Students may moan and groan when they are required to read one of the so-called “boring classics.” They wonder why they need to read something that may have been written over 100 years ago. While contemporary literature and young adult literature hold a great amount of value for students in the classroom, classic literature should not be forgotten. This definitely isn’t the case for reading only the classics. No, as teachers, we should be incorporating modern voices from diverse authors in our classrooms as well. However, we should be pairing the classics with the contemporaries to help show our students the power of universal themes.
Here are four reasons you should continue to teach the classics in your English classroom.
1. Historical Context and Connections
Classic works of literature provide an insight into a different time. Books such as these can help your students make connections between the plot of the book and the time in which it was written. This can improve analysis and understanding. Even futuristic novels, such as Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, can give insight into the author’s perspective on his own time.
2. Improve Vocabulary
Students often don’t enjoy classic literature because of the dated language. However, this dated language can improve vocabulary skills in students. Reading difficult words amidst a story-line requires students to use context-clues when defining a new word. For example, Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter provides a plethora of advanced words that will require students to stretch and grow in their vocabulary skills.
3. Exercising Comprehension and Analysis Skills
Classic works of literature are often dense books with a lot of subject matter to wade through. While this often scares people away, it can be a valuable tool in helping to strengthen one’s comprehension skills. Additionally, the heavy content of the piece often induces readers to use their reactionary analysis skills to create a concrete perspective. Books like Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky may seem boring to students, but the effort exerted in comprehending the novel will stimulate further growth in one’s reading abilities.
4. Withstanding the Test of Time
A classic does not become a classic for no reason. Literary works inducted into the canon of classic literature are important pieces of writing that contain values for readers today. These works hold universal conflicts and truths that still resonate with contemporary readers. While George Orwell’s dystopian novel 1984 was written in 1949, the themes of the story are still relevant today.