Required reading before graduation
I'll admit that I haven't read all of the books on the original list, nor Tricia's or Jason's. I'll agree with "Catcher in the Rye" (which I just read for the first time this year), but I'm not sure if I think the others they named should be required.
I'll add to my list F. Scott Fitzgerald's "The Great Gatsby," which spurred in-depth conversations in my 11th-grade honors English class about symbolism and good writing. Since then, "Gatsby" has been one of my all-time favorite books.
I might also add to the list "Fahrenheit 451" by Ray Bradbury, which I just read for the first time this week. My ninth-grade honors English class opted to read Bram Stoker's "Dracula" instead. The "Dracula" reading has come in handy for all the vampire knowledge I obtained (totally helpful when watching "Buffy the Vampire Slayer to know how vampires can be killed), but I missed out on Bradbury's classic that hammers home the importance of reading, learning and not censoring. I wish I would have read this book in high school.
I don't like that this list I made includes no female writers. Tricia's pick of "My Sister's Keeper" is a good one, in my opinion, because Jodi Picoult is a fantastic writer (seriously, Jason), and "My Sister's Keeper" may be my favorite book of hers. I also don't have any modern literature on this list. It's tough to keep it just to three books.
While I was trying to decide what books I would want to include on my list, all I could think about is how important it is for people to read -- no matter what they read. Literacy is a big key to success. We saw this in theaters with "Precious: Based on the novel 'Push' by Sapphire," when Precious and her classmates were encouraged to write whatever they wanted to write every day, and to read their journals to their classmates. Their teacher helped them improve their literacy skills, just from encouraging them to exercise them.
On a more personal note, a former roommate of mine did the same sort of exercise to help middle-schoolers during her student teaching in college. When she got to the school, several of the students were failing reading class. She told each student who was failing that they needed to come in either before school, during lunch or after school and read. She came in early, stayed late and ate lunch in the classroom to ensure that the kids would read. When they raised their grades, they did not have to come in any more; but many of them continued to do so. By the end of the school year, no one was failing -- all because their teacher asked them to sit and read.
-- Cheryl Sadler