A homemade language arts plan for school

One of the irritating things about being in a backwards part of the country is that the Language Arts classes in the public schools are pretty much garbage.*  We thought last year that it was just that DC1 wasn’t in advanced language arts, but no, it’s a thing.  K-4 was at a private school and they used standard texts and read novels and it seemed pretty much like what we had growing up in the midwest.  5th grade we did in Paradise and while it wasn’t as hard-core as 5th grade would have been in the Midwest it wasn’t so bad.  We have no idea what DC1 did in language arts last year, but they didn’t read any books as a class.

This year, in 7th grade, most of their assignments, which are done in class, are just drawing pictures and doing crafts, but it’s not like an art class where they’re getting instruction on arts and crafts, they’re just asked to do them.  At the first open house, the teacher spent her entire time talking about the rules of the course (no talking for the first 10 min when doing the bellwork, then talking with a neighbor for the next 15, etc. etc. etc.) but did not talk about the curriculum at all.  DH asked what books they’d be reading as a class.  She said they wouldn’t be reading anything as a class but they would be picking out books that they could bring from home or check out from the school library to read individually.

Later we found out that the 2#$23ing reading log is back.  We had a lot of trouble with the @#$@3ing reading log back in 5th grade.  It is @#$23ing hard for a reader who loves reading to track every minute read.

This time there are additional wrinkles.  They have to finish one book that they have chosen for this purpose each month.  That book has to be the one that they read in class during their reading time.  But they also have to read this book for at least 20 min per day, and they don’t get a full 20 min in class to read it.  So that means that they need to take the book home and definitely not leave it at home next to the bed where they’ve fallen asleep reading it.  It has to be a book they’ve never read and it has to be one that wasn’t meant for kids in 4th grade or below.  The first month, DC1 picked The Light Fantastic by Terry Pratchett.

It boggles my mind that they don’t read a Shakespeare play each year starting now.  That their junior year is the first year they start reading books together as a class AND it’s the same @$#@43ing terrible list of whiny male protagonists that we had back 25+ years ago when we were FRESHMEN (I guess at least they’re reading Fahrenheit 451?).  Their senior year is a subset of what our school’s sophomore list changed to being after I complained about the lack of women.  There has been no change in their reading lists in 2+ decades, and they’re two years behind what we had back at our small middle-income midwestern farming towns.

Anyhow, it came to me that although we can’t add to the experience of reading a book as a class and learning way too much about symbolism and foreshadowing and plot and character development and all those other things we spent so long on, maybe we could get DC1 to read some important books that we would probably never have read if they hadn’t been part of the curriculum.

We’re going to start with October and DC1 will be reading Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry, which was part of our language arts curriculum in 5th grade, but an important book.  November we’re going to do As You Like It (I’m getting hir the Folger version that comes with explanations on every page) which we read as our first Shakespeare play in 7th grade.  At the very least, DC will have to figure out what’s going on in order to draw illustrations for their class assignments.  I’ll have to decide if we add books that I didn’t personally like but might(?) be important like The Pearl (8th grade) or The Red Badge of Courage (8th grade).

What other recommendations do you have for must-read middle school reading lists that are important but aren’t as fun as what a kid would generally choose on hir own?  Note that it has to be something finishable in a month, so Tree Grows in Brooklyn isn’t going to make the list even though I spent most of my 6th grade “super sustained silent reading” time on it.  What are kids in blue states reading in school these days?

*#notallbackwards But they certainly do want to minimize parent complaints from crazy racist religious zealots as well as parents who aren’t crazy racist religious zealots.  That’s my best guess of why there’s so little humanities learning.  There’s no problem with the math curriculum!

Advertisements

68 Responses to “A homemade language arts plan for school”

  1. First Gen American Says:

    Wow. I feel very fortunate after reading this. I live in an artsy summer place and we have a state of the art Shakespeare theatrical center in town. The kids start doing plays in 4th grade at this facility. I think they started with Hamlet. The theatre even loans the kids costumes. It’s a nice perk.

    Last year we mAde the blue ribbon school list which I guess is a good thing. The 7th graders all had to read the same roald Dahl book over the summer but I forget which one. I love living in a super liberal community. A lot of the books the kids have for assigned reading focus on diverse characters. One of them had the word seed in it. I am bad with book names.

    The ironic thing is that our rich school district has very little diversity itself so the kids have to read about Diverse cultures because they get very little exposure in their own environments. That is the one thing I don’t like. Our little bubble doesn’t represent reality. And they are further constricting it by limiting the school choice admissions from other towns starting this year….not that it really helped as you had to have a car to get your kids to our school so it still only attracted mostly white middle class folks anyway.

    My favorite required reading book of all time at that age was huck Finn.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Neat!
      We read huck finn in school sophomore or junior year. I read it on my own before then but didn’t really “get” it. It was more like Tom Sawyer to me. (I read all the Tom Sawyer books!)

  2. Kay Says:

    Roll of thunder hear my cry….yes, this book will always have a special place in my brain from my childhood. Though I don’t hear it talked about at all anymore. Sad.
    ELA seems to be done so differently for my daughter than it was for me at all levels of schooling.

    I’m also really confused and interested in your DC1’s language arts class….drawing pictures and doing crafts?

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      The town next to ours is majority minority and higher poverty (also lower test scores). When I was looking for book suggestions I found they actually read novels in middle school including Roll of Thunder. Their public library also has 12 hardcover copies of the book and our bookstore had a full shelf. It’s just our district that is shying away from anything controversial.

      They even have an online thing where they take pictures of their illustrations and upload them so we get emails about it in real time, even though they take their language arts notebook home everyday anyway so it seems superfluous.

    • Kay Says:

      Also, specifically in seventh grade we read call of the wild…don’t remember what else. I know there was more. We were still very focused on grammar, vocabulary and such. For all of middle and high school I Can recall tons of short stories, lots of Poe, alllll the Shakespeare! To kill a mockingbird, I am the cheese, Alive, and of course my junior year psychology class was another reading animal entirely. And gosh there’s more but I can’t recall.

      I was always reading something independently and this wasn’t a problem for me because I loved it.

  3. SP Says:

    I can only tell you what I read in 7th grade many years ago that I still recall today, without any idea of if they can be finished in a month. – The Giver (or was that earlier?), and the Outsiders. We must have read others too. Definitely Romeo and Juliet.

    Why the crafts? Seems very weird.

  4. Shannon Says:

    No book suggestions here, but just want to say – I so hear you on the #@* reading log. We’re in the same boat – our kids love to read, and they’re doing it all the time. The reading log just makes reading feel like work – the LAST thing we want. Who wants to drive the joy of reading OUT of their kids? We’ve pushed back with this on some teachers – and one essentially told us to just make it up as they needed something for their records. So that’s basically what we do. They generally know what book they read during what period – the read book X from Sunday until Thursday when then finished it – and then we just randomly divide the pages across the days and turn in the log at the end of the week. #sorrynotsorry

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Stuff like reading goals etc. have been shown to work for KIDS WHO DON’T READ WELL because it increases their reading facility which makes reading more enjoyable. But DC1 is in 7th grade advanced language arts! These kids presumably know how to read!

  5. accm Says:

    Ugh, The Pearl. That and The Red Pony basically turned me off Steinbeck for life.

    A book I would probably not have found on my own but which I loved in grade 7 or 8 was Cue for Treason. It probably doesn’t meet your “important but not so fun” criterion, but it’s enjoyable and I tracked down everything else I could find by the author at our library.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Is there any good Steinbeck?

      I haven’t heard of Cue for Treason– I will check it out!

      • Omdg Says:

        I liked Of Mice and Men.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        That is supposed to be his best work, right?

      • Omdg Says:

        How about The Kite Runner?

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        DC1 is only 10, so maybe nothing with sexual violence in it?

      • Dame Eleanor Hull Says:

        Tortilla Flat! Arthurian legend translated into the lives of poor Mexican laborers in California. It probably needs some adult explanation to make sense, but I think it’s Steinbeck at his finest.

        I can’t remember anything at all about seventh-grade English, which makes me suspect that I hated it. With effort, I can picture the classroom, but not the teacher. I think we saw the movie “Of Mice and Men” several times, which put me off Steinbeck till I was in my 20s. I was reading very widely on my own at that age, which might tend to “drown out” memories of school. What about some “serious” but not depressing novellas or short novels? The Member of the Wedding; The Turn of the Screw or Daisy Miller. Jack London? Or, somewhat lighter maybe, My Side of the Mountain. Johnny Tremaine. I’ll second Connecticut Yankee (someone suggests it below), and Tom Sawyer. Short stories by Toni Cade Bambara. The Tempest.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        I think we read Member of the Wedding in school, but maybe we just saw the movie. Not sure about Turn of the Screw age-wise. Jack London writes such sausage-fests. I think DC1 read part of my side of the mountain but didn’t like it (we read it in 4th grade). Johnny Tremaine we read in 5th or 6th grade. Connecticut Yankee probably can’t be read in a month. Tom Sawyer is a good idea (but DC1 doesn’t want to take my mom’s nice hardback from the 1950s to school because zie is afraid of hurting it, and they’re not allowed to read the kindle version during school). Short stories aren’t allowed for the assignment. I think the Tempest will work well after a few of the simpler plays.

      • Leah Says:

        Tons of good Steinbeck! I love In Dubious Battle (a more obscure one), and Cannery Row is pretty awesome. Grapes of Wrath, of course, tho not my favorite. Travels with Charley (about a journey with his dog) is good too.

      • Sheena Says:

        East of Eden! So good.

      • Sheena Says:

        Oh, not for middle school, though. Just a really good book.

      • Katherine Says:

        In 11th grade my otherwise terrible english teacher suggested East of Eden to me, and I was totally entranced. It completely redeemed Steinbeck for me, even though up until that point I had hated everything else of his that I had read. I even went back and re-read the Grapes of Wrath and didn’t hate it as much the second time.

        I don’t know if I would like, say, of Mice and Men if I re-read it as an adult, but I do think that as a middle-schooler I wasn’t mature enough to enjoy any Steinbeck.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        I dunno, I think A) most Steinbeck is depressing and B) he doesn’t really get women as people.

        Much of my dislike of “great literature” involves books with the above two characteristics.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Ooh, that reminds me of Johnny Tremain (5th grade) and all the similar books by Jean Fritz that my mom was always buying.

    • Kay Says:

      Oh right Steinbeck!how could I forget??!!

  6. Rosa Says:

    My 7th grader is working on a project on a book called The Other Side of the Sky which is about a refugee family. I’m not sure how it is literarily. I think the class also read Three Cups of Tea (which may have different versions for different reading levels, like The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind) and had the option of Reading Lolita In Tehran.

    They never read books I recognize, they read new stuff, which is great but makes it hard for me to retain titles. Drama and Smile are super popular at the middle school and while they would probably not be challenging in terms of writing level, the characters are really well done and the plots are middle-school-appropriate. It’s too bad graphic novels aren’t allowed – March is really excellent and structurally difficult and Real Friends and Telgemeier’s book Ghosts are awesome (but would probably only occupy your kid for 40 minutes.)

    7th grade is when kids love “adult” trash – we were reading 80s rapetastic romance and VC Andrews, at that age, and I see the girls at the middle school with all sorts of teen paranormal romance & horror. Twilight is still big.

    I also was reading classic SF at that age – would your kid like Ray Bradbury? Or for that matter, Wool or The Girl With All the Gifts? Mine just read Little Brother and liked the plot but found the writing level a little daunting, but reading is not his strongest suit. Yours might like Down & Out in the Magic Kingdom. Or Uprooted! Uprooted was great!

    A middle school teacher friend who is strongly antiracist and at a prestigious private school taught The Hate U Give. It would probably cause a kerfuffle though. The advanced 7th & 8th graders I know are reading Sherman Alexie and Maya Angelou, who are famous (and now, old) enough that they should be relatively kerfuffle-free as long as the other parents aren’t actually reading over her shoulder.

    One Crazy Summer and its sequels are wonderful. I personally really liked PS Be Eleven. I also loved Laurie Halse Anderson’s historicals but they may be a tidge too romantic for your kid’s taste. My kid did NOT love them. I don’t know if yours is growing into teen reading tastes already.

    Crap, I know my teacher friend posted a great 7th grade list and now I can’t find it.

    Our solution to the tracking minutes was just to put down half an hour for every day. And we solved the “read at home and at school” by getting second copies of most of the books – either from the public library or purchased – to have at home. Ebooks are GREAT for this, I have downloaded so many books because he had to reread to do the homework for a book and had forgotten the book at school.

    This may irritate some teachers so I don’t know if I can recommend it, but kiddo’s teacher was fine with us obviously faking the reading log (30 min/day every day and sort of random page # estimates) I also made the kid stick a post-it into the book as a bookmark and use a new one every day so we could fake a reasonable seeming page number to write down for every day. When I was staying on top of it I made him write one sentence about the section he just read – usually the next day because he reads himself to sleep- because his main problem is reading so fast that he’s not really absorbing stuff. But that had basically nothing to do with the assignment.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      March is excellent! DC1 read the first on the way to the Women’s march. :)

      My freshman year had so much Ray Bradbury. I came out of it liking Farenheit 451, which really is quite excellent, less after knowing that part of it was inspired by Bradbury’s irrational fear of technology that shows up a lot in his short fiction.

      DC1 is only 10, so romance is not very interesting. The idea for this assignment in our minds isn’t to have hir read books zie will enjoy– zie already does that, but to read books that are good for hir that zie wouldn’t otherwise read.

      We’ll look into the other side of the sky!

      • Rosa Says:

        advanced reader 10 is hard, because stuff written at their technical reading ability isn’t geared to their interests & social awareness very well. I think One Crazy Summer is definitely in the “good for hir” area but also enjoyable.

  7. L.M. Says:

    My eighth-grader is going to read Anne Frank with her English class this year. I don’t remember the other books the teacher mentioned on parents’ night.

  8. becca Says:

    To Kill a Mockingbird is often a 7th grade book. And I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings. Both heavy, but important.

    Anne Frank is usually 8th grade, because 14 years old, but that’s a distinction without a difference. Night can go with it.

    I’d recommend a Sinclair Lewis book at some point in the next few years. I think Main Street is most common, but “It Can’t Happen Here” is more appropriate for this era, sadly (though don’t let hir miss Arrowsmith if ze has any interest at all in medicine). I read 1984 and Lord of The Flies first though. Dystopian future is what I think of for middle school/early “literature” (well, that and “Frankenstein” which lots of people enjoy but I couldn’t get into).

    I think that’s about the age I started reading Alcott, which I’d also recommend.

    And Flowers for Algernon is a good one that shows up for 7th grade, that was one of those we read and then saw a play for so that’s always nice. Rather than prioritizing a particular Shakespeare, I’d recommend any you can get to any production of, or movie versions of ones you like if you can’t get to something live.

    I presume “Tuck Everlasting” and “The Giver” are fun and short enough to be read without being steered toward them. OH! And for sure don’t miss “Brown Girl Dreaming”- not cannon when I was young, but I think rapidly (and deservedly) becoming so. OH! Also fun is Persepolis, if ze hasn’t already.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Zie read Tuck Everlasting in 4th grade at private school (same as me in Public) and The Giver in 5th grade in Paradise. I think we have Brown Girl Dreaming on my “to-read” pile. I can move that over to DC1. I think DH has Persepolis on his graphic novel shelf (DC1 is currently cranking through Bone for fun).

      I can’t believe that they don’t do To Kill a Mockingbird here until high school, but at least they do it?

      Oddly, our university doesn’t put on Shakespeare plays. The midwest seemed to be full of them, maybe that’s linked. Of course, we’d also travel to the city to watch the Ancient Greek plays we were studying (saw a really fun version of Antigone back in high school). And we went to the city to see a dramatization of the Mouse and some other short stories.

      • Contingent Cassandra Says:

        My first thought was To Kill a Mockingbird, but it it’s coming up, then it’s covered.

  9. beth Says:

    Under the resource lists link there are many books suggested for middle school readers. There is a link for classics (including many common to my own middle school reading lists from the 90s in an entirely different part of the country than this list is from). Also, a great many more modern books. Hope this helps.
    https://chccs.follettdestiny.com/quest/servlet/presentquestform.do?site=114&context=saas15_3212842&alreadyValidated=true

  10. Calee Says:

    I read a lot of Robin Cook medical thrillers in 7th/8th grade. The Red Badge of Courage was an 8th grade book I think. Call of the Wild and White Fang.
    Count of Monte Cristo is long but really interesting. My 5th grader just powered through the Alice in Wonderland books and the Wizard of Oz stories. It’s great to give them the originals and see the reaction to remakes. The Girl of the Limberlost is a fantastic early environmentalist work. My husband was a big fan of Sun Tzu’s The Art of War at that age.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      I think we have a post on DC1 and Oz. Zie also read the Alice books a couple years ago. Count of Monte Cristo is probably too long to read in a month. Art of War is a great suggestion. Limberlost might be a bit too old.

  11. Leah Says:

    Here’s what we read in 10th grade at our college prep school:

    Gilgamesh by an unknown author! Edited by Stephen Mitchell.
    Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe
    The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
    Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi
    The Odyssey by Homer

    English teacher also said “We also read many short stories and poems and essays (for instance, we’re reading “How You Became You” by Bill Bryson for tomorrow’s class!).”

    And I know some kids are reading American Born Chinese as well.

    Will try to get in touch with the middle school teachers for a few more ideas. I hope that helps. Persepolis is great!

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Those are great. I’m remembering that we read Beowulf in 8th grade. I should add that to the list. I would love to see what your middle school teachers are assigning!

      • Leah Says:

        Find the Seamus Haney version of Beowulf. Totally the best! He also wrote a really good Antigone that I love.

        Also, have DC memorize some poems. Frost has some good classics (Fire and Ice is a good one for starting out), Langston Hughes, Mary Oliver, Stephen Dunn. Ted Kooser was poet laureate for awhile and has some good stuff. I really think memorizing poetry was something I was forced to do but now really appreciate having done — I’ve got a lot of poems memorized and am able to quote them readily. I even have the prologue to The Canterbury Tales memorized.

        I will put in another email and ask. That list came from the 10th grade syllabus. Our kids read some good stuff! I get the leftovers every year that kids leave in the dorm. I haven’t quite read everything, but I have read most. The only thing I haven’t read on their 10th grade list is Gilgamesh. Persepolis is fabulous. Oh, and put Things They Carried on DC’s list for when older (it’s a bit too heavy for 7th grade).

        Another recommendation for the next year or two: something by Willa Cather. My Antonia is what I read in 7th grade. Oh, Pioneers is good too. Also, The Crucible is a great read for that age, and you can tie in some history lessons too.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        Will do! I think dc1 should memorize the jabberwocky. Also the stages of man from as you like it. #2 tells me my Antonia is not as good as I remember it being.

  12. Chelsea Says:

    I remember we read and loved A Midsummer Night’s Dream in 7th or 8th grade and it was a huge hit. So silly! We also read The Phantom Tollbooth, Where the Red Fern Grows and To Kill a Mockingbird in there somewhere. Oh – and Hiroshima, which is still one of my all-time favorite books. That’s pretty short and could be a good choice.

    What about The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit? Or Dune? Or maybe some of the well known Agatha Christie mysteries?

    As an adult I read and loved Holly Goldberg Sloan’s Counting By 7’s, which I thought was absolutely lovely (but might be too young for DC 1), and really liked Steve Sheinkin’s Port Chicago 50. I really liked Persepolis, too, but I feel like there’s some stuff in there about her love life that *might* not be age appropriate. Or might just go over DC #1’s head.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      A Midsummer Night’s Dream is a good one. :) Most of the prominent Shakespeare comedies are pretty excellent. (We did read a bunch of the historical plays one semester in high school, but despite having seen them performed I can’t really remember any of them except Richard II.)

      DC1 has read LOTR and the Hobbit two or three times at this point. I put a “for fun” Agatha Christie on hir pile of “for fun” books, but zie hasn’t bitten. :/ We read Phantom Tollbooth in 5th grade– DC1 has read it for fun. I hated WTRFG in school (4th grade).

      Thanks for the suggestions!

  13. Mrs PoP Says:

    Hmmmm, middle school was books like the giver, the yearling, lotsa twain books. My favorite back then was Connecticut yankee in king Arthur’s court.

    We also had to study structure and write poetry – iambic pentameter, etc. but I didn’t find that fun at all.

    What about Douglas Adams books? I just discovered dirk gently and middle school was when Mr PoP read that and fell in love with Douglas Adams.

    I also read a lot of classics outside of school at that age – Austen, bronte, etc. I wasn’t into the RL Stine books that other kids were reading.

  14. chacha1 Says:

    I’m so ill-informed on this topic, but can say I just read “Ban This Book” by Alan Gratz, *really* enjoyed it, gave my copy to a friend and promptly ordered one for my sisters. The protagonist is in the 4th grade but the vocabulary and structure of the book is middle-grades. At least that’s my take on it, since the few 4th and 5th-graders I see appear fairly … inarticulate. Possibly not fully illiterate, but close.

    For diversity/difficulty stories I am way out of what’s new, but “The Witch of Blackbird Pond” and “The Velvet Room” are both historicals that have important history lessons as well as adventurous stories. Your kids have probably already read them. :-) My own schoolbook assignments – what I can remember of them – were very much White Male Canon selections aside from southern-gothic short stories that I mostly hated and never wanted to read again.

    “Fox Running” is a sports story with a Native American protagonist that I first read ~ 8th-9th grade.

    In my rural high school, I got some interesting language-arts assignments that were actually about language arts. (WTF crafts?!) One that was a big hit with me was reading The Canterbury Tales (expurgated version) and then writing a stanza in the same style. We also got assigned sonnets, and then had to write a sonnet. I loved working in that structure. We wrote limericks at home. I also wrote song lyrics at home. One thing I’ve seen done on stage recently – in the musical version of Bullets Over Broadway – was taking old songs and rewriting lyrics to suit the story they’re used in. That’s a fun exercise too.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      DC2 read Ban this book from the library in paradise. :)

      The Velvet Room is an excellent idea. I should get a copy! (Better than Steinbeck, I think given hir age…) I think we read Witch of Blackbird pond in 5th or 6th grade. That’s a good idea too. We read some of the cleaner Canterbury tales in 7th or 8th grade.

      Great suggestions! And boy, this is really highlighting the deficiencies in the language arts program here.

  15. Bardiac Says:

    As You Like It is a great choice! But instead of the Folger, you might look into the Oxford or Cambridge Schools edition. Both university presses put out editions used in the UK by schools. They’re REALLY well edited for young readers, with helpful illustrations and notes.

  16. L.M. Says:

    Have you looked at A Mighty Girl’s Book Recommendation lists? You can filter by age (teen), by award winners or nominees, by categories, etc. https://www.amightygirl.com/books

  17. DVStudent Says:

    I spent elementary/middle school in a Bible Belt state (albeit a largeish liberalish town in said state), and then my parents wised up and moved us to Mid Atlantic Liberal College Town in Mostly Blue state.

    I think we were doing chapter books in language arts by 3rd grade…Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry was either a 5th or 6th grade read-surprising now as an adult looking back at the redness that was the state I lived in. My teachers led very sensitive and empathetic discussions that morphed into larger discussions of where we are as a country (20 yearsish ago) and where we would like to be. We also read a lot of literature by/about the Native American tribes who were displaced in our state and region and present on them…again, now that I think about it, very surprising! The Diary of Anne Frank was definitely a 6th grade read, and really well integrated into our history unit.

    High school was more of the same. I think I didn’t even bother reading Catcher in the Rye (god, Holden pissed me off), but we read a lot of the Western Canon usually for the first half of each school year and then were tasked with non-Western canon to read/do history projects on. Zola Neale Hurston was easily my favorite author from high school English literature. When I talk to friends who went to other high schools, their experiences were vastly different…

    Also, this got me thinking-does anyone remember the show Wishbone? About the dog that taught us all about books?

    • DVStudent Says:

      Also, most importantly: To Kill a Mockingbird

      7th grade, with the best English teacher I’ve ever had. He didn’t let us shy away one bit from talking about race, even though we were all obnoxious 13 year olds who had better things to do, like write angsty poetry in our online journals about how we were SOOOO misunderstood ;). We spent almost 3 months on that book alone, dissecting every word, phrasing, allusion, until we were all 13 year old activists going home and arguing with our parents.

  18. Linda Says:

    I can’t recall stuff I had to read it grade school. I was reading so much on my own (mostly science fiction and fantasy stuff) that what we may have had assigned in our curriculum is lost in the mists of time. But I do recall that I had to write a research paper for 8th grade history class and I chose to write about the Sioux. Bury my Heart at Wounded Knee was one of the books I read for the report, so I’m thinking that may be doable for an advanced reader like DC1. Sort of in a similar vein, I read Farewell to Manzanar in high school and recall it as being a fairly easy read. Maybe School Library Journal has some other ideas.

  19. Catherine Anderson Says:

    Possibly a bit young, but my whole family (two nine-year-olds, two adults) enjoyed The Breadwinner by Deborah Ellis this summer. An 11-year-old Afghan girl has to dress as a boy to work to earn money to support her family when her father is imprisoned. Her older brother has been killed, her younger sister is too young, and under the Taliban her older sister and mother can’t leave the house without a man.

  20. Contingent Cassandra Says:

    Most of my suggestions are already covered. A few others that I don’t think have been:

    –Elie Weisel’s _Night_ (I read this for freshman-year history, but it’s short, and told from the point of view of a child. Depressing, of course, but important).

    –The first version of Frederick Douglass’ _Narrative_ (relatively short; covers mostly Douglass’ childhood/young adulthood; some explicit violence — whipping — and some allusions to sexual abuse, but the full back story might well go over a 10-year-old’s head — we tend to understand what we’re ready to understand — and I suspect your 10-year-old knows, in general terms, what rape is anyway). Many slave narratives are quite short, and contain adventures.

    –I think this was the age when I got into reading biographies — some written for children/young adults, but I was soon reading the ones for adults, too. I think I read my way through pretty much all the biographies of women available in our public library around this age.

    –I’m not sure whether a collection of short stories counts, but this is a good age for Poe (also Arthur Conan Doyle).

  21. Lisa Says:

    So many great suggestions! My oldest is in 6th grade in a G&T program and reading this post has made me appreciate the program more than ever! They just finished Animal Farm. Back in the day, I remember loving Lord of the Flies in 7th grade. We read many of the other things people have listed, also Johnny Tremain, The Witch of Blackbird Pond, etc. Can’t say I loved them, but I do remember them. There is a lot of great newer YA literature out there these days as well, perhaps DC1 would like Wonder or The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle or Homeless Bird? My oldest has read several things that I can’t bring myself to read like Number the Stars and Elephant in the Garden through school. I also really love Michael Chabon’s Summerland, read it out loud to the kids a couple of summers ago and loved it even more. His adult books are all too “adult” for the kids IMO, but this one is great. Long, though.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Animal Farm! Wow! I really don’t think zie would get that at all at this age without class providing context.

      • Cloud Says:

        I read Animal Farm on my own in 6th grade. I think I had my parents explain bits of it, but I definitely “got” the point and remember it better than 1984, which I read not long after. I was really interested in current events at the time, though, and current events at the time were heavy on Russia… so I don’t know if that experience would be the same now or not.

        I’m not sure what my 5th grader is reading for school this year. Part of that is because of the language school thing so half of the books she’s reading are in Spanish and part is because my husband is in charge of knowing that stuff and so it has disappeared from my brain. I’ll ask her and come back and add anything interesting.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        I didn’t really get Animal Farm on my own when I read it in middle school. I mean, I got it but I didn’t GET it, if that makes sense. 1984 and Brave New World are both a lot less allegorical and more in your face (though I also read them later because sex).

  22. Revanche @ A Gai Shan Life Says:

    I didn’t read anything in the age appropriate slots so I can’t remember specific books specific to that period but I do remember reading The Grapes of Wrath later than 7th grade and Flowers for Algernon before it. I kind of appreciate Of Mice and Men now because we sometimes refer to JB as Lennie when ze just smashes the heck out of things.

  23. In which #1 rants about Pinterest English assignments | Grumpy Rumblings (of the formerly untenured) Says:

    […] increasingly stupid “book report” assignments for DC1’s monthly novel, including things like having to make 15 “matchbooks”, illustrating the outsides of […]


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: