Anyone who’s been to the library or a bookstore with me knows I love Young Adult Literature. It’s the section I automatically gravitate towards. It’s not that I don’t appreciate and love children’s book and the books found in the “grown up” section because I do. But there’s something magical about YAL that keeps bringing me back. Here are a few, more concrete, contributing factors:
- I work in a middle school/high school environment. I want to know what my kids are reading, and I want to be able to make book recommendations.
- It’s GOOD WRITING. And when one chooses to read, shouldn’t they choose something that’s well-written?
- These aren’t fluff books. They have real characters that deal with real problems. And dealing with the real is awesome and so important.
These are just some of the reasons I love YAL. I think it’s so important for young adults to have books that contain characters and situations they can connect with. I will always be a proponent of this branch of literature.
I think I long ago established that I think it’s important to read. And I do. Books have been, are, and will continue to be an important part of my life. Not only do I think it’s important to read, but I genuinely love to read. I love immersing myself in stories and meeting new characters and going on new journeys and adventures. My parents, especially my mom, have fostered a love of reading in me, and over the years it has completely bloomed and blossomed.
With my love of reading pronounced, it might be easy to assume that I like to read everything and anything. That’s not true. I do try to be open about reading new things. I think as a young teacher it’s important to read often and to read a wide variety of texts. I won’t always get to handpick the texts I teach, and I also want to be able to talk with my students about what they’re reading, even if it isn’t necessarily something I would have chosen for myself. At the same time there are things I love to read and things I have very little interest in reading. I love young adult literature and children’s books and fairy tales. I have very little interest in most non-fiction.
I think it’s really important to know what you like to read. I had to read texts in school that I had very little genuine interest in reading. Not every text is interesting to every reader. That’s just not the way the world works. And if those texts were all I’d ever taken the time to read, I probably wouldn’t love reading as much as I do.
In my mind, a love of reading comes from having choices. It’s great to be able to grow up in a house full of books with parents who love and encourage reading. But even if that’s not the situation of your students, you can still do your part to foster a love of reading with your students. Build an expansive class library if you can. Take your students to the library at school or arrange a field trip to a local library. Let students explore books and find what they love and what they’re interested in. Talk with them about books, and have honest conversations about them. Let them know it’s OK to not like something, but they need to be able to explain why. Work to help your students find books that make their hearts sing, whatever those books may be.
In past posts I’ve written about young adult literature and literary classics. In this post I want to talk about literary analysis.
Analysis is one of those things in the world of English that I really struggle with. It’s not the same type of struggle that I face with reading the classics. That’s something I can grow into, learn to love. Analysis is a little bit different. I know that analysis is important. I know that analysis is kind of a big deal. But I struggle with it.
I think that part of the problem is that much of my reading is done for pleasure. I don’t want to analyze a text when I’m reading it for pleasure. I don’t want to be looking for figurative language or themes or anything like that. I want to embrace a story and let it absorb me when I’m reading for pleasure. I just want to love what I’m reading.
But as an English major and an almost English teacher, I have to embrace analyzing literature. I have to actually actively analyze literature. I have to teach students how to analyze literature.
And I will. Over the years I’ve developed tips, tricks, and techniques for analyzing literature. I have Post-Its and annotations and all sorts of other knowledge. And I know that analysis is important, so I’ll teach it as such.
But in the interest of full disclosure, when I’m reading for pleasure, I’m just going to let myself be absorbed by the story. Sometimes that really is the most important thing.
Last week I blogged about young adult literature. In that post I talked about the fact that reading the classics is important and is something that needs to be done. Really I wrote an entire paragraph on the importance of balanced reading. So this post is all about reading the classics and my thoughts on that.
Reading the classics has always been something I’ve struggled with. The classics aren’t something that’s ever truly and deeply interested me. I know that some people are really drawn towards the classics, but I’ve always been pulled more towards YAL. It’s where I felt I fit best; they’re the books that felt like home.
But as I’ve grown up and moved forward in life, and especially as I’ve moved closer to becoming an English teacher, I’ve realized I want to be more well read. I think it’s important for a couple of different reasons.
- I want to be well read so I can have educated conversations about literature. I majored in English, and I want to be able to sound like I did.
- I want to understand the texts I’ll teach my students. A lot of times these texts are classics. Therefore, I need a certain level of familiarity.
- The classics I have read, I’ve largely fallen in love with. To Kill A Mockingbird anyone?
These are all good reasons, but there’s one more I think is really important. I think it’s important to model good reading habits for my students. I think to model good reading habits I have to read a variety of books and texts and talk about them. I think we have to be honest about our likes and dislikes and explain why we feel the way we feel. This will allow students a solid example and foundation to build their own reading habits on. And ultimately, don’t we want our students to be readers?
What are your thoughts on young adult literature? Do you like it? Do you read it? Do you think it has a place in the classroom? Would you bring it into your classroom?
I love YAL. I’ve loved it since before I really knew what it was. I love discovering new authors and new stories. I love seeing different writing styles. I love delving into an area of literature that always seems new and exciting. And now that I’m (almost) a teacher, I want to be reading YAL more now than ever. I want to know what my students are reading. I want to be able to make recommendations.
And I want to bring YAL into my classroom. Reading the classics is a great thing to do. It’s an important thing to do. But it’s also important to read YAL. It’s important to read things one is interested in and can connect with. It’s important to read things one wants to talk about. And yes, sometimes that’s the classics. But sometimes it’s not. And there needs to be an alternative.
I think that sometimes people write off YAL because it’s a newer genre and not as much is known about it. It doesn’t quite have the foundation that the classics do. But it has been around and fully recognized for about 50 years. I understand that there might still be people who are a little leery of this genre. But I think it’s time to embrace YAL because it’s awesome. It’s awesome and we should be talking about it.
There are a wide array of books that can taught in any grade or in multiple grades. It also depends on what English class you’re teaching: College Prep, Honors, AP or an elective. There are so many to choose from that it seems difficult to narrow it down to just one. I guess I’ll choose a small array.
ninth grade english:
I’ll be honest and say I don’t remember a lot of what I read in 9th grade English when I was a freshman. But this year at my internship I’ve spent a lot of time working with the freshmen, and I’ve definitely begun to hone favorites from what they’re doing. I’m slightly torn between To Kill a Mockingbird and MAUS I & II. All three are books that I’ve only read this school year, and I’ve loved all of them. I think that To Kill a Mockingbird has a great story and a lot of important messages. One of my favorite things about the MAUS books is that the students seem to have an easier time relating to them, perhaps because of the format – graphic novel versus regular novel formatting. All of these are books I want to incorporate in my classroom in the future.
ap/uconn Eleventh Grade english:
This is a class that was just recently added into the curriculum at my high school. Although we’ve had AP 11 for a very long time, the UConn component was added within the past couple of years. I’ve been able to observe some of these classes this year, and I think my favorite text that I’ve seen them do so far has been The Great Gatsby. This is a text I never read in high school, and instead chose to read on my own my senior year of college. It took my a while to get into it, and the ending came as a surprise, but I really enjoyed the story and the messages it put forth. It’s definitely a text where there’s a lot of room for discussion, and I think that’s a really important factor to consider when choosing texts to bring into a classroom.
twelfth grade english:
Twelfth grade is actually a year of literature that I remember well and really enjoyed. That year we read Macbeth, Frankenstein and The Picture of Dorian Gray. All of these are texts that I love, and Macbeth is one that over my continued education I’ve read multiple times. I think my favorite text from that year though was The Picture of Dorian Gray. I really fell in love with the story that it told, and it was a text that stuck with my long after the fact.
young adult literature:
This is by far and without a doubt my favorite category of literature. I’m constantly drawn to this section of any library or bookstore and can always find something to read, often something which I haven’t read before. A couple of my favorites are The Perks of Being a Wallflower and The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks. Both of these are books which are relatable for young readers and lend themselves to broad, varied and interesting discussion. I read both of these books in my Young Adult Literature class in college, fell in love with them, and they have permanent homes in my bookcase. I hope that one day someday I have the opportunity to share these books with students and pass them onto another generation of readers.