Tag Archives: education

I Keep Coming Back to Teaching

For eleven years, I was an English teacher in Japan. It still feels strange to say that I’m no longer teaching and no longer living in Japan. Part of me feels like I should still be there teaching. You know the feeling? You know things have changed, but part of you doesn’t want to accept it.

I missed the teaching. And then I started working at a science centre. Every day that I work, I’m teaching people (usually children) about the planets, physics, and occasionally bird feathers. I’m finding that I’m loving seeing kids enjoying learning about science. Science was my first love. Teaching English was an incredible experience, but now I’m helping to teach science to people, although not as a teacher. Today, I spent forty minutes talking to a woman (half in the planetarium, half in the gallery) about astronomy, science centres, and life experiences. It’s that kind of interaction I love. I enjoy talking to people about science and helping them learn something new.

That brings me to what I’m going to be doing very soon. And that is starting a science channel on YouTube. Science education and science literacy are very important to me. I want to help people understand that science can be interesting and fun. But I also want them to understand that without science literacy, society can’t advance. It’ll stagnate or even regress. I want to combat scientific illiteracy, pseudoscience, and misinformation. There’s too much of that going around these days.

I’m hoping that through the science channel, I’ll be able to help people learn science and enjoy it. While I’ll be doing the videos on my own, I’m hoping people will share the videos and help spread the word about my channel. I want to reach as wide an audience as possible. While I may be only one person, I hope I can change some minds about the importance of science.

I still have some work to do to prepare my new channel. I still need a name, and I’d like to work on a schedule for it. I plan on doing two videos a week. One talking about weekly science news stories, one doing specific topics to help educate people about science. I’ll focus mostly on astronomy, physics, biology, geology, and palaeontology.

So, who’s with me on this?

Another YouTube Channel?? – Science!

After a lot of thought over the last few days, I’ve come to a decision. I will be starting another YouTube channel. Here’s how this came about.

A while back, I was thinking I might start doing some science-related vlogs on my vlog channel (you should subscribe to it!). I then decided I’d do a science video every week. However, I felt like it wouldn’t fit with that channel, as it’s meant to be a daily (sometimes 2-3 days) vlog. Why not start a new channel?

And so I made my decision. Soon, there will be a new channel on YouTube dedicated to science! But it won’t be right away. I need some time to plan it, choose a name, and have room to shoot my videos in. They’ll be extremely low budget, but I plan on using a new video editor (it’s a free one, but highly recommended).  I need to learn that new editor before I start the new channel, and I need a whole list of video ideas. I need to develop a format for it, as well. There’s a lot to consider. And one of the things I need to check out is if I am able to monetize a third channel this year. When I tried monetizing the channel for my daughter and I, YouTube told me I can’t monetize three channels in one year. Not sure about that, but I’ll investigate.

The new channel will have one video per week to start. They’ll feature me in front of the camera, and I’d like to do these videos with diagrams on paper. I’ll need to script the videos, unlike the videos I currently do for books and vlogs. I will focus a lot on astronomy and biology, though I’ll also include geology, physics, and chemistry.

I have some questions for you, though. I’d love to have some input.

  1. Would you be interested in subscribing and watching this channel?
  2. Do you think I should aim the videos toward children or adults? Or maybe good for both?
  3. What topics would you like to see me make videos on?

One of the things I may start doing for that channel is a weekly Q&A where I take a question or two and provide the answers. However, this will come down the road. As for the main videos, I’ll be using a lot of public domain images and planning on doing picture in picture video from time to time. So, I need to practice editing videos. And if possible, a collaboration or two with other science channels. Lots to do!

So, who’s with me? Interested? Let me know what you think in the comments with your answers to the questions above.

International Science Centre and Science Museum Day

Today is International Science Centre and Science Museum Day. I work at a science centre, but I am also a strong supporter of science museums and science education. Science education is extremely important, especially in days like these when anti-science is gaining a foothold in mainstream thinking. And because of the election of Donald Trump, science education stands to lose a lot. 

I ask you to take a day and visit a science museum. Take your children if you have any. Learn something new. Come to understand science, even if it’s just a little more. Science doesn’t have to be boring. It is fun. It’s interesting. And it’s extremely important for industry, medicine, energy, and innovation. Help bring science and scientific advances back into the minds of as many people as possible. 

If you want to help combat anti-science sentiments, then please share this message. 

Authors Answer 105 – New Knowledge Wishlist

Welcome to our third year of Authors Answer! This is the first question of the new season, and we’re going strong. Last week’s question had a wonderful response and proved to be a very popular question. It was shared many times on Facebook and Twitter, and I think we have to thank our guest authors for that.

This week, we tackle a topic that makes us wish we had instant knowledge. While writing, we often have to do research. But there are some subjects where we wish we could have more knowledge to aid us in our writing.

320px-Modern-ftn-pen-cursiveQuestion 105 – What subject or topic would you like to improve your knowledge of so you can use it in your writing?

Beth Aman

We writers joke about things that we have to research, and how we hope the FBI never looks at our internet history.  It’s true – I’ve done research on arrow wounds and stab wounds and swords and death.  I’d love to have an extensive knowledge of all of those things – swords, knives, bows, guns, wounds, death, infection, illness, edible plants, hunting, building a fire, etc.  (I write high fantasy and there’s a lot of woodsy and outdoorsy stuff.)

Jean Davis

I’d love to have the brainpower to get more into the science end of sci-fi. I tend to hang out on the softer side but there are times when more a more in depth understanding of the information would could be useful to add more sci to my fi.

Tracey Lynn Tobin

Monsters. Not that I don’t have a fair bit of knowledge in that field already thanks to the types of books/shows/movies I consume, but I could always learn more. My writing genres of preference are horror and fantasy, both of which are much more enjoyable with an interesting, well-written monster, so I’d love to learn everything there is to know about things that roar and shriek and otherwise go bump in the night. Plus, the research is fun. 🙂

H. Anthe Davis

There are lots of topics I actively look up and study in preparation for writing various scenes, but it’s all from an academic standpoint — I don’t plan to go climbing mountains even though I send my characters almost to the death-zone in a few scenes, and I won’t be headed to medical school despite the intense biological focus of some of my characters’ magic, nor will I be planning any real cities or growing any real crops.  It’s always a piecemeal sort of investigation, so I just hope the details mesh well enough for people who understand the topics — that I’m not pulling them out of the story with bad information.  Frankly my answer would have to be EVERY TOPIC!

Eric Wood

I don’t think there’s just one topic. The children’s books I enjoy reading (and now writing) have a touch of truth to them. Chris Hadfield’s “The Darkest Dark” is about a child scared of the dark until he watches the moon landing on TV. He eventually grew up to be a commander on the Space Station just like its author. But I suppose if I had to pick it would be how to write realistic dialog.

D. T. Nova

The local geography of places I’ve never been. The laws of specific places as well.

I also don’t think it’s ever really possible to know so much about physics that knowing more wouldn’t be potentially useful.

Paul B. Spence

Well, I’m always reading the latest in scientific developments. There are some interesting things happening out there.

I would like to read more philosophy, religion (any), and mysticism. I think that the science of the mind and the question of what is consciousness are fascinating.

C E Aylett

Not a topic so much, but more of a skill and that skill would be how to research thoroughly and more efficiently.

Linda G. Hill

It varies in that there’s invariably something I want to know more about, every time I start a new project. What always trips me up is what my characters do for a living. It’s the one thing people in any given profession will read about with a keen eye, and I hate making mistakes!

Gregory S. Close

Right at this moment I would love to download a decade worth of research into Native American history, religion and customs directly into my brain.  I’m daunted by what I don’t know, how much I need to know it for my work in progress, and finally how little time I have to do anything about it.

Jay Dee Archer

There’s something that’s lacking for me. I write both science fiction and fantasy. I’m confident in my ability to navigate through science, geography, politics, and culture. However, the thing that I would love to improve is my knowledge of military and battle tactics and terminology. Both genres I write in often feature battles, both individual and military. I want to know about large scale military battles and strategy, as well as hand to hand combat. I need to know more about weapons, as well. It would be extremely helpful.

How about you?

What would you like to know more about? It doesn’t matter if you’re an author or a reader. Let us know in the comments below.

My Daughter Shows Off Her Library Books!

I’m starting something new. My daughter gets to take home two books from her school’s library. So, we’re going to show her library books together! Warning: This video gets a bit silly. Wait until the end where she talks about a topic completely unrelated to books. But it’s cute. The cuteness compels you to watch.

Have you read either of these books? What did you think of her silliness? Let me know in the comments section below.

And did you subscribe? If you do, you get to see all of the videos I make. I don’t put them all up on here.

Authors Answer 99 – That Annoying English Class Question

When we were in English class in school, I’m sure we all dreaded that one question that we were always asked. What is that question? Of course, we never liked to decipher the hidden (or obvious) meaning that the author is trying to tell us. But what happens if our books are being dissected in English class?

320px-Modern-ftn-pen-cursiveQuestion 99 – If something you wrote was read by an English class, how do you think they would answer this common question: What message is the author trying to convey?

Paul B. Spence

That there is hope.

D. T. Nova

I guess I’ll go with my still-unpublished first novel.

I imagine that a common answer to that question would be “The system is broken, but the will to change it for the better is unbreakable.” Alternately the more simplistic “Queer people can be heroes, and organized religion can be destructive.”

Elizabeth Rhodes

I don’t think Jasper will be in any classrooms, but I’ll entertain the thought. I’d like for students to make parallels between the Jasper universe and our own political climate. It’s not a scenario that can plausibly happen, it’s more of an extreme case. But the culture of fear, casting out an entire group of citizens as the “other,” those are scenarios that can make one think.

Eric Wood

Thinking of my children’s stories, I think the message they would believe I was trying to convey would be that you can grow up to be whatever you want. You are only limited by your imagination.

Gregory S. Close

IN SIEGE OF DAYLIGHT.  The message: gooseberry pie is the key to victory.

Tracey Lynn Tobin

Well, I assume they’d be reading “Nowhere to Hide“, since that’s the only option we’ve got at the moment, and they’d probably say that I was trying to convey a sense of disgust for humanity in general. I won’t say much more than that because, hey…I want people to read the book…but I’d say that theme is fairly obvious if you have read it.

Jean Davis

If an English class were to read A Broken Race, they would hopefully see that even the most unlikely person can make a large difference in a community by speaking up and taking action.

H. Anthe Davis

Heh, I have wondered this a lot!  And I do write toward certain themes which I think could be easily excavated with a little work.  A major one is that diversity adds skills and value to any group; my army guys start off as just normal soldiers but slowly accrue ‘special’ soldiers, mages, outsiders and former enemies into their group, whereas the villains they’re up against stick with their old ranks and tactics and so can’t really adapt to how the good-guy group operates.  Another message would be that cultural homogenization (especially when forced) robs people of history, community and context for many things that go on in their lives.  I would draw some connections between the actions of my evil Empire and the Native American boarding schools that ran during much of the 19th and 20th centuries to try to get Native Americans to conform to Euro-American ways.  Several characters suffer the after-effects of this, as they feel disconnected from their home cultures but unwelcome in the dominant one because of their origins; two don’t know their own native languages because they were taken away too young.  There are a lot more themes and undercurrents at work in the story, but I think these are the most clearly visible.

Linda G. Hill

If you take as an example my recently published novelette, “All Good Stories,” I’d say the author was trying to say it’s okay not to take life too seriously. And be as creative with it as you can be.

Beth Aman

Well I write High Fantasy, so that’s a bit unlikely.  (Why don’t you have to read High Fantasy in school?  That’s so stupid!)  But maybe something like “you should do what’s right no matter the consequences” or “nothing is impossible if you try hard enough and have friends backing you up.”  I mean there are definitely themes of loyalty and friendship and sacrifice in my writing.

C E Aylett

Not sure I can — or should — answer that! My themes are usually quite dark or controversial.  And each story is different, of course. But as a generalisation, I think the main underlying message is that people are people and we all have our light and dark spots, as well as lots of grey areas too. There’s rarely such a thing as good vs evil; we are complex creatures.

Cyrus Keith

That brings to mind the meme that shows up every once in a while on social media, where the teacher is lecturing his students on the symbolic significance of the blue drapes in a story, where the blue represented a certain mindset of mood the author was trying to fold in as a literary tool, and the author’s take was, “I just meant the drapes were freaking blue.”

Sure, I have a lot of hidden backstories and meanings in my books. I like to ask questions and make my readers answer them on their own. If I wanted to make one thing clear in my work, it’s that Life is a gift so precious that we can’t afford to take even a single breath for granted. And it’s not just our own life which is precious, but all lives. I know it sounds odd coming from an author of white-knuckle thrillers with characters dropping and bullets flying all over, but I guess you just have to read it to get it.

Jay Dee Archer

I never liked answering this question. I always thought that the teacher didn’t know the answer to this. In many cases, it was likely that the author had no real message to give, they just wrote the book to make money. But in other cases, there is a message. As for my first unpublished Ariadne novel, I’d hope that they’d understand that differences between people are not something to be afraid of or to fight about. We’re all human, and we’re all trying to live our lives. We need to trust each other and make the world a better place to live in. This doesn’t mean that my book ends like this, though.

How about you?

If you’ve written a book or want to write a book, what message would you hope that the students and teachers would get from your book? Let us know in the comments below.

Authors Answer 98 – Why Did We Have to Read That in School?

Last week, we talked about books we enjoyed reading in school. Now, we’re going to talk about those that we didn’t like. For many people, reading books in school was far from fun. We had to interpret the books in ways that we never imagined, and it just made it less enjoyable.

320px-Modern-ftn-pen-cursiveQuestion 98 – What book did you read in school that you didn’t really like?

Cyrus Keith

You know you’re asking me to remember something I probably stuffed into a mental trash can almost forty years ago, right? There were a couple we started on, that I couldn’t even get through the first chapter without my eyes bleeding. They were long, winding, literary classics of some kind, and I was bored to tears from the opening lines.

C E Aylett

I don’t really remember, to be honest. I didn’t get on well at school and couldn’t wait to leave. At home I was always pinching my mum’s books from the shelves — mostly because I was told I was too young to read them — but they were a mixture of horror or icky romance. I remember I never got around to finishing Stephen King’s IT as she found it under my pillow and banished it to wherever (I never saw it again — even now!). Didn’t matter; it was rather over my head at the time anyway. My literary influences definitely came from my mum reading all the time and not much to do with school.

Beth Aman

The Grapes of Wrath.  It was my worst nightmare.  Four hundred pages of sadness and depression and dusty roads and hungry children and hard-to-read dialogue.  The end was also super sad.  So yeah.  Not my cup of tea.

Linda G. Hill

My first thought was anything by Shakespeare. But that was me when I was a teenager. Now, as well as then, I’d have to say “2001: A Space Odyssey.” Mainly because we went so far into it that I got sick of it.

H. Anthe Davis

It’s been a while since high school, so any book I really hated has long since been washed from my mind.  I’ve been diligent at trying to add every book I’ve ever read into my Goodreads account, and the lowest star-rating on my Classics list is a 3…so not bad, just not my cup of tea.  I was basically an English class nerd my whole HS career though, and there really haven’t been many books I hate; I think I’ve always gleaned at least a bit of insight or style from them, so the experience was always educational if nothing else.  I guess if I had to pick one from my 3-star list, it would be The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne, just because….ehhhhh.

Jean Davis

I didn’t like pretty much any assigned reading. Moby Dick, A Separate Peace, anything Shakespeare… Not that they were bad books, but picking them apart to tiny analytical points made the entire reading experience miserable. Even thirty years later, I still get a twinge even thinking of A Separate Peace.

Tracey Lynn Tobin

This wasn’t for school, specifically, but one of my teachers once suggested that I read “Little Women“, and she even loaned me her copy. She knew I loved reading (at this point in my life I’d devoured most of our local library), and she really thought I’d enjoy it. However, I ended up hating it. I didn’t even get through the whole thing because I found it quite possibly the most boring thing I’d ever read. Maybe now-a-days it would appeal to me a little more (though I doubt it), but at the time I just couldn’t handle a story that seemed to be about the everyday mundane life of a pack of sisters.

Gregory S. Close

Most memorably, I hated GRAPES OF WRATH when we were required to read it for class.  I started/stopped it several times with great drama, convinced that it was useless and irrelevant.  We were required to read a chapter and then write a brief summary of the chapter for homework (to show that we actually read it), and I took to  writing my own versions of the story instead of actually reading and summarizing it, as assigned.  (Incidentally, I got lots of great comments from Mrs. Lasky on my version of events, which unfolded like a cross between THE ROAD, MAD MAX and NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD, but she graded them appropriately as Fs).

And then, after all that, I finally read it before taking the final exam and realized that it was actually pretty good.

Eric Wood

I don’t recall disliking a book. There were, of course, some I didn’t understand too well (Shakespeare, The Iliad, etc… come to think of it, I have a hard time understanding them 20 years later).

Elizabeth Rhodes

Edith Wharton’s Summer. This is mostly fueled by my dislike of the protagonist Charity, but when reading it I had the impression that there was no meaningful conflict in the story. The reality is, there is certainly conflict but it doesn’t age well a century later because our social mores are so different.

D. T. Nova

Cold River was possibly the worst of several that were all too similar; there’s just nothing interesting to me about small groups of characters (or even worse, lone characters) being completely alone in mundane wilderness settings.

Paul B. Spence

Lord of the Flies.

Jay Dee Archer

Maybe I don’t remember the bad books very much, but there were a couple that bored me. The first is The Wars by Timothy Findley. It’s an award-winning Canadian novel, but I wasn’t particularly interested in a novel about World War I, sadness, and mourning. The other one I didn’t find very engaging was the coming of age novel Who Has Seen the Wind by Canadian author W. O. Mitchell. Is it bad that the two I didn’t like are Canadian? Now I feel bad about it.

How about you?

Thinking back to school, which books that you read for English class did you not like? Let us know in the comments below.

Authors Answer 97 – Memorable School Reads

You either love or hate English class in school. When reading books, you’re asked to interpret them in ways you would never think of. What does the author mean? Does that blue curtain mean something? Or is it just a blue curtain? Sometimes, it’s enough to cause students to hate reading. But there are some books that stand out to us and become favourites.

320px-Modern-ftn-pen-cursiveQuestion 97 – What book did you read in school that you loved?

Paul B. Spence

Hmm. I read lots of books while in school. For school? Le Morte D’Arthur was always a favorite.

D. T. Nova

James and the Giant Peach comes to mind. Later on, The Odyssey.

Elizabeth Rhodes

Not a book, but a play. Once I gave Romeo & Juliet a serious chance I loved it. Knowing it’s not a love story at all went a long way toward appreciating the story and not the romanticizing of “star-crossed lovers.”

Eric Wood

I remember reading “Flowers for Algernon” by Daniel Keyes in high school. I didn’t completely get it back then. I got the main idea and what was going on and all. I really liked it regardless. Then I read it again in my twenties and it all clicked and made more sense. I loved the connection between Charlie Gordon and Algernon the mouse. It’s also a great story about mental health issues, even if it is science fiction.

Gregory S. Close

I read lots and lots of books in high school that I loved.  Mostly, they just weren’t the books that I was assigned to read.  I think I was one of the few that enjoyed CHESAPEAKE by James Michener.  And CENTENNIAL, too (although I remember the mini-series better).

Tracey Lynn Tobin

Okay, this is probably going to come as a major shock to a lot of people, but…I don’t really remember reading many books in school. I mean, I read TONS of books throughout school, but as far as a book that was actually assigned to us to read? There weren’t too many. Our system was more of a personalized thing. The kids picked their own books (approved by the teacher, of course) and wrote book reports on them. Usually when we were doing a specific tale it was a play or something really old, like Beowulf.

I do, however, remember reading two specific books for class in junior high, and they were 1984 and Animal Farm. I can’t honestly say I remember that much about 1984 other than the general overall theme, but Animal Farm really stuck with me. It creeped me out when I read it (for all the right reasons), and it left me with a healthy distaste for authority and government.

Jean Davis

I read a lot in school, especially when I wasn’t supposed to be reading. I hid fiction books in my text books in most every class, but especially in History. These poor kids with their school assigned computers in class now don’t have a chance at getting away with that anymore. While I can’t say that I loved any of the books I was supposed to be reading, I was quite into the Thieves’ World anthology series at the time. I’m happy to say I still have all those books on my shelf. I’d love to make time to read them all again someday.

H. Anthe Davis

There were two books that I kept reading in school, and kept writing book reports on — not out of laziness but from a constant interest in the themes!  I picked new angles for each report, I swear.  Anyway, they were My Antonia by Willa Cather, and Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad.  I remember writing one essay comparing Heart of Darkness to Dante’s Inferno in themes and characters….that was a good essay.

Linda G. Hill

Dracula. It’s an amazing gothic love story.

Beth Aman

I read My Name is Asher Lev in 10th grade American Lit class.  I loved the way the story was told, the characters, and also the parts about art and painting.  (As a bit of an artist myself, I was fascinated.)

C E Aylett

I didn’t get on in school particularly well for various reasons, so I don’t really remember much of what we studied. And school was a looooong time ago for me — a distant blot on the horizon. But early books that captured my attention were fun books. Nothing too serious. I’m a sucker for a good (not teenage) vampire story, so Brian Lumley’s Necroscope (and the rest of the series) was enthralling. Proper vamps, ghosts, blood and terror. Mohahahahaaaa! Dragonlance was a book I plucked from my brother’s room and loved, too.  Oh – hang on. One book that does stand out — and this is from when I was in primary school — is Funny Bones. ‘On a dark, dark hill there was a dark, dark town…’ I loved that so much I bought it for my kids and it’s now my daughter’s favourite book (and I still love it, too).

Cyrus Keith

We didn’t cover much in the way of novels when I was in high school. We did cover Shakespeare, and after we read the scripts, we usually saw a movie of the play. Franco Zefirelli’s version of Romeo and Juliet, with Olivia Hussey as Juliet, blew my mind, and made me fall in love with Shakespeare. Books that affected me were Native Son by Richard Wright, and two short stories I read in one of those anthologies they put together for schools. I can’t remember the title of the collection, but the stories were The Soul of Caliban  by Emma-Lindsay Squier, and Brightside Crossing by Alan E. Nourse. Both of these came alive in my brain in so many ways, and fueled my thirst for for reading. Strangely enough, neither of these were selected for study in class. And I thought they were the best stories in the whole book.

Jay Dee Archer

Early on, remember having trouble holding in my laughter while reading Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator in grade 6. That was a favourite from elementary school. However, later on, I fell in love with Shakespeare’s plays. I especially enjoyed Hamlet. I also really enjoyed The Chrysalids by John Wyndham. That was my first exposure to far future post-apocalyptic science fiction. I found it fascinating.

How about you?

What are some books you really enjoyed reading in school? Let us know in the comments below.

The First Real Day of School

This morning, I took my daughter to school. She went into the school by herself when the teachers came to let them in, and she did everything herself. I went home.

Less than three hours later, I went to pick up my daughter from school, and wasn’t exactly sure what we were supposed to do. Turns out we had to go to the classroom and stand outside. My daughter came out and told me that her classmate had a birthday and they all got a cupcake. She was also given goldfish crackers.

As I walked her home, she told me about her day. She didn’t get to play with playdough, but she got to colour and cut paper. She said her teacher got angry at her twice. First was when she took too long to wash her hands. She has this bad habit at home, too. She stands with the water just flowing over her hands and does nothing else. She knows how to wash her hands, but for some reason wastes water. She cried when she was told not to take so much time. Second, she put her finger in the pencil sharpener. She didn’t cut it, since the teacher stopped her. I wouldn’t say her teacher was angry, though.

There are so many things to do. I have to fill out and sign some forms, we may have to buy a shirt for her in her group’s colour, and we can order books for her. She’s going to have a full day field trip next month, too! But the thing that confuses me is tomorrow’s school assembly. It’s in the afternoon, but she’s a morning student. Is she supposed to go? I’ll have to ask tomorrow morning when I take her to school.

It’ll take some time to get used to her going to school and dealing with the correspondence with her teacher, making sure she’s reading a book every day, doing her weekly homework, and deciding whether we should buy her books and a school t-shirt. Lots to think about!

Authors Answer 96 – Required Reading in English Class

Welcome to September. Last month, we had an interesting month for Authors Answer, and the final story was The Personality Dealer. The winner was a tie! Gregory S. Close and Eric Wood won that one.

This month, we’re focusing on education. Not only that, we have three new contributors to welcome! So, say hello to Cyrus Keith, C E Aylett, and Beth Aman. We’ll begin with their answers.

This week, we’re looking at English class in school. There are a lot of novels that are required reading in class, but we don’t always see what we really want to read. So, what do we think should be read?

320px-Modern-ftn-pen-cursiveQuestion 96 – What modern novel do you think should be included in high school English class?

Cyrus Keith

Define “Modern.” For me, that could include anything written since 1916. So, with that definition in mind, I’m thinking the book in question should not be one that lectures or sermonizes, but demonstrates solid examples of literary tools and story-telling technique, something that could be broken down and analyzed mechanically, like dissecting a frog in science class. Because kids today don’t need to be told what to think, as long as they are being taught to think on their own. It should also be short enough to cover in a single grading period, and exciting to read. Lord, how mind-numbingly dull some of those books we covered were! With all those points in mind, I would recommend Raise the Titanic by Clive Cussler.

C E Aylett

Well, I think that depends on what you’re trying to teach, but one novel I go back to time and again is Girl With a Pearl Earring (which I think is taught in schools already). That’s if you want to learn about writing tight characters and how relationships create tension and grow plot. If you wanted to teach more action orientated plotting, I’d probably chose something more commercial. I have no idea what they teach for high school English lit these days, so not sure what gap might need filling.

Beth Aman

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green.  Because not only is it amazingly enjoyable and funny, but it deals with issues of death and life and legacy.  And also the characters are brilliant and hilarious.

Linda G. Hill

This is a tough call for me, because so many of my favourites aren’t necessarily fit for consumption by younger teens. Out of all of the ones I can pick, I’d have to say Harry Potter. The depth of the characters and the trials and tribulations they go through are easy to relate to, whether the students are wizards or not. Having chosen it though, who wouldn’t already have read it?

H. Anthe Davis

I’m really not a literature reader; my roots are in pulp fantasy and sci-fi and mostly I’m happy to stay there!  However, I think that you can pull a book or two from those genres that will have both high school appeal and be teachable material.  The ones that come to mind immediately are Neil Gaiman’s American Gods (for discussion of consumerism, modern values vs. ancient ones, racism, religion, etc) and Terry Pratchett’s Nation (culture clash, mortality, nationhood, faith and tradition).

Jean Davis

I’d love to see something a bit off the wall like Watership Down by Richard Adams. Something that young people would enjoy but still includes a lot of obvious issues to talk about without having to rip the story into tiny miserable bits that suck the enjoyment out of reading.

Tracey Lynn Tobin

This is honestly a bit of a difficult question for me for a couple of reasons. For one, I hardly ever find time to read these days, so I can’t even really think of that many “modern” novels I’ve read. For another thing, I mostly read genres like horror and supernatural, which aren’t ones that are steeped with the kind of content you really associate with the educational, you know what I mean?

I suppose if I’m going to pick something, I’m going to go with Harry Potter. It’s not exactly MODERN modern, but I’m picking it because it excellent, it’s fun as hell, it brightens the imagination, and also I’d love to see the looks on a bunch of bible thumpers’ faces when they find out it’s on the class syllabus. 😛

Gregory S. Close

TIGANA by Guy Gavriel Kay.  This is literary fantasy fiction with wonderful prose, a compelling story, and it’s packed with enough layers to keep any English teacher happily delving into deeper meanings, symbolisms and parallels to the real world.  Also, it’s a stand-alone novel, which is tough to find in the genre these days.  Honorable Mention to FOUNDATION by Asimov.

Eric Wood

I think “The Book Thief” should be included. It gives a great view every day life in Germany during the days leading up to and during WWII. Although the story is told by Death, it shows us life from a child’s perspective as he follows Liesel Meminger.

Elizabeth Rhodes

I’m going to vote for Isaac Asimov’s Foundation. Not only does it give parallels to the fall of the Roman Empire (bonus ties to history class), there’s an interesting theme surrounding the decline in education and independent thought. A minor character insists that the scientific method consists of reading enough studies and not doing any independent study of his own. There are good lessons here that can apply to many area of students’ learning.

D. T. Nova

The whole His Dark Materials trilogy.

Not quite as modern (it’s older than I am), but I also think that Judy Blume’s Forever… should be required reading…whether in literature class or health class I’m not sure. Though I imagine there would be a lot of opposition to that.

Paul B. Spence

Er. Not sure I would. I guess you need to define modern.

Jay Dee Archer

I read a lot of long books, but I don’t think that would be appropriate for a high school English class. However, I would like to suggest a lighthearted novel filled with well-known themes and cultural references. The Colour of Magic by Terry Pratchett would not only keep students entertained, but would give them a lot of research to do.

How about you?

What do you think should be included in the high school English curriculum? Let us know which book you’d like to see in the comments below.