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James Paukstela is a senior at Schenectady High School

Book list is an aid to students

Wednesday, May 9, 2012
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James Paukstela
James Paukstela

How would you like to go from an underachiever to a college graduate? Well, a good idea to help you on the way is to read the books that the Freedom Writers read.

If you haven’t seen the movie or read the book, the Freedom Writers were a group of at-risk high school students in California who were inspired by their young teacher to learn tolerance, apply themselves and pursue education beyond high school. Their story shows how they were able to transform from unteachable “rejects” to graduates who went on the college and even earn doctoral degrees.

Each of the books listed have a general theme revolving around a conflict and the journey the characters go through to overcome these conflicts. The books were all based on a younger generation that the Freedom Writers could relate to and understand.

“Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl” was the central book that they could relate to. Even though the family in the book was betrayed and captured by Nazis (this was found out later by historical records), the story of Anne Frank lives on. Anne Frank left something behind to be remembered — unlike the hundreds of other kids they knew who died for nothing and whose memory is forever forgotten — the Freedom Writers responded to this realization by bettering themselves.

“The Outsiders” gives the Freedom Writers a sneak peek into the life of Ponyboy Curtis and his struggles to fit into a society in which he believes he is an outsider. The senselessness of all the dramatic events he and his friend Johnny go through traumatizes Ponyboy. He deals with his grief and frustration by writing this book for other gang members who are throwing their lives away. This book is something the Freedom Writers could relate to because their lives were being subjected to gang violence in a similar manner.

“The Catcher in the Rye” features the hardships of Holden Caulfield, whose fantasy is to save children from losing their innocence. After leaving his parents’ apartment he drops by to see a former beloved English teacher, Mr. Antolini, and is offered advice and a place to sleep. The advice that Mr. Antolini conveys is that it is the mark of a mature man to live humbly for a cause, rather than die nobly for it. It gets the Freedom Writers thinking, why are their friends dying? And it is better to live humbly than to die nobly because in the end it’s not worth dying for.

As the 10 books read throughout their high school years were able to help transform the Freedom Writers from underachievers deemed “un-teachable” rejects that would never go anywhere in life into PhD graduates, it would be prudent to read these books to increase your own performance.

For more information on the Freedom Writers, check out their website for their book list and more information at www.freedomwritersfoundation.org.

 
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