The students I teach this year are not into reading anything–much less the classics, but that doesn’t mean I will not expose them to these great books and let them know there is wonder and wisdom in these works. I’ve already pulled in a stack of graphic novels: Frankenstein, Dracula, The Greatest Works of Poe, Call of the Wild, and The Red Badge of Courage. Several of my football players devoured these short reads. The boys chose the books because the pages were slim. They didn’t know I had a master plan: just read.
I remember sitting to book chat with Robert after he read Frankenstein. “What’s one thing you didn’t know about the story that you thought you did before you read it?” Robert told me four. When we talked about theme we discussed the idea of creation and “playing God” and “finding love and acceptance” –conversations few people have with this 6′ fullback.
Then Robert told Fernando about the graphic novel of Frankenstein, and Fernando told Brandon, and Brandon told David. They all read the classics in graphic novel form. Did they learn to analyze literature? No. Did they study style and characterization? No.
Did they learn universal stories about universal truths? Yes.
And, guess what? My table of 9th grade football-playing boys talked about the classics. (I might have done a happy dance.)
I think my guys–and maybe a few other students–are ready to try harder reads than they’ve tried thus far this year. I will introduce them to the first classic book I ever read. Mind you, I read it in 7th grade over 30 years ago, and honestly, I did not appreciate it until I read it on my own years later–after I had a degree in Literature.
I’m not worried though. The movie clips make the book look accessible, the characters real, and the story-line engaging. Maybe a kid or two will become friends with Pip or fall in love with Estella or at least think Miss Havisham is a loon.