Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Top Ten Tuesday (1)

Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created at The Broke and the Bookish. I will not be participating in every Top Ten Tuesday, but I was really interested in this list. I really struggled with creating this list. When I say I really struggled, I mean to say that I spent maybe 3-5 hours of thinking about what to put on this list. I realized that I was thinking about it in many ways. Are these books that teenagers should read now, books that helped me when I was a teenager, books that are so good that I still read/want to become a writer etc. The list ended up looking something like this:

Any William Shakespeare

To Kill a Mockingbird-Harper Lee

The Catcher in the Rye- J.D. Salinger

Harry Potter Series- J.K. Rowling

The Giver- Lois Lowry

History Textbook? World/European/U.S.

Graphic Novel –Perhaps Maus?

The Hunger Games Series- Suzanne Collins

Sloppy Firsts- Megan McCafferty

13 Reasons Why- Jay Asher

There's no way I would be able to number them. Quite eclectic I know. I started looking at the lists of other bloggers who had already updated and I found one that put into words what I can only think of. I also consider myself to be an English teacher. I’ve been subbing for two years and applying for anything I can find in the area that I live. Maybe this list was so hard for me to put together because I see so many types of students roll through the doors and they all latch on to different things. Anyway, I am posting the entire blog post from What She Read because she hits the nail on the head for this discussion. At least for me…sorry if this is cheating.

Taken from What She Read

“This week's Top 10 from The Broke And The Bookish challenged me mightily, and I want to tell you why: I'm an English teacher (and many other things as well), and the longer I teach, the more I feel that a cavalier answer to this question could be quite damaging. Why?
• Although all of us continue developing throughout our lives, teens follow particularly unpredictable and varied paths of psychological and intellectual development. This broad spectrum of skills and behaviors makes recommending any single tome problematic at best.
• Each teen comes from a different family, cultural, and religious (or non-religious) background, and these combine to influence readiness for increasingly mature or diverse or challenging content.
• Many teens are regularly in crisis about one aspect or another of their lives, and while the right book at the right time can offer solace and wisdom or even simply a much-needed temporary escape from their turmoil, even a book "every teen should read" can be an unwelcome catalyst or escalator for intense emotional dramas at this stage in their lives.
All that said, here's what I think every teen - every human being who graduates high school on this planet at this time - should read, and read critically, and think about significantly, and talk with others - preferably non-like-minded others - about, and commit to returning to at least once a decade, preferably more:

1. The founding documents of her or his country, especially those that set the guiding philosophy, structure, and ethics of his/her government. Understanding the foundations allows each citizen to support, critique, and even strive to revise the fundamental ideology of that citizen's country.

2. The foundational texts of all major world religions. Without understanding, there is zero potential for true dialogue, let alone collaboration or peace.

3. The major artworks of every major world culture. Yes, I hold that artworks are texts, and that they're produced in cultural contexts - even when they fight against them - and that great art from every culture inspires awe and transcendence. It's a gateway to understanding.

4. The seminal stories (myths, folktales, fairy tales) of major world cultures. (See above for rationale.)

5. The most beautiful and powerful poems of major world cultures. (See above for rationale.)

6. The great films and plays of major world cultures. (See above for rationale.)

7. At least a few of the works - of whatever genre - that his/her parents, siblings, and other relatives treasure. The teen needn't love these or agree with them, but - again - knowledge may at least lead to understanding.

8. Twilight. Kidding. So kidding.

I know, I'm begging many questions: What's a major world culture? What's beautiful? What's powerful? What's great? How much analysis is necessary to understand a text? These questions are up for debate, no doubt, and so worth consistently, vigilantly discussing and revisiting and adjusting every year, every month if possible. Every parent, teacher, and friend of teenagers should be doing that, if we really care about them.

And, I know that minority opinions can be incredibly liberating, often surpassing the dominant ideas in a culture. But I'll wager that the strongest foundation for responsibly championing any idea - minority or otherwise - is understanding the dominant cultural forces.

But beyond the "should reads", and perhaps more importantly, we must help teens determine the "next great read" for each of them, individually. It's our obligation, I suspect, and not an simple one - be we teachers, parents, friends, siblings - to help teens learn how to make wise choices on their own personal reading paths, and to know when & how to seek out conversation and support when they happen upon a challenging text that they can't quite process on their own...”


  1. Thanks for the shout-out here, and I'm glad that you wrestle with these questions too. And trust me, I don't feel that I've got the 'right' answers, not at all. However, I do follow my own directive by revisiting the questions implied by my responses often. As a colleague, I'm heartened to see that you too struggle with these concerns: reflection about important and perennial issues w/in one's discipline is a key element of professional excellence, so this bodes well for your future students!

  2. Thanks for the response. It honestly made my day to read what your original post was. I didn't feel so alone.