What books should be added to the approved reading list? Which titles should be cleared for instruction in high-school classrooms? Do you have any suggestions to add to the age old list of mostly canonical literature we teach to teenagers?
Should required reading lists exist anymore? Does it really matter what books are read, as long as standards are addressed? If literacy is promoted, critical thinking encouraged, and interpretations discovered, does the title of the text taught to do these things honestly matter? Is limiting the number of approved novels an old paradigm that doesn’t take into account changes in society over the last 10, 20, or 30 years? Will a high school education without To Kill A Mockingbird really be any less significant than one with that novel? If reading a specific text doesn’t mean the difference between a complete and an incomplete education, then how can that specific text be so important as to require that all teachers address it?
Simply using the term “required reading” turns reading into a chore. If the joy of the journey for me as a teacher slowly drains, imagine what it does to our students. Required reading almost always is boring and meaningless by virtue of the fact it’s required. To say that there is a novel or series of novels that will work with our students, across the entire district, is naive. To say that the same series of novels will work with all the teachers leading the trip through the tale borders on ignorant.
On the flip side of this, what should be allowed reading? Should the titles available to our teachers be limited in any way? Excusing novels with gratuitous sex and violence, isn’t any title suitable to be taught in schools? Don’t seemingly simplistic novels hold the potential for powerful instruction depending on the teacher? Don’t time-honored classics hold potential for miserable instruction depending on the teacher?
Today, we approved the following books for the following classes:
|The Things They Carried||Tim O’Brien||English 3|
|The Alchemist||Paulo Coelho||English 2|
|Chronicle of a Death Foretold||Gabriel Garcia Marquez||AP English Lit|
|Interpreter of Maladies||Jhumpa Lahiri||AP English Lit|
|America Is in the Heart||Carlos Bulosan||English 3|
|The Secret Life of Bees||Sue Kidd Monk||English 3|
|The Importance of Being Ernest||Oscar Wilde||English 4|
|Jane Eyre||Charlotte Bronte||English 4|
|A Lesson Before Dying||Ernest Gaines||Comp and Lit|
|The Curious Incident of the
Dog in the Night-Time
|Mark Haddon||Comp and Lit|
The Kite Runner, Picture Bride, The Bluest Eye, and In the Time of Butterflies will come up for discussion next school year to be added to our list of approved books, the list teachers can pull titles from to address in the classroom. What other titles should we be looking into?