Parents - 9th To 12th 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.

Hiding to Survive by Maxine Rosenberg 
Twelve stories about young Jewish people and their families who survived WWII. None went to concentration camps. All used their wit and wisdom to survive. Each chapter begins with a photo of the child and ends with a photo of the person as an adult and what they are doing today. ($8.95)

Snow in August by Pete Hammill
A story of an 11 year old catholic boy and a very old Rabbi in the Brooklyn of the late 1940's. Hammill evokes the culture of the time perfectly and introduces a bit of fantasy at the end. A well-written story of the relationships between different cultures and different ages in less tolerant times. (MM $7.50) 

To Kill a Mocking Bird by Harper Lee
A Pulitzer Prize unforgettable  novel of a childhood in a sleepy southern town and the crisis of conscience that rocked it. Compassionate, dramatic, and deeply moving novel about prejudice.  ($6.99)

The Good Earth by Pearl Buck
A story set in old China. The 1940 winner of the Pulitzer Prize, it gives a graphic view of the China that was - when the last emperor reigned and the vast political and social upheavals of the 20th century were but distant rumblings for the ordinary people like the honest farmer Wang Lung and his wife Olan. ($6.99)

Cheaper by the Dozen by  Frank Gilbreth
A great story of a couple who planned to have 12 children and did. Professionally, Mr. and Mrs. Gilbreth were efficiency experts. Written by their oldest son, the book reflects life in the United States in the 1920's. ($5.50)

Belles on Their Toes by Frank Gilbreth
A sequel to the original, it continues the Gilbreth story, telling what happened to them as adults.  ($4.99) 

The Red Pony by John Steinbeck
A story about ranch life in California centering on a boy and his pony  ($6.95)

The Pearl by John Steinbeck 
How unexpected wealth not only does not solve life's problems. It creates new ones.  ($6.95)

Travels with Charlie by John Steinbeck
Set in September, 1960, the author and his poodle journey across America observing the obsessions that preoccupied the Americans of that era. ($10.95)

My Early Life by Winston Churchill
Most of us have forgotten that Winston Churchill was a Nobel Laureate in Literature.  Although he was the preeminent Prime Minister of England throughout WWII, he did not make his living as a politician. He made it as a writer and a very readable one. His narrative style rates an A.

This autobiography covers the first 30 years of his life. 1874-1904. His formative years. Several things make it interesting. First, and foremost, he was not a good student in the academic sense. In fact, he flunked Latin 3 times. However, he learned in other non-traditional ways. For example, he had a fabulous toy soldier collection with which he played endlessly, recreating historic battles.

When he finished his formal education, he went on to become a reporter and had some astounding adventures. All in all - an excellent read and an excellent background for understanding the history of the time. ($15.00)

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. 

We would be delighted to hear from you with suggestions, questions or comments. Our e-mail address is: We look forward to your correspondence.



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