Tag Archives: curriculum

Required Reading: Books I Would Put on the Curriculum

Particularly in the last three years, following Michael Gove’s decision to axe American literature from the GCSE English reading list, I’ve paid close attention to the types of literature I’ve been exposed to in school. Here’s all the books I’ve studied from year six to year twelve:

studied

These books are great and generate a lot of discussion. This year, I’ve really enjoyed Tess of the d’Urbervilles. I don’t mean to say these texts aren’t worthy of studying – but classrooms would hugely benefit from more diverse and current books, especially from this century. This is already happening, to a certain extent – for example, with Noughts and Crosses.

I think YA is more likely to make an impact on a student’s life. The YA section in a bookstore is where you’ll find some of the most influential and life-changing reads, as well as a plethora of diverse stories. So much of what I read in these categories spark important discussions.

In my opinion, the current syllabuses fail to do so – of course, there’s discussion of race and patriarchy, but often in the context of eras gone by. As important as historical literature is, it’s also integral to make syllabuses inclusive of books that deal with issues in the current state of the world.

It’s also so vital children see themselves represented. I’m yet to find literature by authors of any Asian origin on a syllabus, and LGBT* representation is shockingly sparse. The ratio of black and female authors to white and male authors is also far from equal on reading lists.

So, what would I put on the curriculum?

A while ago, I wrote a post based on a Twitter discussion, about what books others would like to see in school. I wanted to revisit this idea, using some of my recent reads! Without further ado, here’s a shortlist of books I’d give students, if I had the power:

if you could be mine

GCSE and A Level: If You Could Be Mine is a beautifully written book about two girls in Iran, who have feelings for one another but can’t express it publicly. It would be awesome to see an Iranian author on the syllabus, and the story is an emotional one with lots of themes to be talked about in class, from sexuality and religion to society and tradition.

george

Middle Grade Reading: George would be a fantastic book to discuss with younger pupils. Not only is it a really fun, heartwarming read – it’s also the perfect way to start a discussion about gender with children and promote tolerance of trans kids. Trans children are more likely to feel alienated and be victims of bullying in school: wouldn’t it be incredible for them to see themselves in the books they read?

 

the bunker diary

A Level: The Bunker Diary is controversial, to say the least, and it’s incredibly hard hitting. That’s why I hesitated to put this on the list. But I think it would be fascinating to analyse for students who would feel comfortable talking about its themes. In particular, the narrative is a really interesting point; it’s constantly evolving and switching as the protagonist spends longer in the bunker.

the hate u give

GCSE: Especially on the GCSE curriculum, opportunity to talk about current events is very limited. Police brutality and racism in America is a really important topic to engage students in so they’re aware and informed. The Hate U Give is perfect for this. It’s also a fantastic read that’s hard to put down.

wide awake

GCSE and A Level: Wide Awake is definitely underrated and I’m always eager to recommend David Levithan! The current state of the US is pretty depressing, but this book explores the idea of a gay Jewish president being elected, and the diverse celebration surrounding his campaign. It’s brilliant! David Levithan’s writing is absolutely beautiful and it would be so wonderful for it to be reflected on in classrooms.

 

wonder

Middle Grade Reading: Wonder has to be on this list! I’m pretty sure some primary schools have already used this book as a talking point. Wonder is written from multiple perspectives and follows Auggie as he starts mainstream school with a facial deformity. This book is so heartwarming and has already inspired so many young people to promote kindness.

What books would you put on the curriculum?

 

 

GCSE English Literature | A Call for Diversity on the Curriculum

NOTE: Although this post references the English Lit syllabus as a whole, I have not researched fully into the poetry and short stories lists so cannot comment on these.

I really enjoy studying English Literature at GCSE – many people detest dissecting fiction and digging for deeper meanings – but more often than not, I actually find it quite interesting.

I’m in year eleven and the two books I’m studying are Of Mice and Men and An Inspector Calls (the only other pieces of literature I have studied at GCSE are two Shakespeare plays). I enjoy the books outside of the classroom – I think they’re important, touch on interesting themes, and are unforgettable.

However, recently I started thinking about what I would have loved to study, alternatively, at GCSE. Out of curiosity, I checked out all of the prose and drama books on the syllabus on the BBC Bitesize website and made a list of the writers currently on the curriculum.

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These stats are quite sad. And the curriculum is subject to change for the next exam series, but it is in fact reducing the amount of foreign literature.

I know that the literary works on the syllabus are all there for very valid reasons – many are life-changing, controversial and important books to talk about. Of the ones I’ve have read, they’re fantastic – take An Inspector Calls, which might well be my favourite 20th Century work.

However, the diversity is really lacking. For example – schools in England and Wales couldn’t even talk about LGBT* books until 2003, when Section 28, barring ‘positive portrayal’ of homosexuality, was repealed. Sadly, it’s clear that the English curriculum hasn’t made huge steps to become more inclusive after this.

There are so many books that could make the syllabus better. I know that most teenagers in my school and others dislike studying English Lit. Would the enjoyment and engagement in the classroom not be improved if we changed it up a bit?

How fantastic would it be to see some modern YA fiction? More books by PoC and LGBT* authors – and/or books with these minority characters as protagonists? Most works on the curriculum, although yes, incredibly important books and plays, all fall into very similar categories in that they are largely 20th Century / Shakespeare / written by people of similar backgrounds.

I talked to some friends in my English class about what they thought, and everyone seems to share the same opinion: if we had a more diverse range of books, students would be more interested in the classroom. Having a wider range of fiction available to study could make a huge impact. Everybody knows that representation of different groups of people can get more students interested in reading, as people can relate to and resonate with writers and stories – which can encourage people to enjoy literature outside of the classroom and later in life. And, at least in my school, I’m aware that people would like to study more books from recent years.

Isn’t it time we looked at some books that would be awesome in classrooms?

I took to Twitter and asked for suggestions. Here’s the fantastic responses! (The picture below is hyperlinked to my original tweet, in case people have replied after I put these together)

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(yes i like drop shadows fight me)

Of the ones suggested that’s I’ve read, I 100% agree. I think if I had the power to put any book on the curriculum, I would choose Lies We tell Ourselves by Robin Talley. Lies We Tell Ourselves is a stunning, conversation-starting book about race and sexuality in the 1950’s, which would be fantastic to write about and discuss in class.

I would love to know your opinion on the English Curriculum, as I think it’s a topic worth discussing more. Do leave a comment, or contribute on Twitter!

Thanks to Ellen for providing feedback and some facts about Section 28.