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Old 09-02-2020, 05:40 PM
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Default Books You Read in School

With kids and teachers starting to go back to school, what better time to discuss what books we read while we were in school?

Our experiences no doubt vary greatly as we got our educations in different places and at different times. But what books do you remember being taught while you were in school? Did you find any favourites during that time? Did you love them or loathe them?

There are also some teachers amongst us. If you're one of them and you've taught English, what are your favourite books to teach? And why? Do any particular memories stick out to you?

Discuss below!
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Old 09-02-2020, 07:48 PM   #2 (permalink)



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Great Gatsby and Lord of the Flies definitely stick out to me

Also, can I say one that I actually didn't read in school, but read like 10-15 years later .... To Kill A Mockingbird. Which is probably because I moved between 8th and 9th grade and my new school read it in 8th grade, whereas my old school didn't read it till the 9th grade, but it's just a weird thing that happened
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Old 09-03-2020, 01:12 AM   #3 (permalink)
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The Caribbean country where I'm from, we generally studied Shakespeare {though I admit, I'm not a Shakespeare fan so the moment I was given the option to forgo those particular books, I did, and instead opted for other books}. The 'other books' that we studied are ones written by Caribbean authors. TBH, I never thought much of Caribbean books because of the Creole/Patois/broken English that we speak; I preferred books with 'standard English'. Eventually I found that I enjoyed them and gained great appreciation for them

Some of my faves included: Young Warriors, Beka Lamb and Green Days By The River.
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Old 09-03-2020, 06:34 PM   #4 (permalink)



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I had a teacher who was obsessed with Shakespeare so I think I did a bunch of them over that two years... I read Noughts and Crosses (and met Malorie Blackman) with her too though, so I can't be mad. I also read Frankenstein and Dracula and studied a lot of Carol Ann Duffy's poetry with my Higher English teacher...

I also remember reading "I am David" and "Goodnight Mister Tom" in primary school (when I was about 10) and they were both about wars and I was so upset reading them both.
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Old 09-05-2020, 10:43 AM   #5 (permalink)
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I don't remember a lot of details about most of the books that I read in school. I know I read Romeo and Juliet, The Tempest, Lord of the Flies, Atonement, The Go-Between, Of Mice and Men, King Lear, and Oedipus Rex over the years. Lord of the Flies is probably the one that sticks out the most to me, honestly, but that's because of my teacher and the way he taught it. He made it very fun, and I think the whole class got quite into it! And Curley's wife's red dress and the ~symbolism~ of that is something that I definitely remember from Of Mice and Men.

In terms of poets, I mainly remember Sylvia Plath, Ted Hughes, and John Keates. I really enjoyed Plath's poetry, but I never really got into the others.

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Great Gatsby and Lord of the Flies definitely stick out to me

Also, can I say one that I actually didn't read in school, but read like 10-15 years later .... To Kill A Mockingbird. Which is probably because I moved between 8th and 9th grade and my new school read it in 8th grade, whereas my old school didn't read it till the 9th grade, but it's just a weird thing that happened
That's an interesting difference between the two schools. I find it interesting how they decide when to teach different books. I never studied The Great Gatsby or To Kill a Mockingbird in school; I imagine they were taught more in American schools. Did you enjoy studying The Great Gatsby?

Lord of the Flies, however, I can remember and, even though I had/have mixed feelings about the book, I remember quite enjoying studying it!

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The Caribbean country where I'm from, we generally studied Shakespeare {though I admit, I'm not a Shakespeare fan so the moment I was given the option to forgo those particular books, I did, and instead opted for other books}. The 'other books' that we studied are ones written by Caribbean authors. TBH, I never thought much of Caribbean books because of the Creole/Patois/broken English that we speak; I preferred books with 'standard English'. Eventually I found that I enjoyed them and gained great appreciation for them

Some of my faves included: Young Warriors, Beka Lamb and Green Days By The River.
I have mixed feelings about Shakespeare tbh. I, for the most part, enjoy the plots in his plays but I find the language hard to follow. It was definitely easier reading him in school, though, because the teacher would explain things and the copies of the books that we read often had 'translation/meaning' type things to explain the language.

I, unsurprisingly, haven't heard of any of those books. What about those particular books made them your favourites in hindsight?

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I had a teacher who was obsessed with Shakespeare so I think I did a bunch of them over that two years... I read Noughts and Crosses (and met Malorie Blackman) with her too though, so I can't be mad. I also read Frankenstein and Dracula and studied a lot of Carol Ann Duffy's poetry with my Higher English teacher...

I also remember reading "I am David" and "Goodnight Mister Tom" in primary school (when I was about 10) and they were both about wars and I was so upset reading them both.
I don't think I was taught any of those books other than some Shakespeare, probably, and Goodnight Mister Tom when I was very young. I did read Noughts and Crosses while I was in school but that was at a friend's recommendation and not because it was taught to us. You met Malorie Blackman?! What was that like?

I'm a little surprised that I didn't read Frankenstein or Dracula in school tbh. Actually, I still haven't gotten around to reading either of them.
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Old 09-05-2020, 06:10 PM   #6 (permalink)
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welp, since English is not a main language in Indonesia so our English curriculum (at least before 2010, when I was still in school), is more focused on writing, grammar and structure. We didn't do much reading like y'all did, although back when my 1st year in high school we used to have this Reading week program. I chose Dracula - Bram Stoker and the other one... i kinda forgot if it's The Picture of Dorian Gray or one of Charles Dickens book. Sadly the program stopped on my second (and last) year.
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Old 09-06-2020, 05:00 PM   #7 (permalink)


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This is so cool, seeing what people in other countries read (or did not read) in school. I'm low-key amazed Of Mice and Men made it across the pond. I wonder what John Steinbeck would say about that. Hah. One last comment on that book--- Curly's hand, though, in the glove? omg. Just. OMG. Can't believe we still teach this book LOLOLOL.

Back in my day, a decade and some ago, we mostly read the classics from English-speaking authors. The "dead white guy" canon was still very alive back then if you were preparing for, say, an AP test. So that was why we were usually assigned English and American authors from way back when till about the 1960s. I could probably list all the texts here but won't bore ya. I'll just say we read from The Oddssey and Beowulf to the major Shakespeare plays, a few of Oscar Wilde's works, and of course Fitzgerald and Wharton and Twain and Miller and Williams and the like. You know, we didn't really read Hemingway or Austen at all, and I wonder if that was just because my English teachers didn't like them?? I read a lot, because I took the honors courses, and we read texts at an accelerated pace. When I think of how few texts I teach now, compared to how many I read, I'm like @___@. But I am also the newest English hire here, so I don't get to teach any honors classes haha.

Speaking of the high school where I teach, we really push for author diversity in a way to upset the established canon AND relate to our students' diverse backgrounds. We also teach a lot more contemporary texts, ie, the 20th and 21st century. The texts that resonated with me the most, as a student, were definitely ones from the 20th century (Gatsby, Catcher in the Rye) and ones that I found humorous or interesting (The Importance of Being Earnest, Wuthering Heights, Julius Caesar). The ones my students have liked best? Anything by Jason Reynolds, Raisin in the Sun, Gatsby (love? murder? money? parties?! all those things are still popular) and, surprisingly, The Crucible and Cyrano de Bergerac are fan favorites from last school year.

One we all hate? The Scarlet Letter. Sorry, Nathaniel Hawthorne, not sorry. I did not like that text as a student and will never like it as a teacher.

Of course, Lord of the Flies is still taught, to seniors and freshmen. I think you can make that text fun but was we discussed in that BoTM thread, the narration is a bit dry.

I am not surprised that Mary Shelley and Bram Stoker are NOT taught in schools, though. I read Frankenstein for uni and it's kinda long, like Dickens was also taught in that class... and when you're trying to teach a lot of skills like literary analysis and critical thinking in a short amount of time, in a HS course, these fantasy-ish, early Gothic texts aren't the best selection for a range of readers and non-readers. Here in the US, we'd be more likely to assign Poe than Shelley or Stoker, because he mostly wrote short stories. I love Frankenstein (the story, not the doctor, HAH, lit joke there) but I think it's best suited for an upper-level or post-secondary audience. Also that whole era of early Gothic lit and the Shelley-Byron circle is probably not very interesting to most high schoolers. Sadly.
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Old 09-06-2020, 10:31 PM   #8 (permalink)
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This is so interesting! Interesting to see what other countries read, and also to see that someone around my own age who went to school in the same country (hiiiii Nat!) read different books and had a complete different experience, too.

We read a lot of Shakespeare, in particular A Midsummer Nights Dream, Macbeth and Romeo and Juliet. I am a big Shakespeare fan and loved all of them - I particularly remember being tasked with analysing the 'love' displayed in R+J and being SO annoyed because these teenagers weren't in love. I ended up writing about their parents, and how their actions, however misguided, were to try and protect R+J because they loved their children. I got 100% in that part of the exam so I was VERY happy that the examiner wasn't annoyed .

Other books we read included, Of Mice and Men (and, yeah, Curly's glove thing is SO weird and sdfhjk why is that taught), An Inspector Calls (unpopular but I loved it), Frankenstein, the Great Gatsby, Enduring Love, The Kite Runner, 1984, The Bloody Chamber and probably a bunch of others that I can't remember off the top of my head.

I particularly loved The Bloody Chamber by Angela Carter, which was dark takes on fairytales, and The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini. That book is incredible. I remember our whole A Level class crying together because of it.

We also did poetry, which again I loved. My favourites were My Last Duchess, The Labatory and Porphyria's Lover by Robert Browning. I think these three were the beginnings of my love of poetry.
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Old 09-07-2020, 02:33 AM   #9 (permalink)
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HIII! I love the idea of this topic! I was in "honors" English all four years of high school, and I was always interested to see what we studied vs. what the "regular" English classes all studied. Sometimes it was the same books, but honestly they never really explained why some books were taught over others BUT these were ones I remember really standing out:

-My Name is Asher Lev I remember this one because it was the FIRST book I ever had to read for high school English and I vaguely recall the plot? I remember just being thrown into this assignment over the summer, being told that I had to write papers on metaphors and stuff and I had NO idea what I was doing :xD:

-We read at least one Shakespeare play a year, but I always enjoyed all of them. My favorites were Hamlet, Merchant of Venice and Much Ado About Nothing. We had to read Romeo and Juliet and I just remember HATING it and wondering why everyone loved this couple so much I still have my high school copy of Hamlet with all my notes from iambic pentameter in it!

-The Great Gatsby was the first book I actually finished NGL, that was my sophomore year. I REALLY enjoyed that one and it was the first one that caught my attention and I have actually reread since high school. I think this one was also a favorite because things like "the green light" and the eyes on the cover really helped me understand literary elements like metaphors for the first time. Like I had always remember SORT OF getting it but I really GOT it after this book.

-Being There was one I also finished cover to cover (I'm an English teacher's worst nightmare because I didn't ever finish books lol) but I remember being disappointed and feeling like there was no pay off. I do believe that was my senior year, because we were studying nihilism and stuff, I think, and it sort of goes along with that. Ethan Frome was another one that made me SO UNBELIEVABLY ANGRY with how it ended. I have met SO MANY people who hate this book so much because of the ending, it seems to be a universal experience among my area

-We read Frankenstein in school...and it was TOUGH. I definitely struggled with it and I think it was because I was in the advanced English classes, I don't recall the regular classes having to read it. It was definitely one of those books that I DID try to read (because duh, monsters) but I had to look up Cliff's Notes on it just to figure out what had happened in what I just read.

-Books I remember reading by year - I remember reading Fahrenheit 451 in freshman year English, as well as A Tale of Two Cities. I LOVED that story but reading the book was DAUNTING for a 15 year old. Sophomore year was when we read some classics like Catcher in the Rye and A Farewell to Arms (both of which featured main characters that annoyed me so much), and in Junior year we went through a huge medieval phase. So we read The Canterbury Tales and Beowulf. We also read Wuthering Heights at some point in there, as well as 1984.

-OH! Another one I really loved was Welcome to the Monkey House by Kurt Vonnegut. That was so fun to read because it was a bunch of short stories.

-Some really famous ones we DIDN'T read for some reason? Anything by Jane Austen. Literally NEVER had to read anything by her in school Also never read Lord of the Flies (but the regular English classes did). We also never really studied any poetry at all.
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Old 09-07-2020, 07:29 AM   #10 (permalink)
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This topic is actually makes me curious since English is not my native and I do remember our focus curriculum is more towards the proficiency in English, how do the school/teacher chose the book for the assignment?
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Old 09-08-2020, 02:32 PM   #11 (permalink)


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This topic is actually makes me curious since English is not my native and I do remember our focus curriculum is more towards the proficiency in English, how do the school/teacher chose the book for the assignment?
What a wonderful question! Okay, let me try not to write a novel in response. Mind you, I can only answer for what we generally do in the USA.

We're supposed to teach the ELA Standards, which are skills for students to master at the various grade levels. You'll notice that poetry is really not mentioned at all in these standards (at least at the high school level), which could be one reason it's not taught. (You also get a lot of groans when you try to make students read, interprety, and perform poetry.) In the US, we also have a national set of standards called the Common Core, which is, I suppose, controversial because local school districts also like to set their own standards for students and also controversial for other dumb reasons you can Google (I think it has to do with math, so, not my problem haha).

Now, how do we choose an appropriate text to read and use to practice these standards? Well, you have to choose wisely based on your students' abilities and your available resources. Some schools want their students to read from a classic list of canonical literature (the "dead white guys" curriculum, to put it crassly) because these texts have been around for a long time, just about all English-speakers have read them, they're critically acclaimed and complex in terms of theme, vocabulary, characterization, experimentation, and all that. Some school districts have lists of books that are banned because they don't line up with their local values, and some have lists of books they want taught because they tend to appear on standardized tests and in college literature courses.

Other schools allow their teachers the freedom to choose any books they want to teach the standards; others say they don't have the budget to buy new sets of books every year, so you have to teach from what they've already purchased; and so on and so forth. I've worked in a district where the only real stipulation was that we had to teach a research paper every year and a Shakespearean play every year. Another district I worked for had a very strict reading list because the curriculum was a purchased program we had to strictly follow. Where I teach now is free-reign, but we do have budgetary constraints to think of, and we do all try to work together to make sure that students in the same grade are generally getting the same experience even with having different teachers. We also have to be careful not to teach the same books students might have read in middle school, since a lot of k-8 schools feed in into this high school, and we can't always vertically align our instruction with so many different elementary schools.

Does that make sense so far?

You also have to consider your goals for the course as it's designed per the course catalog. For example, I teach an NCAA approved course for seniors called "European Literature and Film Studies." I can't assign The Great Gatsby for this course because it's written by an American author, and they already read that as sophomores in American Lit, and also, it doesn't fit with the goals of the course (which are to expose students to European authors, culture, and films). Instead, I kind of have to stay with the texts that were already approved when my predecessors created this course; and also, I've chosen shorter texts and more films because the students in my course are the more "average" students who aren't pushing themselves to take early college credit English their senior year. I have a huge range of abilities in one class period, so even though we're all reading the same text, we're definitely not all getting the same experience from it. Loooooool.

Alright, this explanation is already longer than I wanted, but one last thing to add is that in ELA instruction, again in the US, there's been a push to consider student interests and backgrounds as factors in text selection. One goal of education in general is to graduate good citizens. One goal, I'd say, of ELA courses is to graduate lifelong readers. So we all try to help students find a book they connect with and can identify with. This is why many of our classes include a "choice novel" unit now, with contemporary lit (like The Hate U Give, The Art of Racing in the Rain, All American Boys, etc.) for students to choose from. I think it's really important also to expose students to authors from diverse backgrounds because so much of history and literature has been whitewashed already... that educators can't continue to perpetuate that one-sided view of culture.

OK that's enough from me. Can you tell I'm passionate about my career? Hah.
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Old 09-08-2020, 07:39 PM   #12 (permalink)


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So I didn't like most of the books I was forced to read for school. I think most of that wasn't necessarily the book's fault, but that I was being forced to read it.

When I was in elementary school we read Where the Red Fern Grows and Bridge to Terabithia. Both extremely sad books lol. Those I did enjoy. That was still a time where it was mostly the teacher reading it to the class. There were a few points where we had to take a break because both teachers were crying (understandable).

I had to read Of Mice and Men, which I did not enjoy. We also read The Great Gatsby, which wasn't too bad. I'm pretty sure I also had to read To Kill a Mockingbird at one point. I know that I've read it and I think it was for school. That wasn't too bad either, I enjoyed it.

For one of my classes we had to read two books the summer before school. One of them was Lord of the Flies, which I did NOT like. For the other book we could choose off of a list. So I did read The Color Purple for school, and I thought that was a pretty good book. I also took an elective in high school about mythology and we read Lord of the Rings for that. Honestly? I didn't enjoy it. Part of that was, again, because I was being forced to read it and I hadn't chosen it. But it's also long and kind of boring. For that class we also read I am Legend, which I did think was pretty good.

I also had to read The Soloist. That story was pretty good but the book wasn't my favorite because I just didn't vibe with the way it was written? It felt more like an article than a book, and I just wasn't as into it but I know other people in my class who really enjoyed it. Finally, I remember reading Tuesdays With Morrie, which I genuinely enjoyed and would read again.
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Old 09-14-2020, 03:52 PM   #13 (permalink)




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So I hated reading as a kid, my love for reading didn't happen until I was much older. I don't really remember many books that we read and honestly no books come to mind in high school other than Romeo and Juliet, which I loved. It was probably the first play I had ever read and fell in love with.

I remember more of the books in middles school, which maybe that's why my passion for teaching hits the younger kids. I remember my teacher reading Where the Red Fern grows. I have never reread the book though it still sits on my top of the list stories. I just can't get myself to read it or any book that has animals dying. Bridge to Bridge to Terabithia was another that I remember from middle school. I know if fifth grade we read the Rats of Nimph. Eighth grade was the year I remember the most, I'm not sure why, but it is. We read Lord of the Flies and Animal Farm, I hated both of them (maybe that's why I remember so well?) The one that I loved and still have a copy today and can't wait until my kids are old enough to read it is The Outsiders. It was probably the first book that I read that I truly could say I enjoyed and wanted to keep reading.
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