In an effort to making the reading material in my classroom more revelant to my students, I am looking for alternative sources of literature that might be appealing to the interests of today's youth.
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I agree with #3 on this one - you might want to experiment with shorter mediums of writing that are perhaps not so threatening to students, such as magazines, articles and even blog entries. There are examples of very good writing out there on news websites etc. You also might want to think about non-fiction rather than fiction, as some students really appreciate and work better with non-fiction. This also gives valuable practice in skills such as persuasive writing and rhetoric.
I notice you mentioned alternative "sources" of lit. Are you looking for literary media other than books? If so, and especially if you are dealing with reluctant readers, you might consider using magazines, newspapers, and carefully selected websites in your classroom. I've had good results with all of them. Students who find books intimidating feel less threatened when they work with shorter pieces of writing. I also find it interesting that when they read something online, they don't consider it "reading." For many, "reading" means books, and they associate books with boredom and failure. Magazines, newspapers, and good websites all offer contemporary and high-interest selections that students actually will read and enjoy.
For several years I worked in schools that participated in the Newspaper in Education program. We received a free class set of the local newspaper every day. The publisher also supplied us with lesson plans and activities tied to state standards. These proved to be an invaluable resource. Occasionally, we would not get our newspapers for the day; students were very disappointed when this happened. Also, there were always students who came by my room at the end of the day to take home a paper. If this resource is available, you should give it a try. It's good, and it's free!
Young adult literature is becoming quite the force. The most obvious title I can throw out there would be the "Twilight" series. It might not constitute amazingly powerful reading, but kids are reading it in vast quantities. Another pair of books that have grabbed my attention recently have been Hiassen's "Hoot," which deals with environmentalism and friendship, and "Speak" by Anderson, which addresses silence, rape, social ostracizing, and empowerment. Other titles that deal with the notion of bildungsroman in youth that can have modern appreciation: "Secret Life of Bees," "The Pact," "The House on Mango Street", and "Bee Season." These are fairly interesting works into which I have seen students be immersed.
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