SCOTT SIMON, host:
Joe Meloche graduated from Cherry Hill West High School in New Jersey in 1989. His summertime reading list as a student included "The Scarlet Pimpernel" and "1984."
Today, Mr. Meloche is the principal of Cherry Hill West. His school summer reading list still includes those two books and 13 others. This summer, Principal Meloche decided to read the books. And he's been joining classes to talk about it ever since.
Joseph Meloche joins us from his office. Thanks very much for being with us, Principal Meloche.
Mr. JOSEPH MELOCHE (Principal, Cherry Hill West High School, New Jersey): Thank you for having me.
SIMON: And what's that office reading frenzy in your part?
Mr. MELOCHE: This is my second year as the principal here at High School West. For this past summer, we have changed some of the books and dramatically changed what the expectations were for the kids. After I made these changes and distributed everything to the kids, I decided that in order for to have credibility, I needed to go through and read these books. Some of them were rereads for me. Some of them were brand new. I never read them before.
SIMON: And could you have a good summer despite all that required reading? I mean, that's the complaint you get from parents these days, you know, you've got my kid working 12 hours.
Mr. MELOCHE: That's right. Actually, I did.
SIMON: So how were it like "The Scarlet Pimpernel" or "1984" the second time around?
Mr. MELOCHE: I have to tell you, "The Scarlet Pimpernel", I really enjoyed. "1984" was interesting to reread again so many years later. I did not enjoyed as much the second time. One of the discussions we had in class, you know, is we compared "1984" to "Brave New World." The kids' perspective was very similar to what I remember, you know, my own classes when we read these books back in high school.
SIMON: What books were new to you?
Mr. MELOCHE: I never read "The Good Earth" before by Pearl Buck.
Mr. MELOCHE: And one of the - I never read "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest."
SIMON: Ken Kesey.
Mr. MELOCHE: That's right. I'd seen the movie, but I never read the book. I really enjoyed the book. I think it will stick with me definitely, you know, longer than those images from the film. And the other one, which is interesting to talk with kids about that, you know, most of us have seen the movie "The Natural," you know, while the edition that I read…
SIMON: That is Bernard Malamud novel.
Mr. MELOCHE: That's right. You know, while the additional book that I have has says Robert Redford on the front, all of us know that the book is much different than the movie, which was a very interesting discussion point.
You know, I don't think it's naturally the age of the book. I do think that, you know, with some contemporary literature that we can draw all things out of kids. But I think some of the books, you know, held up with the kids. One of the ones that I found very interesting from the kids' perspective was "One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich" because the kids were really drawn to that book. And some of the kids likened it to watching the TV show "24," you know, or some of the movies that they've seen now. But that was one that really struck me that, you know, here's this book and the story that it's about and you know, how long ago it came out, but the kids really enjoyed reading it.
The kids are passionate. If the kids know that you're interested and truly care about what they're doing and that you've gone through it, I really think it's a great example for some of them that actually went through and read the books. They want to talk about it. They want to share their ideas. They want their own thoughts to be validated.
SIMON: Mr. Meloche, thanks very much.
Mr. MELOCHE: Scott, I really appreciate it. It's nice to speak with you.
SIMON: Joseph Meloche, principal of Cherry Hill West High School in Cherry Hill, New Jersey.
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