Literature in English is very important to the young people but it is not yet popular to them. I think many schools are hesitant to offer it owing to the misconceptions surrounding it. In the few schools where it is taught, the number of students doing it is still very small.
Many students consider Literature to be a very difficult subject that requires the individual to read several voluminous texts with complicated English words. This is not true. I think there is need to create awareness about its relevance to the individual and the society.
Literature enhances the learners’ abilities in English Language. It exposes them to a wide range of English vocabulary and grammar in usage which helps them to master the language. The learners borrow writing styles from the texts that they study in Literature and this helps them to write good compositions and essays for the other subjects. Reading comprehension does not pose any challenge to them either. Students who study Literature always excel in English Language.
The subject empowers learners with analytical skills that are vital in the social and economic development of the society. As they read the various texts on the syllabus, they analyse the traits, relationships and roles of the characters involved. They analyse the themes portrayed in terms of human virtues and vices. They focus on the techniques used to portray the message and they examine how the texts relate to the contemporary world. This equips them with the skills of critical analysis which prepares them for adult responsibilities that largely involve critical thinking.
The subject helps in developing reading culture among students. As they read the various texts on the Literature syllabus, they get used to the task of reading and they develop interest in reading text books for other subjects something which promotes research.
At present, we are faced with a challenge whereby many of our learners rely entirely on the lesson notes that their teachers give them. Such a system narrows their scope of understanding what they study hence the need to use Literature to stimulate their research skills.
Literature is also a source of inspiration to the learners. The texts that they study contain situations that inspire them to focus on their studies and work hard to achieve their aspirations.
There are novels that are autobiographical like ‘The African Child’ by Camara Laye. The writer portrays his family background, academic journey, life experiences, challenges and achievements. Such a text inspires the readers to reflect on their own lives and they are able to set goals that are in line with their dreams.
Literature exposes learners to texts that are based on several cultural settings. They realise that culture helps in the promotion of peace, unity, tolerance and reconciliation. They also realise that culture defines the individual in the society and that the individual is part of the wider community whereby there are certain standards that he/she is expected to adhere to for the good of the society. This helps learners to realise the role of culture in the social, political and economic development of the society.
How to introduce literature
The subject can be introduced in senior one by teaching oral Literature. Learners can narrate fables and folktales based on their culture. They can also present songs, proverbs, riddles and poems.
Thereafter, they can be introduced to reading abridged series of novels that are commonly known as class readers. Teachers should select texts that appeal to the learners’ interests like: Adventures of Tom Sawyer, Great Expectations, Treasure Island, Gulliver’s Travels, Tom Brown’s School Days and The Bride Price among others.
I strongly believe that if the learners in senior one and two are taught Literature, a lot can be achieved. The same students may have interest in studying it at advanced level.
The writer is a teacher at Riviera High School