In her book, Literature as Exploration, Louise M. Rosenblatt takes us through a comprehensive review of literature work and how it should be perceived. It is a challenging piece of literature that encourages both the readers and the teachers of English to look beyond the style and wording of the work and reflect it more on their lifestyles. In most cases, literature has been used mainly for teaching grammar and ignoring other aspects of the book which mainly inspired the author to come up with the literature. She emphasizes on the importance of drawing an emotional connection between the reader and the authors which will not only help them improve on their spoken language but also learn other life experiences that come from the book. Even though the author supports the fact that teachers need to assist readers in understanding literature, she is against imposing a particular literature on the readers. They need to understand the book and draw meaning from it in advance before they use it as a study material.
There are different reasons why a person will go to a bookstore and actually buy a book. For the mature readers, there may have heard about the book and would want to explore more about it. Others buy books because they are in a particular need whose solution could be in a particular book. Others would mainly read books because they want to improve their written and spoken English. Despite the different reasons that make people resort to reading, in many occasions, they find more or less than what they expected. This is simply because of the different authors and what inspired them to come up with the book. In as much as mature readers have a choice on what they need to read, young readers and more especially school going children may not have the opportunity to choose what they read (Rosenblatt, 1995). This is because the education system will require them to read particular books depending on their age and level of education.
This move, as highlighted by Rosenblatt has made reading a tiring and boring experience. This is because children are made to read books they do not enjoy or even understand. The beauty of reading comes when the reader has an emotional connection with what is written it. However, most education systems tend to ignore the fact that children need to learn more than just grammar from the books. There are other life experiences and lessons that people can learn from the books. This includes learning from different characters which will ultimately assist them in adopting to different life situations. Students who are compelled to read books they do not relate to mainly do this for the sake of passing their exams. With this in mind, they will not take a keen look at other aspects of the literature but mainly pay attention to areas where they are likely to be tested in the exam. The impact of such a move may be ignored but in the real sense, it makes students come out of school with a rigid mind.
The importance of having an emotional connection with the words written in a book is necessary in molding character, encouraging a reading culture as well as assisting the reader to effectively relate with the society. Most books are usually written through an intensive research and experience of the authors in dealing with different characters. It should be realized that books are written by people from diverse communities, cultures and characters (Rosenblatt, 1995). When such a literature travels far, it enables people to realize and understand that there are people who have a different perspective of life’s issues. Rosenblatt recognizes the fact that literature travels further and faster than people do, this hence grants them the opportunity to communicate their experiences and thoughts. By reading such literature, a person is able to derive more knowledge and experience without necessarily having a physical contact with different characters.
Rosenblatt therefore insists on the importance of literature teachers to understand the need of their students and provide them with the most appropriate books to read. They are endowed with the responsibility of creating and developing a reading culture among students, by helping them understand why they need to read the book. This should go beyond their grammar needs and identify books that will have a great impact and inspiration to them. Before introducing the aspect of grammar and style to junior readers, literature teachers need to make them develop an interest in the books (Rosenblatt, 1995). The books should therefore be interesting by having an emotional connection to the readers. They should be based on a particular theme that is of great interest to the students. This will also ensure that they learn other aspects and basics of life that will enable them face the larger society. One of the best ways of accomplishing this is finding literature books that are relevant to the students. This will not only depend on their age but also on issues that surround and affect them.
Realizing that each student has a particular literature need, it will be important for the teachers and the entire education system to adopt a flexible learning program that will effectively suit their needs. We realize that issues of grammar, style and the likes which are necessary for teaching English, teachers can always identify them from different books and merge them to suit the needs of their students. It will be interesting to know that once a student finds the reason for reading a particular book, they will have no issues using it for their grammar and style needs. It will in fact make the work easier for the teacher as the students will explore more of the book and identify different aspects of style and language (Rosenblatt, 1995). An interesting book will want the student to want to read in over and over again and hence making the learning of English easy and interesting.
Rosenblatt insists that literature should play an integral part in wholesome development of a child. What they read should make them desire to read more and even explore more from what they already have. This will be revealed by a change of behavior especially in dealing with other people. Exposure is an integral part of child development and since the environment may not necessarily grant them such exposure, they are mainly left with literature books which will ultimately expose them to different environments and cultures (Rosenblatt, 1995). By reading such interesting literature books, they are also able to relate different characters in the books with what they have experienced around. This helps them understand that what they personally experience as behaviors is not something strange but normal. For instance, when reading through the books, they may be able to realize that a character that is displayed in the books is similar to what one of their friends or relatives displays. This therefore make them read more, just to know how other characters in the book are able to deal with it and apply the same to their daily life.
Making students to read books they cannot emotionally relate to makes reading a boring experience and also denying them the opportunity to learn more. As they grow, they are unable to relate with the diverse communities they encounter and hence losing on opportunities to develop. Parents and teachers should realize that as years pass, the society is changing. It is hence vital to prepare students to face and encounter different scenarios through reading. This will make literature not just be a school activity but also an outside experience and students learn more. Some of the experiences displayed may not make sense to them at that moment but as they grow, they will remember theoretical experiences they had as they realize their practicability. This will therefore make them more confident in facing life.
Despite the fact that Literature as Exploration was written many years ago, the book contains practical life scenarios and mistakes that English teaches make in selecting books. It serves an eye opener and challenges the teachers to empathies with the needs of the student. Reading should be made more interesting to the children by providing them with the most appropriate books. Many times, teachers tend to blame students for not having an interest in reading when they do not providing them with interesting reading opportunities. It is basically the kind of literature they will be exposed to at a younger age that will determine their level of exposure as well as define their interest in reading.
Rosenblatt M. L. (1995). Literature As Exploration: New York: Modern Language
Association of America.