Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The Reading List Controversy

Yesterday morning I was sitting down with my morning cup of coffee when an article in The Buffalo News caught my eye.  It was titled "Reading List Limbo" and I was compelled to check it out.  The article (I've posted the link below), talks about school reading lists and the books kids have to read for English classes.  There is the question of whether children should be forced to keep reading the classics, like Catcher in the Rye, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, etc., or if teachers should start assigning newer books like the Hunger Games or Twilight.  A lot of people were torn on the issue and I just wanted to put in my 2 cents.

I think the classics are a staple in classrooms.  There are some especially that should continue to be taught because they're a part of our culture and it's important for kids to read them.  I personally loved reading The Great Gatsby and Cuckoo's Nest, along with a few others (including Dracula and Frankenstein, which I got to read in a Fright Fiction class in high school!).  There were some I didn't like so much, but I understood why we were reading them.

I also think it's important that English classes start reading newer classics.  A lot of kids don't like reading because they think all books are stuffy and old.  If teachers introduced newer books that give a good message or have affected society, such as Harry Potter or something (I would LOVE some Cornelia Funke, but I don't think many people here know about her..), I think kids would want to read for class more.  These books are more modern and they use modern language.

As for books like Twilight being added onto summer reading lists, I'm not too fond of that.  What are kids really going to get out of reading those books??  On the other hand, at least they are reading. 

What are your thoughts on this??  I could have written a lot more but don't have the time to organize all my thoughts this morning :)  Do you think we should stop teaching the classics and replace them with new books, or are you with me on the half and half idea??

Here is the link to the Buffalo News article:


  1. A few months ago I would have been scared by the idea of removing classics from the classroom. But with the anniversary of To Kill a Mockingbird there's been a lot of discussion about classics and their affect on people in high school.

    Ultimately, it seems a great many people are affected negatively by reading classics before they were ready - they weren't mature enough to understand/appreciate what they were reading. And they were turned off of reading for many years. This was relatively true for myself as well. It wasn't until after high school that I fell in love with reading and began to really enjoy classics (old dusty ones and modern additions to the canon).

    My opinion is that 9th/10th graders should be able to choose so that if they wish to avoid classics altogether, then they can. At a relatively young age, many teens just aren't ready for heavy reading while others are. Why force it on those who aren't ready and spoil their experience? And older teens, 11-12th grades, might be forced to read one or two just so they've been exposed.

    As you've pointed out, there are many contemporary books well worth reading. Although I'm scared to think some classics might be ignored by not making teens read them I think it's more important to foster a love of reading than make them hate it by reading from the canon for which they aren't ready.

    Nice post! Very thoughtful.

  2. Thanks for commenting! I really like what you said about allowing students to decide on their own if they want to read the classics. I had not thought about that, but I think it's a really great idea!

  3. Excellent thoughts! Yes, the classics should be taught, but if teens can only look forward to slogging through the Grapes of Wrath and the Scarlet Letter, most of them are going to despise reading, and we want them to love it!

    The Hunger Games would make for great lit-class reading (the symbolism, the intricate plot, etc), and though I wouldn't put Twilight on a syllabus, it would at least ramp up a lot of classroom discussion bc kids get really invested in it.

    Thanks for the post!

  4. I really liked having to read some classics when I was a teenager. If the school hadn't forced me to read them, I would have never read them. Sure, at the time I was too young to understand The Catcher in the Rye, but things clicked later, and I'm happy they did. And The Great Gatsby is still one of my favorite novels.

    I guess that's the test of a good high school Lit teacher - five years down the line have your students reread any of the classics you forced them to read?

    But Twilight as required reading? It's a pretty harmless book, but I don't think it needs to be required. For modern classics I'd look to some of Cory Doctorow's YA stuff - Little Brother or For the Win.

  5. I'm amazed, I must say. Rarely do I come across a blog that's
    both equally educative and entertaining, and without a doubt,
    you've hit the nail on the head. The problem is something that too few folks are speaking intelligently about. I'm very happy I found this during my hunt for something
    relating to this.

    Feel free to surf to my web blog :: I recommend you read this