Thesis Title

Using Young Adult Literature and Literary Theory to Teach Middle School Students How to Read Through Critical Lenses

Graduation Date

Summer 2010

Document Type

Master's Thesis

Document Form


Degree Name

Master of Science

Program Name


Program Director

Madeliene Peters, EdD


Middle school students are socially conditioned through an inundation of messages conveyed by various mediums, and language arts teachers are capable of teaching them how to deconstruct messages through exercises in critical literacy. Many language arts teachers are not aware of critical theory and, if they are aware, rely solely on classic literature when teaching critical literacy. Research shows students are responding to young adult literature (YAL) therefore a more effective approach when teaching critical literacy would be to introduce YAL first and then use it as a bridge into classic literature.

A literature review was conducted to examine the exercises currently taught in critical literacy, the history of YAL and the genres of YAL available today. The literature explores ways students can take what they learn in the language arts classroom and practice balanced decision making, become wise consumers, and contribute ethically to the greater good of society.

To expand on the literature review, further research was performed through observation of a course in YAL at Vanderbilt University and interviews with the professor. The class explored critical theory and its application to YAL in the modem day classroom.

Findings centered on the apparent need of the language arts teachers and their ability to create speculative and responsible citizens for society through the application of critical literacy practice. The most effective tool in engaging middle school students in these practices is YAL.

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