Required School Reading

I was reading an article not long ago about the high school reading lists. It was one of those great debates of the value of the “classic” versus something to which the kids might better relate. Or for which there is a modern message. Whatever.

I was in Barnes & Noble today and spotted the Required Reading table:

OK, there was no way to get a good picture here.

In addition to Fitzgerald, Steinbeck and Harper Lee, we find The Kite Runner, Tuesdays with Morrie and Reading Lolita in Tehran. On the other side of the table were The Joy Luck Club (which my brother actually read in high school, which is how I discovered Amy Tan) and Wicked. The Lovely Bones was there, along with The Memory Keeper’s Daughter. While I wouldn’t call either great literature, they were good reads that had…themes…and stuff.

Mostly, I am loving this – with the hope that these modern titles will encourage more reading in general. But I also appreciate the other side of the argument – there is only so much time in the school and the classics are classics for a reason. And shouldn’t there be some books that we all read in high school? I suggest that the closest we come to “everyone was assigned these books” was Hamlet and To Kill a Mockingbird. And I am sure you will all recall that I didn’t read the latter until I was 30. I do remember being assigned one modern novel. It was one of Anne Tyler’s and I hated it. The way I remember it, the writing just seemed so…middle aged.

In Ian McEwan’s novel, Saturday, the grandfather paid the granddaughter to memorize poetry. She grew up to be a published poet. I swear I am going to pay my nephew to read books.

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