Do you remember the books you read in High School English? For some, the memory is foggy (“I don’t remember much about To Kill a Mockingbird, except that it wasn’t about birds.”), and other books are remembered with a groan (“My teacher was obsessed with Hester Prynn. I’m pretty sure there was some sort of creepy literary crush happening there.”). There are a lucky few, however, who not only remember a book they read, but remember how it impacted them. These are the lucky ones, with teachers who were not only passionate and capable, but who also knew how to choose books that would resonate with their students.
Borah Coburn hopes to be one of those teachers. Currently, Coburn is working on her Masters in Adolescent English Education, and believes YA lit belongs in the educational literary canon. As part of her Masters program, Coburn had to create a defense for the use of YA lit in the classroom. To her surprise, however, she was approached by other teacher candidates, teachers, and even students who had what she calls “‘intellectual superiority’ of the Western Literary Canon, and really look down at their noses at the idea of using other literature in the classroom.”
“That quiet, casual, “common sense” backlash really inspired me to go beyond the class assignment,” Coburn says. Her solution was to start a Tumblr called Why I Need YA Lit. “I was already on Tumblr, and I wanted to take it to the people. I wanted teenagers, librarians, other teachers, authors, anyone and everyone to be able to [help]create this repository of voices in favor of YA lit [in the classroom]. I wanted this blog to be able to get a little personal about why YA lit was important for people, and why they want and/or need it in their lives.”
The premise behind Why I Need YA Lit is simple: anyone can submit stories, examples, memes, quotes, and memories of why books categorized as YA are important to them. Coburn hopes that the blog will not only serve to ignite conversation in the community of YA lovers, but will also act as an active defense against banning books.
“The ultimate idea, for me, was that if people submitted their reasons for needing YA Lit, then if (read: when) it’s challenged, or looked down on as a genre, [people]would have a place to go [and say], ‘No. Look at these people. These are real people who care about this genre, and to whom this genre is important…You need to take that into consideration.’”
Coburn’s blog also offers support for teachers who are dealing with having their curriculum challenged. The “Defending YA Lit” tab on the blog offers thoughtful arguments on why YA should be included in curriculum, citing the important issues YA often highlights, and the educational benefits of utilizing books that students enjoy reading.
The movement is still new, and though Coburn has received some good submissions, she’s hoping more people will get involved. Coburn doesn’t necessarily need long statements from people. “I’m trying to get better at letting people know that I’m looking for a sentence, a haiku, a photo—literally anything of any length that expresses some part of why they need YA lit.” She would especially love the support of YA authors. “[T]hat would be totally delightful,” she says. “Authors: YOU ARE WELCOME AT ANY TIME!”
So why do you need YA lit? Share in the comments below and visit Why I Need YA Lit to share your story.