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Faculty Sponsor

Amber Simpson

Abstract

In the high school English classroom, classic novels are taught as cornerstones of the curriculum. Although these canonical works such as To Kill a Mockingbird (1960) and The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1876) are revered for their literary merit, students often find them boring and skim through the readings or decline to read altogether. Young adult literature (YAL), a genre written for teens, may be an effective genre to teach in high school to boost students’ reading interest. This study aims to determine how teaching young adult literature in the high school classroom, as opposed to canonical works, might affect students’ interest in the texts. A survey was administered to 57 high school students ages 15-17, studying YAL in the Southern Tier region of upstate New York. The survey asked students to describe their interest in an assigned YAL book and compare it to their interest in canonical novels that they have read in the past. Results indicate that teaching a combination of YAL and canonical literature may increase students’ reading interest while also broadening their understanding and worldviews. Potential implications of this research include revising the English literature curriculum to accommodate students’ reading interest and diversifying assigned reading lists to incorporate wider cultural perspectives.

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