Thursday, October 1, 2015

High School Reading Lists

By the time is actually hits the blog, I'll be a fully enrolled trainee high school teacher. However, as I've been spending the past few weeks preparing for what's to come, I've been reflecting on my own high school experience and how many books read through the curriculum made me want to read.

Firstly, as a disclaimer, I should say I was lucky to have wonderful English teachers throughout High School and further study. Without my GCSE English teacher, I'm not too sure where I would be right now. Thankfully, the department was full of fantastic teachers who always recommended books outside of the curriculum. And, as always, I can only comment on the high school experience in England.

When I look back at the books set through the KS3 years (11,12 and 13 year olds), not one book stands out to me. Looking back, I cannot think of a single female character that inspired me at all. I remember reading one book that had a secondary female character that was sent way for getting pregnant as a teen and the baby was kept contained in the basement and was called "Abomination." I know that if I reread it I would probably find great things about it, but it gives me chills on what I remember of it from reflection.

GCSE English wasn't much better. Between the horrific depiction of disability in Of Mice and Men and how overused Romeo and Juliet has become, I was engaged but frustrated with the texts that were set. I remember my teacher giving me copies of Maya Aneglou's I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings and envying those who got to be taught this as part of the syllabus. Poetry was the only saving grace and the only fond memory of texts I truly loved. Poets such as Sophie Hannah and Carol Ann Duffy were brought alive with wit and wisdom and led me stumbling down the rabbit hole into a world of literature I adore.

Children's Literacy is hugely important and I can't help but think that the curriculum often barricades them from being able to enjoy literature or even find material that they will like. As book bloggers, we are constantly being made aware of new titles and new authors exploring issues that either our children can relate to or can appreciate due to being able to connect with a voice which doesn't alienate them from the text. And maybe schools should start introducing texts that have more relevance to children's lives, books that seem popular within peer groups and books that might just spark an interest for children to engage with literature - capital L or not - outside of the classroom. Schools are doing great by using books such as A Curious Incident of a Dog in The Night Time or The Fault in our Stars, but it's time to expand. 
My younger brother is dyslexic, has often been in low ability groups and moans proudly that he hates reading and doesn't see the point reading when you can watch the film. I've spent many years trying to convince him other wise, but when it comes to material on the curriculum, I cannot argue. 

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