Where Have All the Novels Gone?

For those that don't know, this year I will be leaving the land of tattling, Focus Walls, and hand-drawn pictures for high school, where I will teach sophomore English and yearbook (dun dun dun). Today when I picked up my teacher's edition of The Language of Literacy, the textbook our district has adopted, my suspicions were confirmed- the readings are comprised of short stories, essays, poems and non-fiction excerpts. From what I can tell after a quick thumbing-through of the TE there are no novels. Sigh.

I was lucky enough to have completed the International Baccalaureate Program when in high school, a rigorous program that frequently makes its students want to die (if the school is teaching it right, anyway). We read novel after novel, including two or three during the summer. Sophomore year I remember reading texts such as All Quiet on the Western Front, House of the Spirits, and Of Mice and Men, if memory serves correctly. We read the entire book, not just a snippet here of there, and then analyzed the hell out of it. I left the program with a deep appreciation of literature.

Being my first year as a high school teacher, I can't say what the students do their junior and senior years- maybe they read novels. So, what, we wait until our students are on their way out the door to have them read full texts? I felt this similar frustration while teaching fourth and fifth grade and refused to let the year end without at least two or three novels being read, wherever I could fit them. I don't care what the grade level, once a kid can read, they can read a novel. The standards, skills, and concepts can be taught through longer texts if the legwork is done by a publishing company, district, or a teacher.

By preventing the exposure to novels students are being deprived of so much. They aren't learning how to look at a large body of work and apply literacy skills, nor are they prepared for dense reading lists in college. Just as important, students aren't able to experience the satisfaction that comes with finishing, and truly understanding, a novel.

This year my students will read a novel, at some point. I don't care if it takes us two months or if it's at the end of the year when testing is done, my students will read a damn book.

No comments:

Post a Comment