About a week into the holiday break, Sarah wrote me to rave about one the books she had received. It was a perfectly blog in the making. I asked her to write about the class and her experience. She did and I think it is a good representation of how most of my students responded to the class. (Okay, she says too many nice things about the professor, but put that aside.) She also talks about her author study. She shares the power point from her author study on Virginia Euwer Wolff. To clarify a bit, the power point could be more than 20 slides, no slide with more than 35 words, and it had to introduce and briefly survey at least three books by the author.
I hope you read what Sarah has to say. You might even send the link to your students as you encourage them to submit a blog post about their experiences in your YA courses. You knows they might say something nice about you. J
My Introduction to a Young Adult Literature Class and the Course Novels
“My mind was totally blown by class today. I have always loved YA Fiction, and I have always thought it was extremely important. I have never been able to vocalize or express that belief, and I am so grateful I found a class that will do that. This is the first class of my school career that I am excited about.”
As a Secondary Education English major, there is pressure to love the classics and other books deemed important by school districts and society. I do appreciate classic English Literature, but there is something special about YA Literature. YA books have the power to transform complicated or even taboo concepts into heartwarming and sometimes heart-clenching stories that students find they relate to more quickly. These books draw in the reluctant reader, bridge these readers into the classics, and hold this audience captive. At the age of twenty-one, I am more likely to select at YA novel than an adult novel while perusing the shelves at Barnes & Noble. This makes Dr. Bickmore and me kindred spirits when it comes to YA books.
More than twenty books, varying in size and by genre, on the reading list was intimidating at first. However, as I started devouring book after book, I quickly realized, Dr. Bickmore selections were some of the best books in the genre. Most of them were read in one sitting because they were impossible to put down. Other students in the class, who claimed to not enjoy the genre, or reading so many books at once, quickly changed their minds once they realized the quality of the selections. As much as Dr. Bickmore loves YA Literature, he was always the first to point out problematic issues in each book--either with the marketing and publishing and how awards are selected for top prizes such as the Newbery Award or National Book Award. There was always a balanced discussion of each book. My favorites from the list included: Homecoming by Cynthia Voigt, The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton, The Absolutely True Story of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie, Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson, and The Last True Love Story by Brendan Kiely. These books stood out to me because the character development was so strong. By the end of any of the novels, I felt like I truly knew the characters.
Studying Virginia Euwer Wolff
Our final project was to study any author who had won a major book award. Virginia Euwer Wolff has been one of my favorite authors since I discovered her in the third grade while reading True Believer, from the Make Lemonade series. That book was such an important milestone in my education and childhood development for two reasons: 1) I had no idea how much joy a novel written in verse could create. Wolff’s rhythmic writing sucked me into the series even though I thought I did not like poetry. The structure of the verse combined with the content of the novels makes for a genuine experience while reading. The stories being told in any other format is now unimaginable. 2), True Believer was the first time that I encountered a character in literature that was gay. It taught me that not everyone thinks and feels the same way I do. This is a wonderful thing to learn and be reinforced. That was an important moment in my development. Wolff and my wonderful third grade teacher Mrs. Jensen, (who made the book available to students) both gave me that moment. Rereading the Make Lemonade series for the project reminded me of my love for the series, made me interested in reading more of Wolff’s books, and secured a place for Wolff’s work on my future classroom shelves.
And the Reading Continues
Dear Dr. Bickmore,
I just finished Holding Up the Universe.
Top Three Things I Feel About the Book:
1. Libby is a badass. This book should definitely be made available to students just because of her.
2. I still think Jack is the worst and Libby shouldn't end up with him. Just because he is struggling with something shouldn't mean that he is forgiven for all of his crappy actions. I hope Libby doesn't let him back into her life too easily.
3. I want to read more Jennifer Niven books.
Thank you for being so generous and sharing your books with us!
Even though the class is over, Dr. Bickmore made it clear that he is a resource for the rest our teaching careers.
I love YA literature even more now that the semester is over. This course introduced my fellow classmates and me to a world that sees the value of YA Literature. This literature encourages students to expand their worldview as they enjoy reading. The course also solidified my commitment to be an educator and to share my love of YA Literature with my future students.