Young Adult Literature

Y.A. Module 1

How do you define the terms “literacy” and “adolescent literature?”  Contextualize your response in your teaching, your experiences as a reader, the readings from this week, etc.

To consider how “literacy” and “adolescent literature” work together is important for those of us who are choosing to invest our lives in education. In a broad sense, I would define “literacy” as simply the ability to read and write, but I think realizing and harnessing in the power of literacy is where the real magic happens. By teaching adolescents to engage with literature, we are encouraging students (& ourselves) to dive into worlds unlike our own, and take a lesson from their reading experience and the experience they encounter through literature. Adolescent literature allows for a special of age-appropriate reading matter that is of interest to young adults. Whether it be historically-based fiction or a love story, adolescent literature, to me, is about teaching the reader the joys of reading.

Taking the time to remember myself as an adolescent reader always reminds me of why I have a passionate for English education. The first series I remember picking up and enjoying was The Little House on The Prairie series by Laura Ingalls Wilder when I was in first grade. The feeling of reading a book and feeling as if I was immersed in the scene with the Ingalls family was magical. This enriching feeling was accompanied with the wholesome, moral lessons that I was taught through this series. I think finding a student’s interest and directing them towards literature that they are most likely to enjoy can be a nudge in the right direction for engaging students in reading, and they will not have as many walls up as they face more difficult literature in high school and college. One of our books from this module is American Street by Ibi Zoboi and this book is a prime example of a more difficult style of reading that students could come across in a classroom or through their own literary interests outside of class. This book focuses in on challenging topics that can be especially hard to face as young adults, such as, immigration, drugs, crime, and civil and political unrest in forms of protests and struggles between the characters and the police – not the mention the harsh language presented on every single page of Zoboi’s book. Although I am not sure if I would present this in a classroom or not, I think that it presents a character faced with very difficult decisions that lead to tragedy, which could really be relatable to some students.

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13 thoughts on “Y.A. Module 1

  1. I really like how you talked about the power of imagination and how reading really encourages engagement with our imaginations. I also really like how you talked about the importance of finding the right books for students because so often kids are asked to read required texts that they have no interest in and then they decide that based off of that one book, reading just isn’t for them. I think that finding the right genre, series, author, topic whatever it may be is critical in engaging more students with literature. When we are able to help them find books that they like and encourage them to read them, in turn, we are creating literate students who can use those skills well beyond the classroom.

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  2. I love the way you describe what adolescent literature is to you. It is crucial for us to choose books (or give them autonomy in choosing for themselves) that would teach beginner readers and help them realize the joys of reading. I find that many youths struggle to find deep meaning, resonance, and joy in reading certain books that are considered YA/adolescent literature, while I, a college student walking a different chapter of my life, fall in love with that same book over and over again. Just because a book is considered good by adults doesn’t mean that it would be equally enlightening for adolescents. We should help them enjoy reading, not force “good” literature down their throats.

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  3. Jamie, I love what you had to say in this blog post. It was so great reading about your experiences with The Little House on the Prairie (a classic). I love that you emphasized the importance of selecting the right books for students because we definitely know that more often than not we have had to read books that were completely pointless or about something that wasn’t applicable today. Overall, I just really loved the way you tied literacy to something way more than its basic definition.

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  4. I really like how you focus on how “literacy” and “adolescent literature” work together. I think that as future educators we will have to pick out books that accommodate the age of our students. Therefore, it’s important that we pick texts that have an important message to convey. I like how you talked about American Street by Ibi Zoboi and how its possible readers can relate to the main character’s story. Also, I like how you included your own experience as an adolescent reader. It made me think back to when I was younger and the books I chose to read and why I decided on becoming an Teacher.

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  5. I really like how you focus on how “literacy” and “adolescent literature” work together. I think that as future educators we will have to pick out books that accommodate the age of our students. Therefore, it’s important that we pick texts that have an important message to convey. I like how you talked about American Street by Ibi Zoboi and how its possible readers can relate to the main character’s story. Also, I like how you included your own experience as an adolescent reader. It made me think back to when I was younger and the books I chose to read and why I decided on becoming a teacher.

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  6. Jamie,

    Your post made me think about my time as an adolescent reader. I completely agree with your statement that adolescent literature is useful in peaking an interest in reading. My first heavy exposure to the genre was probably reading the Harry Potter series in elementary school. Those were really the first books I was able to immerse myself in. the first books I was able to picture in my head when I was reading. I learned about the power of friendship while reading and then would turn around and reenact scenes from the books with my real-life friends. I still go back and read them because I have such fond memories. I suppose then, the genre is responsible for my love for books.

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  7. Thanks so much for your post! I enjoyed reading about your opinions and experiences. I also really loved “The Little House on the Prairie,” which now that I look back on was a great series for me and my family. I remember discussing the events of the novels with my mother (who read them before passing the box set on to me) and watching the show with my father on lazy weekend afternoons. I totally agree that adolescent literature is a broad and fluid genre, and I love what you said about the purpose of AL being “teaching the reader the joys of reading.” Reading is such a wonderful escape, tool, and outlet for anyone and exposing students to it early in a positive and complex light is very important!

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  8. You were speaking to me when you talk about adolescent literature as that book that brings an adolescent reader JOY (or flow, right?). So, what does that mean for an author? If you know you are writing for an adolescent reader (which our field will tell you is a reader between 12 and 18 – where New Adult comes between 17 and 21 and childrens lit between 8 and 12), are you making choices about topic or theme only – or are you doing something particular with character? I’m thinking that might help narrow your definition some.

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  9. I loved your first blog post, “YA Module One”. I found your thoughts on what literacy means very powerful and insightful. The truth behind your ideas is very true when thinking about the power that literacy holds for both older and younger readers.
    I also remember enjoying my first series of books that I read in grade school, “The Little House on the Prarie”. There is truly no stronger love that one of books.

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  10. Until I read this post, I had never really thought about reasons that adolescent literature is written. However, it brought up a great point – that the purpose of creation of literature of this genre is simply to encourage adolescent kids to read and to teach them to love reading. I can definitely agree with that point, and I can see it reflected so many times over in almost every person I know! I feel like everyone can pinpoint one work of adolescent literature that made them love reading – while for me it might be Harry Potter, or for you it might be Little House on the Prairie, it is something different for everyone. I think it’s awesome to be able to think of at least this one corner of the literary world as having the enjoyment of readers be a priority!

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  11. I so agree with you that adolescent lit can be a gate way into the joys of reading. Some of my favorite books and stories are adolescent lit and I find that you are never to old to read and enjoy them. Reading can open so many doors for students and as teachers it is our task to show them.

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  12. I love what you said about YA novels teaching kids the joys of reading. I entirely agree with that sentiment. I have loved reading my whole life and I know a lot of that is due to YA literature. I know enjoy knocking out 900 page Stephen King novels and exercising my brain to take in the entirety of a long book. I think that when I was younger, I enjoyed the escape that came from reading. I think books can be both an escape and a relevant lesson to children, as American Street and All American Boys can be. I agree that I am iffy about putting either in a classroom but I do think they include narrators that can be relatable to students that may not feel that they can relate to many other students in their class.

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  13. Hi Jamie! I really enjoyed your post! I love that you focused on the joys that reading can bring instead of a more formulaic definition. I remember the first few books I read on my own and they were as magical to me as yours were to you! There is a certain pull that YA Lit has that is (sometimes) missing from other genres. I think that’s an amazing way to talk about reading and the imagination because as readers we are always craving the whimsy that we felt as early readers. I hope to find this passion for my students who have lost it or never tasted it and I believe we have an excellent chance of creating truly literate readers this way! Thanks for posting!

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