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What new books would you like to see taught in schools?Why does the American Education...

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frizzyperm | College Teacher | Valedictorian

Posted January 21, 2009 at 7:58 AM via web

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What new books would you like to see taught in schools?

Why does the American Education system teach its pupils the same small selection of books? As we watch the Enotes questions roll in we see that pupils are studying the same narrow selection of books (Animal Farm, Mocking Bird, 451F, Catcher in the Rye, The Crucible, Lord of the flies etc etc) Are we being lazy? Are these books still relevant and appropriate?

What other books would you like to see taught in schools?

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mrs-campbell | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted January 21, 2009 at 8:29 AM (Answer #2)

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There are a couple that I have greatly enjoyed, and that I feel would be of interest to many students out there-especially at the high school level. One is "Peace Like A River" by Leif Enger. It reminds me a lot of "To Kill A Mockingbird", with incredibly real and lovable characters, and a father struggling to raise his children on his own. It also is written beautifully, and brings up great discussion points on consequences for actions, and what is right and wrong in difficult situations.

Another book that I think would be interesting is Life of Pi by Yann Martel. It is a very interesting survival story (a little boy ends up on a life raft with a tiger), and has great discussion points of the power of storytelling, how we cope in difficult situations, and how we sometimes blur the line between reality and fiction.

I think that one reason the scope of what we teach is so limited is because of availability. Often we don't have the funds to expand our literature circle, so we just use what we have copies of. Another factor is parents; many books and plays create controversy (depending on where you live), and parents protest less with books that they too were taught back when they were in school. Another factor is the core restrictions of the state, or even individual department guidelines or criteria. However, laziness is a factor. We get our lesson plans in a groove, and are hesitant to step out and do something new, because it requires more work. I know that for myself, sometimes even the thought of revamping exhausts my already exhausted core. As an English teacher, I am already expected to carry the load of so many issues, so trying to fit everything in is overwhelming at times.

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

Posted January 21, 2009 at 8:47 AM (Answer #3)

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These books are taught because they have universal significance to the human experience. All of these teach valuable lessons which are still very relevant to our lives today--greed, ambition, incest, rape, issues of government and politics, injustice are prevalent in both our current world and these books. Good teachers pull out the examples in today's world which will help students make the connections. I don't think that's being lazy at all. We have a responsibility to teach the classics and to touch on these universal issues--to all students. Students who intend to go to college are especially in need of knowledge of these books since they are repeatedly referred to in lectures and readings. It is part of being well-educated to be well-read. We are as a society woefully lacking in our scholarly reading as compared to citizens 50 or 100 years ago. This is partly due to technology, partly due to the published works that flood the bookstores which will never be considered great literature, and partly due to laziness as a nation.

That having been said, I am not opposed to adding newer, more modern books to an effective curriculum. In fact, I have added The Kite Runner, Reading Lolita in Tehran, A Thousand Splendid Suns, Tuesdays with Morrie, The Shack, The Memory Keeper's Daughter, and others to my independent reading lists. Students read at least one book on their own during the semester and do a formal "report" on the book without giving away all of the book and then either encouraging or discouraging us to also read it with reasons why. The important thing is that we teach the future of our nation to think for themselves and not just be the next generation of cattle to be herded from one place to the next. The classics and modern versions of the classics are written with enough depth of thought and knowledge to evoke this.

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

Posted January 21, 2009 at 1:48 PM (Answer #4)

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I like this topic. I'm hoping to use The Road and Speak in an honors English 2 class next year. They are both powerful books that can spur hours of discussion.

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jessecreations | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Associate Educator

Posted January 22, 2009 at 9:34 AM (Answer #5)

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I agree that some of these classics need to be taught. I even told my 10th graders last year that I was "making them read To Kill a Mockingbird" because I didn't think they should get out of high school without doing so. However, I also think that kids need books that are accessible to them, and that's where some of the more modern books can be very useful teaching resources.

I like to use newer books for read-alouds. I teach a remedial reading course, so I use read-alouds that are high-interest for my students but maybe a little bit above their independent reading level. I used The City of Ember earlier this year, but ended up regretting it because the plot really dragged in places. I am considering reading The Hunger Games next, or maybe some of Chris Crutcher's short stories.

There were some great books on this year's Florida Teens Read list. They can be found at http://www.fldoe.org/bii/Library_Media/. Last year's winner was Uglies, which is part of a really great series. I also loved Chris Crutcher's Deadline and Jay Asher's 13 Reasons Why. Some of these books are a little more "literary" than others, and would be good to study in class. Others are better for independent reading and getting kids to enjoy reading more.

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

Posted January 22, 2009 at 11:02 AM (Answer #6)

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I agree that some of these classics need to be taught. I even told my 10th graders last year that I was "making them read To Kill a Mockingbird" because I didn't think they should get out of high school without doing so. However, I also think that kids need books that are accessible to them, and that's where some of the more modern books can be very useful teaching resources.

I like to use newer books for read-alouds. I teach a remedial reading course, so I use read-alouds that are high-interest for my students but maybe a little bit above their independent reading level. I used The City of Ember earlier this year, but ended up regretting it because the plot really dragged in places. I am considering reading The Hunger Games next, or maybe some of Chris Crutcher's short stories.

There were some great books on this year's Florida Teens Read list. They can be found at http://www.fldoe.org/bii/Library_Media/. Last year's winner was Uglies, which is part of a really great series. I also loved Chris Crutcher's Deadline and Jay Asher's 13 Reasons Why. Some of these books are a little more "literary" than others, and would be good to study in class. Others are better for independent reading and getting kids to enjoy reading more.

I agree that Uglies and Pretties are good books, and I'd even consider teaching them. The series falls flat with the final two books: Specials and  Extras. Specials runs out of steam, and Extras reads like it was written by someone else. It is not a stand-alone book; characters from other books in the series are introduced with little explanation of who they are.

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timbrady | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator

Posted January 22, 2009 at 1:03 PM (Answer #7)

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It's funny ... I was thinking almost the same thing this morning ... the same books seem to be all we ever teach; I'm sure this is not the case, but these are the books that produce the questions (many of which seem like homework assignments to me).

I think we assign books for two reasons: one is to introduce the students to the thought/history that has made our country/world the place that we inhabit; the other is to introduce them to their own world, their own peers, and to show them what great FUN reading can be.

I have taught books in both categories. For a couple years I taught a course in Utopian Literature that had a large number of books that, while a difficult read, students found enjoyable. The list included "The Republic," "1984," Brave New World, "Utopia," "We," "Erewhon," "Looking Backward," Walden II" (which lead us to "Beyond Freedom and Dignity"), and "News From Nowhere." Since these books speak to us of how we should live as individuals and as a group, they asked a lot of questions that the student were able to get involved in.

For other students who had more difficulty reading, we had a course where the only criteria for selecting the texts was that they should be intesting to the grade level (9th), and, hopefully, not have any "notes" available on them (at that time it was mostly printed notes; the problem is more complicated now). We thought that we could get them more interested in reading. In part it worked; the difficulty was in picking a book that all of them might like at the same time (impossible). I thought they'd like sports books; half did. The teacher I was working with (we had 2 sections of the same course) thought they would be interested in fantasy/science fiction; half were. :) I think we did well with this course. We didn't do any of the "classics," but the students probably wouldn't have been able to read them and we would have driven them to the "notes."

I think giving students interesting reading is probably more important than we know. We could probably save the classics for college, but English isn't as widely taught as it used to be. But it's always great to see "other" titles appear on enotes.

I realize that I didn't give you any titles; I think your students can provide them for you.

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morrol | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Associate Educator

Posted January 22, 2009 at 1:08 PM (Answer #8)

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Those books are still relevant and appropriate. One newer author that I think deserves some taught in schools is Haruki Murakami. His many novels including "The Wind Up Bird Chronicles" are wonderfully entertaining with multiple levels of depth that would make them appropriate for high school students.

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litchick2011 | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Assistant Educator

Posted January 22, 2009 at 6:38 PM (Answer #9)

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I am constantly revisiting my Independent Reader and lit list, so this is an awesome topic. I would love to do any of the following:

Speak

Never Let Me Go - It is a very scary vision of the future, so it would only work with an AP 12th grade class

Life of Pi

Ellen Foster

Delta Wedding

The Sweet, Far Thing

The Dead Father's Club - nice correlation to Hamlet

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smaglione | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Adjunct Educator

Posted January 23, 2009 at 9:43 AM (Answer #10)

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A novel that has resonated with me night and day since I read it last week is "Revolutionary Road", by Yates. At first I bought it because of the movie, which I have not seen yet, but as I got into it, I could FEEL the pain of the two main characters and their utter hopelessness and feeling of being trapped. Its ending is extremely tragic and yet how else could it end? A dream not only deferred, but shattered.

Miss Mags

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jeff-hauge | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Associate Educator

Posted January 25, 2009 at 6:52 PM (Answer #11)

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Persepolis and Maus, i believe, will rise in literary esteem over time.

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tpisano | Middle School Teacher | (Level 2) Assistant Educator

Posted January 31, 2009 at 8:22 AM (Answer #12)

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Well, one that is or was a traditional book that I would love to teach is A Seperate Peace.  I adore that book and think that it would be very relevant to the lives of students today. 

 I would also love and I am planning on teaching The Freedom Writers Diary.  This book is one I am sure my students will connect with because of the area I teach in.  It is also very inspiring.

Tuesdays with Morrie, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, Speak, The Twilight series, and oh how this list could go on.  I have so many ideas for all of them.  I think a major problem, especially in today's economy, is getting materials in some schools.  My students are actually dying to read Lord of the Flies and we, sadly, do not have it.

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