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The Books Your Kids May Encounter in School

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Once your child starts middle and high school, English classes become more focused on reading and analyzing literature. Whether your student goes to public or private school or you’re homeschooling, know what they’re reading. Books provide wonderful family discussion topics and learning opportunities. Here are a few of the most common titles your kids may encounter:

To Kill a Mockingbird (Harper Lee). This classic, often read in eighth or ninth grade, has seen a resurgence of popularity since the sequel, Go Set a Watchman, was published in 2015. It tells the coming-of-age story of Scout Finch, whose worldview is changed when her brilliant lawyer father must defend a black man accused of rape in 1960s Alabama.

The Giver (Lois Lowry). The age range for this one varies; some teachers assign it to gifted fifth-graders while others wait until seventh or eighth grade. It’s packed with impactful discussion topics such as memory, the ethics of trying to build a utopia, the ethics of euthanasia, and the meaning of abstract terms like “love.”

Hamlet (William Shakespeare). Your kids will probably read a lot of Shakespeare in their English classes. This play is usually assigned to juniors or seniors and concerns Prince Hamlet’s desire and plan for vengeance after his father’s murder. Insanity, loyalty, and family dynamics are related discussion topics.

The Poisonwood Bible (Barbara Kingsolver). This book is a bit of a challenge, so it’s usually assigned to upperclassmen or gifted students. After a fundamentalist minister uproots his wife and four daughters to serve long-term in the 1960s Belgian Congo, each woman tells her story. This novel is particularly good if you’re looking for religious discussion topics or allusions.

Of Mice and Men (John Steinbeck). Migrant worker George sets out to find work, accompanied by his mentally disabled friend Lennie, in 1950s California. This is a short but deep story that deals with topics like the treatment of disabled people and the search for the American Dream. It can be assigned to classes throughout high school.

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