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

 
 
boomerang
 
  2  
Reply Thu 14 Apr, 2011 06:57 pm
@plainoldme,
Okay, I've got to ask. This is a question that has always made me crazy about classes that assign reading lists and your list really made me wonder about it again:

Is the goal to make them read books that you think are good for them to read or to get them to enjoy reading?

Because honestly, your list, as are most lists of "good for you books", is completely snore inducing.

I'm an avid reader from a family of rabid readers. I've read many of the books on your list. I wouldn't ask someone who didn't like to read/wasn't a good reader to read any of them if I were trying to get them to read for pleasure or simply get interested in reading.

Most "good" books require a commitment by the reader to slog through some introductory bits to get to the meat of the story. If someone isn't used to reading they aren't going to make that commitment unless they're forced to.

If you want to make me hate a book all you have to do is force me to read it.

Just my opinion, others may differ.

talk72000
 
  1  
Reply Thu 14 Apr, 2011 07:03 pm
@plainoldme,
Han Suyen or Suyin is Chinese writer whose works include "Love is a Many Splendid Thing" starring William Holden, Jennifer Jones. Pearl S Buck, Edgar Rice Burroughs who wrote Tarzan series, Agatha Christie for mysteries "Murder in the River Nile".
0 Replies
 
electronicmail
 
  -1  
Reply Thu 14 Apr, 2011 07:16 pm
@boomerang,
I agree. I think even the title here is condescending
Which novels would you recommend for adults whose reading skills lag?

Lag behind what? What have they read so far? What did they like?

There's got to be a clue in that info. It's significant it never occurred to OP to even ask them.
OP's list is "I know what's good for you and I can't be bothered to even think about asking about your opinions"

Yeah like, take a hike, sister, would be my reply. I'll bet their reply too.
boomerang
 
  0  
Reply Thu 14 Apr, 2011 07:48 pm
@electronicmail,
I agree with you. I think that's what osso was getting at too. And Green Witch, maybe, at the beginning of the thread.

I don't want to pick on this thread or plainoldme because I see a lot of threads like this (here and elsewhere) that seem to be asking "how can I best show the "dumb" kids how dumb they are?".

To me it seems very self defeating.

Thomas made a great point: give them a short story they can succeed with. Others made similar points.

Ahhhh well......

As a reader who lives with people who don't enjoy reading this is a topic near and dear to my heart.
plainoldme
 
  0  
Reply Thu 14 Apr, 2011 10:37 pm
@boomerang,
Ah, a lot to address here.

Did I say this before: that I want to give each of my classes a list of books to read to help them bring up their reading levels? Frankly, they either avoid reading or read the material, then come to class and say, "I don't get it."

Did I say that a few years back, there was a widely made statement which was probably that year's fad, that a child who read 10 books during the summer break would raise their reading level by a grade?

I think if these students do not read with greater comprehension, they will drop out.

I thought I made it clear that the idea of this list is just to pass out a summer reading list.

There are things I liked about the way my high school did summer reading lists. A few pages with titles and authors were given us. Everyone had the same list. As there were up to four pages, there could have been 200 titles. The size makes sense as we had to read six books during the break.

One summer, I picked a book called April Snow. I hated it. It was a complete waste of time. I complained to one of the English teachers who told me that the faculty (Catholic nuns all) didn't want to evaluate the books. They just wanted us not to wander aimlessly around the library. (I suspect that because they were Catholic nuns that they didn't want us reading material with sex in it!)

Now, the list that I have put together contains many suggestions from this thread. I haven't read some of them. When I say I can't read mysteries/spy novels/ detective fiction, I can't. About 30 years ago, several people -- none of whom knew each others -- made me a project. They were determined to make me fan. They kept giving me books. I was never able to read any of them. When I say I can't read them, I am not condemning them.

Hey, most of the time, the words mean what they mean. There is no connotation here, just denotation. ALl I am saying is give peace a chance . . . ok . . . all I am saying is I can't read them. I'll include them. I want a round list.

Some of the books that I threw in, I did because I was fond of them.

What am I saying? I liked this, you might like it. I didn't like this but you might.

Frankly, These Happy Golden YEars is close -- in terms of plot -- to April Snow. It may be I liked the Wilder's book because I read it at a time in my life when I had to follow rules and read YA books. I hated April Snow because I read it at a time when I demanded more from a book.

In my teens, I wanted more guidance than my teachers wanted to give me. From the perspective of 60+ years, I can see that just creating a list -- it wasn't even alphabetized! -- probably by brain-storming --and giving it to all the students is a better teaching than this is:

http://mail.winchester.k12.ma.us/~english/Reading

I feel that many of my students are dependent enough to want a list. If I can give them 50 or so titles and suggest they read 6 to 10, perhaps, that is the best thing I can do for them.
plainoldme
 
  1  
Reply Thu 14 Apr, 2011 10:53 pm
@electronicmail,
I would put half of them at the sixth grade level which is why I think it is crucial that they increase their comprehension.

Quote:
Yeah like, take a hike, sister, would be my reply. I'll bet their reply too.


And what is your background? What is the matter with you?

To not do this would be telling them I hate them and for them to take a hike.

I would be neglecting my responsibility.

Besides, just because you are crude is no reason to suggest that everyone else is.

This is a project for which I have been given enthusiastic support from people who are frustrated and upset because these adults -- ranging in age from 17 to 40 -- weren't educated.

It is true that most of them want to succeed. Many think they will succeed just be being in school.

They won't. One student complained that I gave him a C+ for his mid-term grade. He thought he deserved an A or A-. He writes run-on sentences. He misunderstands the meaning of what he reads. The students do impromptu writings in class based on their readings. The impromptus are graded on a scale of 1 to 5 with 5 being the highest. The 38 year old woman whose struggle with reading inspired this idea is like Sisyphus, pushing her lack of understanding before her. She is a high school drop out. She wants a degree and she wants it in three years. Unless she takes some time off to improve her reading, she will not get what she wants.

So, you can come here without any background, without any understanding of what I am doing and insult me all you want. You are wrong. I will do this, because I have an obligation to do it. The obligation is to me. It is to them.

plainoldme
 
  1  
Reply Thu 14 Apr, 2011 11:02 pm
@boomerang,
Quote:
I agree with you. I think that's what osso was getting at too. And Green Witch, maybe, at the beginning of the thread.

I don't want to pick on this thread or plainoldme because I see a lot of threads like this (here and elsewhere) that seem to be asking "how can I best show the "dumb" kids how dumb they are?".

To me it seems very self defeating.


It is almost 1:00 AM and I need to bathe before going to be and getting up at 6.

So thank you.

If you want me to gossip, I will.

But I think that this thread, which started out being helpful . . . has turned petty.

One of the things I see happening in middle and high schools is that kids are dragging the curriculum down. Teachers often become worn out by their students and give up and allow the reading of a single book to go on for months. I suspect some of these students were in schools where the same thing happened.

Have you seen a college writing text recently. They come pre-highlighted. You want to see something that insults the intelligence of the student? Those books do.
Quote:
Thomas made a great point: give them a short story they can succeed with. Others made similar points.


And what was my response? I cut and pasted an interesting story that they didn't get. They did not enjoy it. You never know what they will enjoy.

0 Replies
 
plainoldme
 
  1  
Reply Thu 14 Apr, 2011 11:04 pm
@msolga,
Quote:
ust a thought, POM.
Would it be helpful to your students if they could listen to an audio recording & read the book at the same time? (I realize that not all books would be available on audio, or that this could get expensive.)


This is to be a summer reading list. This is not a class room project.
plainoldme
 
  1  
Reply Thu 14 Apr, 2011 11:05 pm
@Finn dAbuzz,
I put The Good Earth on my list.
0 Replies
 
plainoldme
 
  1  
Reply Thu 14 Apr, 2011 11:09 pm
I went back and reread my opening post. While I should have finished the anecdote about the two people reading transfer application with this sentence -- They could not accept a single student because the applicants demonstrated low reading levels -- I said everything I wanted to say in an unambiguous manner.
0 Replies
 
msolga
 
  2  
Reply Thu 14 Apr, 2011 11:13 pm
@plainoldme,
Oh, OK.
Obviously I haven't read your initial post anywhere near closely enough.

But I still believe that's a great classroom strategy. Smile

As to summer reading, which the students would undertake without the support of their teacher .... that's a tougher one, by sure.

How to motivate those students to read in their own time, some of whom probably loathe reading & find it a chore at the best of times, anyway?

Good luck!
plainoldme
 
  1  
Reply Thu 14 Apr, 2011 11:16 pm
@msolga,
I'm doing this for the ones that are trying but not succeeding. When a 38 year old high school drop out wants a degree and demonstrates a strong work ethic but hasn't a clue how to get what she wants, it is my duty to help her because I see what her problem is.
msolga
 
  4  
Reply Thu 14 Apr, 2011 11:23 pm
@plainoldme,
Then I would start with books (& magazines, etc) on subjects that really interest the individual students, POM.
Even if the material they read over summer isn't "great literature", or anything like that ....
It doesn't matter.
The more reading they do the better, to feel more at ease & comfortable about the process of reading.
msolga
 
  2  
Reply Thu 14 Apr, 2011 11:50 pm
@msolga,
Another thing I think was really useful, when working (on a volunteer basis) with a recently arrived Lebanese adult migrant woman to Oz, in a program to increase English language skills ... was to introduce her (& her adolescent daughter, who came along, too) to their local library.
To show them to what was actually available for them there.
The local librarians were extremely helpful & spent quite a bit of time with them ... showing them what material was available (text & audio, video, etc), answering their questions & supplying information about becoming a library member, etc.
In retrospect, I think that was one of the most useful things I did for her.

aidan
 
  2  
Reply Fri 15 Apr, 2011 02:08 am
A) 'Animal Farm' is a good one- it's very straight-forwardly written- the language and style are accessible- and the tension and excitement builds in such a way that the reader wants to keep reading to see what the final outcome will be.

B)I thought Soz's suggestion of 'The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night' was a good one.
That book is riveting - funny, while at the same time - full of pathos. And again, you want to keep reading it to find out how it ends. The narrator's character is so engaging - you can't give up on him until you find out what will happen in his life. And the language is very straight-forward and accessible - it's narrated by an autist.

C) Another one I loved was, 'A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius' by Dave Eggers.
The story is engaging, the author is a young man of about twenty, if I remember correctly whose mother dies and he has to then raise his little eight or ten year old brother on his own. He writes like a twenty year old - it's well-written, but straight-forward and FUNNY! and again full of heartbreak and triumph and tenderness. You really can't stop reading that one either until you see what the outcome is.

D) 'Oranges are not the only Fruit' by Jeanette Winterson is a good one. It tells the story of a young girl being raised in Scotland by religiously fanatical zealots - only she knows she's gay. Wonderful story.

The thing that I think will appeal to your particular students about all of these books is the common theme of overcoming struggle and adversity of one sort or another. Which it sounds as if they all know something about and could relate to.
This might be something that will pull them in moreso than 'These Happy Golden Years' which on the other hand and at the other end of the spectrum sort of highlights what none of them maybe ever had or could relate to.

And I hear you POM about how it makes you afraid what these students don't know. I feel the same way about my daughter's education- or rather what she's chosen to learn and not to learn. And she doesn't have a learning or reading disability. She's just not interested.
It drives me mad - and I don't understand it. But as you say, it seems to be fairly typical today.
aidan
 
  2  
Reply Fri 15 Apr, 2011 03:10 am
I thought of a couple more -

1) The Color of Water, by James McBride

Quote:
THE COLOR OF WATER

Synopsis:
Around the narrative of Ruth McBride Jordan (Rachel Deborah Shilsky), the daughter of an angry, failed Orthodox Jewish rabbi in the South. Her son James writes of the inner confusions he felt as a black child of a white mother and of the love and faith with which his mother surrounded their large family. The result is a powerful portrait of growing up, a meditation on race and identity, and a poignant, beautifully crafted hymn from a son to his mother.
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Awards:
1997 ALA Notable Book

James McBride is a former staff writer for The Boston Globe, People, the Wilmington (Del.) News Journal, and The Washington Post. In addition, his work has appeared in Rolling Stone, the Chicago Tribune, the Philadelphia Inquirer, US, and Essence. He is also a professional saxophonist and composer and the recipient of the American Music Theater Festival's Stephen Sondheim Award for his work in musical theater composition.
He has written songs for Anita Baker, Grover Washington, Jr., and Gary Burton. A graduate of Oberlin College, he holds a master's degree in journalism from Columbia University. He is married with two children and lives in South Nyack, New York.

Comments:
"The two stories, son's and mother's, beautifully juxtaposed, strike a graceful note."
--New York Times Book Review

"Superbly written...a moving and exciting story that totally satisfies."
--Boston Globe

"Lively...a well-written, thoughtful contribution to the literature on race."
--Washington Post Book World

"The Color of Water [will] make you proud to be a member of the human race."
--Mirabella

"This moving and unforgettable memoir needs to be read by people of all colors and faiths." --Publishers Weekly

"It's a story about keeping on and about not being a victim. It's a love story...Much hilarity is mixed in with much sadness. As McBride describes the chaotic life in a family of fourteen, you can almost feel the teasing, the yelling, and the love...This book is a delight, a goading and an inspiration, worth your time and a few tears."
--Sunday Denver Post


As far as writing style goes - this guy is a journalist and has written for People so it's very accessible. I loved this book.

2) A Lesson Before Dying, by Ernest Gaines
Quote:

The reader is given a unique outlook on the status of African Americans in the South, after World War II and before the Civil Rights Movement. Indeed, we see a Jim Crow South through the eyes of a formally educated African American teacher who often feels helpless and alienated from his own country.
In "A Lesson Before Dying," Grant is the only educated black man in the area and the only member of the black community who might be considered capable of becoming free of overt oppression. Nevertheless, his life and career choices are severely limited and he must refer to white male authority figures as "Sir." Because of this, he yearns to leave the disheartening situation he is in. Grant feels that he is cornered by myriad forces: his aunt’s incessant wants, pressure to conform to a fundamentalist religion he does not believe in, the children’s need for a teacher, and the community’s need for leadership.

Grant cannot bring himself to carry these burdens for multiple reasons: want for his own personal freedom and happiness, lack of hope in the idea of progress, and fear of failing the black community. These feelings have been nurtured by years of white oppression, as well as blacks who have suffered that oppression only to pass it onto the next generation. As such, Grant has become very pessimistic towards the idea of helping others, yet wants his own needs fulfilled. Grant becomes cynical of others and cannot find motivation to help Jefferson, a young man falsely convicted of murder. Grant’s relationship with Jefferson is the best indicator of this attitude.

To a great extent Jefferson is an aspect of Grant. Both characters have, basically, given up and accepted white racism and oppression as an unchangeable part of life. They respond with hopelessness and apathy instead of optimism or defiance. Jefferson, not yet a complete man, is waiting despondently on death row, refusing to eat or even to speak to his closest relatives. As the novel progresses, the reader observes Grant’s mindset developing as he realizes the entirety of Jefferson’s sacrifice for the community and the ability of one man to make a difference.

The goal is set for Grant to "animalize" Jefferson, while Grant questions the extent to which he, himself, is a complete man. Both characters undergo a transformation through their interaction with each other.


Apparently it was made into a tv movie with Mekhi Pheiffer, Don Cheadle and Cicely Tyson.
I'd actually like to see that.
This was a great book too.

plainoldme
 
  1  
Reply Fri 15 Apr, 2011 05:40 am
@plainoldme,
Quote:
The students do impromptu writings in class based on their readings. The impromptus are graded on a scale of 1 to 5 with 5 being the highest. The 38 year old woman whose struggle with reading inspired this idea is like Sisyphus, pushing her lack of understanding before her. She is a high school drop out. She wants a degree and she wants it in three years. Unless she takes some time off to improve her reading, she will not get what she wants.


Sorry, after midnight, I wasn't able to think this out enough to finish what I was saying.

This particular woman has received 3 out of 5 points for each of her impromptus. She actually writes well enough, were I to consider grammar and the ability to follow directions (some students who should receive C's often are given low B's because they follow directions). She misses the point of what she reads.

As I wrote -- or may not have because I was falling asleep -- she is the inspiration for this list. I thought giving the entire class an option of taking a list was better than a one-on-one conversation with a student who thinks she can take ENG 102 during the 6 week summer semester.
0 Replies
 
plainoldme
 
  1  
Reply Fri 15 Apr, 2011 05:59 am
@msolga,
I am going to state -- perhaps restate -- how my ENG 101 class is structured.

English 101 is traditionally a writing class. There is a controversy now -- within MLA and the teachers' union -- as to how much literature should be included in 101. The controversy exists because the traditional sophomore survey course has been eliminated -- such courses were elective and generally had titles like Romantic Poets, 19th C American Literature, 20th C American Poetry. Students elected a course that interested them or worked with their schedules.

I selected a very good, very interesting anthology of essays. I also put together a list of 8 books -- Nineteen-Eighty-Four, Brave New World, Ever Since Darwin by Stephen Jay Gould, Twelfth Night, a collection of short stories by Eudora Welty, Frederick Douglass' first autobiography, a collection of love poems and one more that I can't remember -- with the idea that two of their major papers would be based on the book they selected.

Now, a friend who was in the honors writing program at AMherst College, thought my curriculum was too easy. That there was nothing in it that wouldn't have been included in a 10th grade English program.

Another instructor, actually a tenured full professor, also teaching ENG 101, uses a different anthology. Since the faculty is reading Barbara Ehrenreich's Nickel and Dimed, she assigned that book to the entire class as a basis for research. I think my program is better.

I accomplish the English department's goals for the class. Students are in groups of 3 - 5 reading the same book, which offers two requirements: small group work and peer review (they admit that they do not know enough to review a peer's work). My students will do an oral presentation on their work as their final exam.

I also accomplish my own goals which include building their vocabularies to include words that are part of daily conversation. Giving them choice.*

* I am still reacting to the basically negative experience I had with English 101. Although my students could not handle the amount of writing we were required to do: two 500-word essays each week during 10 of the 11 week terms.

BASICALLY, I AM BEING ACCUSED OF AND CRITICIZED FOR NOT DOING WHAT I AM DOING: OFFERING THEM A CHOICE.

plainoldme
 
  1  
Reply Fri 15 Apr, 2011 06:00 am
@msolga,
The introduction to the library is part of the course. Instructors have the choice of doing it on their own or with the help of the library staff. I have had the librarians do it both semesters. They're terrific.
0 Replies
 
plainoldme
 
  1  
Reply Fri 15 Apr, 2011 06:10 am
@aidan,
I love your list because it so full of current work. I don't belong to a book group where I now live because I haven't found one. Book groups are great for keeping up with what's current.

One of the problems with some current novels is their length. We're back into the 350 page novel which I think is daunting to the non-reader.

I'm thinking of Water for Elephants which I just finished reading myself as a candidate for the list.

I tried surveying some of Massachusetts' high school English departments' requirements for inspiration. I also have used Amazon as a source. For example, I put memoir into google and came up with a list of memoirs and scrolled through it, selecting a varied list. This is what I have to date:


The Good Daughter by Azarin Sadegh (memoir)
Winterdance by Gary Paulsen (memoir)
A Lucky Child: A Memoir of Surviving Auschwitz as a Young Boy by Thomas Buergenthal
Kaffir Boy by Mark Mathabane (memoir)
0 Replies
 
 

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