Note: this is a re-run (or updated version) of a post from my previous site/blog, so if it feels a bit déjà vû, it’s not you: it’s me.
I think (hope?) many of us can agree that GCSE set text lists do not inherently encourage students to become readers. By exposing young teenagers to books deemed ‘classics’ or ‘great’ and requiring detailed analysis, we often in fact risk putting them off reading. This is, unfortunately, especially true for those not from a reading background whose only exposure to books is in school and who are left with the impression that the set texts they are given is what all books are like.
It is important, therefore, to try to share with pupils good examples of recently-published, engaging fiction for Young Adults (YA novels or Teen Fiction – although these are not interchangeable labels; teen is generally a little ‘younger’ and less likely to feature romance or tackle gritty issues). Here are some suggestions for ways that this can be achieved without going too far off-piste – especially if your school doesn’t have a school-wide initiative like DEAR (Drop Everything And Read) time
- Use YA novel extracts when teaching writing skills. I know we often reach for the classics here, but especially now that this skill is tested in an exam and not as a CA, the boards are no longer looking for pre-1950s-style (and currently unpublishable) purple prose. More modern exemplars are likely to be useful to students.
- Offer extracts from YA novels as early practice texts for reading skills before moving on to the more demanding types of texts set by the boards (e.g. the 20th century lit set by AQA). See my YA feature posts on The State of Grace, Proud and A Change is Gonna Come for some ideas – and there will be more.
- Share recommendations, possibly supported by extracts, or simply blurbs and covers on slides for topical reads or good reads linked to students’ interests (including the canny use of TV shows and films as genre guides). This makes a nice plenary as a ‘how do these link to the lesson?’ or an end of half term task: choose one or two to look out for and read over half term (it’s always worth promoting libraries – kids don’t have to BUY books to read them…). The image at the top is one such slide, which I have used in the past as a ‘settle slide’, to engage students as they enter class.