For the last seven years, I have worked as a reading enrichment teacher, reading classic works of literature with small groups of students from grades six to eight. I originally proposed this idea to my headmaster after learning that a former excellent student of mine had transferred out of a selective high school—one that often attracts the literary-minded children of Manhattan’s upper classes—into a less competitive setting. The daughter of immigrants, with a father in prison, she perhaps felt uncomfortable with her new classmates. I thought additional “cultural capital” could help students like her develop better in high school, where they would unavoidably meet, perhaps for the first time, students who came from homes lined with bookshelves, whose parents had earned Ph. D.’s.
Along with Of Mice and Men, my groups read: Sounder, The Red Pony, Lord of the Flies, Romeo and Juliet and Macbeth. The students didn’t always read from the expected point of view.