District considers additions to student reading list

Odi Opole, Web Editor

The Scarlet Letter. The Hot Zone. Whirligig. Julius Caesar.
Nathaniel Hawthorne. Richard Preston. Paul Fleischman. William Shakespeare.
These are all books that are on the approved reading list for the Blue Valley School District. But that could change in the future.
Teachers in the district are now making changes to the approved in-class reading list.
A committee is meeting to discuss which books to keep or add to the list.
No books will be removed, but they may not be used in curriculum.
Teacher and Head of the CA Department Teresa Schulte said the committee hopes to broaden the curriculum by using a mixture of contemporary and classic literature.
“We want female authors, female protagonists and multi-cultural literature,” she said. “It’s about getting the kids exposed to more styles and experiences.”
The process of choosing which books to add to the curriculum is a long, careful process.
“We have a very fine line to walk,” Schulte said. “Our goal is to get students college-ready, and we need challenging literature to do that. It’s about the skills we’re trying to teach the kids, and that’s where the rigor comes in.”
The committee to choose new books is made up of representatives from each of the five high schools in the district. There are four representatives from each — one from each grade level.
The committee will submit and choose titles, and then work towards a concrete list of suggestions. Each book submitted must be read and supported by four out of the five representatives for the grade level in question before it can move to the next level.
Students cite difficulty, content and interest levels as reasons they do or do not like a book.
“I don’t like it because there’s a lot of new terms,” freshman Alyssa Elliot said. “They’re hard to learn all at once because we didn’t do that stuff in middle school.”
Sophomore Katie Wells said she thinks that the inappropriate content of some books is a problem.
“I thought Hiroshima was informative, but it was [also] really violent and it freaked me out a little bit,” Wells said. “There are so many other books we could read, and I think we should replace them with other stuff that wouldn’t be iffy on anything. If we could avoid language and sexual stuff, so that no one would get offended, it would be so much better.”
Schulte said choosing which books make it to the classroom is not significantly affected by student opinion.
“It’s a team decision on a school-by-school level, but we basically look for the same things,” she said. “We try to choose books to match the skills we are trying to teach.”
Schulte also said that student interest can affect what students learn from a book, but that she see why the book is important.
“Students think they will always like everything they read, and when they don’t they get kind of turned off from it,” she said. “They just need to give it a chance. I don’t necessarily like everything in the curriculum either, but I can see the value of it.”