Today's post is written by Cassandra Davis, author of Dremiks.
This school year, I’ve taken on the task of homeschooling both of my sons. Because they both have learning disabilities (but not the same disabilities, because that would be too easy!) and are three years apart, I knew I would need a bit more structure to my curriculum. With my eldest we were using a free-wheeling mixture of formal curricula and piece-meal work; doing double of that might drive me (further) insane. So, I opted to use a popular Catholic homeschool education “curriculum in a box”. One of the courses is “Junior High Literature”. The syllabus has a wide range of suggested books to choose from, includes guides for book report writing for the middle grades, and huge notebook of questions on the texts.
For my son’s first book of the year, I chose a short book on the life of St. Paul to ease him into the structure of the course. During the second quarter of the year, I assigned the short-story course. This worked out well because I’d just contributed to a short-story anthology of holiday stories. I added “Winter Wonder” to the syllabus and had him pick out a few stories to read and comment upon. However, my son’s greatest engagement with his literature schoolwork has been when he gets to choose (from the list of approved books) which he will read.
He has now read “The Fellowship of the Ring”, “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea” and “Out of the Silent Planet”. He’s seen all the “Lord of the Rings” and “Hobbit” movies and his father read “The Hobbit” to him a few years ago. So, his choosing and enjoyment of a high fantasy novel was not a huge surprise. What was surprising was that for “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea” and “Out of the Silent Planet”, he read the books in half of the allotted time. He stayed up way past bedtime reading under the covers, just like his mamma used to do. Of course, with his Amazon Kindle he doesn’t have to juggle a flashlight and the book!
With limited resources and ever-expanding class sizes—in which students of wildly varying reading levels are grouped-- science fiction and fantasy classics are quickly disappearing from school reading lists. Given the limits on time and resources just mentioned, it isn’t feasible for schools to add these books back into the curricula. Therefore, whether homeschooling or not, we as parents need to make an effort to expand our children’s exposure to these genres. Movies do help bring attention to genre fiction, especially teen-dystopia and high fantasy, but we cannot allow Hollywood to determine what is worthy of reading.
If you have children in your home, or younger relatives you regularly interact with, please take the time to read with them. Discuss what books you enjoyed as a teen. Give sci-fi classics as presents. Help preserve genre literature as an important facet of our culture.
Visit the comment section to leave your suggestions for sci-fi and fantasy books appropriate for children and teens.