Which novels would you recommend for adults whose reading skills lag?

Reply Sun 10 Apr, 2011 09:44 am
Several years ago, an educator announced that elementary school students who read 10 books during the summer will raise their reading ability one grade level.

I teach developmental writing at a community college. I also had a conversation with an administrator from one of the remaining "Seven Sisters" who spoke of reviewing transfer applications from community college students. She worked with an English professor. While she concentrated on the stories the student essays told, he focused on their reading level. He continually said, "This kid can't read on the high school level."

This semester, I listened to one earnest student struggle with a book of essays, called 75 Readings. She never understood what she was reading.

I would like to put together a list of novels -- not the novels taught in 500 level classes -- that are well written, interesting and easy to read without being too pop culture.

I was thinking of Rebecca rather than Jane Eyre; Gone with the Wind; The Good Earth.

I would also like to include books that might appeal to men, which, drawing on my experience with every man I ever knew well, means science fiction.
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High Seas
Reply Sun 10 Apr, 2011 09:59 am
Would identical criteria apply to foreign students - who presumably know advanced concepts already, just haven't the English words - and to those whose "reading skills lag" due to some adverse genetic or environmental influence? Seems to me the first lot would be better served reading the local newspaper.
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Reply Sun 10 Apr, 2011 09:59 am
As a big generalization, many men also like non-fiction; biographies, histories, etc.
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Reply Sun 10 Apr, 2011 10:19 am
Some considerations: interests of the reader, background of the reader, age, etc.

I know you work with people learning English as a second language. I have a bunch of books that are written for or about people of different cultural backgrounds.

Lawrence Yep writes about Chinese immigrants in San Francisco. He writes for different levels of readers. One called The Earth Dragon Awakes is written for a younger audience while Dragonwings is written for those a little older.

Deborah Ellis writes short novels about the experiences of a young woman in Afghanistan. The Breadwinner and Parvana's Journey are two I have.

Sandra Cisneros wrote a novel about growing up Latina in Chicago. It's called The House on Mango Street.

Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston wrote a book about being sent to a Japanese internment camp in America during WWII.

Maureen Wartski wrote about a Japanese American family in Candle in the Wind.

Yoko Kawashima Watkins writes about a Japanese-Korean family being uprooted when N Korea split for S Korea.

Linda Sue Park tells the tale of a Korean boy in the 12th century in the novel A Single Shard.

I don't imagine you have many Japanese students, but even those books might be a good access point for Asian language speakers.
Reply Sun 10 Apr, 2011 10:20 am
Sinple, easy, good story and relatively short.

Of Mice and Men--then watch the movie.

Reply Sun 10 Apr, 2011 11:05 am
I'm assuming these individuals are aware of their reading shortcomings and hopefully won't take offense in what seemingly might be initially patronizing suggestions. I'm trying to avoid novels that would sound patronizing and would be immediately associated with high school English class. Clearly I'm not fairing well in the memory department.

How about novels like The Count of Monte Cristo? Or the Vietnam era crime novel Dog Soldiers by Robert Stone? Or the unorthodox murder mystery set in India, The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga.

Then the Millennium Trilogy by Stieg Larsson, though at times a difficult to read series (not academically but content wise) is an utterly fascinating series.
Reply Sun 10 Apr, 2011 11:19 am

Everything by Dumas, James Fenimore Cooper,
Ivanhoe by Scott

Don't leave out the westerns -
Zane Grey
Louis L'amour - I think I read everything he wrote while I was a teenager.
Reply Sun 10 Apr, 2011 11:29 am
Id extend the list of Steinvecks novels that rap sted, to include several more.

Id also include several by Twain including
Tom Sawyer, and
Huckelberry Finn
Roughing IT
Innocents Abroad

These are several books that are very approachable and are read and understood on several levels that, as your students repair their reading skills, they will see the levels quite easily.

Id look for books like that.
Id include several adventure and science books too
VOYAGE of theBEAGLE (really god travelogue and an insight into one persons way of analyzing things. )

Reply Sun 10 Apr, 2011 11:32 am
There is a charming set of novels by William Mcaull SMith about a "Lady detective in Botswana"
They are very quickly read and are about virtues and vices thatalways get punished.
The series is about 7 books now and it started under
cicerone imposter
Reply Sun 10 Apr, 2011 11:52 am
littlek, If you enjoy Korean drama, go to mysoju.com; they also have Asian shows and dramas, but my wife and some of her family and friends are hooked on Korean shows. My wife is glued to the tv every day, and if she has other engagements, she'll record them to watch later. She's an addict, and has a whole library of Korean shows on CD.
Reply Sun 10 Apr, 2011 12:07 pm
@cicerone imposter,
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Reply Sun 10 Apr, 2011 12:15 pm
Though I haven't read a single one of them, the series is now upto 12 book Farmerman.
The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency (1998)
Tears Of The Giraffe (2000)
Morality for Beautiful Girls (2001)
The Kalahari Typing School for Men (2002)
The Full Cupboard of Life (2004)
In The Company of Cheerful Ladies (2004 - also known as The Night-Time Dancer)
Blue Shoes and Happiness (2006)
The Good Husband of Zebra Drive (2007)
The Miracle at Speedy Motors (2008)
Tea Time for the Traditionally Built (2009)
The Double Comfort Safari Club (2010)
The Saturday Big Tent Wedding Party (2011)
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Green Witch
Reply Sun 10 Apr, 2011 12:44 pm
I taught ESL and literacy for many years. I recommend you stick to young adult type fiction. I find most people learning to read english enjoy classics like Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Little House in the Big Woods, Charlotte's Web, The Lion, Witch, & the Wardrobe, The Phantom Tollbooth etc. The writing is good, the vocabulary appropriate and the stories are entertaining and fast moving. You can bump them up into teen fiction if these become too easy.
Reply Sun 10 Apr, 2011 01:27 pm
@Green Witch,
Maybe, but where would the sense of overall accomplishment come from. "I just read Charlottes Web"
Green Witch
Reply Sun 10 Apr, 2011 01:44 pm
If they can't read at a high school level as Pom suggests, than Charlotte's Web is the level they are at. I'm suggesting they start with such a book and work their way up.
Reply Sun 10 Apr, 2011 04:12 pm
@Green Witch,
Youre probably right but I feel that they should strive harder .
Ive seen Charlottes Web and I think its more pre adolescent
Green Witch
Reply Sun 10 Apr, 2011 04:21 pm
Okay, I will bow to that logic. Anyone suggest The Hobbit?
Reply Sun 10 Apr, 2011 04:33 pm
Illiterate adults aren't generally unintelligent. Consider the barricades the reading able don't consider that the illiterate must surmount constantly. It takes a keen mind and a good memory not to be able to read in today's culture.

Don't short sell these people by giving them children's stories--use graphic interpretations of adult stories. BTW some may be dyslexic use learning methods that address that.

Reply Sun 10 Apr, 2011 04:59 pm
reading for men? Why does it matter what they read as long as they enjoy it.

Mandingo, Kyle Onstott. Others in that genre like Drum.

Readers letters, from playboy magazine. (I never believed the stories here until one day.....)
The limited vocab should be an advatage there. I'm half seriouse about that if you could swing that past admin.
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Reply Sun 10 Apr, 2011 05:05 pm
I do try to work with the interests of my 101 students. At the beginning of the semester, I give them a list of 8 books. Students are supposed to work in small groups of 3 - 5. The book is supposed to form the basis for two papers: their research paper and a compare and contrast essay.

This semester, the books were Ever Since Darwin by Stephen Jay Gould (which turned out to be too challenging for the four students who selected it); Brave New World; Nineteen Eighty-Four; Frederick Douglass' first autobiography; a collection of short stories by Eudora Welty; Twelfth Night; a collection of love poems and one more that has escaped my mind.

I actually had a Japanese student: a forty year old woman who was very literate in Japanese but struggled with English verbs.

Your list sounds good. Do you find Latinos are interested in Latin-American writers? I had my SPED students in Arlington read a Gary Soto novel which never interested them.

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