Reading & Literacy

Teacher: Adolescent Readers Shouldn’t Be Sheltered From Literature

By Kristie Chua — November 03, 2014 1 min read
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Good writing can make you cry, and that’s something students can benefit from, Colorado 6th grade language arts teacher Alicia Urie writes in a Center for Teaching Quality blog.

Urie recounts her experiences teaching The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton, saying that the novel’s themes of loyalty, nonconformity, and finding similarities among different groups resonate with her middle school students. Through good writing, she argues, kids can gain a new outlook of the world.

It will help give you a lens to human experiences you wouldn't otherwise have; but most importantly, good writing will change you. It will shift your perspective. It will make you an engaged participant in society.

Urie says that last year, she received a request from a student’s mother for an alternate reading assignment due to concerns about the content of The Outsiders. The violence depicted in the book, the mother said, made her daughter cry while reading.

The mother’s request is not surprising, since The Outsiders has been frequently challenged in the past, according to the American Library Association. Reasons for banning the book include its portrayal of gang violence, underage smoking and drinking, strong language, and family dysfunction.

Although Urie gave the student another book to read, she felt that her student was missing out on a valuable learning experience—a chance “to find a deeper connection to herself and her classmates through the content of this book"—that may have been worth the passing emotional distress.

She commits to taking a different tact to such parental requests in the future:

So, I would say to my concerned parents in the future, "Mom, let's not shelter your daughter from accessing the tools she will need to have a voice in this world. Let's give her a text that she can use as a lens for viewing this human existence. Let's allow her to feel and think and become part of all of it. By reading The Outsiders she can learn unforgettable themes. And guess what? The world doesn't even have to end."

Image: TheeErin/Flickr Creative Commons.

A version of this news article first appeared in the Teaching Now blog.