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What Texts Does the Common Core REQUIRE Students to Read?

By Dave Stuart Jr.

Although the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) are rife with suggested texts and text types, there are several parenthetical remarks within the grade-specific reading standards that aren't examples; they are to be included.

Required titles

RI.11-12.9 — that is, the ninth standard within the Reading Informational texts strand for grades 11 and 12 — is an example of what I'm talking about:

Analyze seventeenth-, eighteenth-, and nineteenth-century foundational U.S. documents of historical and literary significance (including The Declaration of Independence, the Preamble to the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address) for their themes, purposes, and rhetorical features.

The language of RI.11-12.9 makes it clear that, under the CCSS, all students are expected to analyze the four documents listed at some point during their last two years of high school.

Required text types

In other grade-specific standards, certain text types are required, but no specific titles are mentioned. For example, let's look at a standard that befuddles me a bit; below is the text of RL.11-12.9 — so that's the ninth standard within the Reading Literature strand for grades 11 and 12:

Demonstrate knowledge of eighteenth-, nineteenth- and early-twentieth-century foundational works of American literature, including how two or more texts from the same period treat similar themes or topics.

This stands out to me as pretty exceptionally vague. I think, though, that the vagueness is probably an attempt to leave as much choice as possible in the hands of teachers and local schools. But what is clear from RL.11-12.9 is that students pretty much need to take an American Lit class.

While we're on the topic of vague requirements, perhaps the second vaguest grade-specific standard is RL.9-10.6:

Analyze a particular point of view or cultural experience reflected in a work of literature from outside the United States, drawing on a wide reading of world literature.

Again, there's a lot of room for interpretation here.

Anyways, on to the list.

So what are the required texts and text types within the CCSS?

From my reading, the following list is complete; please note that I did not list any of the suggested titles or text types. I've also included the standards in which the listed texts are mentioned:


  • the Declaration of Independence (RI.11-12.9)
  • the Preamble to the Constitution (RI.11-12.9)
  • the Bill of Rights (RI.11-12.9)
  • Lincoln's Second Inaugural Address (RI.11-12.9)


  • seminal documents in US history (RI.9-10.9*, RI.11-12.8, 9)
  • “a wide reading of world literature” (RL.9-10.6)
  • at least one Shakespearean play (RL.11-12.4, 7)
  • at least one play by an American dramatist (RL.11-12.7)
  • “demonstrate knowledge of 18th, 19th, and early 20th century foundational works of American literature, including how two or more texts from the same period treat similar themes or topics.” (RL.11-12.9)

That's it! If I've missed something, please let me know. As far as I can tell, these are the only required readings within the entirety of the CCSS.

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