Today’s RTW Question from YA Highway: If you had the power to change school curriculums, which books would you be sure high school students were required to read?
I love this question because it’s one I’ve thought about a lot; I had a great English teacher for AP English both junior and senior years who introduced me to the classics and I loved (most of) them. But I was that type of student. But for so many teens it’s more important to get them reading a book they’ll find interesting—and find a way to include a bit of a lesson, too. As disappointing as I find it, Shakespeare and Austen just aren’t everyone’s cup of tea!
Here are my suggestions—and yes, I couldn’t help but include a few classics!
This pairing is so important that both my high school teacher and a college professor taught it. And although I don’t love Wide Sargasso Sea reading the two books side-by-side is a great study in retellings, feminism, racism, and all sorts of possibilities.
Ever since I read Charles’ debut teen novel I’ve wanted to send it to my high school with a big “USE THIS” note. This is the perfect book for students—especially boys—on in a non-AP English track; it’s compelling, gripping, and gritty. And it’s written entirely in second person, which is a great way for classes to discuss point of view.
Or a more contemporary story about teen issues like drug use, suicide, pressures to be perfect. Perhaps Thirteen Reasons Why, or novels by Ellen Hopkins and Amy Reed. Great classroom discussions!
We read a lot of Holocaust literature in my middle and high schools—The Diary of Anne Frank, Maus by Art Spiegelman, Night, Dawn, and Day by Elie Wiesel. By the end of each Holocaust unit I felt desensitized because the discussions were so repetitive. The Book Thief, though, adds a really interesting and new perspective to this literature.
And, in addition to Jane Eyre you’d have to keep some Shakespeare, at least one Dickens, one Austen, The Canterbury Tales, To Kill a Mockingbird, The Great Gatsby, a poetry unit, and I’m sure there are other classic curriculum choices I’m forgetting!