Erin at Critical Mass tells of her brother being assigned wussy, girly books for reading and how much he hated reading as a result. Her comment was in response to a thread on Joanne Jacobs’ blog.
Read the comments, too.
I agree with the whole, why make our students READ Shakespeare’s plays? We ought to be watching them.
I also agree that a lot of teachers have a poor background in their literature. If you have to teach a work you don’t like, go find something good on it. Look for the things you like in it. There is good stuff written about any novel that would come up in a high school reading class. Find it and use it.
The issue of students enjoying it (and its accessibility) is why we read Frankenstein. We used to read Gulliver’s Travels, which is a little less accessible because of the language, but the students still read it, enjoyed it, and “got” it. Another odd little book that is a classic and needs a good explanation as it is read is Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Get the annotated version.