Defending Your Choice to Teach The Hunger Games

  The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins is a riveting, high-interest novel that has the power to turn reluctant readers into book worms. I've seen it happen in my classroom and I know many teachers around the world have witnessed similar transformations in their students.
  So what makes The Hunger Games so much better to teach teenagers than other popular series like Harry Potter or Twilight?
  First, I love the Harry Potter series. But the early books in the series are directed toward younger readers, therefore, many teens view it as a more "elementary" series, even though the later novels clearly are not. But, that is their perception.
  Second, Twilight is targeted to their age group, but it seems like a "girly" series. I also enjoyed reading this series, but I can completely see how boys would not be drawn to it.
  That brings me back to the original question: What makes The Hunger Games better?
1. It's fast-paced. This is important for reluctant readers. Any long, drawn-out boring parts will certainly turn them off.
2. There's hunting, survival, high-stakes conflict, and some violence. This works for the boys.
3. There's also a strong female narrator, a childhood crush, conflicting emotions, and friendship. This works for the girls.
4. Almost every chapter ends in a mini-cliff hanger. The reader wants to keep reading to find out what happens next.
5. There's plenty of symbolism and allegory for advanced readers to find interesting.
6. The writing is good: Suzanne Collins uses a rich supply of figurative language and authentic-sounding dialogue.
7. The themes are universal: trust/distrust, desensitization to violence, hope, survival, love, war, and so on.
8. Inside each one of us lives a "good" and "bad" guy; it is how we act in difficult situations that sets us apart.
9. The "good guys" try to do the right thing when challenged; they feel compassion for others and act in humane ways.
10. The "bad guys" act inhumanely, reinforcing the theme that using violence to punish others or solve problems is wrong.
11. There are so many opportunities for comparison to historical events and topics, such as comparisons with the study of Western Civilization (Ancient Greek/Roman history), slavery, revolutions/rebellions, genocide, the Holocaust, war (pick any).
12. It can be linked with other content areas for collaborative projects or study.
  I could easily go on and on...
  Obviously, my passion for the series is apparent and I have not had any opposition from parents for teaching it. However, I have had some teachers contact me because they have. With that in mind, I have a free download for teachers with some tips and editable reading permission slips (see links below).
  I do believe that the novel is appropriate for ages 12 on up. Some readers are more mature and can handle it when they are younger, but I would not recommend teaching it as a whole-class novel if your students are younger than 12 or even 13. I teach high school and am able to have great discussions about serious issues related to the novel; I don't think students younger than 12 could have these discussions. Some certainly could; but as a class novel, I would probably wait.
  I also believe that Catching Fire and Mockingjay are geared toward 14 and up. The themes and issues are more mature (some topics of discussion include bulimia, genetic diversity, and nuclear warfare). Of course, students could easily read these independently just fine.
  You can download the permission slip template (in a zipped drive with a copy in Microsoft Word and a PDF copy) in my TpT store {HERE}. Or you can download it from Scribd {HERE}.
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