I have to admit, I frequently think about connections between music and YA. Music is an interest I share with my son, a music educator, and we have been writing about the connection. We have a chapter appearing in the 2nd edition of Teaching Young Adult Literature Today: Insights, Considerations, and Perspectives for the Classroom Teacher by Hayn, Kaplan, and Clemmons. It should be available at NCTE; keep your fingers crossed. Our chapter is entitled Music and the Young Adult Novel: Assessing How Adolescents “Read” the Music of Their Lives. We loved working on this chapter and in it we highlight how several novels capture adolescents engage with music. Just yesterday, we finished a second chapter for a book edited by Greathouse, Eisenbach, and Kaywell entitled Adolescent Literature as a Complement to the Content Areas (Due out summer of 2017). This time, we focus on how a teacher might engage students in music education using YA fiction. We use an exciting new novel, Brendan Kiely’s The Last True Love Story to demonstrate a cross-curriculum project that engages students in an ELA classroom that might be radically different from what you have tried in the past.
I am also adding a new resource page to Dr. Bickmore’s YA Wednesday called Music and YA. My son and I have collected a list of YA novels that engage with music in one way or another. We keep finding more and more. If you know one, please leave a comment. We will add the list to the webpage soon as well as other resources that can help teachers use music to engage students in the ELA classroom. I would be amiss if I didn’t mention another new resource for Music and the ELA classroom. My colleagues Lindy Johnson and Chris Goering have a new text, Recontextualized: A Framework for Teaching with Music. It has been a useful addition to my own thinking about this subject. By the way, Chris plays a mean guitar as a side gig.
First, there are a group of books in which music is a source of connection between characters, a source of entertainment, and a release from the pressures of daily life. This specific group contains books that are fairly well known. In addition, the fan base has created playlist and fan fiction for most of these four books. These are books that I think about quite frequently. Music helps set the tone and mood in each book. Two of them, The Perks of Being a Wallflower and Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist, have been made into movies. In both cases, the importance of music is easily seen through the plot, the settings, and the sound track of the movie. For the other two in this group I have selected Burn Baby Burn and Eleanor and Park. Meg Medina’s Burn Baby Burn is set in Queens in 1977 in the midst of the Son of Sam murders. Dancing and Disco help set the context for the mood and tension of this wonderful novel that was on the long list for the national book award for young people’s literature. Last, but certainly not least, in this group is Eleanor and Park. This lovely book captures a story of young love bound together by music which initial connects them. There are multiple avenues that one could use to discuss the novel—characterization, feminism, class issues, racial divides, etc. The gift of music that Rainbow Rowell has add to this novel provides an added level of textured opportunities for non conventional activities and assessments.