Teaching Literature – Helping Teens Form Relationships with Books

Teaching Literature, this is the first of a 4-part series of posts taken from a popular workshop I’ve offered over the years to homeschoolers.

Teaching Literature

Teaching Literature

If you would like to have the full text of the workshop (this series of posts will share about 1/3 of the information in the workshop), you can download a .pdf of the whole thing from our ebookstore. Click here to purchase.

I love hearing titles of favorite books from other readers.

I love getting recommendations of books that have life-changing potential.

I love meeting young people who already have a title to recommend to me. There are lots of teens who are voracious readers, who love to talk about what they’ve read.

But what about the many, many teens who don’t naturally light up at the thought of opening a book?

And what about the many, many homeschool PARENTS who don’t really love to read, either?

They exist, you know! Some of them may even be in lurking in this room tonight. It is not actually a sign of holiness to love reading books…and it is not sinful if you are NOT a bookworm by nature.

This session is all about helping readers learn how to create relationships with the books they read, and if you have a kid who doesn’t really like to read, I hope that this will be a help and encouragement to you. If you are a PARENT who doesn’t really like to read, I hope that this will be even more than a help and encouragement – I hope that it will be truly empowering, that you will leave here thinking about yourself in a new way, and understanding your abilities as a teacher in a new way.

You can even use books to build character – get some tips here.

So, let’s start with some basics about reading, shall we?

A book is nothing unread.

An author somewhere was inspired with an idea, a story, a mental image, a feeling. He spent hours articulating his ideas, his stories, his images, his feelings onto paper, and it was likely a satisfying endeavor. But until someone opens the book and begins to read, the book has impacted no one but the author himself. He might as well have sat in the woods alone and spoken his ideas, his stories, his images and his feelings.

A book is nothing unread.

Something amazing happens when a reader opens that book. It’s not simply that the author’s words are released from captivity. Instead, much more than that happens.

The author’s words are released from captivity and are brought into an encounter with the reader.

The author’s ideas encounter the reader who has ideas of his own in his mind.

The author’s stories encounter the reader who has stories of his own in his heart.

The author’s images encounter the reader who has seen countless images of life himself.

The author’s feelings encounter the reader who has felt some of the same things, and some things the author may never have known.

In an ideal world, the reader is challenged by the author’s ideas. He is entertained by the author’s stories. He is dazzled by the author’s images. He is moved by the author’s feelings. And he can’t wait to recommend the book to someone else because he loved it so much.

But we all know that the world of homeschooling our children – while wonderful and rich – is far from perfect. And as we introduce works of classic literature to our teens in an effort to wisely educate them in high school, we don’t always witness a beautiful scene like that unfold between book and reader. In fact, sometimes we NEVER witness a scene like that. Instead, we have a kid who is reading what we told her to read and saying, “WHY is this on my book list this year? It’s boring, and it’s taking forever to read.”

If we are honest, we’ve had that kid’s experience ourselves far more often than we would like to admit.

Up Next: Part 2 – How can we encourage our kids to read classic literature, help them actually get something worthwhile out of it, but also be honest enough to validate the frustrations they feel, and help them move beyond that frustration to something like satisfaction with the experience?

Read more about teaching literature to teens.

To see detailed descriptions and excerpts from our extensive collection of literature study guides that are all designed to help students form relationships with the books they read, visit the ebookstore by clicking here.

For more on Teaching Literature – Helping Teens Form Relationships with Books check out this video on the 7Sisters’ YouTube channel.


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Teaching Literature

Sabrina Justison

20+ year homeschool mom and curriculum developer for 7SistersHomeschool.com. Fred's wife. Writing, drama, music, blogs, kids, shoes, coffee, & books in varying orders on various days. He is God, He is good & He loves me.

8 Replies to “Teaching Literature – Helping Teens Form Relationships with Books”

  1. I’d love to sit in on your literature class! I’m preparing to teach a world lit class next year to homeschooling high school students and what you have discredit is what I’m hoping to create. We are doing : The book of Job, Iliad, Inferno, Ivanhoe, Heart of Darkness, Crime and Punishment, and Cry, the Beloved Country. Any words of advice. I’m really excited!

    • Hi Bobbi,
      Wow, what a great list! Challenging and rich!! When I taught World Lit one year, we did Inferno and it was a real stretch for a lot of the kids…but the discussion we had after they made it through the reading was so good! I always use lots of, “Okay, so what IF…” questions to help students connect with the material. By asking them to put themselves into a stain described in the book, and asking what choice they would make and why, even kids who rolled their eyes and said, “This book was out there…it made no sense,” would find a new way to think about it and discuss.

      Heart of Darkness will be unsettling for some teens; that’s not a bad thing, just something I’d be sensitive to. It has some disturbing ideas that are new to some young people, depending on their background and personality type.

      Cry, the Beloved is SUCH a beautiful book…one of my favorites, and exploring an idea that is not well-understood by many young people today. The societal structure of Apartheid was something I grew up hearing about all the time, but my kids had no clue when we first read this book together.

      Have a GREAT time with your wonderful titles!

  2. I love to read. My son on the other hand does not like to read. He has no interest in books. I would love for him to open a book and feel that is more then being forced to read. .

    • It can be disheartening, can’t it, Stacie? I have been there with more than one of my own kids! I hope this series of posts will help. Tune back in tomorrow….and thanks for stopping by today!

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