Tag Archives: diversity

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.

Book Review: You’re Not Proper by Tariq Mehmood

Published 19th March 2015 by Hope Road Publishing.

You're Not ProperGoodreads Synopsis: Karen thinks she’s not proper white.
Her dad is Pakistani and her mother is white Christian, and somehow she feels as if she doesn’t quite fit in… anywhere. So she’s made a choice: she’s switching sides.
Karen’s going to convert to Islam to find her true identity.
But Shamshad, her Hijab-wearing school mate, isn’t making things easy for her. What’s her deal, anyway? Is Shamshad really any more proper than herself?
Trouble and turmoil await in the old textile mill town of Boardhead East, as school battles are replaced by family troubles, name calling turns to physical confrontation and cataclysmic secrets are unveiled.
Set against a backdrop of seething Islamaphobia, You’re Not Proper is the first in the Striker series, written by Tariq Mehmood to shine a light on issues of identity, religion, politics and class affecting young people today – a unique new series in young adult fiction.

My Review: I was curious to see what this book would be like, as I can’t say I’ve read many books on the same subject; and Islamaphobia is a really prevalent topic in today’s world. I was really interested to see how it was written about here!

I loved the concept of the story and I wish books like this were more talked about. The plot of You’re Not Proper was a complete emotional roller-coaster, as Karen is so desperate to find faith and belonging in a pretty divided Manchester community. I found it really eye-opening to read about the harsh treatment of people because of their backgrounds – even from their peers.

The pacing felt a little strange at points, and I’m not sure how to describe it. I felt like some scenes felt rushed where they could’ve been longer and more descriptive of the narrator’s feelings. The switching narratives between Karen and Shamshad were great and I found the girls both really realistic and I wish I’d gotten to know their mindsets a bit better.

The plot twist towards the end of the story was really unexpected and made a really interesting ending. There’s careful hinting throughout the novel as to some kind of family secret – but the truth was far more shocking than I’d imagined! Very quickly, the story spirals from bullying to a really dark outcome – which in turn reveals the huge secret. It was a little strange how the final events played out – I would’ve preferred to see how everything developed.

Overall, You’re Not Proper is a really thought-provoking read and I enjoyed it! I definitely recommend it for those who want a brilliant, relatable insight into what it’s like to be a teenager and Muslim in a place where it’s often frowned upon. I had a few thoughts while reading it and would’ve liked to get to know the characters in more detail, and the ending didn’t feel completely solid to me – however, it’s a short and enjoyable read that’ll definitely make you tear up a few times!

My Rating:

three

I received a copy of You’re Not Proper from the publisher, in exchange for a review. In no way at all did this affect my thoughts.

DIVERSITY IN YA: Book recommendations!

I was sitting at my computer, procrastinating by scrolling through my twitter feed, last Friday night. I was completely stuck for blog post ideas: I’ve been so behind with blogging because the first term at school has been hectic, to say the least!

I’ve been very aware of the inspiring, brilliant #WeNeedDiverseBooks campaign on Twitter since it launched, but seeing tweets from that evening’s #SupportWNDB talk were the deciding factor that led to me making this post. Also, that I haven’t done a infographic post in quite a while. I hope you enjoy it!

There were a lot of books to pick from to fit onto this quick graphic, but picking out of my recently used Goodreads shelves… I honestly didn’t actually find it difficult to narrow it down, to pick only a few titles with diverse characters; of colour, a different cultural background, an LGBT* identity or disability. I think that proves that a) I really must seek out more diverse books, and read those sitting on my TBR, and that b) the WNDB campaign is so necessary: I’m so glad it’s encouraging and publicising books that otherwise wouldn’t be as visible.

Anyway, I’m aware I’ve rambled on a bit, and this post was meant to be just an infographic… (:

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I hope you liked the infographic! I would love to take any recommendations on books similar to these (or completely unique ones of course!) and hear what you thought of these titles. There’s a lot of amazing sounding YA/MG fiction that’s out next year also, like Lara Williamson’s The Art of Being Normal (A very hotly anticipated one!) – are there any titles you are looking forward to reading?