Wednesday, November 12, 2008

NaBloPoMo 12 of 30 - 8th Grade Reading List

My son is in 8th grade, in a gifted & talented program, and in his Language Arts class they have been assigned to read 8 books over the course of the year -- 4 of their choice (absolutely no restrictions) and 4 from a list provided by the teacher, entitled "100 New Classics." Hmm, thought I, sounds good - new classics, great literature which my son will perhaps enjoy but surely benefit from reading.

Well, the maker of the list is Entertainment Weekly. I guess I missed the part where they became recognized as literary authorities.

Here's the link to the list. When I read it over, my eyebrows went up more than once as I saw titles of books I had read and would not consider allowing a 14-year old to read, and they rose even higher as I saw books that I had not read - deliberately, because I didn't think they were appropriate for me, much less for a middle-school student. Nonetheless, I was able to give my son a list of about 7 (out of 100!!) he could safely choose from, and he is reading 4 I am OK with. But I thought a lot about the kids whose parents did not screen the list, or perhaps are not as voracious a reader as I am so did not recognize many of the books, and therefore couldn't restrict their child from reading something really inappropriate.

Well.

Then I happened to mention it in passing to Carla, who is a middle school teacher and whose degree is in English, and who reads more than I do, and who has a son the same age as mine.

I think I heard her scream all the way from China. She was outraged that this list was being used, first of all as a literary resource, but second of all that it was being used in middle school. She has promised to blog extensively about it, and I am looking forward to her viewpoint.

In the meantime, I am trying to decide if I should say anything to the teacher, and if so, what. I am satisfied my kid is reading books that are OK, and they are all books I have read so we can discuss them as he goes along. I talked to the mom of one of his classmates, and she didn't even know there was a list. I suspect that she is closer to the norm than I am, of the level of parental knowledge/involvement. I suspect that the vast majority of parents trust that the teacher would not assign anything inappropriate.

What would you do?

14 comments:

Calandria said...

Notice the title in the banner of that list? "Ew." How appropriate.

I don't even know where to begin. So I'm going to make some gingerbread cookies, eat them, and think about it.

Karen ~ said...

Ooh, I want one too. A cookie, I mean.

(I still think of you every Christmas when we paint sugar cookies.)

Calandria said...

I haven't got to the cookies yet, but I've got a few thoughts here.

I totally agree that because of their adult content, many of these titles would be inappropriate for an 8th grader. Besides the adult content, I think most would contain thematic material difficult to understand if you are not an adult. They may not be "bad" for an 8th grader to read, but ultimately not worth the time for someone of tender years.

So these are the "new" classics? Is there anything wrong with the "old" classics? Are the kids required to read any "old" classics at all? There's nothing much wrong with most of these books, but I'm not sure they will be on reading lists fifty years from now. However, there are so very many REAL classics that kids should read before they go to college. Why couldn't they encourage that in school? Is it just plain nuts of me to expect that? I've been googling "books to read for the college bound" and you know what? Almost none of the titles on EW's list come up.

As far as if you should say something or not, I don't know. I think you would certainly be justified in doing so, but it may not enhance your "reputation." :-) You could mention it in your next conference. Something like, "I was really surprised when I saw that reading list! How did this come about? Did you know there is some explicit stuff in some of these books?" I don't know. Just an idea.

Karen ~ said...

I suspect that this teacher may have been a reluctant reader in her youth (not that she is that old now!) and that perhaps she is trying to appear "hip" (and I know I am dating myself by using that word as I'm sure there is some new term I am unfamiliar with) to the students to try and engage them in new, trendy books. While that may be a noble cause, I agree that there are so many REAL classics to choose from, why not give the kids that list - they still get 4 free choices to try a "new" classic. (isn't that an oxymoron, anyway?)

Dawn said...

Bridget Jones Diary, come on and give me a break.........Definitely not for teens especially on a required reading list. What no Sex in the City books? I'm appalled. There are a couple that I would say are worthwhile. Maybe you should point him at those. I can't believe she seriously took the list from EW. Give me a break. Personally, I think some of the school topics have been dumbed down a bit,especially since my time, and of course the no child left behind edict. I can't even imagine that as being a list to choose from. I am in shock and disbelief and happy that my cats don't have to deal with reading lists....I just sit here shaking my head in disbelief...

Dawn said...

Still shaking my head....

Mama Ava said...

OMG OMG You HAVE to say something. That's just all there is to it.

I'm posting on this, too, just so you know. I need a post a day and can't let doubling up on you stand in my way. Of course, everyon will have posted for you so I won't get any comments.

Although mine is a bit more *loud*. You are always more diplomatic.

shawn said...

OK, I read you post while at work.. not time to write at that time.. and then it was only Calandria's 1st post and yours.. but I agree with Dawn on this.. Bridget Jones Diary??? I might agree to MAYBE Harry.. but that is only because JK got so many people reading.. Not because it was some wonderful work.. I mean it was good.. but Classic?? And to list Jon Stewart's book as a classic?? What happened to Austen, Twain, JRR Tolking, F Scott Fitzgerald, Dickens???
And I agree with Carla.. YOU HAVE to say something.. This can't be what a gifted and talented class should be reading... And if other parents aren't watching.. Kids will be reading Sex in the City... And some of those books are so not right for Middle school... PLEASE.. they don't need to grow up any faster than they are already!
(OOPS sorry to drag on...)

Dawn said...

If they are talented and gifted they should surely be reading the actual classics. I can see perhaps a comparison with something newer and the style of the book, but really, some of those choices are so far out there for kids that are supposed to be learning and preparing to take their place in the world and to eventually take a part in caring for us, future senior citizens....I am really totally disgusted and am still glad we have cats and not kids.....I think I probably could have told her some classics when I was that age. Yes, you can be a nerd carrying around the "true classics", but I wouldn't change that for the world.....If they didn't get it then it was their fault.......Still shaking my head.

Mama Ava said...

There's also a wide range of "classics." Most of us hear that word and think Shakespeare, Steinbeck, Bronte, etc. But there is are well-established lists of books put out by education and library associations for books that have stood the test of time in the classroom, books that deal with challenging and universal themes at a level that is appropriate for the target reader. "Holes", "The Giver," "Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry", etc. are all books that are often read, occasionally challenged, but offer profound insights into character, values, culture, etc. WITHOUT SEX.

shawn said...

I like Dawn, am still shaking my head, and then wonder.. Even though my kid isn't in the gifted and talented program.. will she HAVE to read these "new" classics??
And I totally agree with you Carla.. some on the list are ok.. but still.. to label them classics??

Calandria said...

I found two lists of classics for college-bound students last night. I printed them off and gave them to Gaby, who was very pleased with the lists. She's been trying to get beyond Redwall and other books of that type but hasn't had any help from school. Last year her 7th grade teacher required four real classics (I hate it that now I have to distinguish between "real" and EW's list, whatever THAT is) from a list he supplied but this year the teacher doesn't.

Right now she's reading Three Musketeers and loves it. Maybe you should find a list of real classics and show it to the teacher as an example of what you would expect gifted students to be reading at that age.

Calandria said...

I meant she hasn't had help from school finding classics this year, as opposed to last.

Karen ~ said...

Will you email me the links you found? I also thought about award-winning book lists. We are on the same wave-length!

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