What the Common Core Wants Students to Read

             
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The Common Core Standards have become like Obamacare: most people have strong feelings about it without having read the document.

So, in the interests of filling in the dialogue a bit, I have provided the Common Core reading recommendations (“exemplars”) for middle school, i.e., grades 6-8. (You can find the recommendations for all grade levels here.) The texts were selected for their “complexity,” “quality,” and “range.” One should note that these texts are merely recommendations and not requirements.

Stories

Little Women, Louisa May Alcott
The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, Mark Twain
A Wrinkle in Time, Madeleine L’Engle
The Dark is Rising, Susan Cooper
Dragonwings, Laurence Yep
Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry, Mildred Taylor
“The People Could Fly,” Virginia Hamilton
The Tale of the Mandarin Ducks, Katherine Peterson
“Eleven,” Sandra Cisneros
Black Ships Before Troy: The Story of the Iliad, Rosemary Sutcliff

Drama

Sorry, Wrong Number, Louise Fletcher
The Diary of Anne Frank: A Play, Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett

 Poetry

“Paul Revere’s Ride,” Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
“O Captain! My Captain!” Walt Whitman
“Jabberwocky,” Lewis Carroll
“Twelfth Song of Thunder,” Navajo tradition
“The Railway Train,” Emily Dickinson
“The Song of Wandering Aengus,” William Butler Yeats
“The Road Not Taken,” Robert Frost
“Chicago,” Carl Sandburg
“I, Too, Sing America,” Langston Hughes
“The Book of Questions,” Pablo Neruda
“Oranges,” Gary Soto
“A Poem for My Librarian, Mrs. Long,” Nikki Giovanni

Informational Texts: English Language Arts

“Letter on Thomas Jefferson,” John Adams
Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass an American Slave, Frederick Douglass
“Blood, Toil, Tears and Sweat: Address to Parliament on May 13th, 1940,” Winston Churchill
Harriet Tubman: Conductor on the Underground Railroad, Ann Petry
Travels with Charley: In Search of America, by John Steinbeck

Informational Texts: History/Social Studies

United States. Preamble and First Amendment to the United States Constitution. (1787, 1791)
A Night to Remember, Walter Lord
A Short Walk through the Pyramids and through the World of Art, Phillip Isaacson
The Great Fire, Jim Murphy
Vincent Van Gogh: Portrait of an Artist, Jan Greenberg
The Land Was Made for You and Me: The Life and Songs of Woody Guthrie, Elizabeth Partridge
Words We Live By: Your Annotated Guide to the Constitution, Linda Monk
Freedom Walkers: The Story of the Montgomery Bus Boycott, Russell Freedman

Informational Texts: Science, Mathematics, and Technical Subjects

Cathedral: The Story of Its Construction, David Macaulay
The Building of Manhattan, Donald Mackay
The Number Devil: A Mathematical Adventure, Hans Magnus Enzensberger
Math Trek: Adventures in the Math Zone, Ivars Peterson and Nancy Henderson
Geeks: How Two Lost Boys Rode the Internet out of Idaho, John Katz
“The Evolution of the Grocery Bag,” Henry Petroski
“Geology,” U*X*L Encyclopedia of Science
“Space Probe,” Astronomy & Space: From the Big Bang to the Big Crunch
“Elementary Particles,” New Book of Popular Science
California Invasive Plant Council,” Invasive Plant Inventory

What do you think? Do these Common Core recommendations display the rigor you would hope for in a middle school curriculum?  Are they “suggestive of the breadth of texts that students should encounter” as hoped for by the Common Core committee?

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