A world literature reading list for high school students should include books about life-changing situations that people have faced around the world. Students will likely cover American and English literature separate from world literature. Parents, teachers, librarians and educators might encourage teenagers to include historical fiction and nonfiction selections on the list, so there's room to explore a mixture of facts, personal accounts and imagined stories about people with different cultural, social and historical backgrounds.
Europe: Survival During World War II
Add books to the list about events in Europe such as World War II that changed the face of history. For example, "The Book Thief" by Markus Zusak -- a story about a German foster girl who steals books during World War II to share with her neighbors during air raids -- helps high school students learn important themes about love, sacrifice and devotion, says Sarah Gross, English teacher and creator of The Reading Zone website. Teenagers might enjoy "Between Shades of Gray" by Deckle Edge. The story centers on a 15-year-old Lithuanian girl forced to work in one of Joseph Stalin's Soviet work camps in Siberia.
Asia: Hope Amid Difficult Circumstances
Add historical fiction selections, such as "The Life of Pi" by Yann Martel -- a story about an Indian boy's survival on a lifeboat after being shipwrecked with a Bengal tiger -- to the list. Educators might also include "Memoirs of a Geisha" by Arthur Golding on their list, suggests Brunswick Academy in Virginia. The novel is about a young Japanese entertainer's experiences before and after World War II. These books help students understand the hardships others faced as they maneuvered difficult circumstances.
Africa: Against All Odds
Incorporate books about overcoming the odds into the list. Opt for a true story about civil war, such as "A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Solider" by Ishmael Beah, recommends Gross. The story is the real account of Beah's experiences as a refugee, soldier and spokesperson during the 1991-2002 civil war in Sierra Leone. Teachers and librarians might also add a historical fiction to their lists, such as "Akata Witch" by Nnedi Okorafor, suggests the Young Adult Library Services Association's "2012 Best Fiction for Young Adults". The novel explores the life of Sunny, a Nigerian albino athlete who can only participate in athletic events at night, as she discovers that she has magical powers.
Middle East: Endurance and Determination
Choose book selections that help high school students learn the value of patience, perseverance and determination. For example, "Words in the Dust" by Trent Reedy is loosely based on the true story of an Afghanistan girl's desire for health, peace and hope after the Taliban is defeated. Americans visit her village and perform reconstructive surgery to repair her cleft palate, giving her a bright outlook for the future, according to Kirkus Reviews. High school students might also enjoy "Under the Persimmon Tree" by Suzanne Fisher Staples, a story about a teenager's struggles in war-torn Afghanistan.
Central and South America: Fantasy Tales
Add fantasy books to the reading list so teenagers can explore the creative and imaginative side of world literature. For example, "The Dreamer" by Pam Munoz Ryan tells the story of a young Chilean boy who hears voices and follows what they tell him to do, despite ridicule from others. "Keeper" by Mal Peet is a realistic, magical tale about a world-famous South American soccer goalie who learned his skills from a mysterious, ghostly goalkeeper who lives in the jungle.
- The Reading Zone: World Literature that High School Students Actually Want to Read -- Share a Story, Shape a Future 2012
- Brunswick Academy: 10th Grade Survey of World Literature; Elie Wiesel
- Young Adult Library Services Association: 2012 Best Fiction for Young Adults
- Kirkus Reviews: "Words in the Dust"
- Kirkus Reviews: "Keeper"
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