This semester in READ 6310 Children’s and Adolescent Literature, students were asked to contribute a post to this blog.
By K. Salinas
I have been teaching for eight years now and have noticed a major problem with the literature selection available in schools; it is not relatable. The “classics” have long been a tradition in most high school classrooms, yet today’s youth has a difficult time relating to some of them. That is not to say they should be eliminated altogether, but perhaps be supplemented by books that modern adolescents find more appealing.
As an undergraduate, I had the pleasure of being introduced to texts written by local authors. It was such an amazing experience. I always enjoyed reading a variety of genres, from mystery to historical fiction, however; reading books that referenced local places in the Rio Grande Valley was a whole new experience for me. I could not put the books down. I looked forward to class and the weekly discussions we had pertaining to the books. I remember thinking to myself, “I can’t wait to introduce these books to my students when I begin teaching!”
Fast forward to after graduation and the beginning of my first teaching job, and, well, I had lost sight of this. I got caught up in the numerous duties that go into being a teacher. I quickly began to rely on the district mandated curriculum, which of course included all of the classic works of literature that I read as a high school student myself.
As the years passed, I found myself thinking back to the books I was introduced to as an undergraduate. I checked out the one copy of Crazy Loco from the campus library and began by occasionally reading the short stories to my classes when we had a few moments to spare. Honestly, my students lived for those stories. They requested to hear one from the moment they walked in the door. Even some of my reluctant readers wanted to come to the front of the class, sit on my stool, and read the stories to the others. It was amazing. However, once again I let the pressures of testing and other matters take precedent, and the book sat on my desk, untouched, nearly the entire second semester.
It was not until I began taking graduate reading courses that I realized what a disservice I had done to my students. I had a flashback of the adolescent literature course I had taken before I began teaching, and I realized I did not follow through with what I knew was best for my students. True, the curriculum does not include the types of books that I have experienced over the course of my undergraduate and graduate work; however, it does allow for teacher selected materials, which includes readings at my discretion. As I have finally begun incorporating books that I know my students can relate to and enjoy, I have seen a whole different side to them. They are excited to read about teens facing issues, such as; peer pressure, gangs, and bullying. After all, these are the same issues they are living on a day to day basis.
It is an amazing feeling to know my students are finally gaining a love for reading that they never had before. Finding relevant books is not always an easy task, especially the older I get. However, it can be done. I spend more time talking with my students about their interests, and finding out what issues they are facing as teenagers. I also make an effort to incorporate multicultural texts that my students can relate to. It is amazing what a difference can be seen when relatable books are incorporated into the classroom. Below are just a few of the numerous books that I have found. By simply conducting a Google search, you will find the possibilities to be endless.