Stanley Yelnats is sent to a juvenile correctional camp for boys where each day he is forced to dig holes into a dry lake bed.
Below are some reading passages that we have hand picked to supplement this book. Be sure to read the passage summaries and our suggestions for instructional use.
The speaker in this famous Langston Hughes poem uses symbolism to explain the connection they feel between their ancestry and identity.
Introduce this short poem before students begin reading Holes, in order to introduce the idea of ancestry and how it affects us today. Hughes writes of his ancestors all over the world and how common experiences, such as living by rivers, bind them together. Stanley, the main character in Holes, has a complicated ancestry of his own. Ask students, as they read the novel, to look for evidence that reveals how Hughes feels about his connection to his ancestors. 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 does? As they read, have students look for ways Stanley finds connections to his ancestors.
This biography of Frederick Douglass provides an overview of his life and work as an abolitionist.
Introduce this text after Chapter 7, in order to encourage students to think about the role of fate in people’s lives. Frederick Douglass worked hard and made many strategic decisions to pull himself out of a terrible situation. Have students discuss the role of fate in both Douglass’ and Stanley’s life. Based on this biography, can people control their own fate? Why might Stanley agree or disagree with your conclusion?
Can a person have two selves? Beyoncé is also known as Sasha Fierce; Clark Kent, the newspaper reporter, transforms into Superman. The idea that a person can have “another self” is a relatively new concept. This text discusses the nature of alter egos in popular culture, literature, and even comic books.
Introduce this text to students after Chapter 9, to generate a discussion on names and identity. The article explains how people or characters will sometimes assume different names to express different parts of their personalities. 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?
In Junot Díaz’s “The Terror,” Díaz explores his experiences with fear after getting beat-up as an adolescent.
Introduce this text after Chapter 20, in order to analyze how threats and fear motivate behavior. Just like 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. Does he respond by trying to fight back or trying to run away and hide? Based on his reactions, is the Warden’s use of threats and pain effective for keeping the boys at Camp Green Lake in line? What might be some unintended consequences of her approach?
The informational text “Loving Decision: 40 Years of Legal Interracial Unions” discusses the court case that invalidated laws preventing interracial marriages, as well as the status of interracial relationships today.
Introduce this text after students have read up to Chapter 26, in order to provide students with historical context on interracial relationships. Sam and Miss Katherine create an uproar after they are caught kissing. The two of them, as well as the Lovings couple, faced challenges as interracial couples at a time when it was considered taboo. How did outsiders respond to the relationship in each scenario? How did the Lovings’s response to discrimination differ from Katherine Barlow’s response? Have students discuss how interracial couples are treated in Holes, how they were treated in American history, and how they are treated today.
In the short story “Feathers,” a woman is taught a lesson about the negative effects of spreading rumors.
Introduce this text after students have read Chapter 40, in order for them to analyze the symbolism in Holes. In “Feathers” the anonymous author uses feathers as a symbol that has greater meaning. Holes also uses some everyday objects as symbols for more important concepts and themes. What do the feathers represent in this story? What are some symbols we have seen in Holes so far? What do they symbolize? (For example, ask students to discuss onions and the role they play in Sam, Stanley, and Zero’s lives.)
In "'I Am Not An Inmate ... I Am A Man. And I Have Potential,'" several former inmates discuss the rehabilitative process by which they learned to grow, mature, and redefine their identities.
Introduce this text after students have read Chapter 50, in order to encourage them to analyze the theme of incarceration. The men interviewed in this article discuss the challenges they faced in and out of prison, with a particular reference to their stunted personal growth. 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? What cause was behind each change?
In Julio Noboa’s poem “Identity,” a speaker explains why they would choose to be a weed over a flower.
Have students read this poem after they finish reading Holes, in order for them to consider themes such as '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. What choices does he make that put him in one category or the other? By the end of the book, is he pleased with those choices? Are others pleased?