Thursday, July 18, 2013

The Classics

So…what makes a piece of literature a Classic?

This is a tough one for me. Many of The Greats are extremely well written, the language beautiful and poetic and the settings are often exotic and intriguing, but often the plot is garbage. Not something I really want my children reading about. Take for instance Catcher in the Rye. A classic to be sure. Well written to be sure, but the plot? Garbage. Pure trash. Do I have my daughters read it to be culturally literate? Everyone’s heard of Catcher in the Rye. Will it hinder them to not know the story? I guess we’ll see.

After much thought and research, I’ve decided on these books for my 11th grader. I’m having her start early because she has a pretty tough schedule next year, including a college English class.

The List…

To Kill a Mockingbird
The Scarlet Letter
Lord of the Flies
Animal Farm
The Diary of Anne Frank
A Separate Peace
The Island of Dr. Moreau
Fast Food Nation
The Picture of Dorian Grey
Jane Eyre
Heart of Darkness
Hound of the Baskervilles 

This is the list for my 9th grader. It is not finished yet. I’m still compiling her book list but so far I know she’ll read these along with her sister…

Hound of the Baskervilles
Diary of Anne Frank
To Kill a Mockingbird
Lord of the Flies (I think we’re going to listen to this one all together. I personally hate this book and would have left it off the list, but they have asked to read it, so I’m going to endure it with them.)

One thing I have learned about teaching Literature to my children is to NOT rely on my own memory. I remember reading and loving many books as a child, but when I went back through them with my own kids, I realized either a lot of it went right over my head or I simply forgot a lot! 

Take A Light in the Forrest, for instance. GREAT book. It gives a really good insight into that time period and what it was like for Native Americans, and the settlers, and how hard it was to integrate the two cultures. HOWEVER, it’s a bit disturbing for  the early elementary years when I read it to my girls! I remember LOVING that book in about 5th grade, but it was much darker and more disturbing than I remembered. If I’d pre read or remembered correctly, I would have waited a few more years to introduce that one.

So it’s a little more complicated that just grabbing a grade level book list off the internet somewhere and handing it off to the kids. I want them to be culturally literate, and I want them to enjoy great, classic literature, but I also want to have them reading books that as a whole, are worthy of their time. If the setting is amazing, and the writing is stellar, and the book is very well known and often discussed, but the plot, the very story, is ignoble, dishonorable, and corrupt why would I want my children reading it? 

This truly is a conundrum for me. I want my children to be highly educated and well read, but if, ‘Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things’  is our guideline, well that shines a new light on things. 

So, any classics you'd definitely recommend? Avoid?

1 comment:

Brenda Christmas said...

I hated "Lord of the Flies" too! I managed to escape reading it for 49 years, and then my daughter had to read it for an online class. And that really meant that I had to read it to her (she is special needs) so that I could be certain she understood it and could pass the test.

The only classics I like are the ones with happy endings ...

(P.S. I found your blog while searching for a recent homeschool article about 5 ways to ruin your kids--which doesn't appear to be anywhere in your blog! But since I was here anyway, I just started reading ... I really ought to get back to my research ...)