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Is Night appropriate for middle school?My school district has a protected reading...

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linda-allen | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

Posted December 3, 2007 at 12:20 PM via web

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Is Night appropriate for middle school?

My school district has a protected reading list, that is, titles that can be taught only at certain grade levels--Romeo and Juliet in 9th grade, The Crucible in 11th grade, etc.

The book Night is on our list at the 8th grade level. Am I naive in thinking that this age group is not ready for such a graphic retelling of the Holocaust?

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alexb2 | eNotes Employee

Posted December 3, 2007 at 1:26 PM (Answer #2)

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I think 8th graders can probably handle it, but wonder if the book isn't selected at that level for reasons of "ease-of-reading" and length as opposed to how appropriate it is.

Personally I think the book is best-suited for High Schoolers who would be able to both grasp the historical elements better because of having studied World War II more in-depth, as well as being able to process the passages detailing inhuman abuse and death. 

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clane | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator

Posted December 3, 2007 at 4:23 PM (Answer #3)

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I love teaching this book! I am a little surprised that it would be offered at the 8th grade level and would have to agree with Blazedale, that it is, linguistically, an easy book to read and it is a very manageable length for that reading level. There are just some very gruesome scenes in the book that are so descriptive, readers feel as though they can almost smell the flesh burning or see the infants being used as target practice. I think that 8th graders can handle it, but I would more fearful of parents being upset at their children being exposed to such graphic content. If you decided the teach it, you should send home permission slips and a letter explaining the content of the book. If your students are up to it, it can lead to some unbelievable discussions and gives a great segue into tolerance. 

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michaelblackmer2002 | Student, Undergraduate | eNotes Newbie

Posted December 14, 2007 at 5:23 AM (Answer #4)

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This was a great project in my freshman year.  I was instructed to write a four page single spaced comprehensive report on the reason Mr. Wiesel titled his book Night.  I don't think it's good for middle school.  They are to young to appreciative and understand with empathy.  Oh, I received an A+. 

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linda-allen | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

Posted December 14, 2007 at 5:57 AM (Answer #5)

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This was a great project in my freshman year.  I was instructed to write a four page single spaced comprehensive report on the reason Mr. Wiesel titled his book Night.  I don't think it's good for middle school.  They are to young to appreciative and understand with empathy.  Oh, I received an A+. 

I'm not sure the freshmen at my school can grasp the meaning of the book. When I taught it in an 8th grade reading class, I used the book on tape so that the students could hear the reader's emotional interpretation. So many boys would say, "That's cool," or laugh at descriptions of killings. I think they were just trying to be tough guys, but still the meaning of the Holocaust was lost on them.

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ohsnapsonbrit | Student, Grade 10 | eNoter

Posted January 2, 2008 at 1:14 PM (Answer #6)

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I'm a tenth grader at Stafford and my teacher gave us the book to read over winter break, which is still going on right now, and I have some problems with it. I think that if a teacher was there to teach them some of the things in it and what they mean then it would be fine. My teacher normally tells about the book reads the most important parts to us and explains everything so that we understand every detail about it. Then we have a major test, essay, and book cover that is due after all is said and done.

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asorrell | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Assistant Educator

Posted January 2, 2008 at 2:10 PM (Answer #7)

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Linda-Allen,

Do you think your school district would allow you to teach Diary of an Young Girl instead?  It works well with middle school.  Maybe you can lobby to have Anne Frank at the middle school level and request that Night be moved up a few grade levels.  By then they're more mature and by reading Anne Frank, they'll already have an introduction to the Holocaust.  I would try to get a few more English teachers on board with you and see if you can get some support from them.  Also, it may be a good idea to try to pair it with a high school history class.  That might be a suggestion you can make that will help convince the powers that be that it's more appropriate for older kids. 

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amy-lepore | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted January 3, 2008 at 12:37 PM (Answer #8)

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I have taught this book to gifted 6-8 graders in the midst of a Holocaust unit which also included The Devil's Arithmetic, The Diary of Anne Frank, Daniel's Story, and a few others.  We did NIGHT as a whole, and the other books in literature circles.  The students really loved the book and the topic...especially since I was able to locate a WWII survivor through the local synagogue to come and speak to them about his experiences in Auschwitz, Berkinou, and three other camps. 

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mejwestut | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Adjunct Educator

Posted January 12, 2008 at 9:05 AM (Answer #9)

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I have taught this book to gifted 6-8 graders in the midst of a Holocaust unit which also included The Devil's Arithmetic, The Diary of Anne Frank, Daniel's Story, and a few others.  We did NIGHT as a whole, and the other books in literature circles.  The students really loved the book and the topic...especially since I was able to locate a WWII survivor through the local synagogue to come and speak to them about his experiences in Auschwitz, Berkinou, and three other camps. 

I teach this book after a comprehensive introduction. The Holocaust Mueseum, accessible through the internet, publishes a comprehensive teacher's guide to this period. I find the pictures, first-person accounts invaluable. If you search through the Museum's website you will find a wealth of information. Helping children visualize and emphathize with the magnitude of this period is an integral key in teaching this novel. I agree with amy-lepore. First hand accounts help students identify with the horrific implications of the Holocaust.  I would contact parents BEFORE teaching the book. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

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cmcqueeney | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Associate Educator

Posted January 13, 2008 at 5:20 PM (Answer #10)

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I've taught the book to 10th graders and it worked really well.  I agree that middle school is probably too young.  At that age they cannot grasp the depth of the novel.  As others noted, it is an easy read, but there is so much to explore in the novel, and middle schoolers aren't prepared for the topics.  They would only remember the graphicness of it and miss the deeper issues such as family, faith, and history.

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jamie-wheeler | College Teacher | eNotes Employee

Posted January 13, 2008 at 6:58 PM (Answer #11)

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I first heard about the Holocaust when I was in seventh grade.  I don't recall when or why, but someone described the smell of rotting/burning flesh so vividly that to this day, it makes me want to throw up. 

Now, I'm especially sensitive with a vivid imagination, so perhaps it affected me more than others.  My 7 year old son is a carbon copy of me emotionally.  While I certainly want him to know about man's inhumanity to man, I would like to protect him from such graphic detail a bit longer.  There is a huge difference, in my opinion, btwn a 10th grader (where I taught Wiesel) and an 8th grader. 

Thoughts?  I feel rather guilty saying this, as I ponder the fate and experiences of children in Iraq, Afganistan, Rwanda... 

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malibrarian | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator

Posted January 13, 2008 at 8:21 PM (Answer #12)

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It is true that the idea of protecting our children in this day and age almost seems to be a luxury, when one considers the lack of childhood many kids in this world get to have.  But I still feel it important to protect kids as much as possible from the ugliness of life until they are ready emotionally to handle it.

Yes, of course, I will want my children to learn about the Holocaust - to forget history is potentially to repeat it - but it needs to be when they are of an age to fully understand what it means without being emotionally fried from the experience.

I took a semester-long literature course in college about the Holocaust - we read many different things about it, and it was so incredibly horrifying, I felt emotionally sunk by the end of the semester.  A great class, to be sure, but if it affected a college junior that way, think what it could do to middle-school kids?

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nellbell | Student, Grade 9 | eNotes Newbie

Posted February 19, 2008 at 8:14 PM (Answer #13)

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heck yes its totaly appropriate

because well my class right now is just finshing the book.i my self have finished it. and just to let you know im in 8th grade and i have notice that we do get the book and all of its confusing matters, as well i have read and ask serval of my friends that are reading it and most of them are either in 10th or 12th grade, what they thought about and if i should be reading it, one of my friends said that its great that your reading it now,because it helps you better in wold history to understand it more

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andie-pandie | Student | eNotes Newbie

Posted February 26, 2008 at 5:55 PM (Answer #14)

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im in 8th grade and i loved this book. some people say that people at our age and grade level either wont understand it or its not appropriate but i think its important that we start learning about this kind of stuff now so that as we get older and learn more about it we will be able to understand it even better

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linda-allen | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

Posted February 26, 2008 at 6:00 PM (Answer #15)

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im in 8th grade and i loved this book. some people say that people at our age and grade level either wont understand it or its not appropriate but i think its important that we start learning about this kind of stuff now so that as we get older and learn more about it we will be able to understand it even better

I'm glad you feel that way. Many of my students are not quite mature enough to handle the subject, I'm afraid. I also have to worry about parents who think the language is too graphic for this age group. But they'll take them to movies or watch TV shows with them in which they'll hear much worse language.

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charcunning | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Assistant Educator

Posted January 23, 2010 at 6:38 AM (Answer #16)

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The Diary of Anne Frank or Zlata's Diary (a young girl in Croatia during the time of ethnic cleansing there--she is considered the modern day Anne Frank) may be better choices. I think if Night is taught at 8th grade, the kids may not appreciate it properly. As described in several posts, the kids may make inappropriate comments because they're just not mature enough.

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