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Summer Reading Lists

For reasons that I'm not yet ready to divulge, I've been looking at the summer reading lists for a bunch of high schools I'm familiar with. Back when I went to high school, there was no such thing. Perhaps because candles were too expensive, so they didn't want us wasting wax.

Anyhoo, I've found some surprises on the lists.

1. Angela's Ashes by Frank McCourt is on the recommended list for sophomores in one school district I checked. Surprising because the focus in sophomore year at that school is AMERICAN LITERATURE. Story about Ireland by an Irishman wouldn't be my pick. But hey, I'd hate to read most of the books on that school's list -- they're almost all boy books. Like about baseball and being killed or molested while rafting. And no, I'm not kidding.

2. Sons and Lovers by D.H. Lawrence is now being read in high school. Shockingly enough, so is Eldest by Christopher Paolini.

3. Some schools are reading nothing but classics (i.e., stuff I could've read when I was in high school -- most of it by dead white guys).

4. Some schools have NO YA titles at all on their lists. Mostly this overlaps with #3, above.

5. Some schools have lots of popular books on their lists. Like Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants and Ender's Game and Girl With A Pearl Earring and The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime. Many schools are recommending or requiring Amy Tan's The Joy Luck Club for sophomores.

6. Some schools really pile it on -- one requires its future 9th graders to read A Tale of Two Cities (with an onerous writing assignment involved), plus a book from the NY Times bestseller list (for which they must write a book review, due in August), plus they have to read Woe is I by Patricia O'Connor, outline 7 chapters of it, create their own grammar guide, and be ready for a grammar test on the first day of school.

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( 6 comments — Leave a comment )
Jul. 11th, 2006 11:25 pm (UTC)
it is really interesting to see the lists. FYI, some schools either don't require reading or can only "suggest" reading titles, because they can't supply the books (and therefore feel they can't require students to read them). One HS I know only "recommends" books that they have on hand, and as you might guess, nothing too new or interesting has made it to their list... a shame! a darn shame!
Jul. 12th, 2006 12:20 am (UTC)
Wow, #6 stinks! I'd love to see school reading lists. Funny thing we're dealing with as far as list go--all of Judy Blume's Fudge books are on my son's 5--6th grade list--he's read them all already--some a couple of years back and my daughter going into 3rd grade is reading them this summer. She loves them--and as she reads aloud 90% of the time I'm hearing them for the 100th time, but they don't seem to me to be 5-6th grade books. She's a good reader, but these seem easy and I wonder if they need a re-grading. Funny, I never get tired of listening to Peter Hatcher's tales of woe.
Jul. 12th, 2006 12:57 pm (UTC)
Younger Son has to read the Importance of Being Earnest and "one book on the high school level which has not been assigned in a previous course."

Older Son said to me, "Don't make him read it (Earnest). It's really bad. Just let him use the Cliff Notes."

Jul. 12th, 2006 07:07 pm (UTC)
Nah -- have him watch the movie version, which was fantastic. At least from my point of view.
Jul. 13th, 2006 01:25 am (UTC)
Yep all sounds a bit heavy.
Frank McCourt was born in Brooklyn, during the depression and left for ireland as a small child, so you guys could actually claim him.
Been a while since I read it but I am almost certian Angela's ashes at least partly set in Brooklyn where his family lived for a time, but I guess it was probably mostly Ireland. (I might be confusing it with "Tis" in which he returns to America,,, perhaps the selectors did too :)
Jul. 13th, 2006 07:37 pm (UTC)
Ah -- I guess I got him confused with his brother Malachy, who was born in Ireland. Angela's Ashes is set almost entirely in Ireland -- he arrives in the US in the last few pages. Still, I find it an odd choice. Particularly when you see what the other choices on that particular list are -- mostly "popular" fiction, little with any recognized literary merit.
( 6 comments — Leave a comment )

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