Parents - 6th To 8th Grade
Generalization is always risky. But I'll risk it. Let's address the middle school mess. The traditional school pattern was: grades 1-8, 9-12 or grades 1-6,7-9,10-12. Then it was changed to grades 1-5,6-8,9-12. Good idea if students have been given a solid foundation in the 3 R's. Then , at age 11, which is grade 5 or 6, students are ready to read what we read. However, due to a serious misuse of the word adult in the phrase young adult in labeling reading material, there has been a serious dumbing down of the students' reading material at the middle school level. Easily, 90% of the so-called young adult category belongs to the 3rd,4th, and 5th grade level. These books do nothing to enhance a student's knowledge or vocabulary beyond this level. Therefore, it is up to us, as parents and teachers, to find readable reads. By that I mean great stories, well told, that would interest a person 11 years old and older.
To put things in perspective, the educators' educators like to give us the impression that much progress has been made in education. Hogwash! Between 1879, the publication date of the McGuffey Readers and the end of WWII, all Americans were taught English using the McGuffey Readers or their clones. Even today, the first 3 grades of the McGuffey Readers will look very familiar. However, the grade 4,5,and 6 readers are far superior to almost anything being used today in those grades. There has indeed been a sharp decline in the quality of reading material offered to today's students, grade 5 and above.
Why shouldn't the students of today be taught at least as well as the students of the pre-WWII era. The central idea, once students achieved the 3rd grade level, was exposure to the best literature available - not in its entirety, but as excerpts.
This practice expanded vocabulary. We learned about the narrative poem, the sonnet, the well-written play, the well-written novel.
The great modern preoccupation with relevance has deprived the student of exposure to a wider cultural world. It has led the English department down the path of sappy, poorly written books. This practice ill prepares students for high school work.
May we recommend that all grammar school teachers (grades 1-6) study
the McGuffey Readers:
Today, these books can and should serve as a benchmark for educators. Let's respect our children and expose them to the best. They are only $9.95 each.
Another benchmark book is The American Spelling Book, originally published in 1788. This book was the 2nd best-selling book in America. Second only to the Bible. The 1824 edition has now been replicated and is available. (14.95)
I never criticize unless I have a remedy. What do we recommend? For ages 10 -11 and up, we suggest the following:
Hiding to Survive by Maxine Rosenberg
Snow in August by Pete Hammill
To Kill a Mocking Bird by Harper Lee
The Good Earth by Pearl Buck
Cheaper by the Dozen by Frank Gilbreth
Belles on Their Toes by Frank Gilbreth
The Red Pony by John Steinbeck
The Pearl by John Steinbeck
Travels with Charlie by John Steinbeck
The Harry Potter Books by J.K.Rowling
The Wizard of Oz Series by L. Frank Baum
If you like the Harry Potter books, these might hold you over while waiting for the next Potter book.
Non-Oz books by Baum are:
In addition, I also recommend mysteries. Nothing keeps the mind working while reading like a good mystery. For those parents who are concerned about violence and sex, there are several excellent mystery writers who weave a great tale without resorting to either sex or violence. For starters, I recommend Agatha Christie, and Lilian Braun (of Cat who... fame). For adventure, Michael Crichton has written several: Congo, Sphere, Great Train Robbery, Terminal Man, Andromeda Strain.
That's all for now. Please don't hesitate to e-mail requests or inquiries about other books.
P.S. These books I reccomended for everyone age 11 and up.
We would be delighted to hear from you with suggestions, questions or comments. Our e-mail address is: BooksInk@aol.com. We look forward to your correspondence.