Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The Sounds of Reading

A lot of my students tell me they don't like to read. I tell them that's impossible, they just haven't been reading the right books. They scoff, but I bet them they'll like the books we read in class. That's one of the great challenges of teaching 8th grade English, choosing books that even the most resistant readers will love.

I'm currently reading two such books with my students, and I'm having a blast sharing them with the kids.

My two advanced classes are reading The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. This is one of my favorite books of all time, and if you haven't read this one, I highly recommend making it your next book. The aspiring writer in me marvels at what Zuzak did with language in this book. At 550 pages, there was some initial whining about the size of the book. As we read the prologue, I could hear the kids being hooked in their silence. After we read the first few chapters, one of the girls said the book was like poetry. There was much enthusiastic agreement around the room, and I had to admit, I couldn’t have said it better myself.   

My other three classes are reading The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. If you haven't read this book, you really should. Twenty-four teenagers are thrown into an arena and forced to fight to the death, the whole thing broadcast on live TV. My students are literally begging me to skip everything else so we can read the entire period. The kids follow along in their copies as I read aloud, and the sound of 25 kids turning the page in unison stirs this English teacher's heart. When we stop to discuss what's going on, kids who don't normally participate in class are answering questions and making predictions. I joke with them that they actually sound like they know what's going on. One boy told me last week that this is the first book he’s ever liked. That's the best sound of them all.

13 comments:

  1. Absolutely loved The Book Thief!

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  2. I bet your students would like the Japanese novel - Battle Royale written by Koushun Takami.

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  3. I find it thrilling that you are thrilled with thrilling teens. An inspired teacher is an inspiration.
    Keep up the good work, they will remember you.

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  4. Way cool Tim! Now you need to introduce them to the Zombie series ~ T loved "Pride and Prejudice and Zombies."

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  5. I wish all teachers were as invested as you are in yoru students. We all remember the best ones and you will definitely be remembered.

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  6. Thanks for your comments on the kids Tim, some of my 10th graders when I taught were proud of the fact they had never read a book, nothing more complex than the Burge King menu, kind of sad.

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  7. dbs: It's a great one alright.

    Laoch: Thanks for the suggestion-always looking for new books to read with my students.

    Munk: I, in turn, am thrilled that you're thrilled-thanks man.

    Nubian: Oh man, Zombies!

    Nari: Very kind of you to say.

    David: The number of kids proud of their ignorance these days can be daunting, but I just keep plugging away.

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  8. The Hunger Games is really taking the publishing world by storm. What a great book.

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  9. What a great thing to do in inspiring youngsters to become passionate about reading. I'm off to get The Hunger Games ......

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  10. Great post! The Hunger Games continues to haunt me. I had to put it aside for a month or two and decide if I liked it before going on to the rest of the series. I finally decided I liked it because the writing is amazing: not one word too many or too few. I also loved how the characters found ways to make their own choices when it seemed all their options had been taken away. My kids loved the book but weren't nearly as disturbed by it as I was.

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  11. That is awesome. Those are both such excellent books! Lucky students! :)

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  12. That is music to my ears!!!
    I love reading and love seeing my kids read. Gotta make a note of these books.
    Thanks.

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  13. Wow - I'm really impressed with this 8th grade reading list. Most teachers stick to the classics, or at least tried and true. Just shows that the right read can pull anyone into literature. And once they're there...magic! ;)

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