The principal value of teaching literature is the pleasure and enrichment it brings to the individual student. His world will be enlarged and hopefully, he will gain a greater appreciation of the beauty and power of literature; however, developing aesthetic appreciation may not be the prime factor to be considered for the adolescent reader. Adolescence is defined as the transitional period from childhood to adulthood. The major task of the adolescent during this period of transition is to find a sense of self identity. He is searching to find who he is or who he should be. It is time of questioning, doubting, fearing, wondering, and setting lifelong values. Finding answers or alternative choices is of great importance at this particular stage of a young person’s development.
Literature is an excellent source to help students in this stage of development. It offers innumerable opportunities for the student to meet himself, encounter situations similar to his own experience and discover his own emotions. For it is through discovering himself that he will be able to improve his life and understand the lives of the people around him. Real life is not without problems and solutions are not always easy to find. One of the great values of literature is its power to reflect life in a realistic manner. By reading, the adolescent can find solace in discovering that he is not alone in his thoughts and feelings and that someone understands his problems. Through understanding and guidance, he will emerge from this stage of development with a better understanding of himself.
This unit will provide the adolescent with an opportunity to read and discuss issues that are relevant to his particular needs. The intent of the unit is not to indoctrinate the student with a predetermined set of values right and wrong, but merely to expose the student to the complexities, both good and evil, of life through literature. The exposure of both elements will give the adolescent a basis for comparison later in life. For in time, he will learn that he as an individual must make the final distinction between right and wrong. Hopefully, through exploration and discussion, he will gain the perspective needed to find a positive self-image.
Reading about himself in literature; however, does not necessarily mean that the student will increase his understanding of human nature. Unless the student reads with deeper understanding, it is doubtful whether any beneficial result can be realized from a unit of this nature regardless of the number of stories he reads about himself or his problems. In order to bring about deeper comprehension, the student must move from a level of literal comprehension, understanding what is given directly, to a more interpretative level. For example, a student might read “The Rocking Horse Winner” by D. H. Lawrence and simply think that it is a story about a young boy who rides a rocking horse and never recognize the symbolic meaning of the horse. Many students have had very little exposure to literature and have only a vague notion as to what it is and how to read it; therefore, my second purpose in writing this unit is to help students make the transition from the literal to a more interpretative level of comprehension. The student must be guided to this level if he is to truly gain any insight about himself and the world around him through literature.
The student should be on or near an eighth grade reading level with a demonstrated mastery of literal comprehension. It is doubtful that a student with reading problems will be able to effectively interpret a given piece of literature. A program of this nature would simply add to a poor reader’s frustration. The unit is designed for an eight to ten week period but the actual length of time will be determined by the amount of student interest generated, Classes will meet five times a week. It is primarily intended for students placed in the regular reading classes but who are academically able to handle more challenging work.