High schools add to reading lists

By Meg Dickinson

The News-Gazette

Published: Wednesday, Feb. 22 2012 4:45 a.m. MST

"I feel like it's part of my job to convince them they can engage with this literature, even though it's old," Linder said. "I do my best to make it interesting and relevant."

She said she doesn't expect students to love the materials they study in class, and she often finds the ones who strongly dislike a book "enjoy having something to rail against."

"I don't expect they're going to love everything we read," Linder said. "I think there is still value in the works that we have included in the curriculum."

Teri Lesesne, executive secretary of the Assembly on Literature for Adolescents of National Council of Teachers of English, said that along with what she calls the canon of classic literature that students read in class, they should also be exposed to contemporary literature in class.

"Is (classic literature) harmful to kids? No," Lesesne said. "Does it make them want to read? No. Except for the people who go on to be English teachers."

Lesesne is a professor of library science at Sam Houston University in Huntsville, Texas, and teaches children's and young adult literature. She believes that students should see Shakespeare performed as intended, rather than read, and they should be able to choose some of the items they read in class. She also believes they shouldn't read the same things in high school and college.

Sticking to the classics isn't bad for students' education, she said, but teachers should be showing them newer books that they can relate to better.

"All kids should be exposed to great literature," Lesesne said. "I don't have an argument with that at all. (But) if they're going to want continue to read literature, it also needs to be literature that has access points to their life."

Teachers can be crucial in helping students figure out what they love to read.

"There's so much richness out there," Lesesne said. "Unless there's a teacher in the classroom, saying, 'Here are some cool new books,' we're really not keeping kids excited about books and reading."

Information from: The News-Gazette, http://www.news-gazette.com

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