Everyone has some taste in books, whether it ranges from nonfiction to complete fantasy, but what about books given to students by their teachers? English teachers assign readings based on their lesson plans, and there are many opinions about reading these books for class and assignments.
In BSGE, books that are read by many students this year include Of Mice and Men, To Kill a Mockingbird, The Things They Carried, The Metamorphosis, The Sailor Who Fell From Grace With The Sea, and Black Boy. In books such as these, students are expected to read closely and keep in mind specific aspects of the story that are beneficial to finding the meanings or the theme of the book. Depending on the teacher, there may be quizzes or assignments based on it as well, and possibly a final assignment once the class has finished reading the book. Many English teachers have different views on how they feel the curriculum based books can help students, and what they can do with them during the course of the year. Ms. Kumar, the English teacher for the 8th grade, says that reading curriculum based books, “Help students review literary features seen in the book, and also introduce themes and topics that they may encounter in their daily lives or in the future.” Additionally, in her 9th grade English class, Ms. Meisler says, “This year I’ve allowed my students to read The Things They Carried, however, some years we switch it around and read other books before moving into poetry.” Other English teachers similarly switch around the books that were read and use them to introduce important aspects of literature.
The majority of younger students enjoy the books they read or have read in their class. Janice Ng ’21 said, “So far, To Kill a Mockingbird is a book about two kids, Scout and Jem, who grow up in Maycomb, Alabama, and observe the changes as they grow. I liked the book so far, and I think that in our class we use parts of the book with SCASIEs, which help us understand literary features of the book.” To Kill a Mockingbird teaches students to find and understand the purpose of literary features, which adds to the merit of the curriculum based books. Additionally, Lia Papafloratos ’20 takes a liking to the book that she had read in her English class. “The Things They Carried is about a soldier who partook in the Vietnam War. What I liked about the book was that we were able to learn a different style of writing from the theme of ‘story truth’ and ‘truth truth,’ which is a contrast of what the writer writes as actually true and what was claimed to be true to create an effect to the reader based on it.” Other freshmen agreed, generally saying that their opportunity to see this style of writing in conjunction with literary elements allowed them to enjoy the book and also learn something from it.
Older students also have positive feelings about their assigned books. Erik Karhen ’19 read and enjoyed The Metamorphosis, saying, “I think the book is about the relationship in a family and how people are taken advantaged of but still remain blind to it, and how this changes over time. I think this book was extremely interesting and had some dark humor.” Erik also mentioned that the book allows for him to see how the text changes based on the translation of the book, as it was originally German. He added that the different cultures and backgrounds of the people are made clear and shows the realism in what people may go through them. Finally, Sakina Ali ’17 said, “Black Boy is the autobiography of Richard Wright, an African American writer, and his experiences growing up in the Jim Crow South. It starts off with a mischievous young boy Wright setting fire to his childhood home and continues on with small anecdotes that describes his strict religious household until he ends up moving to the North and joining the Community Party. I think the novel is an extremely enlightening and intriguing novel that delivers a unique perspective to the Jim Crow era. It is also very well written and interesting to read.”
In all different grades, assigned English books not only let students read a book of their grade level, it also lets them learn about literary elements and realism in the setting of the book. Sakina Ali added that “I think most of the books helped with my English skills now that I am looking at it in hindsight, although I don’t believe I did when I was reading them, but my teachers had a large part in it as they knew how to guide the ideas that came with the books and emphasized the essential parts.” Since these books are at a high school level, students may take away more than what is always learned from the books, which could be literary features or theme. While these are dominant things to get from given books for class, any book can be analyzed more so that more ideas sprout from literary features, which ultimately contribute to a deeper understanding and liking to the books given in the classroom.