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Literature Outside the Classroom

Education Expert Advice from Barbara Callaghan

Q: I attended middle and high school in the 60's and treasure the memories of reading/discussing assigned books like Beowolf, A Separate Peace, Tale of Two Cities, Catcher in the Rye, Lord of the Flies, Moby Dick, The Scarlet Letter, etc. I recently reviewed the reading curriculum in our school district and was very distressed that very few of the "classic" books were included other than on recommended lists. If I want to read these with my children, where can I find discussion guidelines? Also, what current literature "replaces" these books?

A: The "classic" list of books is changing in response to community demands. No longer do teachers make a reading list and give assignments. There are now "safeguards" in place so that no one will be offended by the selection. In most cases teachers are given a list of approved books and they can make choices from that list. Often a teacher can request approval for a book that is not on the list. Books that depict racism, vulgarity, violence or an alternative life style are offensive to many people and consequently many school districts have had to eliminate what used to be considered required reading.

There are books in the public libraries that are specifically designed to be used as discussion guidelines. They are located in the 800 section and are a critical analysis of most of the classics. You will find this section very helpful.

Each school district has their own list of books. Contact the local school and ask for the current list. You might also check the date it was last changed.

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After teaching in California for nearly ten years, Barbara Callaghan moved to New Hampshire in 1985 and became a principal. After 10 years as a principal, she returned to teaching, her first love and true vocation.


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