CommonLit Secondary Classrooms Dig Into Louis Sachar’s Holes with CommonLit Reading Guides

CommonLit’s digital library offers over 3,000 lessons to support your reading curriculum. Our online reading program also offers over 100 Book Pairings, which are sets of texts that support high-quality novel instruction. These supplemental texts are a great way to increase rigor and boost reading comprehension skills as students make cross-textual connections. For each pairing, we share information about the texts, suggestions for how to introduce them to your students, and questions to promote class discussions.

In this post, we will highlight Book Pairings for one of our favorite Louis Sachar books, Holes. In this novel, Stanley Yelnats is sent to a juvenile detention center where he must dig holes at the bottom of a dried lake each day. Quickly, Stanley discovers there is an ulterior motive to this physical labor.

Boost Reading Comprehension with Informational Texts

Holes is a fictional story, but its plot draws from real world events and experiences. Reading these texts will help build student’s reading skills and create relevant text-to-world connections.

Frederick Douglass: A Biography” by National Park Service

This biography of Frederick Douglass provides an overview of his life’s work as an abolitionist. The text also explains how Douglass’s choices changed his fate.

Introduce this text after Chapter 7, in order to encourage students to think about the role of fate in people’s lives. Have students discuss the role of fate in both Douglass’s and Stanley’s life. Based on this biography, can people control their own fate? Why might Stanley agree or disagree with your conclusion?

Alter Egos” by CommonLit Staff

This informational text discusses how people and characters sometimes assume different names to express different parts of themselves.

Introduce this text to students after Chapter 9 to generate a discussion on names and identity. In Chapter 9, Stanley realizes he has been given a nickname, or alter ego, just like the rest of the boys in Group D. Have students discuss why they think the boys all re-name themselves when they arrive at Camp Green Lake. How is “Stanley” similar and different from “Caveman?” Do you think Stanley likes his alter ego?

"Loving Decision: 40 Years of Legal Interracial Unions" discusses the court case that resulted in the right for interracial marriage in the United States, making interracial relationships legal across the country.

Introduce this text after students have read up to Chapter 26 to provide students with historical context on interracial relationships. Sam and Miss Katherine create an uproar after they are caught kissing. How did outsiders respond to the relationship in each scenario? Have students discuss how interracial couples are treated in Holes, how they were treated in American history, and how they are treated today.

Build Critical Thinking Skills by Making Literary Connections Across Texts

Many of the themes and literary devices in Holes are commonly found in literature. These texts will enhance your novel study  by having students analyze symbolism. Additionally, they will also help you lead cross-textual discussions about common themes such as identity, growing up, and fear and paranoia.

The Negro Speaks of Rivers” by Langston Hughes

In this poem, the speaker uses symbolism to explain how common experiences make him feel connected to his ancestors and his true identity.

Introduce this short poem before students begin reading Holes to discuss the importance of ancestry. The protagonist, Stanley, has a complicated ancestry. Ask students to discuss what they know about their own ancestry - their parents, grandparents, or even farther back. Do they feel any kind of connection to the past like Hughes? As they read, have students look for ways Stanley finds connections to his ancestors.

The Terror” by Junot Diaz

In his memoir, Junot Díaz describes the bullying he experienced as a Latino growing up in a predominantly white community. After getting jumped by a group of boys, Díaz is embarrassed and constantly fears how the bullies might terrorize him next. Years later, Díaz finally stands up to his bullies.

Introduce this text after Chapter 20 to analyze how threats and fear motivate behavior. Just as the Warden threatens Stanley by showing him what her poisoned nail polish can do, the three brothers inflict pain on Diaz in order to intimidate him. Ask students to discuss Diaz’s reaction to the beating and his extreme fear of the brothers. Based on Stanley’s reactions, is the Warden’s use of threats and pain effective for keeping the boys at Camp Green Lake in line?

Feathers” by Anonymous

In this short story, a rabbi uses feathers to teach a woman a lesson on the negative effects of spreading rumors.

Introduce this text after students have read Chapter 40 to help them analyze symbolism in Holes. In both stories, the authors use everyday objects to symbolize important concepts and themes.  What do the feathers represent in this story? What are some symbols seen in Holes and how do they impact the character’s lives?

I Am Not An Inmate…I Am A Man. And I Have Potential” by Deena Prichep

In "'I Am Not An Inmate...I Am A Man. And I Have Potential,'" several formerly incarcerated people discuss how they grew, matured, and redefined their identities after facing challenges in and out of prison.

Introduce this text after Chapter 50 to encourage students to analyze the theme of incarceration. Ask students to compare and contrast these men’s experiences with Stanley’s. What are some similarities and differences between prison and Camp Green Lake? What are some of the changes that Stanley went through while at Camp Green Lake?

Identity” by Julio Noboa

In this poem, the speaker explains why she would prefer to be a weed instead of a flower.

Have students read this poem after they finish reading Holes to discuss themes of growth and change. In his poem, Noboa uses flowers and weeds to describe two types of people. What are these two types of people? What characterizes people who are “weeds”? Ask students to discuss whether they think Stanley tries to be a flower or a weed.

Next Steps

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