Almost overnight we’ve become a nation of stay-at-home learners. Fortunately, there is a wealth of material online offering constructive and stimulating reading projects for middle and high school age students. To assist parents and teachers in this new environment, we present the following links to free, expertly curated resources focused on American literature and poetry from Library of America and other leading cultural institutions. (An earlier post identified resources for American history.)
Library of America
Library of America’s Story of the Week is a free online service that offers an important piece of American writing of high literary quality each week to over 100,000 readers. Every Story of the Week selection features a newly researched introduction providing essential background for understanding the selection, topic, or author. Ranging from short stories, narrative poems, and one-act plays to essays, historical documents, and journalists’ dispatches, all selections are available online to anyone with access to the internet—and most may be photocopied and distributed in the classroom.
To date, nearly 500 selections have been posted, with new ones added every week, and thousands of teachers and students use these expertly edited and annotated classic texts. Below are the top Story of the Week selections based on cumulative site traffic from school district servers, classroom discussion boards, and college and university websites:
1. “The Yellow Wall Paper” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman
2. “Charles” by Shirley Jackson
3. “The Ransom of Red Chief” by O. Henry
4. “To Build a Fire” by Jack London
5. “The Swimmer” by John Cheever
6. “Désirée’s Baby” by Kate Chopin
7. “The Devil and Tom Walker” by Washington Irving
8. “Reminiscences of Abraham Lincoln” by Frederick Douglass
9. “A Presidential Candidate” by Mark Twain
10. “Dr. Heidegger’s Experiment” by Nathaniel Hawthorne
The Poetry Foundation
The Poetry Foundation works to raise poetry to a more visible and influential position in our culture. To assist home learners, they are making available poetry teaching content organized by grade level. In addition to content from their website, Teaching Poetry Online provides links to resources from other educational organizations.
Poets.org is the official website of the Academy of American Poets, providing free access to poems, essays, interviews, audio clips, poet biographies, and virtual live events. They’re also the home of National Poetry Month, offering 30 Ways to Celebrate National Poetry Month at Home or Online, including writing exercises, podcasts, letters to poets, and suggested videos of poets discussing their work.
In partnership with the National Council of Teachers of English and the International Literacy Association, ReadWriteThink provides educators and parents with free, high quality teaching material in reading and language arts. They offer a wide variety of at-home lesson plans and learning activities organized by grade level.
Storybird is a short story creation website with a beautiful interface and engaging prompts. Older students can accept writing challenges created by experienced teachers or write their own tales.
TeenBookCloud gathers videos and books in a variety of different categories including fiction, historical nonfiction, drama, and poetry. Works from graded AP English curricula are presented separate for easy reference (Grades 6–12).