Is teaching The Catcher in the Rye to freshmen who are having to retake Freshmen English in summer school recommended? 

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The Catcher in the Rye is an engaging book, but can be confusing for some students.

There are several factors to consider before using The Catcher in the Rye with freshman.  First, it is on a lot of schools’ curriculum lists.  Check to see where it is in your district, or if the book is allowed at all.  Assuming you are allowed to teach it, keep in mind that the content can be troubling for some parents.  It contains profanity, sex, and violence in relatively copious amounts—and kids love it.  Most of it is harmless though.  Here is an example:

Anyway, as soon as I got my breath back I ran across Route 204. It was icy as hell and I damn near fell down. (ch 1)

There is a prostitute in one part, but Holden does not actually have sex with her.  He just tries to talk to her.

There are many reasons that freshman would need to repeat an English class, but chief amongst them is that they failed the first time due to poor reading and writing skills.  In this case, The Catcher in the Rye might be above their heads.  Consider The Outsiders or The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian.  Both are engaging but somewhat easier to follow.

Finally, I have found that short stories work well for summer school because it is even harder to get kids to do homework, especially reading, than during the school year.


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