I love to read, and I want my students to experience the joy of getting lost in a book, or the aha moment that comes when you recognize yourself in a character, or when you learn from a character’s experience that you are not alone. I discovered one way to accomplish this, even with reluctant readers, is to incorporate young adult novels into my health education curriculum. This project began five years ago with just one book and has since evolved into a standards based curriculum that can be adapted into any content area. I partnered with Dr. Jennifer Banas (who also loves to read) from Northeastern Illinois University in Chicago, Illinois, to develop this young adult novel project. Our curriculum is ever changing, but we firmly believe that we have something worth sharing and we hope that teachers will take the risk and incorporate some or all of what we have created into their classrooms.
As teachers, we are constantly working to create lessons that are relevant and meaningful for our students. We also have the pressure of meeting the requirements of our content area and aligning our lessons to state and national standards. Sometimes this is difficult because we simply want our students to develop into productive, healthy humans who feel they have a place in this world and a purpose in their life. Often students struggle to look outside their own world and recognize there are others with different perspectives and lived experiences. We have created a curriculum that allows us to present the required content, allow students to learn about people with varied experience, and discuss important topics. Our biblioguidance-based curriculum can help them to do that and more. Moreover, it’s a pedagocially-powerful means to infuse social justice education into content area instruction.
Our goal is for young people to learn how to live in a diverse, multicultural, and inequitable world. This means they must first develop insight into their own identity and have an understanding of how lived experiences and perspectives influence how they walk through the world.In addition, young people need to value differences in society, develop critical thinking skills, and learn to manage difficult situations even when they seem unfair. They will benefit when they understand basic human needs and how people meet those needs in diverse ways. Without this understanding, they are left vulnerable to navigate harmful, divisive messaging on their own.
The goal of our book project is to promote social justice and support students in navigating life. Students choose a book from a carefully curated list of young adult novels and complete learning activities designed to promote social justice competence and improve their social/emotional skills, while at the same time developing the skills associated with the National Health Education Standards. The primary components of this project include journals and discussions. An advocacy project is an ideal, but not required component. Dr. Banas and I would like to share our project with any teachers who are interested in starting this journey and we invite you to explore our curriculum and accompanying teachers guide by visiting our website: https://sites.google.com/neiu.edu/novelcurriculumteachersguide/home
After reviewing the guide, you might have questions. Feel free to contact us via email or our LinkedIn profiles.
- Dr. Jennifer Banas: firstname.lastname@example.org; LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/jenniferbanas/
- Sarah Gershon: email@example.com; LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/sarahgershon/
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