New core novels aim to diversify curriculum

Image provided by Fremont Unified School District. Top: Core Novel nominees.

The core novels are the set of books that all students are required to read at school in their English classes each year. These novels vary by grade level and course. They have remained relatively the same for Fremont students for decades now, but this is about to change.

The Fremont Unified School District is in the process of changing the core novels for grades 7 to 12. Thus far, many books have been nominated, and 5 finalists have been chosen per grade by The Core Literature Adoption Committee. This committee’s goal is to diversify these novels both in terms of the perspectives portrayed and the authors of the novels. The district believes that this will give students empathy, understanding, and knowledge of different human experiences. 

These changes are yet to occur, so current students are still studying the core novels that have been in place for years. Washington student, Vedika Jawa is a senior, and has had to read all of the novels that are mandatory at the moment from grades 7 to 12. “I think that from an English perspective, there aren’t many problems in the current books,” she says. “They led to a lot of good class discussions, lots of different interpretations, and different views.” She believes that some of the books should definitely remain part of our curriculum. “For example, The Kite Runner,” explains Vedika. “That was one of my personal favorites. I really enjoyed reading that book, and it taught a very important lesson and a lot of different values.”

Although Vedika didn’t have a problem with the current novels, and even wants some of them to stay, she says that she “would have liked to see more diverse books.” She explains that we live in America, where there are so many different people of different backgrounds and ethnicities. Vedika believes that it is important to value and connect with everyone. One way to do this is by experiencing other cultures, which can be achieved through literature. “I think the books that we have are good, but there is always room for improvement. Based on what direction the district is going in, it seems like the new books will like open students’ eyes to what’s happening around them in the world,” says Vedika.

Ms. Osicka, an English teacher at Washington, is part of the committee that is choosing the new core novels. “It’s important to get a refreshing selection that is more diverse,” Ms. Osicka says. “There will be more modern titles, more women, more people of color, and more relevant issues.” She says that the district has been in the process of changing the core novels since the beginning of last year. The new novels will hopefully be taught by the next school year. 

Ms. Osicka believes that “literature provides windows and mirrors. Windows allow you to look into a world that you’re not familiar with, but sometimes you need to see something that resonates with you personally. So, students will have more reflection on them themselves. You’re going to see yourselves more through literature. I am hoping that’s what will happen and maybe students will get more excited about what we read.” Ms. Osicka and the rest of the committee recently voted on the nominations, and chose 5 finalists for each grade. Three books for each grade level will be chosen from the finalists, and sometime in the near future they will become the Fremont Unified School District’s new core novels.

Nishika Datla is a freshman at Washington High School. She was born in Hayward, but has lived in Fremont her entire life. This is her first year with the Hatchet, and she looks forward to having a great time. She is interested in covering stories about the arts, activism, and important events in both the Washington community and the world. Nishika enjoys drawing, baking, and hanging out with her friends. In the future she hopes to go to college and become a scientist.

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