All About Adolescent Literacy

All about adolescent literacy. Resources for parents and educators of kids in grades 4-12.
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Revisiting the Classics

Looking to use some classic texts in your classroom? In our list, we've matched canonical texts with popular YA Lit read-alikes. The pairings are perfect for adolescent readers because of their relatable, timeless themes, and compelling plot lines.

The Odyssey

The Odyssey

Age Level: 14-16

Odysseus just wants to get home to his wife and son after being away for more than ten years fighting in the Trojan War. On his journey (odyssey) back, he encounters all manner of obstacles including a cyclops, temptresses, ghostly spirates, pirates, and a six-headed monster.Looking for companion text? Waiting for Odysseus by Clemence McLaren traces Odysseus’s journey through the eyes of the women in his life: his wife Penelope, the seductive Circe, the goddess Pallas Athene, and his childhood nurse Eurycleia.

Macbeth

Macbeth

Age Level: 16-18

This classic is filled with witches, ghosts, murder, betrayal, and revenge? Macbeth, a successful Scottish general, encounters three witches who prophesize his future. Eager to make their predictions come true and egged on by the power-hungry Lady Macbeth, he sets out on a murderous path to become King, deceiving and destroying anyone in his way. Looking for a parallel text? Read Enter Three Witches by Caroline Cooney, a story about Lady Mary, the teenaged charge of the Macbeths. How will she be able to cope with Macbeth’s deadly behavior?

Beowulf

Beowulf

Age Level: 16-18

Beowulf is a famous warrior who arrives in Denmark to kill the terrible monster, Grendel. Grendel is a formidable foe who emerges out of the swamp at night in order to kill the Danish people. Will Beowulf be successful in his battle or will Grendel slay him instead? This epic poem is more than 1,000 years old, but its story of a hero overcoming villains still engages students.

Their Eyes Were Watching God

Their Eyes Were Watching God

Age Level: 14-16

Janie has had a few bad boyfriends., but finally finds solace in a young man named Teacake. Their relationship teaches her about the importance of freedom and allows her to blossom into an independent woman. Looking for a companion text? Read The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison. This text plays out the tragic consequences of what happens when Pecola Breedlove internalizes all of the negative feelings other people have about her.

Song of Solomon

Song of Solomon

Age Level: 14-16

Have you ever wondered who your ancestors are or how their lives shaped yours? Milkman, a young, African-American man, sets out to discover his ancestry and learns how racism, injustice, and the disparities between the rich and poor have affected his life and his relatives’ lives. Morrison expertly weaves many themes, plot twists, and allusions leaving the reader wondering if Milkman will be able to fly like Solomon. Looking for a supplement to the text? Read The People Could Fly: American Black Folktales told by Virginia Hamilton. Students can analyze how Morrison weaves the myth of the flying African into her text.

The Crucible

The Crucible

Age Level: 14-16

Set in Salem, Massachusetts during the late 1600s, Miller uses the story of the infamous witch trials as an allegory for the anti-Communist feelings and the McCarthy hearings in America during the 1950’s. As the fervor over identifying witches gains traction, innocent people fall victim to unwarranted accusations, with devastating results. What happens when intolerance reigns in a society? Looking for a cross-curricular connection? Students can study the historical events and people involved in the Salem witch trials while reading this play. Teachers can help students uncover similarities and differences between the history and the text.

Native Son

Native Son

Age Level: 16-18

Does everyone have an equal ability to achieve the American Dream? Wright’s powerful text tackles this issue and explores the intense and complex issues of racism, discrimination, and poverty in America. Featuring the protagonist, Bigger Thomas, Wright tells Bigger’s story of hardship and depicts his lack of autonomy because of the oppressive forces that are enacted to keep Bigger in his current, impoverished and hopeless situation. For further reading, check out excerpts from Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky. This text also explores the disparities between the rich and the poor and what happens when the have-nots have had enough.

Dr. Faustus

Dr. Faustus

Age Level: 16-18

What would you be willing to trade if you could have all of the knowledge and power in the world? Would you be willing to sell your soul to the devil? That’s what Dr. Faustus does in exchange for 24 years of service from a devil named Mephistopheles. With his help, Faustus is able to perform unbelievable magic tricks and feats, impressing famous dignitaries and exploiting others as he demonstrates his great power. But as the time approaches when Lucifer will take his soul to Hell, Dr. Faustus reconsiders his choice.

Antigone

Antigone

Age Level: 14-16

How far would you go to stand up for what you think is right? Would you be willing to defy a King, who also happens to be your uncle? These are the decisions Antigone faces when King Creon orders that Antigone’s brothers go unburied after a bloody civil war. Should she risk death or imprisonment to honor the dead and her god or blindly follow King Creon’s decree, leaving her brothers’ bodies to rot in the sun? As a companion text, try a Letter from a Birmingham Jail by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. This text reflects the theme of civil disobedience: standing up against injustice through peaceful demonstration.

Romeo & Juliet

Romeo & Juliet

Age Level: 14-16

Have you ever been in love with someone your parents hated? Have you ever sneaked out to go on a date? How far would you be willing to go to be with your soul mate? Romeo and Juliet face these very questions. After they meet and fall in love, they discover that their families hate each other. But Romeo and Juliet have to be together, even if everyone wants them to be apart. Looking for a companion text? Try Romiette and Julio by Sharon Draper, a contemporary version of the classic featuring a biracial couple fighting against their families’ prejudice to prove their love for each other.

The Great Gatsby

The Great Gatsby

Age Level: 14-16

Are the wealthiest people in America the happiest? Nick Carraway seems to think so until he gets involved with his rich neighbors, including the mysterious Jay Gatsby. Through Nick's love interest Jordan, and his budding friendship with Jay, Nick discovers that Gatsby's world is filled with love, betrayal and murder. Looking for a companion text? Try The Beast by Walter Dean Myers, a story about Anthony "Spoon" Witherspoon, who leaves his impoverished childhood home chasing academic success at a private school. There, he encounters the world of the rich while his girlfriend back home struggles with drug addiction. Will he be able to achieve his American Dream with so many obstacles in his way?