February 24, 2016 - Posted to Education
Why should anybody care what students are reading? After all, aren’t the literary habits of students driven by fads and the desire to consume whatever is popular and trending among other young people? Shouldn’t the focus be on telling students what they should be reading? After all, aren’t members of older generations more qualified to determine what is good reading material, and what isn’t?
If you find yourself nodding and answering yes to all of these questions, here is some bad news. All of these questions represent a clueless and out of touch view of the literary choices of students, and what can be learned by observing these choices. In fact, almost every generation’s literary preferences, along with their musical and artistic preferences, have been dismissed by previous generations as being frivolous and silly. In spite of this, later generations can look back and see the value and sense in learning which books students were reading.
The truth is, there are many reasons to care about what students are reading. Here are 3 of them.
1.Knowing What Students Are Reading Can Make it Easier to Recommend Literature
When parents, instructors, and others know which books the students in their lives are choosing to read, they can take that information under consideration when determining which books to assign or recommend to those students. For example, if students are reading satire and political humor from modern day authors and entertainers such as Jon Stewart, they may find value in reading the works of Mark Twain. Students who are reading young adult fiction, might connect with literature that also involves teenagers and young adults. Even students who focus on comic books and graphic novels may be enticed to read historical fiction from the periods of time represented in what they are reading.
2.What Students Are Reading is a Great Political/Social Litmus Test
If anybody wants to know what students care about, learn what they are reading. It is easy to presume that students follow whatever the current literary trend is. Initially, maybe that is what they do. However, in order for any literary trend to gain traction, it must be enduring and relatable. Think about the Harry Potter series. JK Rowling captured young people with a compelling story, but she could not have kept that momentum if the struggles and challenges her students faced weren’t in some way relatable. An older, yet more realistic example might be the work of Judy Blume. Entire generations have been drawn to her work because it represented their feelings on a variety of political and social issues.
3.Knowing What Students Are Reading Can Result in Important Conversations
Anybody who wants to, can certainly lecture, judge, or roll their eyes at the books that students are reading. Or, as an alternative, they can use that as jumping off point to engage in meaningful conversation about a variety of social justice issues. Unfortunately, too many people underestimate students. They see them as slackers who focus on who will write my essay, instead of how I can perfect and represent my literary point of view. The best thing anybody can do in facing and determining the best way to approach students about their reading is to find a way to be relatable to them and then be as relatable and supportive as possible. Once they know that, they can approach students from a healthy and nonjudgmental point of view.
Here is the most important point. The books students and other young people read, along with the movies the watch, and their other socio-political touchstones shouldn’t be mocked or dismissed. Instead they should be viewed as a way to communicate and find common ground.