Selecting fiction for classroom use: Key points
Note: These recommendations are for assigned class reading as distinct from students' individual selection of books to read for book reports on papers.
- Fiction can provide important windows into culture and events around the world.
- Fiction by nature does not have to be historically accurate. However, novels provide an excellent opportunity to help students hone critical thinking skills. Teachers should help students to identify authors' biases and to differentiate between factual and fictional elements. The latter is especially important because the line between fact and fiction is so often blurred, e.g. The DaVinci Code.
- Teachers should help students identify historical inaccuracies and stereotypes found in assigned literature readings and consider the historical contexts in which books are written. Students should consider why novels contain inaccuracies. Are they for literary effect? Are they due to editorial oversight? Is the author misinformed? Is the author making a political statement?
- When selecting fiction that addresses a contemporary conflict, for the sake of balance, teachers should select novels that offer different perspectives. For example, if a teacher wants to use fiction related to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and has a novel that describes a Palestinian child's perspective of the conflict, he/she should also select a novel that provides an Israeli child's perspective and experience.
- Often age-level-appropriate books that provide contrasting perspectives on contentious subjects are not available. In such cases, teachers should seek out fiction that is not politically focused. This will avoid the appearance of bias and is preferable to materials that promote a one-sided perspective on a sensitive issue.When I Was a SoldierZenatti, Valerie.
New York: Bloomsbury USA Children's Books, 2006. 235pp
$7.95. ISBN: 1599900599
Recommended for Grades 9-12
This is a memoir by Valerie Zenatti, a French immigrant to Israel who, upon reaching age 18, is drafted into the Israel Defense Force for her compulsory two years army service. Her memoir begins the summer before her call-up as she finishes her school exams and says goodbye to her best friends and her boyfriend...
Click here to read more.The Dog of KnotsKaplan, Kathy Walden
Eerdman's Books for Young Readers: 2005. 131pp
$7.50. ISBN: 0802852742
Recommended for ages 9-12
Mayim is a nine year-old girl living with her mother, a university professor, in a diverse Haifa neighborhood in 1973. She befriends a local dog, which she calls Knotty, and sets about interrogating her neighbors about where the dog came from...
Click here to read more.Running on Eggs
Front Street/Cricket Books, 1999. 183pp
Recommended for ages 9-13
Karen is a 13 year-old Israeli girl who lives in a village abutting the Lebanese border, near an Arab village where another young girl, Yasmine, lives. Karen and Yasmine meet on the school bus and discover a shared love of running - they are on the same track team at school. ...
Click here to read more.After the War
Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers: 1996. 115pp
$4.99. ISBN: 0689803508
Recommended for Grades 7-10
When fifteen-year-old Ruth returns to her home in Poland after surviving the Holocaust, she discovers that former maids have taken over her family's house. As they marvel that she, out of all of her family, is still alive, Ruth feels like a ghost in their presence. While trying to find out information about her family, Ruth connects with a man who is part of an organized effort to bring Jews to the British mandate for Palestine...
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