This is an excerpt from an article in the Sunday, March 13 Tulsa World newspaper. In it my friend, Suzy Griffin, lists several books as a recommended canon of classic literature for secondary school students. She made a point of telling me it is by no means complete and isn’t necessarily meant as a read-all. It is simply a collection of books useful to a shared literary and cultural experience. Of all the things we do as teachers, teaching students to read, understand, and communicate using the written word is the most relevant teaching we do.
From The Tulsa World, Sunday, March 13, 2011:
““There’s a reason these books are considered classics,” said Susan Griffin, a department head at Edison. “They tell the stories of our history and our culture; there are allusions everywhere around us, from restaurant titles to song lyrics to crossword puzzles. “Whether you love them or hate them,” she said, “reading the classics adds a depth of knowledge to our understanding of the world.”
So, starting from the age of 5, here’s a chronological list of some of the books Griffin and her fellow instructors think people ought to read in a lifetime:
The Cat in the Hat or any other books by Dr. Seuss; Mother Goose; How Droofus the Dragon Lost His Head, Bill Peet; Where the Sidewalk Ends and The Giving Tree, Shel Silverstein; Aesop’s Fables; Black Beauty, Anna Sewell; Heidi, Johanna Spyri; The Wind in the Willows, Kenneth Grahame; Charlotte’s Web and Stuart Little, E.B. White; Winnie-the-Pooh books, A.A. Milne; The Little House on the Prairie series, Laura Ingalls Wilder; Peter Pan, J. M. Barrie; Alice in Wonderland and Alice Through the Looking-Glass, Lewis Carroll; Treasure Island, Kidnapped, and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Robert Louis Stevenson; Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn, Mark Twain; Little Women, Little Men and Jo’s Boys, Louisa May Alcott; Trixie Beldon, Nancy Drew, Hardy Boys and Bobbsey Twins books; The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood, Howard Pyle; King Arthur and His Knights of the Round Table, Roger Lancelyn Green; Anne of Green Gables series, Lucy Maud Montgomery, Agatha Christie books; Sherlock Holmes books, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle; The Count of Monte Cristo, and The Three Musketeers, Alexander Dumas; Anything by Edgar Allan Poe; The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, J.R.R. Tolkien; The Red Badge of Courage, Stephen Crane; To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee; A Tale of Two Cities, Charles Dickens; The Legend of Sleepy Hollow and Rip Van Winkle, Washington Irving; Robinson Crusoe, Daniel Defoe; War of the Worlds, H. G. Wells; The Once and Future King, T.H. White; Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl; A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, Betty Smith; Ivanhoe, Sir Walter Scott; Idylls of the King, Alfred, Lord Tennyson; Wuthering Heights, Emily Bronte; Jane Eyre, Charlotte Bronte; Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen; The complete works of Emily Dickinson; Rebecca, Daphne du Maurier; The House of Seven Gables and The Scarlet Letter, Nathaniel Hawthorne; Moby Dick, Herman Melville; Tess of the D’Urbervilles, Thomas Hardy; Anna Karenina and War and Peace, Leo Tolstoy; Anything by William Shakespeare; The Odyssey and The Iliad, Homer; The Picture of Dorian Gray, Oscar Wilde; Walden, Henry David Thoreau; Les Miserables, Victor Hugo; Gone With the Wind, Margaret Mitchell, Don Quixote, Miguel de Cervantes; The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald; Of Mice and Men, John Steinbeck.”
For some, this list might be your summer reading challenge. But for many of us (I am included) the list simply serves as an example of the quality of literature that makes for a lifetime of excellent reading.