Which types of books will help develop skills which transfer over the the classroom?
One of the best ways to establish a solid foundation for high school English is to maintain a diverse reading diet over the school holidays.
But which types of books will help develop skills which transfer over the classroom? Here are our recommendations to look at for each stage, to make reading a more challenging and rewarding experience.
Stage 4 (Year 7 – 8)
For students in Year 7 and 8, reading should be an enjoyable experience built upon personal interests. It’s important in the junior years to recognise what types of literature exists, in terms of genres, writing styles and intentions.
It’s also good to establish regular reading habits. Instead of diving too early into texts which are extremely challenging, it’s better to stick with texts that are fun, immersive and engaging for the age group. Good book choices will help build vocabulary and recognition of literary devices, without making the act of reading feel laborious.
For readers who are eager to seek out more challenging books, it’s okay to skip ahead to our Stage 5 and 6 recommendations, but be aware that the language and themes might not always be appropriate for a younger audience. The ability to read more challenging texts will come naturally, and it shouldn’t be rushed if students are still getting used to reading for enjoyment.
Some books we recommend are:
– Skellig (David Almond)
– The Graveyard Book (Neil Gaiman)
– In The Sea There Are Crocodiles (Fabio Geda)
– His Dark Materials (Phillip Pullman)
– Children of Blood and Bone (Tomi Adeyemi)
– A Ghost in My Suitcase (Gabrielle Wang)
– The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (Arthur Conan Doyle)
Stage 5 (Year 9 – 10)
For students in Year 9 and 10, they should be moving outside their comfort zone when it comes to reading habits. The texts which students seek out for their own personal reading will ideally broaden their understanding of both culture and literary traditions.
We recommend fiction from Australian and international authors, particularly in the genres of literary fiction or historical fiction, rather than fantasy or sci-fi. The goal of wide reading for this age group is to help understand how language and storytelling can be used to communicate real world experiences and emotions – and to give the reader ideas for their own creative writing.
Some books in the modern fiction category we recommend are:
– The Namesake (Jhumpa Lahiri)
– Swallow the Air (Tara June Winch)
– The Perks of Being a Wallflower (Stephen Chbosky)
– Jasper Jones (Craig Silvey)
– Bridge of Clay (Markus Zusak)
– The Hate U Give (Angie Thomas)
– Beloved (Toni Morrison)
Furthermore, it can be useful to gain a grounding on classical literature from the 1800s and 1900s, as contextual knowledge of these times can often prove useful in Year 11 and 12, particularly when applying knowledge to a Critical Study unit. While these novels can be longer, more challenging and less relatable for teenage readers, with dedication and concentration one can come to appreciate why these texts have held up over time.
Here are some good starting points for classic novels:
– Of Mice and Men (John Steinbeck)
– The Old Man and The Sea (Ernest Hemingway)
– Pride and Prejudice (Jane Austen)
– The Great Gatsby (F.Scott Fitzgerald)
– Great Expectations (Charles Dickens)
– Frankenstein (Mary Shelley)
– Little Women (Louisa May Alcott)
Stage 6 (Year 11 – 12)
For students undertaking Advanced English in the senior years, the expectation is that they are at this point reading literature intended for adults.
One of the biggest challenges which students face at this stage is relating to literature which is intended for readers of very different contexts: people in different societies, age ranges or social classes.
Since each school will select different texts to study in Year 11 and 12, is it best for students to gain a diverse understanding of different writing styles, rather than to develop specific but narrow knowledge in any one particular aspect. To do this, we recommend looking at short story collections.
Individual short stories are less of a commitment and can be enjoyed in shorter amounts of time (as a quick study break), but also, narrative through brevity is a skill which students should be working towards in their own writing. Readers should learn to appreciate subtle connections and differences between stories within a collection and across collections, in order to enhance their analytical skills for prose fiction.
Collections we recommend are:
– The Boat (Nam Le)
– The Turning (Tim Winton)
– Exhalation (Ted Chiang)
– The Thing Around Your Neck (Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie)
– Interpreter of Maladies (Jhumpa Lahiri)
– The Martian Chronicles (Ray Bradbury)
– A Manual for Cleaning Women (Lucia Berlin)
– What It Means When A Man Falls from the Sky (Lesley Nneka Arimah)
– New Australian Fiction (Kill Your Darlings)
Furthermore, for students about to enter Year 12, it can be good to read your set texts beforehand. During the term things naturally become busy and it can be hard to slot in reading time in between homework, assignments and revision. Having a fundamental understanding of the set text’s plot, characters and structure before encountering it in class can provide the edge needed to focus on each module’s specific requirements.
There’s no real upper or lower limits to how much independent reading should be done each year, but strong English skills are built upon a foundation of wide, thoughtful reading.
By starting early and fostering an enjoyment of all the different types of experiences which novels and short stories can offer, students can more effectively engage with the types of texts they’re required to read for class, and develop sophisticated ideas which elevate the standard of their written work.
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