‘Why don’t the good things ever happen to us?’ is what’s running through the minds of innumerable college students and young people this week after news broke of the ICSE exam board adding the Harry Potter book series and other contemporary novels and comic books, as part of its revised syllabus.
In case any of the other major education boards hope to emulate the efforts of the ICSE board to modernise their syllabus, we’ve curated a list of some of the best books we could find for teenagers and young adults and even included what part of their education the book could fulfil.
Matilda, Roald Dahl
This wondrous story about a young girl, who unlocks psychic abilities within herself to surmount the challenges posed by her dysfunctional family and comically-threatening headmistress, is an absolute must-read and one of Dahl’s finest works. The lead character, Matilda, serves as inspiration to young boys and girls across the world, which makes this book ideal to teach kids about gender equality at a pivotal point in their education.
Malgudi Days, RK Narayan
The charming, little town of Malgudi is the setting for the trials and tribulations of its citizens. Life, when viewed from the point of view of 10-year-old Swaminathan – or Swami for short – is an everyday adventure. Things have changed so much for us in the last few years that it’s hard to imagine the India that the author writes about. The socio-cultural context of the book, in a version of India that should never be forgotten, is precisely what makes us wish it was required reading in school.
The Lorax, Dr Seuss
The Lorax was Dr Seuss’ personal favourite of his own books.The prescience of the prolific author is evident from this tale of corporate greed’s negative impact on the environment, which he wrote way back in 1971. It’s rare that a book about economic and environmental issues should make an amazing read for children, but that’s exactly what this finely-crafted novel achieves. With the environment under constant threat from human activities, this would be a great way to teach children about our relationship with our surroundings and how we can work to save it together.
Calvin and Hobbes, Bill Watterson
Could there be a better way to teach children about harnessing the power of their imagination than by having them read Calvin and Hobbes? Everyone’s favourite child with the hyperactive imagination has lessons to teach us regardless of our age. What sets this series apart is its ability to take big ideas and philosophical thoughts and break them down in the most spectacular fashion so that even a young child can grasp them. The priceless lessons contained in the pages of the many Calvin and Hobbes collections, if taught as part of a child’s education, will serve them for many years to come.
Are you There God? It’s me Margaret, Judy Blume
The titular character, Margaret, is a child of an inter-religious marriage and she’s on a quest for a single religion. Along the way, she learns how to buy her first bra and about having her first period, as well as dealing with sanitary napkins and a host of other pre-teen problems. Ideally, we’d love it if teachers and parents could teach their kids these things, but we understand that some people are a bit squeamish discussing these things with children and that’s where this book could do a fantastic job as recommended reading for school.
The Book Thief, Markus Zukas
While being raised by foster parents in World War II Germany, Liesel befriends a Jewish man named Max, who is being illegally hidden in their home from the Nazi regime. Hans teaches her to read in secret and Liesel begins to understand just how powerful the written word can be. As Liesel learns to cope with the horrors of the war-ravaged era, she undergoes a journey of self-discovery, finds her identity, and starts her life as a book thief. The Book Thief teaches its readers about what was arguably one of the worst periods in our shared history, while reminding us that war is never the answer.
The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Stephen Chbosky
Fifteen-year-old Charlie Kelmeckis is an unusual teenage boy – he’s an unconventional thinker and wise beyond his years, yet introverted and unpopular. The book starts with Charlie’s first year in high school, where he struggles to make friends until he is befriended by Patrick and Sam. As Charlie embarks upon the path to finding himself, the readers encounter common teenage issues such as sexuality, alcohol, drugs, identity and intimacy within relationships. By the end of the book, young readers will begin to ask questions of themselves and delving into introspection.
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