The choice of “what to read” in high school has been a topical issue in the recent past. In the last decade, there has been intense discussion among teachers and curriculum developers about replacing classic literature with modern texts. The discussion has been partly generated by the differences between proponents of the classic works and current students who view the classics as too old, boring and irrelevant in the current society. In the article, Eldeib (2014) presents an insightful analysis of the underlying issues and dilemmas when choosing classic or contemporary books for high school reading.
The analysis of issues raised in the article offers an in-depth understanding of the need for change. The purpose of education is to shape an individual into a citizen with the capacity to become self-reliant. This is a complex process that requires a wide range of inputs to achieve. The need for change from classic literatures to modern texts centres on the need to capture 360-degree of education. This implies that what students read should capture both the classical and contemporary aspects of life.
This arises partly because of the difficulties teachers face in teaching classic literatures. The idea is that teachers should not feel like they are dragging students to study the novels. The drive to read should by self-instigated. This calls for a change in the choice of what students read and methods of delivering the content.
Another aspect to consider when choosing between the two texts is the overall purpose of reading. First, reading helps students become better thinkers. Reading forces students to contribute his or her own interpretations and reconstruct the mind of character. It can also broaden students’ imagination and sensitivity towards our environment. However, this can only be achieved by ensuring that materials we read offer the above purposes. Classic literatures have often been hailed as the great books that “come down to us bearing upon them the traces of readings previous to ours, and bringing in their wake the traces they themselves have left on the culture or cultures they have passed through language and customs” (Gupta, 13) The books are written in noble language and teach important lessons about human nature. The language and the lessons they teach can be passed down from generation to generation.
Contemporary texts on the other hand keep us in touch with the current views of the society. There is no problem in changing from classic to contemporary if the objectives of reading are achieved. However, to achieve a comprehensive purpose of reading, it important that teachers find a balance between classic literatures and contemporary texts.
This raises the important aspect of the importance of reading literature. Literature acts as an important source of pleasure to readers and listeners. Students face a lot challenges and stress during their lives. Literature can serve a source of entertainment that also plays an important role in performance improvement. Reading literature also plays an important role in building experience. Students who read literature reap the benefits of expanded knowledge through various experiences and relationship with the characters in the literature. Literature enables them to meet new people, gain new experiences and visit new places. They discover the common values that human share and the challenges that all humans go through. This information plays the fundamental role in expanding their horizons and handling emotional aspects of their lives.
In addition to the above, literature improves language model for students. Good literature exposes students to correct word use, sentence patterns and structure and good grammar. The students also learn from new vocabularies woven into the stories. This offers the opportunity to sharpen their language skills, becoming better readers as well as writers, which is an important aspect of expression that all students acquire in the course of their studies. A critical review of the beneficial outcomes of reading literature reveals that these benefits are not only confined to students. Reading literature helps all people acquire the capacity to deal with problems and challenges. By finding out the problems of others in the literature and learning lessons on how the problems are handled, one develops the insights into dealing with own problems. From the above discussions, it is recommended that teachers achieve a perfect balance between classic literature and contemporary texts. This is because a drastic shift from classical literature to the modern texts may not work best in the interests of the students and teachers. The benefits and critical lessons of classical literature, especially their noble language and lessons on human nature are likely to be left out. A gradual change is therefore proposed as an effective approach in undertaking this change.
However, there is consensus that reading literature presents a wide range of beneficial outcomes to learners. These include being sources of entrainment, developing literacy and thinking skills, improving language skills and enhancing visual literacy.