Reading Underaged Literature

Apparently, schools are not challenging or helping students read at their grade level or better. NPR reports: “Anita Silvey, author of 500 Great Books for Teens, teaches graduate students in a children’s literature program, and at the beginning of the class, she asked her students — who grew up in the age of Harry Potter — about the books they like.

‘Every single person in the class said, “I don’t like realism, I don’t like historical fiction. What I like is fantasy, science fiction, horror and fairy tales.” ‘

… But in 1989, high school students were being assigned works by Sophocles, Shakespeare, Dickens, George Bernard Shaw, Emily Bronte and Edith Wharton.”

That’s what my kids will be reading. I plan to help my 9th grader through the Epic of Gilgamesh next fall, for starters.

In related news, young adult novels are finding a lot of adult readers, because they find it interesting and sophisticated. One author says, “Teenagers are more willing to let you genre bend. For them, it’s all about telling an honest story. You’re writing for really smart, really savvy readers.”

And who doesn’t love an honest story?

3 thoughts on “Reading Underaged Literature”

  1. I have a really hard time with a report that relies on data from Accelerated Reader, a for-profit company that assesses reading level by looking at vocab and sentence structure, but not content. The AR level for of Mice and Men is only 4.5, but Captain Underpants and the Revolting Revenge of the Radioactive Robo-Boxers gets a 5.3.

    Also, one would think that kids reading the classics are in classes that grade on things like essays and discussion, not a 10-question comprehension quiz. And if they’re not taking AR’s quiz, they’re not getting counted in the data.

  2. My husband and I (both somewhat classically educated) lean toward YA over adult fiction. YA authors are more likely to have an interesting story to tell and less likely to have “content” issues — just in general; there are lots of exceptions and plenty of inanity on both sides, of course. YA has more freedom to write a good story and thus can sometimes overcome its own worldview problems, maybe? Current adult fiction seems overly predictable, unpleasant, and, well, boring. Older books are better. There’s some great nonfiction, too.

    As for young people preferring fantasy, this was a really dismal century for serious literature. Call me a poster child for the study, I guess.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.