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February 2012: Changing the Canon

In her “Young Adult Readers’ Bill of Rights,” long-time young adult literature advocate Teri Lesesne exhorts that readers have the right to demand changes to the literary canon for the 21st century. Indeed, the defi nitions of “text,” “genre,” and “reading” are rapidly changing, as e-readers, digital books, and the proliferation of genrebusting books on the market make clear. Yet, as Applebee found in the 1990s and Joyce Stallworth found more recently, English teachers continue to teach the same classic, canonical works they’ve taught for decades—works like The Scarlet Letter, The Great Gatsby, Shakespeare’s tragedies, Beowulf. NCTE President Carol Jago might say such works are “good” literature because they require careful literary study, guided by a teacher. Other reading researchers and young adult literature advocates might say such works contribute to students’ resistance and reluctance to read, and that even when students willingly read such works, they don’t enjoy the experience. Still others say such texts don’t prepare today’s teens for 21st century literacies. What do you think? What texts, if any, should be centered at the heart of the English curriculum? What classic works do you think every high school student should read? Why? How do you engage students with such works? What non-classic works or young adult novels do you teach? Why? How? What about multicultural literature? Deadline: October 15, 2011. 

 

April 2012: Reading for Fun

Good English teachers know that sharing a passion for books and modeling voluntary reading are important practices that can motivate young people to read. Donalyn Miller, in The Book Whisperer, encourages teachers to talk about the books they’re reading outside of school with their students. Miller also encourages teachers to get to know what their students’ interests are, and to read children’s and young adult literature so they can help match books to teens’ interests. For this issue, tell us about the books that you’re reading for fun, that you’d love to teach, that comprise your “heart’s canon,” that you talk about with your students. What books have made lasting impressions on you and/or helped to define your life? What books did you read as a child? What books influenced you as a developing reader? What books made you want to become an English teacher? What children’s or YA books do your students love? Deadline: December 16, 2011.

August 2012: Ready for the Real World?

The Common Core Standards and other new education initiatives put the focus on preparing today’s adolescents for “career and college readiness.” But what does it mean to be ready for the 21st-century workplace or for the college classroom? And where does the pursuit of knowledge for its own sake fit into this? In this issue, we want to hear from teachers, school administrators, literacy consultants, reading specialists, and other  readers who have very clear, specific ideas about what “career and college readiness” look like. What activities or lessons do you teach that are tied to “real-world” skills and expectations? Do your students have opportunities to work with local businesses, or learn about careers? What 21st-century workplace skills do you help your students learn? What conversations about work and college do you have with your students, especially at a time of high unemployment rates and unaffordable college tuitions? How do you encourage a love of learning—no matter the purpose—in your students? Deadline: April 16, 2012.

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