Yes and no. I've spent a lot of time and energy defending the merit of non-canonical texts. After four years of teaching and having just about finishing my Master's, I still maintain that students can take away valuable lessons from any story. I think exposing students to the classics AND contemporary fiction and poetry is important in developing their attitudes toward literature in its entirety. Teach texts that make YOU come alive, and in turn, so will your students.
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I'm with Emily. I think it is important to teach many because students need to understand our literary heritage to get the most of our modern works, of which may contain allusions to canonical texts. That being said, you can teach reading strategies in any text, so a balance of the two is great. If you are passionate about the story, you can get the kids excited. I can get my kids as excited about Old Man and the Sea as the Outsiders. It's really about how you play up the importance of classic works.
Teach Hamlet by introducing The Lion King! A Sherlock Holmes classic can be introduced with another media (for example the dubstep version!--- it's out there!) Using an introductory text to introduce a master or classical text can be beneficial, often essential for uninterested learners.
It is only important to teach what you think students in your classes will be engaged with the most. We don't know their levels of aptitude or participation, so it would be hard to say what books work well with any group of students.
The best thing that you can do is talk to the students about what they like to read, what really stimulates them, why they read, and how often, and you can easily build a profile of the types of works that you think will work best. I actually never choose stories to go over in class; I leave that up to the students.
I believe it is most important to teach texts that are: 1) at students' instructional levels, 2) relevant to students' lives (thematically or specifically as it relates to content), and 3) something that I am also interested in. The most important thing isn't teaching the so-called "classics"; it is building lifelong critical thinkers, readers, and writers.
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