Why is it important to use literature in the classroom?

This semester students in READ 6310 were asked to contribute a post to this blog.

By Lisa Marie Ochoa

Literacy is not a luxury; It is a right and a responsibility. If our world is to meet the challenges of the 21st century we must harness the energy and creativity of all our citizens. (President Bill Clinton)

Literature is an important part of our everyday lives. This is why our jobs as teachers is to help our students realize that the purpose for children’s literature is to inspire, to demonstrate and teach them to be active readers, writers, speakers and thinkers. It is through reading a wide range of literature that we obtain a higher level vocabulary as well has the ability to think at a higher level. What teacher would not want high level thinking and vocabulary skills for their students? However, the trick is getting the students to understand and value the rationale for submerging them into a world full of literature.

So how exactly would a teacher go about achieving this in the classroom? For starters, the teacher needs to make it clear that literature is a valuable member of the classroom, with whom we all should have a dynamic partnership with. Not only because we are “told” to but because we desire said partnership. As a reward for this partnership literature will lead you down a path full of curiosity and wonder. Once we as teachers understand the importance of this partnership within our classroom, we will feel at ease knowing that we not only can use literature  as a tool to teach  the required curriculum but it will also help teach much needed life lessons. Once readers are able to allow ourselves to connect reading to our own lives, we will be forever changed. For this reason, I have a deep love for reading. However, not everyone has the same love for reading that I do. Unfortunately, as much as I would like ALL my students to love reading there are some that stray away from reading or there are some books that we don’t see eye to eye on and this is okay because, “The author has no right to tell a reader how to read her book. It is the privilege of the reader to discover what a book means for his or her particular life. The book either speaks for itself to the reader, or it fails to speak.”  (Katherine Paterson)

As teachers we tend to pick out books that we like or that we think our children would like to read. However, “Reading is always a particular event involving a particular reader at a particular time under particular circumstances” (Rosenblatt). This means that not everyone likes the same book at the same time. I have incorporated literature circles for the first time this year and it has been a learning experience for my students and I. So, I have asked them to review all the books we have read so I could get a feel of what books to incorporate next year. Below I have included a few samples of my students’ work. Their assignment was to review our past literature books and through this assignment, I have learned that as a teacher we need to allow the students to have a say in what they are reading.

The Witches is about witches who are mean selfish and mean again they like don’t like kids they like mice. That is just very weird I love kids not mice they are like mice pets to them they want to turn kids into mice that is just to weird and gross they gave us lots of information about this story I think the characters are intelligent and interesting this book is fiction and a fantasy story I would recommend this to people that like witches and who love to read books and books.

Charlotte’s Web is a story about a little girl who saves her pig Wilbur from an unfortunate destiny of many fat little pigs with the help of a very nice and friendly spider. It wasn’t easy though. I think it’s a very good story. It was easy to picture in my mind and understand what was happening. It’s mostly read to small children or by smaller children. However, I recommend it to children of all ages. It was a very enjoyable fiction story. The characters were many but all interesting. My favorite character is the spider. I admire her braveness and loyal friendship. I strongly recommend this fiction book to everyone. I would definitely read it again and for sure have my little sisters read it too.  (Ayleen in 4th grade)

The BFG was a good book because it talked being friends even though you are different. I also liked the book because it has giants and they are killing the kids of England. I would recommend the BFG because it is very interesting. (Gus the Bus in 4th grade)

Frindle is a good book because it talks about a student and a teacher who have a bad relationship. However, once the teacher got older and the student became an adult they found out that all along they really had something in common. I would recommend it because the moral is good about how different people can become great friends.  (Gustavo in 4th grade)

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