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As a student moves from middle school to high school, it can be extremely helpful for them to broaden their reading base as well. High school English focuses much more on using novels and short stories to teach literary analysis and writing. Whether a student plans on taking Pre-AP classes or not, he or she can definitely benefit from reading more challenging novels. Here are some recommendations:
Life of Pi by Yann Martel
Telling the story of a boy who must survive a shipwreck by sharing a lifeboat with a tiger, this book is on many summer required reading lists for students taking Advanced Academic or Pre-AP classes for freshman English. Full of symbolism and literary devices, this novel catches readers' attention with its high interest story but also encourages deeper thought and analysis through its many thematic elements.
The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver
Like Life of Pi, The Poisonwood Bible is a good fit for ninth graders because the story offers more complexity and depth and at the same time, takes the reader to experience another culture and way of life. The Poisonwood Bible tells the story of a missionary family in the Congo
The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway
Since the other two novels were newer titles, here is a recommendation for a classic, one that is at an appropriate reading level for a freshman but has a shorter length, only 120 pages. Together, The Old Man and the Sea and Life of Pi could make for some very interesting comparisons of themes and similarities.
- The Prince and the Pauper by Mark Twain
Continuing with the idea that classics are important to the development of critical thinking, another American classic that is not long is Mark Twain's The Prince and the Pauper. In this adventurous and entertaining novel about the Prince of Wales exchanging places with a poor boy of London, there are great moral lessons and the opportunity to learn how one's socio-economic position in life affects one's point of view.
- Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens
The introduction of English literature should be made to the high school students as they learn the origins of some of America's ideas and words. The characters in this book are ones who come alive on the page in their poignancy, compassion, and evil. There is no question that Dickens created some of the most memorable characters in literature since he formed them from the personalities of real people he had known. Fagin is one of the all-time villains of literature. Reading this novel develops an understanding of the Poor Laws of England and the plight and exploitation of poor children.
- To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
A favorite of many a ninth-grader, this is a bildungsroman that has delightful episodes and examines serious issues with both the charm and the problems of the South as its backdrop. The parent/child relationship is loving and encouraging. There is humor, sympathy, suspense, and danger in this thoughtful and instructive novel.
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