Note the Gender
Here is a general rule of thumb for choosing literature that most people know but don't always want to admit:
Male students usually prefer stories with men or boys as the main character; female students prefer main characters who are girls or women.
Are there exceptions to this rule? Yes, there are many and we could all think of numerous exceptions. However, as much as those who strive for a gender neutral society might not like to admit; more often than not that general rule of thumb is true.
So a simple starting point in your search is to look for classical literature whose main character is the same gender as your student.
And speaking of classic literature, just what is the big deal with classic literature
Well, one might well ask what is the definition of classic literature. Let's make it simple. We can define classic literature as any book that remains in print for more than fifty years (a simple definition indeed!) This would indicate that such books are so valuable that they continue to be in demand.
Popular literature, in contrast, comes and goes with the trends. Now, of course, there may be a popular book that gets printed this month that will become a classic with time. There's no rule that one needs to read only the older books. However, while searching for the best, it is a great place to start.
Besides standing the test of time and demand for reprinting, classical literature offers other benefits. These include qualities such as moral dilemmas, character development, and the use of literary elements.
Yikes! Is this starting to bring back nightmares of high school English?
Relax. When students read books they enjoy, then studying those elements of literature becomes a pleasure.
We've got a little bit of circular reasoning going on here:
- Literary elements make a great book
- Kids like great books
- Great books makes learning the literary elements enjoyable.
Trust me, it works. But once again, you have to find those books that connect with your kids.
Popular books printed today often have an interest level and reading level assigned to them. They try to keep the two together.
This is not the case with classic literature. It appeals to a much wider age range. Young children enjoy having them read to them. Older students will read them for pleasure.
Read Out Loud
Advanced readers, struggling readers, and everyone in between love to hear a good story.
By reading out loud to your student you allow them to hear great literature. Even if it is above their reading level, it is not above their comprehension level.
An added benefit is that, having heard the story once, they will be more confident and willing to tackle the great classics on their own. The second time around, the plot and words will be more familiar and help them to expand their vocabulary.
Help for Struggling Readers
One strategy for struggling reader's is to read an easy version which is edited at a lower reading level. If the student enjoys that book, have them read the original unabridged version. Their comprehension will be aided by the fact they have already read and enjoyed the story.