Monday, April 14, 2008

Redefining Classic Children's Literature

One thing we are all familiar of in the world of literature are the classics. I'm sure we all read them when we were in school, and many of us probably have some of them collecting dusts on the book shelves around our homes or offices. It's one thing for adults to keep classics around and actually read them, for whatever reason, either because they actually enjoy it or because they think they're supposed to enjoy it.

These same rules do not apply to children's and young adult literature however. I am young enough (I'm in my late 20's) to remember sitting bored out of my mind in school trudging through 'classics' of children's and ya literature like Little House on the Prairie and Wuthering Heights. These are books I was supposed to read, right? They're rites of passage or something, that's all I could assume, because they certainly didn't connect with me in any way, and actually led me to despise reading for much of my K-12 experience.

Youth literature is quite unique, because many of the students are just beginning to experience literature, to test it, and to decide whether or not it is an experience they enjoy. As a teacher, it is our job to make your students become more proficient and effective readers, but it is also our job to develop a love of reading and students who are aware, on a person and metacognitive level, of what makes them a good reader, how they read, and what they enjoy.

Therefore, children's literature classics are in fact becoming largely irrelevant in the 21st century classroom. I actually had an entire boxed set of Little House sitting on my book shelf, given to me by a parent who no longer wanted them. The books sat there for months and months, and were never touched. I ended up trading them off at the used book store for books that my students would enjoy more.

Yes, the classics are there, and they're there for a reason. They've sold millions of copies, have been made into movies, and have been read in the classroom for decades. I believe it's time for many of the classics to be put to rest. Students need to read books that are relevant to the world around them, books they connect to in some way, and books that keep them wanting more. What do you think?