The Student News Site of Alexandria City High School


The Student News Site of Alexandria City High School


The Student News Site of Alexandria City High School


TC English Must Reads

by Bridgette Adu-Wadier and Araceli Acho

“We love to read. We’re English teachers. We read all the time,” said English 10 teacher Matthew Henry. “I’m constantly coming across books that I would just love to teach.”

In an environment as diverse as TC, the required reading selection must be as varied and far-reaching as the student body. When it comes to being inclusive in representing various voices in literature the TC English Department has been supportive in letting teachers choose their own adventures.

Books get added to the English selection list through an approval process involving the School Board and Central Office, a process that is not very difficult at all.

According to Sarah Kiyak, who teaches A.P. English Language and Composition,  “there’s really so much flexibility,” in what teachers get to teach and add to the reading list.  It makes it easier to diversify the book selection and including more modern, non-white characters.

Each grade level has an approved reading list from which teachers can choose based on whatever is in supply.

“The book room is full of amazing things; we joke that it’s like free Barnes and Noble,” said eleventh grade English teacher Laurel Taylor.

English teachers work with the assigned curriculum to be as inclusive as possible, but every student will maintain his or her interests. According to English 10 teacher Jeff Cunningham, sometimes there can be too much concern over whether the student will like the book and not much focus on the importance of what the author is trying to convey.

Fun Home by Alison Bechdel

The Curriculum Specialist, John Brown, and TC English Department were supportive of Kiyak’s decision to add a very important piece of representation of the LGBT community. Now she teaches the book to her A.P. English Language and Composition class.

Graphic novels, which is rarely regarded in academia as literature, is starting to be recognized for its visual rhetoric. What people can learn from graphic novels such as Fun Home is that that pictures can do a better job of portraying stories than words.

From novels such as Fun Home, students learn that their childhood experiences effect them long past childhood. Also, the legacy that a parent leaves is one that endures long after they’re gone.

Fences by August Wilson

It is important to feature non-white, diverse stories because students can see a reflection of themselves in the literature and relative more fully to the message the author is trying to convey. And then the investment and interest melts overshadows the most commonly asked question teachers hear: ‘Well, why do we have to read this?’.

Fences takes place in the 1950s, when African Americans were first beginning to immerse themselves into white dominant society. After Jackie Robinson integrated basketball, the American Dream seemed accessible to the black community.

Wilson’s play explores multiple characters’ pursuits toward the American Dream, while they are still grappling with the limits of their past. Troy Maxson, a family man, works as a trash collector. Despite his decent pay, he still wonders why his white coworkers get to drive trucks instead of picking up garbage like he and his friend Bono. This causes him to challenge his boss and make his grievances heard.

Kiyak saw one drastic change in the experience of one of her past students when she started reading this iconic 20th-century play to one of her classes.

“This was a boy who would come late every day and would be absent, Once we started reading that play and he could play the lead part, he started coming on time and he started coming to class,” Kiyak explained.

Responsibility and family are two themes that converge in the play. It reminds readers that even with life’s disappointments and tragedies, nothing can take away the importance of providing for loved ones to get through tough situations.

Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward

“I think it’s great because it’s timely,” Henry commented.

Teachers are focusing more on books that are more modern and teach students a lot about current issues that could be affecting someone that they know.

The novel has a unique narrative about the South, one that gives a sense of place and a voice to the experience of African American family. The messy family dynamics are an issue that many students can relate to. Ward’s characters are created in a way that evokes sympathy from the reader, despite their unfortunate flaws. Leonie, a single black mother in the novel, battles drug abuse and is a neglectful parent. However, she is not demonized and is portrayed as another far from perfect human being. Ward’s writing will challenge the reader’s capacity for forgiveness and expand their empathy for others.

Cry, the Beloved Country by Alan Paton

English teachers must also venture outside of the United States to deliver proper exposure to other cultures and countries. Supporting texts and independent reading projects are provided to fill in the gaps that the approved reading list does not.

The novel tells the story of a father’s travels through the city of Johannesburg, South Africa in search of his son, wh went there but never returned. The reader embarks on a journey as well, for the plot exposes the shocking discoveries the central character, Reverend Stephen Kumalo, makes.

The story unfolds in protest of the series of events that folded that led to apartheid and illustrates the extreme experiences of both races. This provides an in-depth view of South African History, a subject that is often only briefly mentioned in the history books.

Cunningham also referenced The Bluest Eye, which, even with it being a controversial read, still prompts valuable discussion on race, prejudice and self-hate.

“I think one of the other challenges is sometimes there are really good books but the content is really hard to handle. It might have sexual assault in it; it might have violence in it,” said Taylor.

The T.C. English Department is continuing its progress to introduce novels that distinguish the reading experience for many TC Titans.

“There are more important voices than just the classics, sometimes,” said Henry.                                                                                                                                                     

Donate to Theogony

Your donation will support the student journalists of Alexandria City High School. Your contribution will allow us to purchase equipment and cover our annual website hosting costs.

More to Discover
Donate to Theogony

Activate Search
TC English Must Reads