Aug 122011

I find a lot of what is traditionally considered literature boring.

Here’s the thing: I’m an English teacher by trade, so can you see where that might cause a bit of a problem?

For several years while I was in school, and for my first several years as a teacher – I went with what I thought was the “traditional” literature. I was bored to tears, and my students were, too.

Finally I came to the conclusion that there had to be a better way. There is, and I am here to tell you that students will look at you like you have grown two heads when you tell them that their reading list in a short stories and novels class is going to include, for example, Jasper Fforde’s The Eyre Affair.

As I was taking steps along the road of reexamining my beliefs of what constituted literature – The Eyre Affair was a brilliant bridge. The Eyre Affair is set in a parallel Great Britain. Thursday Next is a Literatec (literature detective) that catches what ought to be an unbelievable case. The character of Jane Eyre has been kidnapped from her book. Thursday, with the help of an incredibly motley cast of characters – with a supervisor called Victor Analogy, no less – is tasked with getting Jane back.

I don’t want to ruin the book for you. It’s fantasy, mystery, and filled with slapstick and puns – but it can also serve as a tool for reluctant readers. There are many opportunities in that book alone to jump off of and say, “Well, what is this? What happened here?” Many American high schools have reading requirements that mean well, but they are killing the desire for reading. Opening the traditional canon of literature to include books like The Eyre Affair (Why was that hard to write? It was, though.) – I think we’d see a whole new interest in reading.

In the desire to promote reading, I think a lot of us are promoting the wrong kind of reading. I may be biased, but fantasy is where it’s at.

This post comes to you as I think about my return to a physical classroom later in the month. Be sure to check in early and often next week. For at least the next two weeks, there will be two reviews a week! Reviews! Shiny!

About Ashley Crump

Ashley and her minders, two very strict black cats, make their home on the bayou. One fine day, Ashley finally realized she did not want to write the Great American Novel -- she wanted to understand how writing worked. She set about doing this, and you are seeing her results. It's a long-term project. Enjoy! [The cats do her proofreading...]

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