Critical Essays The Value of Contemporary Texts


During the past decade or so, the emphasis of literary studies has been moving away from the study of specific works and moving toward students' participation and involvement with writing. This shift has included the idea that students need to take an active role in discovering knowledge rather than being passive receptors of information. Traditionally, the great works of literature have established what is in the literary canon, and those works needed a "sage on the stage" to decipher, explain, and interpret for the uneducated masses. However, contemporary theory prefers teachers to be the "guide on the side" who encourages students to make connections and meanings with literary texts that students find significant, compelling, and worthwhile. Few debate the importance of reading aesthetic texts. What is debated, however, is the types of texts through which high school students should experience this aesthetic reading.

The adolescent and adult worlds are not one in the same; the primary concerns of young adult readers are not the same ones that adults have, and therefore it is important to recognize reading readiness. High school readers who may not be ready for Crime and Punishment can still discuss the thematic topics of love, societal bounds, and faithfulness, and popular contemporary titles, such as Three Weeks with My Brother, are more accessible than many other adult titles in the literary canon. Unlike many titles in the canon, Three Weeks with My Brother is straightforward and immediately accessible. This is a source of empowerment for readers: Readers who can relate to the characters can readily affirm or contradict what they read. The point of reading literature is to engage in ideas important in life, as well as develop literacy. Contemporary titles like Three Weeks with My Brother should be used in classroom settings as a bridge from childhood reading to adult reading. Although some students may cross that bridge earlier than others, all students deserve the opportunity to read something that is important to them.

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