the essay topic is " discuss why exposure to literature is essential to a young person's education"
the essay should be personal commentary on the value and importance of literature in young person's life.
Do I need to choose a specific book to discuss or in general?
The very simple, and albeit boring, answer to your question is that one cannot be considered learned unless one has a basic knowledge of literature. This is the reason why high school curriculums are divided (in the United States) into General Literature, American Literature, British Literature, and World Literature. College curriculums expand upon that curriculum, of course, in innumerable ways.
The more interesting answer to your question has to do with the relationship of literature to human life itself. For this, I will defer to Mr. Keating of Dead Poets Society:
We don't read and write poetry because it's cute. We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race. And the human race is filled with passion.And medicine, law, business, engineering - these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love - these are what we stay alive for.
Yes, this mainly has to do with poetry, but much of it can also apply to all of literature. Literature is the language of imagination, and without it our life here would be very dull. Literature is a function of humanity's intelligent mind, ... something that sets us apart from the rest of the animal kingdom.
This is a very interesting topic. I'm sure you'll get many responses, but foremost, I'd definitely discuss the topic in general rather than focusing on one specific work. In proving that exposure to literature is essential to a young person's education, you have lots of options; you could first discuss the value of the act of reading (regardless of what one reads) and then get more specific and discuss ways in which themes common to different works can be applied to our lives. Plenty of options here, but I hope this is helpful.