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Rated: E · Article · Young Adult · #2310340
Some surprising stories you wouldn't normally connect to the authors

Attention Teachers, Homeschoolers, Summer Readers;

Are you faced with introducing a reluctant student to classic writers?
The solution might be easier than you think!

So many of the young students today would rather be surfing on their tablets and phones, than to be reading classic literature. But the very ease with which they tap into the electronic world of the 'net could be used to advantage by the teacher. Both teacher and student may be surprised as to how many classic writers' lesser-known works are available for reading electronically, usually for free.

Do your students' tastes run to the out-of-doors? If so, they might like this author's humorous recalling of his attempts at catching a wild turkey alive, instead of using the shotgun he'd been given on a family hunting trip. That is the short story, "Hunting the Deceitful Turkey," which was published in 1916 by Mark Twain.

… I followed an ostensibly lame turkey over a considerable part of the United States one morning,
because I believed in her and could not think she would deceive a mere boy,
one who was trusting her and considering her honest ...

Maybe your student would be intrigued by a story about a romance kindled during visits by a young woman to a health club gym, in 1862. So, even before the Civil War there were health clubs and couples who found themselves nervous and shy around each other, as the reader will discover in "King of Clubs and Queen of Hearts" a short story by Louisa May Alcott.

... he fell into a chronic state of stammer and blush; for the frank eyes were very kind,
the smooth cheeks reflected a pretty shade of his own crimson, and the smiling lips seemed
constantly suggesting, with mute eloquence, that they were made for kissing ...

Perhaps the student would like to read a mystery story written by a Springfield lawyer in 1841 to demonstrate the necessity of a defense attorney always fighting very hard to prevent a murder conviction. Especially when no dead body is found, and the evidence is only circumstantial. This is the premise of "The Trailor Murder Mystery" which, amazingly, was written by Abraham Lincoln.

...Till then, those who were ready to swear that a murder had been committed,
were almost as confident that Archibald had no part in it.
But now, he was seized and thrown into jail ...

Did the student's interests slide during the past few years? Long before there was the Aztec Calendar Apocalypse fears, or the Covid Pandemic, there was a 48-page novella, about one such catastrophe, "The Scarlet Plague." The few survivors of this pandemic, such as an old man and his bow-and-arrow-toting, spear-fishing, grandsons, struggle to survive. We find them avoiding bears prowling the hills around the decimated San Francisco ruins, left 60 years earlier, and now overrun by wildlife. This dystopian story, way ahead of its time, was written in 1912 by Jack London.

... When I was a boy, Edwin, men and women and little babies used to come out here from San Francisco.
By tens of thousands, on a nice day. And there weren’t any bears around then. No, sir.
Folks used to pay money to look at them in cages; bears were that rare ...

Is your student constantly surfing the social media sites? They might be surprised that there was a prediction in the early 1900s of the dangers of future addiction to, and the isolation that could be caused by, social media. In the story, people not only rely upon these sources, they become slaves to the idea that this must be right, or this would not be allowed. What would happen to society if these devices suddenly fail? Such are the warnings in "The Machine Stops", a short story from 1909 by E. M. Forster.

...There was the cold-bath button. There was the button that produced literature.
And there were of course the buttons by which she communicated with her friends.
The room, though it contained nothing, was in touch with all that she cared for ...

You can redirect the student's time spent gaming and chatting on their devices to instead, download and read these stories. These, and more, are available in the public domain. That means the copyrights on these literary works aged out and have expired after the term prescribed by law.

Detective and mystery stories published before Doyle's Sherlock Holmes, and no longer copyrighted, can be searched within The Westminster Detective Library.

Century Past is a site that allows free searches for books and short stories now in the public domain.

Another such site is Project Gutenberg, which provides e-books of many stories in the public domain.

Thus, the student (who so often lives on the phone or tablet), can actually download and read the classics, mentioned above, and others. It may take some searching for the student to find the precise story they want to read. But this teaches them how to research, literally without them realizing it.

To help the teacher or parent work their way through this, here is an example. In Project Gutenberg, begin your search with "king of clubs and queen of hearts, Alcott". The result will identify the story as found in "On Picket Duty and Other Tales by L.M. Alcott". Selecting that on your device, the title page and index of chapters will appear. Scrolling down, you may select "King of Hearts and Queen of Hearts" and begin reading.

Do note, these services function as a repository for works in the public domain, thus no notations are made as to appropriate age or reading level. It might be prudent to monitor what work the student wants to search for. And remember, these are often works written at a time that literary style and vocabulary were different from today's world. But aren't vocabulary and literary concepts some of the reasons we encourage the young mind to read classic writers?

Experiment on finding the other works listed above, then enjoy introducing the new student to an expanded vocabulary and a wonderful world populated by these "wordsmiths" of the past!
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