Choosing a Book to Read

In the Skola 2030 higher level literature-based curriculum implementation, the class should choose a book to read.

There are a number of issues with this idea which need to be resolved. Here I will discuss these and then suggest a solution.

The requirements of the curriculum are:

  • The book’s original publication language should be English.
  • It should be available in translation.
  • It should be available for purchase or download.
  • It should be available as an adaptation e.g. as a filmed version, or audio book, or theatrical version, or radio play.

There are a number of ways the choice of book could be made.

  1. The teacher chooses a book which meets the requirements above and imposes it on the class. Not very democratic.
  2. The teacher chooses a book which meets the requirements above and manipulates the class into choosing it. Too Machiavellian.
  3. Each student chooses the book they prefer and promotes it to the class. The class chooses the book from the selection. This is much better than options 1 or 2 but has some problems. What if the winning book is unsuitable in some way? Has the winning student (or others in the class) read the book before? Will they be bored if they have? Will the other students blame this student if they do not like the book? ‘We are we reading this rubbish? It’s all your fault!‘ Is the book available for purchase in the shops or will it have to be ordered? If it has to be ordered how long will that take? What will you do while waiting for the book to arrive?

I suggest a simple alternative to avoid these problems.

  1. The teacher chooses a selection of books, say five or six, from a range of genres which meet the criteria above. Ideally these books will be available for download and purchase (without ordering perhaps).
  2. Groups of students are assigned a book and they have to research the author and the book.
  3. They then present a poster about the book, or make a short film about the book, or make a presentation about the book to the class.
  4. The groups present to the class, trying to persuade the class to read ‘their’ book. The class chooses one of the selection to read.
  5. This avoids the problems of availability and suitability and it avoids the potential problem of responsibility.

A possible selection of five or so titles could be made from this list:

  1. Arthur Conan Doyle: Sherlock Holmes: A Study in Scarlett or The Sign of Four.
  2. H. G. Wells: The Time Machine
  3. John Steinbeck: The Grapes of Wrath
  4. Edith Wharton: The Age Of Innocence
  5. Rudyard Kipling: Kim
  6. F. Scott Fitzgerald: Tender is the Night or The Great Gatsby
  7. James Joyce: A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man
  8. Joseph Conrad: The Secret Agent
  9. Henry James: The Wings of a Dove or The Portrait of a Lady
  10. Henry Walden: Life in the Woods
  11. Oscar Wilde: The Portrait of Dorian Gray
  12. George Orwell: Animal Farm or1984
  13. Joseph Conrad: The Secret Agent: A Simple Tale
  14. Virginia Woolf: Orlando
  15. Booth Tarkington: The Magnificent Ambersons
  16. Bram Stoker: Dracula
  17. Mary Shelly: Frankenstein
  18. Mark Twain: Huckleberry Finn
  19. Wilkie Collins: The Moonstone or The Woman in White
  20. Jane Austin: Pride and Prejudice

All these novels were originally published in English, are out of copyright and available electronically and have been made into films or other adaptations. You would have to check if they have been translated into Latvian.

© Robert Buckmaster 2022