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What Books are Children Reading Today?



Required Reading Worldwide: A look at what books AbeBooks staff read in school

Required Reading Worldwide: A look at what books AbeBooks staff read in school

NPR’s All Things Considered recently featured a study which looks into the books, and types of books, that children are reading today, compared to the types of books they were reading decades ago.  While the overall message of the story is somewhat dower (that children today are reading less complex works than their peers one or two generations ago did), the insight into the most common required reading over the years is interesting:

In 1907 the top 3 required works were Julius Caesar and MacBeth by William Shakespeare and Silas Marner by George Eliot.

In 1923 it was The Rivals: A Comedy by Richard Brinsley Sheridan, Ivanhoe by Sir Walter Scott, and Sohrab and Rustum by Matthew Arnold

1964 saw a return to the 1907 trio, and present day children are reading To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, The Crucible by Arthur Miller, and Night by Elie Wiesel

Myself, I was in high-school in the 1990s and I read a smattering from these lists as well as some other classics: Julius Caesar and MacBeth (not once but twice), To Kill a Mockingbird, All Quiet on the Western Front, Catcher in The Rye, The Outsiders, and Death of A Salesman to name a few; some of my colleagues have also shared books they read in this feature

I just hope that Shakespeare continues to be heavily taught in schools; he was not my favorite, and you could argue that students could get the same boost in vocabulary and reading comprehension out of another classic, but I would be saddened to think that an entire generation might miss out on the thousands of subtle references made to his works that I encounter every year.

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