Date of Award

Spring 5-13-2017

Level of Access Assigned by Author

Open-Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)


Literacy Education


Richard B. Kent

Second Committee Member

Kenneth H. Martin

Third Committee Member

Cynthia Dean

Additional Committee Members

David Boardman

Maja Wilson


Literacy experts recommend young adult literature to engage teens and scaffold their developing reading and literary analysis skills. Yet, the American high school English curriculum is dominated by a narrow list of classics, virtually unchanged since the late 19th century. This static curriculum neither reflects the diversity of American culture nor the lives of students in the 21st century. Adolescent literacy scholarship can support practitioners by expanding the research on effective strategies for using young adult literature. This research study examines the effects of an intentional pairing of a classic work of literature with a work of young adult literature in a high school English classroom. The main research question asks what literacy learning outcomes and attitudes result from pairing a young adult and a classic work of literature, from the perspectives of the students and their teacher.

The notion of scaffolding of instruction articulated by Wood, Bruner, and Ross (1976), and its roots in Vygotsky’s concept of a zone of proximal development (1978), provide the theoretical underpinning of the teaching strategy examined in this study. Rosenblatt’s (1978) transactional theory of reading informs the analysis of the students’ responses to the young adult and classic texts studied, and their perceived learning outcomes.

This qualitative study used a case study design. Data was collected through individual interviews with the teacher and students, field observations, and a survey. Using a grounded theory approach, analysis of the data revealed that both students and teacher found the pairing strategy beneficial. The students value making connections between their lives and a text, and appreciate opportunities to examine complex issues and ideas. The teacher perceived increased engagement by the students as a result of the young adult/classic pairing, as well as stronger comprehension and analysis.

This study analyzes the perceptions of a small group of participants in one high school classroom. Future studies could expand the participant group and utilize different texts. Additional studies could examine other approaches to using young adult literature in high school classrooms, the barriers that exist to using young adult literature, and the influences of digital resources on student reading engagement.