Reading for a Better World: Voices from the Holocaust in Young Adult Literature

Author: Stacia Parker


Parkway West High School

Year: 2011

Seminar: Children's Literature

Grade Level: 9-12

Keywords: Holocaust, Literature, prejudice, racism, stereotypes

School Subject(s): English

The purpose of this unit is to use reading as a lens for teaching students to be responsive and not reactive when confronted with prejudice, racism, or stereotypes. Too often, when these issues are encountered in text, or in the real world, students’ first reaction is –anger. By using children’s and young adult literature to address the theme of social injustice, teenagers have the opportunity to connect with characters and “others” who share similar experiences and range of emotions. However, students will also encounter examples of people who exemplify grace, dignity, and courage in the face of their oppressors. This unit is designed to have students study a variety of primary and secondary sources as they develop empathy, caring, and an alternate point-of-view about issues they believe are only relevant to them.

Reading through a social lens will raise students’ awareness and understanding of the “people” who were killed and the “people” who survived the Holocaust. Perpetrators, collaborators, and bystanders all played a role in one of the worst genocides our nation has ever witnessed. Young adult literature makes these and other issues surrounding the Holocaust very accessible to these impressionable young minds. In fact, by reading first hand accounts of letters, riots, diaries, and studying photographs students will become adept at analyzing and synthesizing information needed to answer document based questions.

At the end of the unit, designed for high school English courses, students will have gained a deeper level of purpose, interest and inquiry in reading beyond the comprehension questions.

Download Unit: 11.01.14.pdf

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