I Want Them to Read Again: Stories and Moral Imagination in the Middle Grades Language Arts Classroom

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Hall, Amy Laura

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Without question, I believe that those who desire to teach and subsequently become educators do so because they look at students and find hope, recognize humanity. As a teacher for these last 13 years, the most foundational questions (What is education? Why do I teach? Who do I teach? How do I teach?) seem lost in wider conversations about education. This is due, in part, to the guiding educational philosophies that determine our society’s motivations for valuing education. In this project, I look at the potential literature affords to engage adolescents in thinking about ethics. In chapter one, I argue why this remains an important task in the public sphere. Next, I discuss the state of current educational rationales and literature standards for middle school Language Arts classrooms. Through this research, I discovered the term “moral imagination,” an idea present in many professional schools but notably absent in Kindergarten through undergraduate educational settings. In the second chapter, I discuss moral imagination using scholarly historical and psychological perspectives. I then argue for the unique opportunity the middle grades classroom provides to encourage this type of imagining. In the third chapter, I explore how teachers might encourage thinking about morality through reading actual books, cover to cover, page by page. Finally, in the fourth chapter, I provide close readings of three widely-used middle school texts: Jacqueline Woodson’s brown girl dreaming, Mildred Taylor’s Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry, and Lois Lowry’s The Giver. My purpose in this short analysis is to demonstrate motifs that arise when students read books that cultivate imaginative ways to understand complicated stories and characters. I encourage teachers to risk assigning books that help young people stretch their moral muscles, so to speak, and learn to engage questions that cut to the core of what it means to be human.





Eller, Katie (2017). I Want Them to Read Again: Stories and Moral Imagination in the Middle Grades Language Arts Classroom. Master's thesis, Duke University. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10161/14305.

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