Instruction & Curriculum

The Quest for the “Perfect” World Literature Book

I’ve been on summer break for almost three weeks. I’ve done a lot in that time: visited my parents, worked on a county curriculum review, started reading some professional development books, etc. There is still data training looming at the end of my break. Such fun!
I only have about four weeks left before pre-planning starts so I’m starting to think about the next school year. In keeping with tradition, I am continuing as the main World Literature teacher at my school. (I have taught this course for the last 3.5 years.) I love the class as it allows me to blend my roots in Social Studies with my love of literature. However, I struggle with finding the best literature to bring to my students. The one text that I keep on my list is Elie Wiesel’s Night. My students always end up loving this text, even if it breaks their hearts. It leaves them changed, so I will continue to teach this. Unfortunately, I haven’t found a second or third text that connects with my students.
Fortunately, as long as I stick to the requirements of the standards, I get some leeway in the texts I choose for my classroom. In the past, I have had mild success with Othello, Things Fall Apart, Persepolis, and the podcast, Serial. I just can’t get the same spark as I get with Night. So, what do I do? How do I find books that allow my students to be engaged and curious? (I think we all have that question in some form or fashion.)
My Criteria To Find THE Book (In Three Parts)
Relevant- I teach in a district that is part suburb/part rural. I have students from almost every walk of life. The world they live in is ever changing and difficult. Just this past year, I have had so many conversations with individual students about racism, sexism, Black Lives Matter, prejudice, the #metoo movement, human rights, March for Our Lives, etc. Most of the time, it’s just me listening to their concerns. I would love literature that helps them develop their beliefs and help them become free-thinking individuals.
Diversity- So many books that are “required” in literature are written by old, white dead men. While some are extremely important (Shakespeare, Lord of the Flies, 1984,) my students are not just of one ethnic background. We are a very diverse school both in ethnicity, sexuality, and political beliefs. The books the kids want need to reflect them in some way.
Reading Levels- I have to consider this since many of my students are reading below a 10th-grade level. We take a reading inventory at the beginning and end of the semester, but some students don’t take it seriously. Most of the time, I have to go on old levels based on their 9th grade EOC. My goal is to raise the reading levels of my students. However, I can’t do that all at once. Do I find a book that will meet most of the levels, or do I allow for more choice in small reading groups? How can I help all of my students while reading?
There are so many questions and ideas that it is hard to narrow it done. I just need direction as embark on this massive quest!
What do you think? Let me know in the comments, on Twitter (@EdTechieSarah), or via email ([email protected])

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