Assigning Controversial Novels
Photo by Jessi Dedrick on Unsplash
This winter, my seventh-grade class read the novel The Outsiders by S.E Hinton. The book is ranked number 43 on the American Library Association’s Top 100 Most Challenged books of 1990-2000. Many schools and libraries have removed the book from their shelves due to its depiction of gang violence, underage drinking and smoking, offensive language, and family dysfunction. My students’ experiences show that the novel is worth teaching because it encourages students to look at their personal backgrounds and to make connections to their own lives. It is a story about hardships and unconditional love within friendships.
Every week, we analyzed and discussed a chapter. I was surprised to discover that the students loved the novel as much as I did. The group of students that I had were generally disinterested in reading, but they could hardly put this book down. Some enjoyed it so much that they finished it weeks before the final chapter was due. One student even re-read the novel after she finished it. The class’s reaction to the end of the novel was emotional and heartwarming. The room was silent until we reached the last sentence, and then applause erupted. One student mentioned that she felt inspired by S.E Hinton, who began writing The Outsiders when she was only 15 years old.
When the students were asked whether they have ever felt like an outsider, most students said that they have felt or still feel that way. Some readers consider The Outsiders novel to be bibliotherapy, a way to ease the growing pains of being a teenager.
S.E Hinton’s novel, The Outsiders, brought out the students’ excitement for reading. The novel teaches students that at the end of the day, we are all human. It helps students realize that everyone has their own life problems, no matter how it may seem on the outside, and it helps them recognize that they are not alone.