What are Kids Reading?
July 28, 2009 5:07 AM   Subscribe

My grandson was given Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe to read in his English class. I read it and loved it. What are middle and high schoolers given for assigned reading these days?
posted by Raybun to Education (25 answers total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
Many school districts have their students' summer reading lists online....you could always try that out.
posted by Lucinda at 5:36 AM on July 28, 2009

Anything by Elie Wiesel is good, my favorite teachers were the ones who had me read Vonnegut. The old standards are there too, the Lord of the Flies and Fahrenheit 411, Brave New World, awful Animal Farm. (I love Orwell, just not Animal Farm.)
posted by TomMelee at 5:38 AM on July 28, 2009

My daughter just graduated and in the last couple of years I know she read:

The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd
Confucius Lives Next Door by T. R. Reid

plus things like Death of a Salesman, Catcher in the Rye, etc.

She also read all of Chuck Palahniuk's novels for her AP language paper.
posted by elfgirl at 5:39 AM on July 28, 2009

I just did a classroom visit for graduate teaching and librarian students on bringing new young adult and middle grade novels to the curriculum. Among some of the current novels being taught are:

Looking for Alaska by John Green
Shine, Coconut Moon by Neesha Meminger
My Life as a Rhombus, by Varian Johnson
The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing by M.T. Anderson
The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart
Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian by Alexie Sherman
Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher
Un Lun Dun by China Mieville
Hattie Big Sky by Kirby Larson

For more YA and MG fiction, check out the American Library Association's Young Adult Library Services Association Booklists and Awards. As a personal recommendation- I bet you would like Suzanne Collins' "The Hunger Games."
posted by headspace at 5:52 AM on July 28, 2009

My daughter's going into 10th grade. Last year, she read Tuesdays with Morrie during the summer, and To Kill A Mockingbird and Into Thin Air in English. This year, her summer reading is My Forbidden Face, about a girl living in Afghanistan under the Taliban.
posted by Sweetie Darling at 6:13 AM on July 28, 2009

My soon-to-be-twelfth-grader has to read Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley, and Sophocles' Oedipus Rex for English class this summer, and Homage to Catalonia, by George Orwell, for one of his social studies classes. My soon-to-be-seventh-grader has to read Three Cups of Tea, by Greg Mortenson (the Young Reader's Edition) and one other book of his choice, writing two pieces about the latter and one about the former (plus he has to complete a huge packet of math problems).
posted by Ery at 6:20 AM on July 28, 2009

For my IB classes, here's what we've done so far:

9th grade:
To Kill a Mockingbird
A Separate Peace
Things Fall Apart
Romeo and Juliet
Oedipus Rex
The Odyssey

10th Grade
Lord of the Flies
Julius Caesar
Canterbury Tales
Inferno (Dante's Divine Comedy)
[there's more, i forget though..]

11th Grade
Technique in Fiction
I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings
Their Eyes Were Watching God
A Doll's House
The Stranger
The Metamorphosis
Waiting for Godot
Poems of Langston Hughes/Margaret Atwood
How To Read Literature like a Professor

12th Grade:
Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead
Heart of Darkness
[probably more...]
posted by seandq at 6:24 AM on July 28, 2009 [1 favorite]

I teach high school English and Achebe is part of my curriculum (I also love it!). My school still relies heavily on the classics, from Shakespeare to Steinbeck, with a list much like seandq's. A couple of the newer books we teach are Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer and Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini, which are two of the students' favorites as far as I can tell.
posted by katie at 6:29 AM on July 28, 2009

seandq, I read most of those for IB too! Nice to see that some things stay constant.

We also read:

the River Between by Ngugi Wa'Thiongo
Cry, The Beloved Country, by Alan Paton
Antigone in french
The Scarlet Letter
Of Mice and Men
posted by darsh at 6:41 AM on July 28, 2009

If you're going to read Things Fall Apart (or the even more troubling and wonderful No Longer at Ease, also by Achebe), should Conrad's Heart of Darkness (a.k.a., the most colonial of colonial fictions) not be read in concert?

Our local high school seems to be trying to get a good mix in (Sophomore Summer Reading List):
  • Shuzuko's Daughter by Kyoko Mori
  • Cold Sassy Tree by Olive Ann Burns
  • A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith
  • The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
  • The Good Earth by Pearl Buck or
  • The World is Flat by Thomas L. Friedman
  • Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
  • Death in the Long Grass by Peter Capstick
  • Bel Canto by Ann Patchett
  • Rebecca by Daphne Du Mauier
  • My Losing Season by Pat Conroy
  • The Life of Pi by Martel
  • Paula by Isabel Allende
  • The Water is Wide by Pat Conroy
  • The Alchemist by Paulo Coehlo
  • Uglies by Scott Westerfield
  • Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden
  • A Northern Light by Jennifer Donnely

posted by girlbowler at 6:46 AM on July 28, 2009

I've found that Barnes and Noble (*maybe* Borders) tends to have at least one or two tables dedicated to "Summer Reading for School" or something similarly-signed.

I too enjoy seeing what books are there that I too had to read in school, as well as newer additions.
posted by mrhaydel at 7:23 AM on July 28, 2009

Granted, I went to high school in the mid 90's, but here is what I can remember:

9th grade:
The Cay
Romeo and Juliet

10th grade:
The Education of Little Tree
All Quiet on the Western Front
Julius Caesar

11th grade:
Catcher In the Rye
Huckleberry Finn
The Crucible

12th grade
Heart of Darkness
posted by reenum at 7:27 AM on July 28, 2009

Honors freshman English: The Hobbit, The Odyssey, Siddhartha, A Midsummer Night's Dream, parts of The Matrix (film)

Honors sophomore English: Macbeth, Grendel, All the King's Men, A Tale of Two Cities, The Devil in the White City, Ordinary People (film), The Catcher in the Rye

Honors junior English: Everything's an Argument, The Sound and the Fury, The Great Gatsby, The Awakening, The Crucible, The Bean Trees, Into the Wild, Self-Reliance, Walden, Good Night and Good Luck (film), Thelma and Louise (film), The Kite Runner, The Chosen

AP Literature and Composition: The Picture of Dorian Gray, The Power and the Glory, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Genesis, Matthew, a whole bunch of Romantic and Victorian poetry, Hamlet, Heart of Darkness and Achebe's essay panning it, Crime and Punishment, Oedipus Rex, Oedipus at Colonus, Antigone, Atonement, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, The Stranger, Metamorphosis, Brave New World, Catch-22, and One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, plus we had to independently choose six plays with a common theme of our choice by at least two different authors

I'm pretty sure the AP Lit list is complete, but I know I'm missing quite a few works in each of the other lists.
posted by likedoomsday at 7:57 AM on July 28, 2009

I missed Waiting for Godot on the AP Lit/Comp list. I'll try to look over my bookshelves and figure out what's missing when I get home tonight.
posted by likedoomsday at 7:59 AM on July 28, 2009

You can also take a look at Sparknotes.com, which is a large collection of online study guides for the most popular titles used in schools today. It's a good mix of high school and college lit staples. Pretty much all of the books I read in high school are listed here (I know because I used this site...)
posted by castlebravo at 8:19 AM on July 28, 2009

I've found that Barnes and Noble (*maybe* Borders) tends to have at least one or two tables dedicated to "Summer Reading for School" or something similarly-signed.

The Borders I worked at had vertical "screens" set up for summer reading, and were signed accordingly. As I recall, we had a list from corporate we used to fill them, and also added stuff we knew got assigned locally. We did our best to keep as complete as possible a list of local school's summer reading lists at our information desk.
posted by booksherpa at 8:32 AM on July 28, 2009

as much as I can recall...

9th: A Separate Peace, To Kill a Mockingbird, Great Expectations

10th: Lord of the Flies, Dragonwings(?), Antigone, Julius Caesar

11th: The Crucible, Of Mice and Men, a truckload of Whitman and Thoreau

12th: Beowulf, Cantebury Tales, Tess of the D'urbervilles, The Stranger, The Importance of Being Earnest

Surprisingly there was quite a bit of variance between the individual teachers for each grade level as far as what got read. There were a few common selections but otherwise...

When film versions were available, they were almost always run after the initial reading where possible. In the case of Lord of the Flies, all but one the teachers defaulted to the older, black & white version as the newer version had... language. :P The one who didn't obey... well, he didn't last very long and left after winter break.
posted by Yoshi Ayarane at 9:00 AM on July 28, 2009

In addition to Barnes and Noble, public libraries around here will usually have lots of copies of the summer reading books for the local high schools. They often have a little display as well.

Sparknotes isn't a bad place to take a gander at common high school titles, but I like Shmoop better; it could be a good place to not only look for titles you might enjoy, but also to interact with after you've read. Their discussion questions are especially thought-provoking, I think, and I use them with my classes frequently.
posted by katie at 9:17 AM on July 28, 2009

i read a bunch of the books already suggested for school...just came in to add The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle by Avi. It's one of my favorite books from middle school. I saw Steinbeck suggested upthread, and his book The Pearl is also very good.
posted by asras at 10:44 AM on July 28, 2009

Every year for the past few years, the local highschool's summer reading lists include these two books:

The Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini
Ella Minnow Pea, Mark Dunn

I was disappointed by the Kite Runner (strong start, terrible 2nd half), but many students I know loved it so YMMV. Ella Minnow Pea is fantastic.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 1:19 PM on July 28, 2009

Angela's Ashes was my favorite assigned reading in high school. I also enjoyed Things Fall Apart as well.
posted by OuttaHere at 1:22 PM on July 28, 2009

Books I missed:
9th grade: A Hope in the Unseen, Tuesdays with Morrie, Romeo and Juliet
AP Lit/Comp: Madame Bovary

I still might've missed a few, but briefly looking over my bookshelves led me to those.
posted by likedoomsday at 8:29 PM on July 28, 2009

I graduated in 2005. Books not previously mentioned:

Twelfth Night
Native Son
The Woman Warrior
The Color Purple
Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?
Silence of the Lambs
Man's Search For Meaning
A Clockwork Orange
Song of Solomon
A Raisin in the Sun

Books previously mentioned:
Great Expectations
I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings
The Great Gatsby
The Awakening
Oedipus Rex
One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest
Lord of the Flies
Romeo and Juliet
posted by clorox at 10:38 PM on July 28, 2009

I want to second The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian by Alexie Sherman.

Read this. Seriously. I am a grown-up lady who has read most of Alexie Sherman's short stories and really enjoyed Ellen Forney's book I Love Led Zeppelin, so I was jizzing when they combined forces on this half-graphic-novel, half-young-adult-novel book. It's awesome. Read it. Poke people in the eye when they suggest you're too old for it.
posted by Juliet Banana at 9:21 AM on July 29, 2009

Graduated 2003. Don't remember much besides House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende, and The Power of One . Both from my sophomore year, still two of my favorite books.
posted by Orrorin at 7:20 PM on August 1, 2009

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