Most of the reading my students do is because they have to. We are given suggestions for what to have our students read, but these are generally pretty strong suggestions. In the freshman year, our kids only read two texts, both classics. We read them because they are good literature, but the students don't know what makes them good literature, aside from the fact that they are identified as good literature.
I don't make it a secret to my students that I'm not a fan of Romeo and Juliet. What's played up as a love story is really the tale of a couple of kids in lust and making rash decisions. Romeo in particular makes some boneheaded decisions. But we read those because they are the classics. The problem is, too, that the students generally already know the story.
After yesterday's great day when I found out the students were excited to begin our last unit, I was worried that perhaps I'd set the bar too high for actually reading the book. Today we actually read from The Hunger Games.
It was nothing like reading Romeo and Juliet or The Odyssey. You could have heard a pin drop in the room as I read the chapter aloud. Normally, I have to walk around and make sure that they are turning the pages with me and following along. Today, the problem was that many of them were trying to read ahead. Indeed, instead of having to keep them on the right page, I heard quick page turns just as I reached the bottom of each page.
As the chapter ended with a cliff hanger, many of my students gasped and then realized we were done reading for the day. We still had to do our closing and collect the books, but most of the students were outraged at this suggestion. "NO! We can't stop here! Please! Just a little further!"
Sorry guys, we have to save some of it for tomorrow. I caught one of my second period kids trying to sneak into my fifth period just to read more of the book.
Why am I telling you this story? To get the point across that reading age appropriate, contemporary literature definitely has a place in education. Reading the classics is fine, but we need to spice it up with fresher books every now and again. My students were genuinely surprised that they can enjoy a book assigned for class. Some of them seemed to be attempting to dislike the book purely because they were supposed to read it, however their enthusiasm still came through.
This is going to be a fun seven weeks.