Thursday, July 24, 2014

Reader's Odyssey

Welcome to our high school library.  The bookshelves from Target haven't arrived yet, so we are in stacking mode.  The books above represent just the beginning.  Over the last several weeks I've been scouring used book stores and hunting the Internet for used volumes.  We had a pretty good selection to start out with, but dare I say it?  Adding more books is FUN!  I love books.  I want the teenager to love books, too.  Heck, I want everyone to love books.  The world's best ideas are found in books.

My guide in this adventure has been Dena Luchsinger in her book below:

Now that I have had to type or write "odyssey" on a few occasions, I think I may be able to spell it correctly from here on out!  It's one of those words.  Do you experience those?  Try Albuquerque.  Or intermittent.  Or awesome sauce.  I swear, "television" once looked strange to me.  

I have read this guide cover to cover twice and still go back to reference it when needed.  She has presented a terrific literary program for the middle and high school years that is easy to tailor to your child's favorite genres, interests, and reading abilities, all with a hefty dose of classics and modern classics sprinkled in.  I highly recommend this guide if you are hovering in the middle/high school years of homeschooling.   

Why classics?  Because they have withstood the test of time and they harbor the great ideas of the deep thinkers, the flowing conversation over time that builds upon itself and in turn makes us better thinkers and problem solvers, if not at least more attuned to the human condition.  I wasn't exposed to many classics while growing up and wish I had been.  I really do believe they lead to a better understanding of life.

After assessing the teenager's favorite genres (science fiction, mystery, action/adventure, fantasy, humor, how-to, coming of age, dystopia, and psychological thriller), I asked him about his interests.  Those are animals, outdoor adventure, music, friends, reading, writing, food, movies, military, technology, engineering, construction, politics.  It is not much of a challenge to blend the genres and interests into a giant Venn diagram and figure out which books past muster.  Ms. Luchsinger stresses building a large library over time containing the the genres and interests that suit your child, but also to reach out beyond those parameters and cover more territory. 

The idea is to ask your child to read from the library at least an hour each day.  You can set up expectations such that they will read a certain number of classics, short stories, essays, dramas, nonfiction, etc. over the semester.  Perhaps this has been the most challenging part so far, determining a reasonable expectation over a semester for number of books to read.  The beauty of this program is that the child can choose books he or she likes, often trying on a few for size before hopefully finding one that sparks some zeal.  He or she can re-read books to a heart's content, as long as the baseline expectations for number of books is met. 

For the first semester of ninth grade I'll ask him to write a short, paragraph-long summary of each book and keep a log and rating of what has been read.  Gradually over his high school career, we will move into more literary analyses and writing.  I appreciate the author's take on literary criticism; she feels that criticism for the sake of criticism is nonsense.  What IS important is how the book impacts the reader and on what level.  That's plenty of fodder for some deeper exploration as the books get absorbed and we'll have a lot of material to play with.

She does provide helpful tips and worksheets on analyzing literary terms and themes toward the end of the book.  She also has catalogued many classics as to their genre and difficulty level, which helped me tremendously in selecting books.  

So far I've amassed the following books, short stories, novellas and essays, typed in rather cryptic form:

Essays of E.B. White
Mila 18
A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court
Tarzan of the Apes
Murder on the Orient Express
The Uncommon Reader
Heart of Darkness
Short stories of Mark Twain
The Outsiders
Omnivore's Dilemma (young reader's edition)
Three Musketeers
Apollo 13
Biography of Malcolm X
The Time Machine
Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee
The Education of Little Tree
Where the Red Fern Grows (tissues ready!)
Brave New World
Animal Farm
Watership Down
Enter Jeeves
Cheaper by the Dozen
The Hunt for Red October
Speaker for the Dead
One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich
Ghandi's autobiography
Autobiography of Ben Franklin
Starship Troopers
Strong Poison
Catch Me if You Can
Pudd'nhead Wilson
As I Lay Dying
Packing for Mars
Lots of Isaac Asimov
A Tale of Two Cities
The Oxbow Incident
Flowers for Algernon
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn
Healthy Eating Healthy World
Personal Best by George Sheehan
The Jungle Book
Johnny Tremain
The Incredible Journey
Death Comes for the Archbishop
A Passage to India
Criminal Poverty (plight of the homeless in America)
The Count of Monte Cristo
The Princess Bride
The Animal Dialogues
All Creatures Great and Small
Life of Pi
Gorillas in the Mist
A Farwell to Arms
The Book Thief (one of my favorite books ever)
Man's Search for Meaning
Dune (series)
The Stand
The Good Earth
All Quiet on the Western Front
Wizard of Oz
Alice in Wonderland
The Naked Ape
I Capture the Castle
To Kill a Mockingbird
Winterdance by Gary Paulsen (hilarious)
Winnie the Pooh
Out of the Silent Planet
Midsummer Night's Dream
White Fang
The Dark is Rising
Of Mice and Men
Martian Chronicles
Boy by Roald Dahl
The Little Prince
Old Yeller (more tissues)
The Secret Garden
What the Dog Saw

There are many more on the wishlist, so the hunt will continue at yard sales, used book stores, etc.  The reason I am not using the library for this undertaking is one of having access to all of these at once so he can choose what he wants to read by handling them, flipping through them, reading the first few pages.  Managing books on this scale at the library seems like a daunting task for me, so I decided to make the investment of time and dollars, although if you plan for this ahead of time, you can keep a running list with you and choose gently used books at much cheaper prices, or borrow from friends and family. 

Another level of wonderful here is that we can apply these books toward credit for other subjects.  Pretty much all the subjects!  Lots of history, social science, science present and accounted for!  To say I am stoked is a mild understatement.  I am looking forward to joining him on this reading adventure.

If you have any great book suggestions, please comment!  Share this list with others, too.  Spread the book love far and wide! 

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