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Utah's Foremost Platform for Undergraduate Research Presentation
2018 Abstracts

Bringing Rigor to Reading: How Young Learners Can Benefit From Better Books

Peyton Carter, Southern Utah University

In an education community concerned with improving student resilience in rigorous learning experiences, I have observed how modern trends in youth-oriented literature (both children’s literature and Young Adult Fiction) underestimate the cognitive abilities of young readers. This underestimation and its resulting literary produce has the limiting effect on young people’s acquisition of more formidable critical thinking skills. The question this presentation seeks to address is how can youth-oriented literature better serve the development of critical thinking in young readers? This project is established upon the tested conclusion that young readers are capable of understanding forms of figurative language, found in “Figurative Language Development Research And Popular Children's Literature: Why We Should Know, “Where The Wild Things Are,”” by Herbert L. Colston and Melissa S. Kuiper. This presentation will first establish the current state of youth-oriented literature in the United States—one in which books are written with marketing in mind. Then, it will discuss how specific children’s authors, such as Diana Wynne Jones (Howl’s Moving Castle) or Ursula K. Le Guin (Wizard of Earthsea), have been able to instill their works with deeper, more complicated, themes (e.g., identity, gender, race relations) that inspire critical thinking as well as rich writing content (i.e., imagery, figurative language). By establishing that the philosophy of youth-oriented literature today is flawed in that it fails to challenge its readers, this presentation hopes to show how it can be improved by youth-oriented writers, as well as parents and educators. Improvements would include: raising standards to more a rigorous degree, no longer shying away from “complicated” topics, and delivering young people the best example of writing possible whether or not it “goes over their heads.” These improvements would result in that students have every opportunity to gain the most astute abilities of critical thinking to apply in all their continued years of education.