I teach American Literature. Usually that means the classics (Of Mice and Men, The Crucible, To Kill a Mockingbird, A Raisin in the Sun, The House on Mango Street, The Great Gatsby...).
Young Adult novels have always been meant for independent reading time (which I try to do each day for twenty minutes at the start of my 90 minute class). The kids love their independent reading books. They complain if I try to take away some of the 20 minutes. The English department have had other teachers bring up the issue of kids reading their independent books in their class (yay!). So while my students read and most often like the classic books, they are also clammering for YA fiction.
There has always been the idea that you teach the classics in school and read for fun outside of school. Many people believe that the two should be separate and the high school curriculum should only focus on the classics. In fact, my former agent didn't think YA should be the focus on a high school English classroom. While I understand the importance of having kids read from the literary canon, I also know how amazing YA books can be in helping to teach the course objectives.
That's why I'm a strong supporter for integrating both.
Last year was my department's review and revise year and we were able to discuss, analyze and consider new literature for the classroom. I chose three current YA novels for my course that can be taught in a whole group setting or in small reading circles based on student interests and abilities. They are The Absoluetly True Diary of a Part Time Indian (Alexie), Things a Brother Knows (Reinhardt) and Stolen(Christopher).
I introduced these books to my students at the start of the year because I always talk about what we'll be reading.
Well...I've noticed that a bunch of them (at least 8-10) have checked the copies of these books out from my school library. They are reading the books before they have to read them!
Really, how amazing is that!?! On one hand, I want to tell them to stop reading these books because they're class novels, but on the other hand, how can I tell them to stop reading! It's crazy, funny and exciting. I can't wait to teach them in the classroom.
What about you? What are your thoughts on teaching both YA literature and the classics in school? Should it be done? Or should teachers just stick to the classics?