Books my students read…and what they might read instead!

Posted April 9, 2020 in Discussion Tags:

As a high school teacher, I teach the same books to my students that I was taught 20+ years ago in high school. These classics are timeless for sure, but they don’t typically make students excited to read. So, here are a few of the required readings for my students and a few contemporary suggestions that might entice them to enjoy reading more.

Pride and Prejudice

Listen, I know LOTS of people who simply love and adore this book. I am not one of them. I think it’s rubbish. I have maybe one student a year who enjoys it. The boys all hate it. Want to get boys to read more? Having them break down the themes and motifs of Pride and prejudice is not the way.

So, what would I rather have them read? First and Then by Emma Mills. It’s a modern retelling that has high schools and football. While the motif of prejudice is still prevalent (Its high school, so they know prejudice), it’s done in a way that is accessible to teens.

Of Mice and Men

This is another book I was never a fan of; however, I do think it’s great for teaching themes of male friendship in unlikely places and disability treatment. I think that these are more important that the theme of the American Dream during the depression. Students get that in history and while reading a novel of a time period is good, that isn’t really the focus of the book.  The book has a few “shock factor” moments that are great for getting students’ attention!

What do I wish I could have them read instead? There are a couple options. The Hate You Give by Angie Thomas would be great for showing how teens deal with current issues (just like Lennie and George were having to deal with the Depression). Wonder by RJ Palaico is another possibility. This book launched the “Choose Kind” movement and really showcases people with disabilities in a more relatable way to students today.

To Kill A Mockingbird

I adore this book and this it is absolutely essential for all students to read. I think that after they read that, teachers should provide them with contemporary issues of this theme of racism. This allows students to connect the past and present in a meaningful way.

The Hate You Give is a great follow up that discusses the modern struggles with racism. Another great choice is Dear Martin by Nic Stone. I think students will enjoy reading these because they are real life struggles they see playing out daily in our communities.

Other books I think would be great to introduce into the HS curriculum

Tell me: What books do you think should be required reading in high school?

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2 responses to “Books my students read…and what they might read instead!

  1. I completely love this post because this was my struggle when I was at school. We’d study these old books and a couple might spark my interest, the majority are just not for me. Even when I did read other books outside of school I felt like I couldn’t tell my English teachers because they weren’t ‘proper books’ it’s only as I’ve gotten older I’ve regretted not talking about the books I liked more, my teachers were probably really interested. I think you’ve made some good choices for books your students should get to read instead. They’d all probably enjoy reading so much more if they did get to study them.

    Becky @ A Fool's Ingenuity recently posted: Liebster Award // A Chance To Catch Up And Discuss Books
  2. I can honestly never think of any books for lists like these, but I do appreciate educators trying to incorporate some more modern books, and also, books actually written for teens into their courses. Do I think they should toss the classics in a fire? No. I feel it’s a rite of passage to read some books you would not select for yourself, and I love the idea that so many other people have also read these. They give a good jumping off point to show how we, as a society, have grown and changed, and also, how so many themes are timeless.

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