Topic | Literature discussions (high school)

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  • ErinD

    I take a read-and-discuss approach to literature in my homeschool (mostly) but I am having a hard time getting anything out of my boys during discussion time. I don’t really like to ask leading questions; I want to know what THEY get out of a book or what they think of it. But lately, all I’m getting is whether they like it or not, and how far through the book they are. They really have nothing to say beyond that.

    I know I could look up free lit guides online to give me ideas of questions to ask, but that’s not really what I’m after. I’m pretty sure those types of questions would be met with blank stares.

    I guess I am wondering if it’s *okay* that they don’t really want to talk about all their books. They both write good essays about literature, they can identify literary elements and we study short stories and poetry during the year. *I* never discuss books with anyone, unless there is something particularly interesting that I want to share. They definitely will not need literary analysis skills for college (trades). So does it matter?

    Some books lend themselves well to discussion, like Animal Farm or The Hiding Place, and I had more luck with those two. But some books are just entertainment, so what is there to discuss? I don’t want to ruin it for them by forcing them to tell me about them.



    I have to laugh because this is exactly how my boys are.

    For my oldest, who is now 17, we were fortunate to have a co-op that had a literary analysis and writing class for high schoolers.  He did that for three years.  If that was not available, I would look for or start a book club for high schoolers.  While I understand and respect that teenage boys often don’t like to discuss literature (especially with parents), I think the opportunity to look more deeply into literature is a valuable experience.

    I can’t imagine, for example, reading To Kill a Mockingbird in high school without further discussion about race, class and social inequality, justice, etc.  When my son read Jane Eyre, there were many opportunities to discuss relationships, moral and religious beliefs, and class.  Again, these are things he would not have talked about, may have even glossed over, but gave him a deeper appreciation for the book and a broader knowledge of life, morality, and relationships.

    I’ll be watching for something in the next few years for my now 13YO.  Because he is not as much of a book lover, I think finding an appropriate fit for him will be even more challenging.


    Hi Erin! I’ve been wanting to reply to your question but have just now found the time to sit down at the computer for a few minutes. I read new posts on my phone but hate to respond on my phone. 🙂

    Anyhowdy, I wouldn’t push it if it were me. I figure everyone has strengths and weaknesses and the most important thing for me is that my kids enjoy their books and form relationships with them. Not everyone is cut out for lit analysis, especially not all teenage boys ;-). I know my son wasn’t! He gave me good narrations and wrote wonderful narrations but hated literary analysis so I just didn’t force the issue.



    Thanks so much, Melanie! That is the conclusion I had come to on my own, but it’s nice to hear someone else say it and feel validated. If I force discussion, they just hate it, and yes, sometimes you just like a book and leave it at that. I have noticed though, that my oldest son (now 17) has really improved in his ability to talk about literature since he started high school. I used to ask him questions and he would be a blank stare and now he actually sometimes has things to say (not all the time). So, there is something to be said for practice and maturity.

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