was one of the most well-received movies I ever showed in class, but the principal's only concern was the one curse word used in the movie. She ordered the viewing stopped immediately (she walked in just in time to hear the offending word), and I received a written reprimand for my "indiscretion."
My students love anything vampire related (of course), Ted Dekker, and James Patterson. Patterson can be risque, so he might not be a good choice for conservative students/administration. A few years ago several students were reading the Lord of the Rings series and they said that they thought it would be a good series for a book club. In my classroom the books that are checked out the most often are books by Nicholas Sparks, Jodi Picoult, Dean Koontz, and Ann Brashares.
The Perfect Storm is a book that I have used with success in high school literature circles. It would make a good book club selection. It appeals to male readers because of the outdoor setting and the action sequences, and to all readers because it is a work of nonfiction with a well-done film to which it can be compared.
Nonfiction books tend to appeal more to boys, in my teaching experience. My own son sees himself as "not a good reader" because he hated having to read Ethan Frome and Wuthering Heights in high school. However, he devours nonfiction voraciously and has an excellent vocabulary.
I'll recommend two books which have young people (think Scout Finch) as the primary narrators--Leif Enger's Peace Like a River and Joy Jordan Lake's Blue Hole Back Home. Both are interesting reads and yet "meaty" enough to have lively discussion. Neither is in the least objectionable. I, too, applaud your efforts!
Adding to my previous post, kids love series books as well. Harry Potter has a great deal of literary worth, and should go over well with the administration (unless they're really strict or particularly religious - if it's a parochial school). The Chronicles of Narnia, as well as Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit.
The film The Princess Bride also has the book version too. I quite like it. Its a fairy tale like story and quite interesting with true love.
I'm a big fan of the book Speak by Laura H. Anderson or something like that. you have no idea how many times i've read it over and over again. Another good one is 13 Reasons Why (the suthor escapes me right now)
There are lots of great books out there for young people. In addition to some already mentioned, I have found these books and authors to be especially popular.
- Homecoming by Cynthia Voigt
- Tomorrow When the War Began (series) by John Marsden (Australian)
- Northern Lights (series) by Philip Pullman
- Winterdance by Gary Paulsen
Some major science fiction works that you should include are:
Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
I, Robot by Issac Asimov
Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card
Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
Around the World in 80 Days by Jules Verne
20,000 Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne
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