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teachers of English/ GCSE

(56 Posts)
gillybeanz Sat 02-Jun-18 13:54:24

Hi, I have a current y9 dd who enjoys English.
She's about average and enjoys comprehension.

We are looking for a book we can all read together over summer holidays that is GCSE level with something to get stuck into.
In the past we studied Lord of the flies and Animal farm, we choose a book each holiday.

Do you recommend looking at a book from the syllabus if they fancy a particular one, or is it best left for school for study.
Currently has her eye on 1984, but I know it's on her syllabus as a school choice.

Any suggestions and/or advice on whether to cover works they will do at school.

OP’s posts: |
TheThirdOfHerName Sat 02-Jun-18 13:58:09

Of Mice and Men is no longer on the GCSE syllabus but my children's schools have both used it in Y9 for practising GCSE skills.

French2019 Sat 02-Jun-18 14:01:05

I loved To Kill A Mockingbird at that age. Still love it actually. No idea if it's still on the GCSE syllabus these days. (Not a teacher!)

Buxbaum Sat 02-Jun-18 16:14:30

Avoid the books that she will study for GCSE, but are you sure that 1984 is one of them? It isn't an option for AQA, OCR, Edexcel or Eduqas (although Animal Farm is for the first three).

I would second PP's recommendations of Mockingbird and Of Mice and Men, and add my own recommendation of The Woman in Black.

gillybeanz Sat 02-Jun-18 17:05:17

No, it's not an option, sorry I meant we have studied this as a family.
I know it sounds weird but we really enjoy it and started in y7.
A book every summer holidays.
This time she has chosen 1984, but wondered if others had some suggestions on the lines of AF or LOTF.
I'm not sure of any other works that are good for comprehension and storyline.
I looked at Of Mice and Men, but it looked really short, could do it with another short story I suppose.
This will need to last 6 weeks, reading 1-2 chapters per week, when we can get together.
She really improved after last years holiday.

OP’s posts: |
gillybeanz Sat 02-Jun-18 17:11:26


Ignore me, I did read 1984 on a syllabus list, it may have been an old one.

She'll be doing A view from the Bridge, and most likely Hard Times I think.
Struggling to find the right syllabus as I'm sure school have wrong code on website. So not 100% sure.

OP’s posts: |
Scabetty Sat 02-Jun-18 17:12:23

Of Mice and Men is fantastic though short. Perhaps a gothic novel would be good or short stories. Oscar Wilde wrote some lovely short stories and DS (yr 10) has had homework to explore the gothic genre before they start Jekyll and Hyde.

Annebronte Sat 02-Jun-18 17:21:11

Is she doing IGCSE? Hard Times, 1984, View From The Bridge are all on the CIE syllabus for next year. How about Jekyll and Hyde if you want another shortish one after Mice? The Great Gatsby is also very popular with bright GCSE students. Great Expectations could work too.

Annebronte Sat 02-Jun-18 17:22:50

If it’s CIE, the codes all change next year, which could explain the code on the school website.

Scabetty Sat 02-Jun-18 17:24:35

Or look at A level books such as A Handmaid’s Tale.

BeyondThePage Sat 02-Jun-18 17:25:27

Try some Dickens - it is quite hard to get into his style and there always seems to be one of his on the syllabus.

BuckwheatBertha Sat 02-Jun-18 17:30:44

I think we're doing 1984 next academic year, so it is a text that will be examined in the future.

I have to say, I would seriously think about reading Hard Times over summer as well to be honest, if she's going to study it next year. It's a very long and difficult text and to get through it at all within lesson time is a real challenge in the time available. I think having read through it once would help, but it is a killer esp for new Y10 students.

Of Mice and Men is, as you say, quite short but very good for thinking about structure, which (depending on your daughter's exam spec) is a really important part of the spec I teach, and I think it helps to develop awareness of texts as constructs.

gillybeanz Sat 02-Jun-18 17:32:19

Anne, Yes it's igcse.

I've found the right one. School said 0486 and it will be 0475.

1984 is an option in Prose. Gosh, it looks so much different than when our others took a bloody normal GCSE.
I'm sure I'll get my head round it, eventually.
Why do they make it so hard for parents to understand. I wouldn't mind but I have a PgCE so not a complete novice.

OP’s posts: |
gillybeanz Sat 02-Jun-18 17:34:45

Thanks very much Buckwheat

We do have an old copy from our older dc, so will recommend it to her.

OP’s posts: |
MaisyPops Sat 02-Jun-18 17:36:37

I wouldn't pick something from the spex personally.
The best English students in my opinion read widely well beyond the spec.
Any classics could be good if DC enjoys older texts.
Woman in Black is good
Junk is a young adult book but good
To kill a mockingbird
Day of the Triffids
Catcher in the Rye
The Handmaid's tale
The Colour Purple
The Kite Runner

Fifthtimelucky Sat 02-Jun-18 17:41:31

I'm not an English teacher, but I wouldn't be encouraging my daughter to 'study' anything over the holidays. I would, however, be encouraging her to read a wide variety of things. I hate to think of a book being described as 'GCSE level' or 'A level books'. Books can be read and enjoyed at a variety of levels.

It's so depressing to see the same few books mentioned again and again. Yes, they are great books, but there are so many others too.

TheOnlyLivingBoyInNewCross Sat 02-Jun-18 17:45:54

I wouldn’t necessarily recommend The Handmaid’s Tale for Year 9.

To Kill a Mockingbird is a good option, as is The Woman in Black. Kate Grenville’s The Secret River is just coming off the CIE spec, and that’s a great read with lots to discuss in terms of context too.

TheOnlyLivingBoyInNewCross Sat 02-Jun-18 17:50:11

The White Darkness by Geraldine McCaughrean is good, and then there’s The Kite Rider by the same author. A little bit different to the “set texts” sort of read. There’s lots of great YA fiction out there you could read together. Have you read The Chais Walking trilogy by Patrick Ness? One of my favourites: DS (15) has gone on to read all his books.

MaisyPops Sat 02-Jun-18 17:54:48

Depends on the child. I've had high ability y9 students who've been very mature and coped brilliantly with A Level texts.

If a child likes challenging and meaty texts then there's no reason not to. If they are highly sensitive then probably best to give it a miss.

Wolfiefan Sat 02-Jun-18 17:56:16

I loved the Chaos Walking books.
Woman in Black is fab.
You could plan a theatre trip and read a play before going to see it? I'm presuming drama is on the syllabus.
I love To Kill a Mockingbird. There's also Roll of Thunder Hear my Cry from P of V of young black girl.
Another Dickens? His style does take some getting used to?
Love Gatsby too.
Wouldn't look at Handmaid's tale or a few others mentioned just yet.

LooseAtTheSeams Sat 02-Jun-18 18:04:12

Gilly I love your idea!
Just a thought - if you want a classic 'Mary Barton' by Elizabeth Gaskell is pretty accessible and a great Mancunian novel! Or her 'North and South' which would give an interesting alternative perspective to 'Hard Times.'
I also think your dd would really like To Kill a Mockingbird, though.

gillybeanz Sat 02-Jun-18 18:13:07

Loose, hello my love.

I haven't come across this one, will take a look.


I know you aren't to know this, but my dd isn't very academic and to show an interest is a major step for her. She will be lucky to scrape 5's in her exams. This gives her a confidence boost every year.
We all enjoy our little read each year, it's time we make to be together, and we have some lovely discussions. I know some kids wouldn't enjoy it, and it wouldn't have been for our older ones either.

OP’s posts: |
TheOnlyLivingBoyInNewCross Sat 02-Jun-18 18:16:33

MaisyPops - I think there is so much great reading out there which is challenging and meaty but more age appropriate that there’s no need to be reading The Handmaid’s Tale at Year 9. Just because they can cope with the language of it doesn’t mean they’re ready to deal with the issues it raises. Parents know their kids and what they can cope with on an individual basis, so the OP will know whether her DD is ready to read the description of Offred and the Commander fucking in the Ceremony and discuss it with her mum, but as a teacher I’d never introduce a novel like The Handmaid’s Tale to a whole class of Year 9s, high-achieving or not.

gillybeanz Sat 02-Jun-18 18:43:43

Thank you for all the suggestions and I do agree about there being lots of good books other than those on/ off the syllabus.
I only mentioned the level as obviously no child can read all the books the school may choose, and there are some corkers out there.
I hadn't thought about The Colour Purple, would that be suitable or am I being over cautious. I seem to remember a rape scene, not sure if anything like that would be for our reading session, maybe something she'd read on her own.
It definitely needs to be something she could discuss with her dad too.

OP’s posts: |
MaisyPops Sat 02-Jun-18 18:46:23

I didn't do it with the whole class. I had students who could cope with it (language and maturity) borrow copies as part of a wider reading project. Quite a few had seen the TV series too so it wasn't particularly unreasonable to suggest the book.

End of y9 to start of y10 something doesn't magically change and in Y10 we do An Inspector Calls and end up discussing prostitution, issues of rape and consent.

I'm stunned with what TV boxsets Y9 have been watching. Some of what they access visually is as mature as themes in many books. They are options to consider that have worked well with some students. It's up to students and parents to decide what they're happy with.

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