Three Immigration Novels: One Teen Reader’s Critical Comparison of Intersectional Identities By Sarah J. Donovan
Each new school year, I begin my 7th-grade English class with this question: “What have you read in your past reading classes?” Students respond with a variety of novel titles such as Hatchet (Paulsen, 2007) for a survival unit and Number the Stars (Lowry, 1998) for their Holocaust unit. In recent years, some students report that they did not read any novels; instead, they mostly used articles from magazines such as Scholastic’s Scope accompanied by comprehension worksheets to help with their close reading of informational texts. Then, I ask what books they read just because—not for an assignment or a grade but because they genuinely wanted to read it. The responses varied from nothing to Erin Hunter’s (2019) Warriors fantasy series, Douglas Adams’ (2005) The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Richelle Mead’s (2016) The Glittering Court, and Alan Gratz’s (2017) Refugee. What might these responses suggest about what and how we teach English language arts across America?
At minimum, they should suggest that students should have a say in what literature they study. Clearly, their interests vary by genre, gender, culture, place, and time. At best, students’ choices would be at the center of their literary education, and intersections of interest would drive their inquiry. What would happen if English teachers no longer developed units by themes and modes but, instead, by students’ interests and desires? What would happen if teachers no longer chose the reading lists or text sets? What role would teachers take to support students in their current and emerging reading lives? I offer that the teacher’s role would be within, across, and around the intersections of inquiry.
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