I wanted to pass on a few of the books and movies the boys and I read and watched this semester for school (6th and 8th grades). My goal was to tie in reading with our U.S. history class as much as I could. This isn't all we covered, but a few of these were such fun that I wanted to post about them. We skipped a few obvious choices because I knew they would be covering them when they take some "outside" classes for high school credit. I'm not saying it's the best coverage for kids of this age and some of thees probably should have waited until they were older, but, overall, in combining the two grades it seems to have done fine.
The Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane may be the most obvious choice to read while covering the Civil War, but it's a good one to focus on personal experiences within the overall arc of the war. I had fun watching John Huston's 1951 movie version with them while they also learned about Audie Murphy. We complemented that with some of Ambrose Bierce's war stories, as well as parts of Ron Maxwell's Civil War movies (including Copperhead) and Ang Lee's Ride with the Devil.
I re-read John Williams' Butcher's Crossing with the boys, finding a second read of the book extremely enjoyable. Yeah, it has its weak spots, but it was a lot of fun to see them get a feel for what was involved to be on a buffalo hunt...not to mention providing a great example of the laws of supply and demand. The buffalo hunt scene from Kevin Costner's Dances with Wolves was thrown in, too, so they'd get a different appreciation for such an event. For a further taste of the Western experience, we read some of Mark Twain's and Bret Harte's short stories.
We read plenty of short stories written or set in the first half of the 20th century from William Faulkner, Shirley Jackson, and Eudora Welty. Yeah, my southern roots show through.
When covering World War II, we read Elie Wiesel's Night, and I felt the need to apologize to them for assigning it (while at the same time stressing the need for them to understand what happened). For a different approach to reading about World War II, check out this link to the first part of a three-part story (from a more detailed book) about the first (accidental) circumnavigation of the globe by a plane.
Currently, I'm picking short books for us to read now and through the summer that tie in with what we've covered with history. Mikhail Bulgakov's Heart of a Dog probably isn't standard fare for 12 & 14 year-olds, but they're picking up on Bulgakov's barbs quite well.
I guess I should add a disclaimer that I don't recommend this reading program for any grade or age. But as I've said, we're having a lot of fun.