Young Adult Literature and the School Curriculum (page 2)
The importance of having quality young adult literature available in schools is reflected in the International Reading Association’s Adolescent Literacy Commission’s position statement, which notes that “adolescents deserve access to a wide variety of reading material that they can and want to read” (Moore, Bean, Birdyshaw, & Rycik, 1999, p. 4).
One way to encourage young adults to read is to use “both high-powered young adult literature [that is] linked to content-area concepts and interpretive activities and discussions that engage students” (Bean, 2002, p. 37). Thus, there is an increasing trend to incorporate young adult books and other forms of literature across the middle and high school curriculum.
All educators agree that reading is an important skill. However, when voluntary reading declines, the problems of struggling readers are only aggravated (Worthy, Patterson, Salas, Prater, & Turner, 2002). By allowing adolescents to read good young adult literature, educators are able to encourage the independent reading, which will, in turn, help adolescents develop the skills necessary to succeed. “If educators are serious about developing students’ lifelong love of reading, they need to incorporate in the curriculum literature that is captivating and issue-based” (Bean, 2002, p. 37).
Richardson and Miller (2001) cite four reasons for using literature in the curriculum. Although they targeted the social studies curriculum, their reasons are valid in other subjects as well. They found that literature can:
- help students become emotionally involved with events and people,
- aid students in understanding reality,
- provide stories with satisfactory endings, and
- provide a common, shared experience for the teacher and all students.
You have already read about the use of young adult literature as a transition to the classics and the pairing of young adult and adult literature. In addition, newer trends such as using literature across the curriculum and creating a literature plan have provided more productive ways to use young adult literature not just in the English classroom but also in science, social studies, art, and physical education. By working collaboratively, teachers and library media specialists can implement a literature program that reflects the abilities and interests of young adults, that encourages adolescents to read for enjoyment, and that develops an awareness of authors and literary works. This literature program should also teach adolescents to interpret literature and develop literary awareness. When the entire school environment reflects literature and a respect for reading, young adults learn the importance the school places on literature and reading.
However, the effort to use young adult literature across the curriculum does not have to be an “all or nothing” approach. Teachers may elect to implement literature-based approaches of varying degrees at various times during the year. What is essential is that teachers and library media specialists recognize the need to use a variety of materials ranging from books, magazines, and graphic novels to short stories and poetry and provide time for adolescents to read. By varying their approaches to literature in the content areas, teachers can assure that fiction is read from an aesthetic stance and nonfiction from an efferent stance to ensure learning for all adolescents (Galda & Liang, 2003).
Rather than working in isolation, many educators now make collaborative decisions on curricular themes and use young adult literature that crosses subject areas and helps students see new and different perspectives about issues and subject content. In addition, Bean (2002) suggests that educators provide a variety of ways for adolescents to interpret literature through the use of book clubs, journals, graphic organizers, readers’ theater, or even a “dinner party” (p. 36) at which students who are playing a character from a novel are interviewed by a moderator. Contemporary adolescents will also welcome the opportunity to produce multigenre papers that, like some recent young adult novels, depart from the traditional linear report format and employ a variety of styles (i.e., graphic novel, essay, poetry, drama, or magazine article) as well as a number of voices and perspectives to provide “multilayered, nonlinear stories and information” (Glasgow, 2002, p. 49).
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