Hey, look! Another back to school post! In continuing with my back to school series, (the rest of which you can read here) this post is centered around books people read for school. The good, the bad, and the ones that (I think) should be taught in classrooms more.
I’m also linking up with Top Ten Tuesday for this post, which is a weekly meme hosted by Jana @ That Artsy Reader Girl. This week’s theme is back to school!
I want to preface this by saying that I’m not going to talk about all the books I’ve read for school—just the ones that I remember having made a significant impression on me, whether positive or negative.
All covers link to Goodreads.
Books I Liked
Being the little booknerd I was, I’d already read The Giver before my sixth grade teacher assigned it, but I’d liked it so much that I was excited to read it again. Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry is probably not a book that I would have picked up on my own due to its classic-y aura (not to say that I’ve never enjoyed a classic, but it’s never really been my go-to genre). I’m very glad I read this for school though, because it was really good!
I remember The House on Mango Street being a beautiful book, and I loved the vignette formatting. I actually tried to read it in Spanish but I failed unfortunately (my Spanish isn’t good enough lol). Maybe one day I’ll be able to! And ugh Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe is so fantastically beautiful. Similarly to The Giver, I had already read The Boy in the Striped Pajamas before reading it again for school. (Highly recommend both the book and the movie!)
I read The Catcher in the Rye last year, and while it was certainly outdated, I really enjoyed reading it overall. Maya Angelou’s memoir I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, which I also read last year, was so powerful and well-written!
Books I Disliked
In writing this post, I’ve realized that so far, I’ve been pretty fortunate in that I’ve enjoyed quite a lot of my school books, but gosh did I hate both of these. Everyone is entitled to their own opinions obviously, and mine is that I very strongly disliked both Romeo and Juliet and Beowulf. I couldn’t get into the antiquated writing styles and I found both of them to be sexist and, honestly, boring. That doesn’t mean that some people won’t like them though!
Things I Want to See More of in Literature Classes & Books I Would Suggest
Upon entering high school, I realized that YA books aren’t often taught after middle school, at least not at my school, and that makes me a little sad. There are so many wonderful young adult books out there, and I think that a lot of teenagers (like myself) would find it easier to connect with books written about and for teens.
I am in no way saying that all classics and adult books should be removed from high school curricula, but I would love to have the opportunity to read more YA books in school.
With all this in mind, I’ve compiled a short list of (mostly) young adult literature that I think would be perfect in a classroom setting. On the off chance that there is anyone reading this looking for ideas for their class, the YA titles that I mentioned in the “Books I Liked” section would also work for this list.
I feel like The Book Thief, which is one of my favorite books ever, could be a good middle ground for teachers who are hesitant about using YA in the classroom as it’s historical fiction (set during WW2) and therefore very educational. It’s also a beautifully written and engaging novel! The Hate U Give, as you probably know, is another one of my all-time favorites. Its take on current issues like racism and police brutality make it a perfect choice for opening up classroom discussions about these topics.
The Perks of Being a Wallflower is a recent read of mine, and one that I very much enjoyed. Because of its similarities to The Catcher in the Rye (the melancholy tone, the topic of mental illness), I think it would be a really interesting comparison to read both novels in a class. Asking For It is a heart-breaking portrayal of sexual assault, and one of my favorite books I’ve read this year. Rape needs to be talked about more in schools, and I think reading a book like this one would be a great way to start these conversations and help kids better understand consent and the effects of sexual assault.
Teaching graphic novels like March and Brazen would be a great way to hook the interest of students who aren’t as into reading traditionally formatted novels for whatever reason. Both of these books help the reader learn a lot of history in an exciting format, with March being a three-book series about the civil rights movement (written by one of its leading figures!) and Brazen being a collection of mini-biographies about women from history. Homegoing isn’t a YA book, so it’s a little out of place on this list, but it’s so so good and I had to include it! It’s a multi-generational story following two sisters from Ghana and their descendants and I can’t recommend it enough.
You can read my review of Brazen here.
Now it’s your turn—tell me about your experiences with books in the classroom, and tell me any books that you think should be taught more often in schools!