The classic books that are read at school: are they still the same?

The last time Professor Viviana Arias proposed to her students to read the novel “María” (1867), many brought worn-out copies to the classroom, with yellowed pages and torn spines, the same ones that their parents, grandparents or loved ones had read. in their school days.

Jorge Isaacs’s book is one of the many titles that are dusted off each year for local and national reading plans. His presence in the institutions, as well as that of other universal literature authors, shows a commitment to continue teaching classic works in schools. “You can continue reading the same books from fifteen years ago (or more, in the case of Isaacs), but the strategies used to approach them have and have had to vary,” says Arias, a Spanish Language teacher at the Colegio Theodoro Hertzl, from Envigado.

Teachers know that imposing a reading does not bear good results and creates adverse effects. For this reason, when faced with the discussion of what to read, the problem goes beyond whether the title was published a year or a century ago and crosses other factors: the individual needs of the students, the possibility of bringing them closer to the past as well as to the future. new in literature, the diversification of the chosen titles and the didactic methods.

This is what several teachers of Spanish Language and Literature refer to when they are consulted about the changes in school readings in recent years. They are still the same? What criteria do you use to choose them? Is there independence in the selection? How do they socialize with students? In addition to Arias, professors John Franco, Rubén Darío Arteaga and Ómar Alonso spoke on the subject with EL COLOMBIANO.

reading plan

The Ministry of Education conceives as a Reading Plan the set of books and readings planned for students of different courses to address texts and educate themselves in their comprehension. As Arias clarifies, this plan does not obey “the tastes of the teacher” and its “should be” pursues curricular guidelines that contemplate different moments depending on the current grade.

It is impossible to establish unique and immovable criteria, but the guidelines can be synthesized. “In elementary school, students usually read texts such as myths, legends, lyrical texts, songs, and fables,” says Arias. During those years it is common for students to approach classic texts adapted with children’s illustrations. “Aesop’s fables, stories by Mark Twain, Tom Soyer, Rafael Pombo, Rudyard Kipling”, mentions John Franco, also a professor at Theodoro Hertzl.

The last years of primary school and the first years of high school, the readings are oriented towards youth literature, and, as the grade increases, the complexity changes or increases, and even the extension. In general terms, in the first years of high school, some specific genres are addressed: suspense, adventure, science fiction and fantastic literature. In eighth and ninth grades, Colombian and Latin American literature books are read, and in grades ten and eleven the study focuses on universal literature.

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Among the authors mentioned by the teachers are Franz Kafka, Gabriel García Márquez, Edgar Allan Poe, Ernesto Sábato, Julio Cortázar, Jorge Luis Borges, Fiodor Dostoyevski, Truman Capote, JD Salinger, Quiroga and Lovecraft. They say that, among contemporary Colombian authors, Santiago Gamboa, Mario Mendoza and Héctor Abad are being read, but recently they have incorporated authors such as Piedad Bonnett, Laura Restrepo, Pilar Quintana or Emma Reyes.

“The old methodology was to only read classics. Now authors that society has been validating as good literature are gaining ground,” says Professor Ómar Alonso, who works in Ciudad Bolívar, Antioquia, in a rural headquarters of the María Auxiliadora Educational Institution.

“A commitment today is to keep classic literature current,” emphasizes Viviana Arias. For her, the fact that certain books continue to be read offers an opportunity for them to delve into works that students may not read at another time in the school context.

“We try to keep a balance, to preserve classics, because they have invaluable information on life, on history; but it is not only necessary to read classics, but to connect with what is written today”, maintains John Franco. He adds that students like psychological thrillers, the Harry Potter sagas and books that have an affinity for being more modern. “But they can’t just read one thing,” he stresses.

The strategies

Rubén Darío Arteaga has been coordinator of a public school for the last two years, but taught Spanish for 30. One of the best strategies he knows, he says, is that of the teacher as a “model.” He thinks it is important “that students see him reading, book in hand, passionate about reading.” Thus “they come to ask” and generate “conversations”.

Arteaga, from the San Francisco de Asís Educational Institution, says that it does not work to “impose” a text or that reading is sometimes associated with “punishment” in schools, such as when students are punished with a stay in the library school, remember Take a literary work to the theater or act out episodes of the classics such as The Quijote helps to face its complexity, he says. In his case, he also read aloud miscellaneous texts that he believed could have an impact on the students: poems by Alejandra Pizarnik, for example, and texts on soccer, such as those by Jorge Valdano.

For his part, Professor Ómar Alonso must deal with his strategies in a context without an internet signal or resources for students to buy books. For that he created a podcast called story for everyonein which students listen to fragments of literary works and episodes from the lives of the authors.

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The lack of money to buy a book leads him to photocopy stories, poems or fragments of novels, provided from his own library. “It is difficult to tell a boy in rural areas to buy a book with his economic situation. It’s easy to do as long as you can work copies and search for meaningful snippets,” he adds. This difficulty weighs, where appropriate, when trying to get books by current authors that are not available in formats such as PDF.

With a good reception from her students, Viviana Arias has assigned them tasks from the times of social networks: for example, creating an Instagram profile for a character from “Chronicle of a Death Foretold”, or turning a character from “María ”. Since these are underage students, she asks them to make their statements in drawings and texts.

Although the strategy of reading aloud is used with good results in many cases, it also depends on the group with which you work or even the histrionics of the teacher, says John Franco. One option that he mentions is to take advantage of the green areas or outdoor spaces to take the students out and each one finds a place to read. Also the use of audiobooks, which can be listened to while reading to help concentration

The classic books that are read at school: are they still the same?