Education 111: The Young Adult Novel: Adolescent Literature & Literacy

Stanford, 2020-2022, Co-Instructor with Jennifer Wolf

Syllabus (PDF)

Overview and Course Goals:

This course examines adolescent literature and literacy through the developing genre of the young adult novel. Broadly, we will be working to answer the questions: What literature are teens reading? How are they reading literature? and Why do they read literature? Students in Ed111 will work to define and critique the literary art form of the YA novel, to consider what YA novels past and present tell us about adolescent development in America, and to explore best models for making meaningful connections between teens and literature.

This course is designed for undergraduates:

  • Minoring, Honoring or co-terming in Education
  • Interested in issues of adolescent development and behavior
  • Interested in literature, genre theory and literacy scholarship
  • Considering teaching or working with youth in school and out-of-school contexts.

Unit One: What is YA literature?

First, we will explore the genre of young adult literature and its emergence. During this unit, we will read genre theory and theories of literary criticism, as well as a range of YA novels, in order to generate definitions of young adult literature. What are the differences between children’s literature, young adult novels, and adult literature? Is young adult literature defined by its subject matter, by its implied reader, or something else? What makes reading young adult literature pleasurable? Each student will script, deliver, and reflect on a booktalk for a contemporary award-winning YA novel.

Unit Two: Who are adolescent readers?

Next, we will consider characterizations of adolescence in America both through YA literature and research. What do biological and social sciences tell us about American adolescence and adolescents? How do research findings match experiences depicted in YA novels? What are the central tasks of adolescent development? How are adolescent health and literacy related? How do science and literary investigations of adolescence push at the boundaries of expectations for adolescence? Each student will design, conduct, and analyze an interview with a teen reader to understand the roles literature and literacy play in adolescent life.

Unit Three: How do we support YA literacies?

We conclude our course with an investigation of the implementation of YA literature. How has YA influenced our view of literacy? How do teens use YA to exercise and expand literacy practices? What are the politics of YA literature and literacy? How are we researching and evaluating the ways in which teens read? What features define most effective literacy interventions for teen readers? Each student will write a proposal for a literacy intervention designed to increase adolescent access to quality literature and pleasure reading.