Last November, we published a post addressing the controversies associated with Mark Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. A recent comment pointed out that Huck’s views on slavery are those of the dominant society of the time. Because the post featured a letter from Frederick Douglass as a supplement to the novel, the commenter wondered “why not present the experiences and views of the oppressed rather than the oppressor?” That struck me as an intriguing question, so here are a few places to start exploring those views and experiences with your students.
This year’s NCTE conference: Story as the Landscape of Knowing will take place November 20-23 in our hometown, Washington, DC. You will find us at Booth numbers 236 and 238 in the exhibit hall Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. The Teachers Page from the Library of Congress offers ideas and resources for English educators. We have rounded up a few of our favorites.
In July 2014, when Librarian of Congress James H. Billington announced that Billy Joel would receive the Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song, he described Joel as being, “a storyteller of the highest order.”
Talented songwriters can be great storytellers! Not only do their songs often include elements of a short story, but they do so in ways that listeners can easily imagine and relate to.
One way for teachers to engage students with poetry is to connect poems and poets to historical events. Students gain a deeper appreciation of poets and their work when they can see snippets of the writer’s life in the work.
Kate DiCamillo, the current National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature, chose the theme Stories Connect Us and it resonated with me. So did Rebecca Newland’s post on using DiCamillo’s stories and primary sources to help draw students deeper into the story.
Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe was widely influential when it was published in 1852. The Library’s “Sources and Strategies” article in the May 2014 issue of Social Education, the journal of NCSS, discusses the influence of the novel. Perhaps just as important as its effect, however, was Stowe’s original impetus for writing it.
In honor of National Poetry Month we decided to introduce you to Peter Armenti of the Digital Reference Team. You may have seen some of Peter’s work in the Library of Congress Blog, “From the Catbird Seat” where he highlights poetry resources from the Library’s collections.
There’s at least one thing about April that they might all appreciate, though: It’s National Poetry Month, an opportunity for teachers, librarians, and readers everywhere to celebrate poetry and its vital role in U.S. culture.
The role of the Ambassador is to raise “national awareness of the importance of young people’s literature as it relates to lifelong literacy, education and the development and betterment of the lives of young people.” DiCamillo, the fourth to hold this position, has chosen “Stories Connect Us” as her theme, saying “When we read together, we connect. Together, we see the world. Together, we see each other.”
The book has also appeared on the AP Literature and Composition test fifteen times between 1980 and 2013. Despite the controversies, the novel has remained a staple in high school literature study because teachers seek to engage students with texts that provoke discussion and questions. Primary sources from the Library of Congress can help deepen students’ thinking around the issues central to The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and other literary works.