Students will not become enthusiastic readers of literature from a teacher simply assigning reading tasks and assessing the completion of the tasks, especially when the assessment takes the form of threatened quizzes. Instead, as this book shows, teachers have an obligation to reveal to learners the procedures that skilled readers follow as they work with and enjoy literature and a further obligation to help learners to recognize some value in tackling complex works of literature.
Thomas M. McCann is a professor of English at Northern Illinois University, where he contributes to the teacher licensure program. His books include Transforming Talk into Text, Raise Your Voices: Inquiry, Discussion, and Literacy Learning (Rowman & Littlefield), and Teaching on Solid Ground, with John V. Knapp.
John V. Knapp is emeritus Professor of English at Northern Illinois University, and, continuing since 2007, has served as the editor of the literary journal, Style. Knapp is the author and/or editor of several other books, including Striking at the Joints: Contemporary Psychology and Literary Criticism ; Learning from Scant Beginnings: English Professor Expertise; and Editor, Critical Insights: Family.
Chapter 1. Don’t Go There
Chapter 2. Why Do We Have to Read This?
Chapter 3. Preparing for the Literature Experience
Chapter 4. Noticing and Making Meaning
Chapter 5. Modeling, Sharing, and Practicing
Chapter 6. Seeing Patterns and Structures and Making Complex Inferences
Chapter 7. Considering Competing Critical Views
Chapter 8. Responding to Literature
Chapter 9. Expanding Conceptions of Literary Texts
Appendix. Gary Soto’s “Like Mexicans”
Textbooks abound for advanced students who wish to teach English. This work by McCann and Knapp is a welcome change, grounded in theory with multiple opportunities for reflection. The idea of teaching students to "enjoy" literature may seem an impossible dream; the strategies employed in this book counter that concern. Based on the premise that drill and practice and one-right-answer responses to literature are not the right direction for potential English teachers to follow, the authors advocate the cognitive-rhetorical model in which students are actively involved in constructing their own meaning and prepared to engage in discussion of pedagogical sequences and authorial reading. Chapter 4 provides an excellent model for engaging the rules of notice and of signification, skills that will help students study character motivation within a text. Chapter 8 establishes class norms for discussion and collaboration, which are invaluable in creating effective class engagement. Chapter 9 provides an excellent guide to teaching graphic novels and for understanding the hierarchy of characters within a text. Each chapter concludes with a "Your View" for discussing the theories and practices of that particular chapter. Recommended. Advanced undergraduates and graduate students.
Learning to Enjoy Literature is a welcome aid to high school teachers seeking to teach literature in ways that will grant their students greater independence and motivate them to engage texts, ideas, and issues. McCann and Knapp model pedagogical approaches that encourage students to arrive at their own informed understandings rather than recite the teacher’s interpretation. Their book offers teachers productive approaches to treating textual interpretation not as an effort to reach a single right view or answer, but rather as a collaborative activity involving lively discussion of texts drawn from a variety of media.
With Learning to Enjoy Literature, Tom McCann and John V. Knapp do English teachers and their students a very great service. The authors have created an eminently readable text that deftly combines a thorough survey of pedagogic literature with a wide range of lively, original, and concrete suggestions. I cannot recall a book about teaching so absolutely committed to reaching students and finding ways to engage them and so convinced that students desire this as much as teachers do. And who would have thought that you could introduce a class to irony with a George Grosz cartoon or a New Yorker cover?