Reasons for Teaching The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

Teaching The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins can be an immensely rewarding experience.  The best thing about this exciting new novel is that it engages young readers so effectively.  Even the most reluctant young readers are hooked within the first few pages.  But The Hunger Games isn't just an action-packed thriller.  While it isn't exactly Tolstoy or Dickens, The Hunger Games has enough depth to make it a great text to help students begin to develop their critical and analytical skills.  There are many connections to be made to current society, so students are able to practice literary analysis, while exploring the real-life relevance of The Hunger Games.  Relevance, depth, and an entertaining story make Suzanne Collins' The Hunger Games a great classroom text.

One of the greatest hurdles when teaching English is getting students to engage with the material.  Once they are engaged with and genuinely interested in a story, they are much more open to further literary exploration and analysis.  Teaching The Hunger Games is particularly rewarding because students instantly connect with the main character and the story.  They become personally invested in the story and desperately want to learn what will happen.  The premise of teenagers forced to fight to the death in a televised battle is inherently compelling to young readers, and from the first chapter to the last, Suzanne Collins keeps the pace quick and the suspense high.  Katniss Everdeen, the protagonist and narrator, is also inherently appealing to young readers.  A 16-year-old girl, forced to fend for her family by hunting in the dangerous woods around District 12, Katniss quickly wins the respect and admiration of readers.  It isn't often that you have students begging to read ahead, but this is invariably the case when teaching The Hunger Games.

Although The Hunger Games is very much adolescent literature, and can be read for simple escape and entertainment, it has enough depth to make it an effective classroom text.  While studying The Hunger Games, students can explore the concepts of utopia and dystopia, and can form a framework for future reading (1984, Brave New World, etc.).  Students can also explore important social and political issues.  The Hunger Games provides a venue for discussing human rights, democracy vs. totalitarianism, freedom of speech, and social and moral responsibility.  Teaching The Hunger Games is a great way to introduce these concepts and this type of literature to students who will undoubtedly encounter it throughout their academic career and beyond.

The Hunger Games is also an effective classroom text because students are able to relate to many of the central themes and motifs.  Suzanne Collins drew much of her inspiration for The Hunger Games from reality-television shows, which have become virtually omnipresent on today's broadcasting networks.  The shameful voyeurism practiced by the people who watch and celebrate The Hunger Games provides a poignant critique of our own television-crazed society.  Students enjoy making connections between The Hunger Games and the reality-television shows they watch - Survivor, The Biggest Loser, The Bachelor, Big Brother, etc.  Making these connections helps students understand how literature can be relevant to their lives and can provide important commentary of social issues.

A fast-paced, compelling plot, critical depth, and relatable themes make The Hunger Games a wonderful novel to teach.  Students enjoy reading The Hunger Games, which makes teaching it a whole lot easier, and they are able to hone their critical literary skills while exploring important concepts and issues.  Students are also able to relate themes and motifs from The Hunger Games to their own lives, which further enhances their reading experience.  Forming these connections is often what makes literature so compelling and informative.  Teaching The Hunger Games is a great way to foster a love of literature, and to introduce your students to critical analysis.

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