My identity as a reader now is influenced so heavily by my experiences as a young reader. In school, I was exclusively taught books from the classic canon. My English teachers, I thought, only even read classics themselves, making it the only literature “worth” reading. I still devoured YA books, do not get me wrong, but they felt almost like guilty pleasures. I would hide them in the bind of my English textbook, set it in my lap, and sneak pages in while my teacher lectured. There were, of course, classics that I loved, but I realized most of my peers had very little interest in our day to day class instruction as well as the at home assignments given. It’s so refreshing to read Buehler’s ideas and research on YA literature and the ways it can (and should) be taught.
While my identity as a reader is often times based on my seeing it as a guilty pleasure (“I don’t have time to read I should be doing this chore, this assignment, etc.”), I see plainly the importance that we as educators teach students the value of reading for pleasure while still reading with purpose. At night when I can’t sleep, I close my eyes and imagine my future classroom. On the good nights, I envision a class full of enthralled expressions, turned into their own laps enjoying whatever they have picked to read that week. On bad nights, I see myself feigning enthusiasm for a classic I did not enjoy to a class full of bored and unengaged kids. I want to develop a YA pedagogy that is centered on individualism; students should have the opportunity to read texts they see themselves in or want to imagine themselves in. They should have the option to engage with texts that excite them, challenge them, and enrich their lives as readers. I do, however, also see a lot of value in reading classics. Some of my favorite books came straight from the canon.
I am still so unsure about how I can find a good balance between helping students form their identities as well-rounded readers while still teaching them the classics. Her research on Lexile scores as they compare between the two genres (classics and YA) are very compelling; I can agree that the two though different are often of equal merit. What I know for fact is that regardless of what my students are reading, it is my job to show them the dimensions of complexity and how they can derive complexity from whatever book they decide to read. In this way, they become independent and confident readers who are not afraid of the syntax often turning young people away from “stuffy” classics.