I need a title of a senior level book that would hold the interest of low socio-economic students who are LEP or do not like to read. Any suggestions?
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You aren't likely to find this on your typical high school reading list, but it's a book I really enjoyed. It's called Hard-boiled Wonderland and the End of the World by Haruki Murakami. The even chapters and the odd chapters follow a different story line until about half way through the book when the two stories merge together. It sounds difficult, but it really just keeps things interesting. It is a strange story, but a fairly easy read. I don't know how much teaching materials there are out there for this novel, but it would be easy to generate some quizzes, projects, vocabulary work, etc.
Walter Dean Myers, the author of Fallen Angels and Monster, is terrific for almost any level. Many of my students had fathers who had been in Vietnam which kept them fascinated with Fallen Angels. Monster is one of those books which makes students think and doesn't give them easy answers. Four Miles to Pinecone is by Jon Hassler and would fit also. The Hunger Games series would also work but is set in the future. I preferred not using classics with low level or disinterested students as I felt that if I could hook them into reading a "modern" book, then I could get them to try other books, maybe even a classic. I'm not sure how you are defining senior level book, so these are suggestions only. All of these would provoke discussion among the students.
I would also like to second The House on Mango Street and also add The Pearl by John Steinbeck. Both are easy reads and not too challenging but also convey themes and messages that are universal and can be realted to everyone. Well worth using.
My seniors, all levels, read Monster by Walter Dean Myers. While I planned for a two week unit, we completed the unit within one. The students, ALL OF THEM, could not put the book down. I had students who readily admitted that they had not read anything at all (simply depended upon summary sites).
Many of the Heinlein juveniles would be good if science-fiction is appropriate. Try Between Planets, The Rolling Stones, or Starship Troopers. Isaac Asimov wrote a few juveniles, but even his adult-themed books are very easy to read; one of his stated ideals was to write clearly instead of colorfully. In fact, his anthologies of short stories may be a good jumping-off point, as you can assign one story at a time to get students into the spirit of reading.
If your choice does not have to be from a particular era or from British literature, I would suggest either Fallen Angels (a Vietnam War-era novel) or his follow-up novel Sunset over Fallujah which follows the relatives of Fallen Angels's characters as they are in Iraq. Myers's writing is humorous, accessible, and deals with characters who come from rough backgrounds. I've had several male students tell me that Fallen Angels is the first book that they have ever read all the way through for school.
Two very recent books that would work well are The Help by Kathryn Stockett (especially if you have a lot of girls) or Room by Emily Donohue. Room is an easy read. It's high interest and told from the perspective a five-year-old boy who was born into captivity with his mother (his mom is in a Jacie Dugard-type situation).
Catcher in the Rye holds up as a novel for adolescents and is not especially challenging in its phrasing. Deliverance, by James Dickey, is another possibility, especially if the class is comprised to a great degree of males. The Old Man and the Sea is also good. The House on Mango Street (already mentioned) is worthwhile and is short. The Maltese Falcon has obvious appeal, and there is always The Old Man and the Sea. A strange choice, perhaps, is Cormac McCarthy's The Road, which is short, compelling, and accessible. To Kill a Mockingbird is a perennial favorite for many good reasons.
House on Mango Street and Bless Me, Ultima are popular with Spanish-speakers,.. Mango is especially appropriate for low readers. Continuing with the Sherman Alexie theme, The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven (The movie Smoke Signals is based on this book) is both entertaining and well written.
I would also recommend the following:
Tangerine by Edward Bloor - the story of a middle schooler who moves from Houston to Tangerine, FL and the challenges he faces, both personally and socially. It's about a 6th grade reading level, but I've had great success with this story because there's a crazy twist at the end. There's also a lot of action and some of the stories themes are discrimination, disability, low socio-economic status, and building strong friendships.
Seedfolks by Paul Fleishman - a short novel told from different characters' perspectives about creating a community garden. Themes of community, working together, stereotypes and different nationalities.
I would recommend some Sherman Alexie. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian is approved in many school districts now, but it certainly doesn't fit the literary canon that many literature levels require before graduation.
This piece deals with violence, friendship, alienation, sports, girls, being the outcast, and race (particularly Native Americans vs. whites). It is set in modern day society and deals with very relevant issues to teenagers.
I have used this book in night school with students who have failed several levels of high school English and it is always an engaging piece especially for boys. The reading level feels like it is about 6th or 7th grade. LEP would certainly find this a book they are able to complete.
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