Reading Young Adult Literature
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Reading Young Adult (YA) Literature in the EFL Classroom and Beyond

Date & Time: May 20th, 2022; 9:00 - 17:30
Location: English Department, Johannisstr. 12-20, D-48143 Münster
Organisers: Frauke Matz (English Language Education) & Corinna Norick-Rühl (Book Studies)
Participation Fee: 35 €
Conference Language: English

  • About

    Young Adult literature (YA) is a burgeoning genre in the book world, with committed publishers and dedicated imprints, its own place in bookstores and libraries as well as on #bookstagram, and with its own set of passionate readers and fans. YA literature is a focal point for discussions surrounding bibliodiversity and heterogeneity in and beyond the classroom. To acknowledge these trends in YA, and consider the opportunities for ELT through and with YA, we are merging our interests as researchers of English Language Education and Book Studies and coordinating this unique interdisciplinary symposium.

    Keynote Speakers:

    • Dr. Melanie Ramdarshan Bold, UCL London
    • Dr. Alison Waller, University of Roehampton, London
    • Prof. Dr. Werner Delanoy, Universität Klagenfurt
  • Programme

    9:15 - 9:45 Introduction and Words of Welcome (Frauke Matz/Corinna Norrick-Rühl)
    9:45 - 10:45 Keynote: Women of Colour in UK YA: Subverting Stereotypes and Expanding Identities (by Melanie Ramdarshan Bold)
    10:45 - 11:00 Coffee break
    11:00 - 12:00 Parallel sessions

    Platforms and Curation:

    • English language learning through peer-to-peer reading of YA on Wattpad (by Swara Shukla)
    • You've got a choice! Processes of choosing the right texts for students in the foreign language classroom (by Luisa Alfes)
    12:00 - 13:30 Lunch break
    13:30 - 14:30 Keynote: Reading for Normal: YA Fiction, Wellbeing, and the Case for Ordinariness (by Alison Waller)
    14:30 - 14:45 Coffee break
    14:45 - 16:15 Parallel sessions

    Beyond Genre: New Themes in YA

    • The New Romantics? The Representation of Mental Illness in Young Adult Literature and Its Implications for English Language Education (by Daniel Becker)
    • "It's okay not to be okay": Destigmatizing Mental Health through Young Adult Literature (by Ariane Manutscheri)
    • "I hope all the books I've read will save my life": Reading YA Literature as an Antiracist Practice in the EFL Classroom (by Silke Braselmann)

    Forms and Formats in YA:

    • Diaspora Short Stories - A Meaningful Aspect in Young Adult Literature? (by Maike Bauer)
    • Through the Glass, Darkly: Contemporary Young Adult Serial- & Transmedial Dystopias (by Rüdiger Heinze)
    • Courage, Defiance, and Resistance: (Non-)Fictional YA Activist Texts in English Language Education (by Frauke Matz & Ricardo Römhild)
    16:15 - 17:15 Keynote: The Power of Teaching Literature: Reception Aesthetics Revisited (by Werner Delanoy)
    17:15 - 17:30 Conference closing (Frauke Matz/Corinna Norrick-Rühl)


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  • Melanie Ramdarshan Bold: Women of Colour in UK YA: Subverting Stereotypes and Expanding Identities

    The limited depiction of people of colour in the media, along with their treatment in the creative and cultural industries, continues to be a critical issue in the UK. In particular, there is a long history of women of colour being misrepresented and maligned in the media and cultural output, if they are portrayed at all (Bryan et al, 2018, Bailey, 2021). While the experiences and representations of women of colour in the media have changed over the decades, more recently, the nuanced, and intersectional, experiences of women of colour are often overlooked in the British media in favour of more reductive representations (Sobande, 2020). However, Black and other women of colour are challenging these negative and stereotypical depictions through counternarratives in digital and alternative media. This activism is slowly seeping into mainstream media. In the book publishing industry, for example, there is a growing impetus to publish authors of colour, and the establishment of inclusive imprints and publishing companies run by Black and other people of colour. In the YA sector, the focus of this paper, the number of authors of colour has increased incrementally since 2016. We have also seen an increase in YA authors of colours on the bestseller lists and being published by large conglomerate publishers (Ramdarshan Bold, 2021). There is, however, still a risk that authors of colour will be subsumed into the type of corporate multiculturalism that comes when ‘diversity’ and/or multiculturalism is viewed as a mainstream trend, as has happened to many authors of colour in the past, where their stories are refashioned with a white audience in mind for financial gain. However, we are starting to see an influx of stories by and about people of colour, that depict a wider range of experiences and reject the white gaze. This paper therefore explores the capacity of young adult fiction to challenge the perceptions of women of colour in British media and society through counterstorytelling.


  • Alison Waller: Reading for Normal: YA Fiction, Wellbeing, and the Case for Ordinariness

    Researchers have argued that reading has provided ‘refuge’ for young people during the Covid-19 pandemic (Clark & Picton 2020), but there are still concerns about adolescent mental health following this period of disruption to ‘normal’ life. There are signs that the crisis is in retreat, but the future is uncertain. In this talk, I will discuss the ‘Reading for Normal’ project, which offered enthusiastic teen readers a temporary online community for talking about their own everyday lives in relation to YA fiction during a period of lockdown. I will argue that reading contemporary realist novels provided these young people with recognisable versions of their own pre-pandemic worlds, and that exploring moments of ‘ordinariness’ together benefited them in various ways. I will also interrogate the notion of ‘normal’ and suggest ways that reading YA fiction might help teen readers critically engage with potentially damaging ideas about social norms. Reading for Normal worked with schools in England in 2020-21 – I will end by considering the possibilities for cultural exchange and further gains for adolescent wellbeing through establishing international reading group programmes.


  • Werner Delanoy: The Power of Teaching Literature: Reception Aesthetics Revisited

    In my talk, I will revisit concepts of reception aesthetics (Rezeptionsästhetik) in the light of current debates. When highlighting the history of reception aesthetics, two distinct genealogies can be distinguished. One of them goes back to the US-American philosopher and educationalist John Dewey, with his plea for experiential learning, a democratic social order and the special power of art. Dewey’s writings have strongly influenced literature teaching in Anglophone countries, the writings of Marie-Louise Rosenblatt and Micheal Benton being good examples. The other genealogy links back to debates in Germany, with Wolfgang Iser and Hans-Robert Jauss as main representatives. Grounded in Hans-Georg Gadamer’s dialogic hermeneutics, this new school quickly found its way into Literaturdidaktik, with the interactive paradigm, a term coined by Lothar Bredella, becoming the dominant concept. What both genealogies have in common is their focus on the dynamic interplay betweeen texts and readers and their concern for the aesthetic power of literature/art. Moreover, in ELT the two traditions have merged in the interest of text-focussed and learner-friendly practices of language and literature teaching.

    In the past 30 years, reception aesthetics has undergone major revision through confrontation with power-critical, multimodal, intertextual or new cultural concepts. Current challenges include cognitive cultural studies or posthumanist network theories. Despite its manifold limitations, however, reception aesthetics has not become obsolete for current educational programs. Its dialogic orientation has given this approach a protean quality permitting continuous revision and transformation, without abandoning its democratic agenda and its appreciation of art. In my lecture, I will outline both the history of and some current theoretical challenges to reception aesthetics with the help of concrete examples of teaching young adult literature. 


  • Swara Shukla: English Language Learning through Peer-to-Peer Reading of YA on Wattpad

    Wattpad is a platform for user-generated stories with a predominantly young-adult readership between 13–30 years of age. With the launch of its publishing arm, Wattpad Books, it has expanded into a publishing ecosystem focused on popular YA fiction.

    The platform follows a serialised publishing model and uses a robust in-line commenting system to continue a story. This makes the writing and reading processes more interactive and collaborative. Since the platform has a cross-continental outreach, it has many ESL readers reading English-language stories. Readers interact with and respond to each other in the comments to discuss different parts of the text. Combined with the serial publication format, where stories are written one instalment at a time, these collective reading practices present a potential to help non-native speakers in following and understanding English-language stories.

    The paper proposes to use the commenting system to examine how English-language texts are received by users from non-native English-speaking countries or cultures with an aim to explore the platform’s contribution to English-language learning. It will seek to identify and focus on YA demographics from Asia and Europe. The methodology will borrow from Federico Pianzola’s research on digital social reading practices (2020), where he uses sentiment analysis and indexing to investigate reader response across different geographies on the Wattpad commenting system.

    Wattpad presents an innovative framework for publishing and reading young adult literature. The paper presentation will contribute to an examination of how the serial publication format and the commenting system respond to the screen reading culture popular amongst young readers. It will also aim to make an impact on larger research on digital social reading platforms and serialised publishing in the digital age.

    Keywords: Wattpad, young-adult fiction, YA fiction, YA literature, ESL readers, screen reading


    Pianzola, Federico. "Digital Social Reading: Sharing Fiction in the 21st Century." (2021). Retrieved from


  • Luisa Alfes: You’ve got a choice! Processes of choosing the right texts for students in the foreign language classroom

    This contribution focuses on the choice of texts in foreign language education. Considering large numbers of new young adult literature being published every year, it is surprising that teachers as well as student teachers repeatedly state to (have) read the same texts in the English language classroom (see for example Alfes et al 2021, Kirchhoff 2016, Nünning 1997). This phenomenon is often labelled as a “hidden” canon of literary works that are commonly read (see for example Kirchhoff 2019: 224, Burwitz-Melzer 2007: 4) in times when there are no binding guidelines about literary works in the curricula.

    The questions now are: What would students really like to read and how can they be involved in the process of selecting texts? And further: Which texts are the most suitable to be dealt with in the foreign language classroom? There are various one dimensional guidelines that support teachers to find texts to be read in the classroom. Often, teachers are provided with checklists to find the right texts for their students. Surkamp and Nünning, for example, support teachers with various principles to be considered when choosing texts for foreign language learners (2010: 49 f.) or Thaler lists criteria (2008: 20) for class readers. However, choosing motivating and relevant texts for students requires a multidimensional analysis.

    The aim of this talk is to provide an innovative approach to the processes of selecting texts in the foreign language classroom. A multidimensional model will be presented to explore a) learners’ wishes and expectations and b) their needs, language level and curricula requirements reinforced by teachers’ experiences. The multidimensional model will address teachers’ and students’ perspectives to engage with YA literature in and beyond the classroom.

    Works cited:

    • Alfes, L./Guttke, J./Wilden, E./Lipari, A. ‘Who controls the past controls the future’ Benefits and Challenges of Teaching Young Adult Dystopian Fiction. Mai 2021 In: CLELE Journal. 2021.: Link to publication.
    • Burwitz-Melzer, E. (Ed.) (2007). "Fremdsprachen Lehren und Lernen mit literarischen Texten im Fremdsprachenunterricht in Schule und Hochschule". FLuL – Fremdsprachen Lehren und Lernen, 37. Jg.
    • Kirchhoff, P. (2019). “Kanondiskussion und Textauswahl“. In K. Stierstorfer & C. Lütge (Eds.), Grundthemen der Literaturwissenschaft (pp. 219-230). Walter de Gruyter
    • Nünning, A. (1997). “Perspektivenübernahme und Perspektivenkoordination. Prozeßorientierte Schulung des Textverstehens und der Textproduktion bei der Behandlung von John Fowles’ The Collector“. In G. Jarfe (Ed.), Literaturdidaktik – konkret. Theorie und Praxis des fremdsprachlichen Literaturunterrichts (pp. 137-161). Winter.
    • Nünning, A./Surkamp, C. (2010). Englische Literatur unterrichten. Grundlagen und Methoden. Klett Kallmeyer.
    • Thaler, E (2008). Teaching English Literature. Schöningh UTB


    Short CV:

    Luisa Alfes is a senior lecturer. She is currently teaching English as a Foreign Language education with a special focus on the value of literature and culture in the foreign-language classroom at University of Duisburg-Essen. She is further interested in combining her two subjects, EFL and Fine Arts, which she taught at secondary level.


  • Daniel Becker: The New Romantics? The Representation of Mental Illness in Young Adult Literature and Its Implications for English Language Education

    "I think suicidal people are just angels that want to go home”
    “Put flowers on my grave so for once I might look beautiful”

    The quotes above are taken from recent social media posts and exemplify a contemporary trend among teenagers on platforms such as Instagram or Twitter. This trend is often labeled the ‘romanticisation of mental illness’ (cf. Singh 2018) and refers to the plethora of daily social media contributions in which adolescents represent their personal struggles with mental disorders as tragically beautiful, aesthetic and/or ‘quirky’ experiences, to the extent that mental health issues are perceived as desirable. Often, the romantic tone of these posts is inspired by young adult novels (and their film adaptations) published during the past two decades, which have been dealing with mental illness in their own stylized literary manner; and can therefore be viewed as one of the origins of the current digital trend. Thus, texts such as John Green’s Looking for Alaska (2005) and Paper Towns (2008) or Jay Asher’s Thirteen Reasons Why (2007) did not only trigger broader public discussions about teenage mental health (cf. Pytash 2013) but also started to popularise some of the misconceptions about what mental illness is – and what it is not – that can still be found in today’s social media sphere. Other more recent works, such as Ronni Davis’ When the Stars Lead to You (2019) or Rocky Callen’s A Breath Too Late (2020), continue this trajectory and, likewise, portray mental disorders less as an illness than as an appealing character trait and plot device. The proposed paper will explore this romantic depiction of mental illness in young adult literature in more detail. For that purpose, it will first analyse the literary and narrative strategies through which selected works represent mental illness, before these findings will be discussedin a language education context. More to the point, it will be argued that it is precisely this romantic portrayal of mental illness that makes these novels ideal foundations for developing learners’ mental health literacy and for critically reflecting on mental health discourses as a form of cultural learning in the higher secondary EFL classroom.

    Works Cited:

    • Asher, Jay (2007). Thirteen Reasons Why. New York: Razor Bill.
    • Callen, Rocky (2020). A Breath Too Late. New York: Henry Holt.
    • Davis, Ronni (2019). When the Stars Lead to You. New York: Hachette Book Group.
    • Green, John (2005). Looking for Alaska. New York: Dutton/Penguin.
    • Green, John (2008). Paper Towns. New York: Dutton/Penguin.
    • Pytash, Kristine E. (2013). Using YA Literature to Help Preservice Teachers to Deal with Bullying and Suicide. In: Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy 56 (6): 470-479.
    • Singh, Prerna (2018). Why Are We Romanticising Mental Illness on Social Media? In: Feminism in India. Available Online - Link to Publication [accessed November 14, 2021].

    Short CV:
    Daniel Becker is a senior lecturer and post-doc researcher at the University of Münster. His research interests include cultural and literary learning, multiliteracies, global education, as well as video games in the EFL classroom.


  • Maike Bauer: Diaspora Short Stories – A Meaningful Aspect in Young Adult Literature?

    Foreign-language cultures are a firmly established aspect in the educational standards for the German EFL (English as a foreign language) classroom. Including the anglophone country Nigeria into the upper-level EFL classroom in North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW) allows for an examination of topics and aspects from local, national and transcultural perspectives as well as for the fostering of the inter- and transcultural communicative competence, including its dimensions knowledge, attitudes and awareness.
    As a consequence of said inclusion, the literary focus, however, has to be shifted beyond intercultural encounters towards cultural differences, transcultural interconnectedness, hybrid cultural phenomena as well as multiple, transcultural concepts of identity, all of which could be implemented through the inclusion of diaspora literature in the EFL classroom. Young adults, students of about 16 to 17 years of age, are confronted with literature from a foreign country and its cultures.
    One of the possible text types to choose from with diaspora literature is the short story which benefits the students’ approach towards an entire text and is included in the curriculum. The consultation of different state curricula in Germany shows that diaspora literature does not only constitute a meaningful addition to mere minority literature in NRW. With regard to the fostering of competences, such as the socio-cultural orientational knowledge within the topic postcolonialism – everyday reality in another anglophone cultural area, for instance Baden-Wuerttemberg (socially relevant aspects from two additional English-speaking countries) and Berlin (nations between tradition and change – anglophone societies) consider comparable topics.
    However, to what extent do young adult diaspora short stories provide a suitable didactic foundation for a profound discussion of the aforementioned aspects? And what are the characteristics of diaspora literature in general? Diaspora literature escapes from a precise cultural classification and puts the implicitness of
    national identities into question. With regard to English language learning, the confrontation with diasporic experiences through respective literature can facilitate EFL students’ comprehension of alterity, not only because of the young adult protagonists, but also due to their perspectives on the world. In order to figure out the didactic potential of young adult diaspora short stories, the specifics that constitute diaspora literature and dissociate it from minority literature in general are pointed out, followed by the analysis and interpretation of young adult diaspora short stories by Nigerian authors, such as Nigerians in America by E. C. Osondu and In Name Only by Molara Wood.
    In Osondu’s short story the reader is confronted with traditional Nigerian values of a family living in the United States as well as with the diasporic characteristic of (not) returning home, all through the eyes of 13-year-old Adesua. Wood’s In Name Only, on the other hand, is told by first-person narrator Ade who grows up in Great Britain and witnesses his aunt getting married to not be deported to Nigeria. Aside from analysing the didactic potential of the text type short story, the selected texts are discussed with regard to their advantages over mere minority literature and their benefits for young adult readers.


    • Collie, Joanne & Stephen Slater (1987). Literature in the Language Classroom. A resource book of ideas and activities. Cambridge (i.a.): Cambridge University Press. p. 196.
    • Freitag-Hild, Britta (2010). Theorie, Aufgabentypologie und Unterrichtspraxis inter- und transkultureller Literaturdidaktik: “British Fictions of Migration” im Fremdsprachenunterricht. Trier: Wiss. Verl. Trier. p. 55.
    • Hammer, Julia (2012). Die Auswirkungen der Globalisierung auf den modernen Fremdsprachenunterricht. Heidelberg: Universitätsverlag Winter. p. 61.
    • Kultusministerkonferenz (2012). Bildungsstandards für die fortgeführte Fremdsprache (Englisch/ Französisch) für die Allgemeine Hochschulreife (Beschluss der Kultusministerkonferenz vom 18.10.2012). p. 13. Link to publication (Accessed: 28.11.2021).
    • Ministerium für Kultus, Jugend und Sport Baden-Württemberg (Ed.) (2016). Bildungsplan des Gymnasiums. Englisch als erste Fremdsprache. Link to publication (Accessed: 27.11.2021).
    • Ministerium für Schule und Bildung des Landes Nordrhein-Westfalen (Ed.) (2014). Kernlehrplan für die Sekundarstufe II Gymnasium/Gesamtschule in Nordrhein-Westfalen Englisch. p. 31, 40. Link to publication (Accessed: 27.11.2021).
    • Osondu, E. C. (2010). ‘Nigerians in America’. In: E. C. Osondu. Voice of America. London: Granta Publications. pp. 91-105.
    • Senatsverwaltung für Bildung, Jugend und Wissenschaft Berlin (Ed.) (2014). Rahmenlehrplan für den Unterricht in der gymnasialen Oberstufe Englisch. Link to publication (Accessed: 27.11.2021).
    • Wadham, Rachel L. & Jonathan W. Ostenson (2013). Integrating Young Adult Literature through the Common Core Standards. Santa Barbara, Calif.: Libraries Unlimited. p. 4.
    • Wood, Molara (2013). ‘In Name Only’. In: Molara Wood. Indigo. London: Scribes Lane. Kindle e-book.
  • Ariane Manutscheri: "It's okay not to be okay": Destigmatizing Mental Health through Young Adult Literature

    According to the WHO, on average, one in five adolescents worldwide was already struggling with a serious mental illness before 2020. Given that COVID-19 has posed an unexpected challenge to the mental well-being of most people, it is not surprising that several studies around the world now point to a further decline in the mental health of our youth. A decline that often goes unnoticed and untreated for years, in part because there is still a huge stigma attached to mental illness and many of those affected are reluctant to come forward. At the same time, in recent years there has been a boom in YAL that deals specifically with the topic of mental illness:  more and more books featuring characters suffering from mental disorders are hitting our shelves. This paper aims to demonstrate how precisely these texts and working with them in the (EFL) classroom could help destigmatize the topic of mental illness and contribute towards raising younger generations to be comfortable with talking about mental health. In order to do so, I am pursuing three main research goals: First, I will explore, historically contextualize, and explain the meanings of and social mechanisms behind the stigma of mental illness, as well as give concrete examples of such stigma in today’s media and demonstrate how this can impact and potentially hurt teenagers. I will then illustrate (on the basis of comparatively and contrastively analysing a small sample of recent YAL, see list below) in which ways YA novels, through the themes they address, as well as the stylistic devices and narrative techniques they employ (such as metaphor and person-first narration, respectively), can act as counterforces to that stigma by fostering understanding and empathy, as well as promoting more inclusive and reflective language use among young readers. Finally, the paper focuses on practical implementation in the (English language & literature) classroom. By presenting a range of suggestions for concrete activities and ideas for classroom discussion, I also endeavour to provide teachers interested in broaching the topic of mental health with helpful resources.

    Keywords: Mental health awareness, stigma, YAL, English language & literature classroom


    Ariane Manutscheri is a university assistant (prae doc) at the Department of English and American Studies (University of Vienna), and member of the research platform #YouthMediaLife. She holds a teaching degree (Mag.a phil.) for the subjects English and philosophy/psychology. Her research interests include: children’s and young adult literature, mental health representation, fan culture and fan practices (especially fan activism), pop-culture, the power of storytelling for social change and the English language, literature & culture classroom.



    Staff Page (Department of English and American Studies, Uni Vienna)

    Staff Page (#YouthMediaLife)

    Primary Literature

    Bourne, Holly. (2015). Am I Normal Yet? Usborne Publishing.

    Green, John (2017). Turtles All the Way Down. Dutton Books.

    Khorram, Adib. (2018). Darius the Great Is Not Okay. Dial Books.

    Vizzini, Ned. (2006). It's Kind of a Funny Story. Hyperion.

    Secondary Literature

    Adolescent mental health. (2020, September 28). WHO.

    Jensen, K. (2018, October 2). 50 Must-Read YA Books About Mental Illness (Plus A Few More). BOOK RIOT.

    Kessler, R. C., Amminger, G. P., Aguilar-Gaxiola, S., Alonso, J., Lee, S., & Ustun, T. B. (2007). Age of onset of mental disorders: a review of recent literature. Current Opinion in Psychiatry, 20(4), 359-64.

    Manutscheri, A. (2021). “‘Your now is not your forever’: Destigmatizing Mental Health through Young Adult Literature.” [Manuscript submitted for publication]

    Manutscheri, A. (2020). "A Word other than Crazy": Exploring the stigma around mental health through young adult literature [Unpublished diploma thesis]. University of Vienna.

    Pieh, C., Plener, P. L., Probst, T., Dale, R., & Humer, E. (2021). Mental Health in Adolescents during COVID-19-Related Social Distancing and Home-Schooling. SSRN Electronic Journal. Pre-print.

    Power, E, Hughes, S, Cotter, D, & Cannon, M. (2020). Youth mental health in the time of COVID-19. Irish Journal of Psychological Medicine, 37(4), 301-15.

    Richmond, K. J. (2019). Mental Illness in Young Adult Literature: Exploring Real Struggles through Fictional Characters. Libraries Unlimited.

    Scrofano, D. (2015). Not as crazy as it seems: Discussing the new YA literature of mental illness in your classroom or library. Young Adult Library Services, 13(2), 15.

    Tonkinson, C. (2018, April 10). The recent boom in mental health publishing—and why it is vitally important. The Bookseller. https://www.thebookseller.comde/blogs/recent-boom-mental-health-publishing-and-why-it-vitally-important-764691


  • Rüdiger Heinze: Through the Glass, Darkly: Contemporary Young Adult Serial- & Transmedial Dystopias

    An astonishing number of recent dystopian fictions are indeed series, usually with three or more installments. While criticism has paid ample attention to the most famous of these series –The Hunger Games, Divergent, Maze Runner, The Giver–, perhaps also because these have been adapted into movies, it has barely scratched the surface. At a closer look, there are actually many more series. Interestingly, an astonishing number of these series, in turn, are (labeled/received/marketed as) young adult dystopias – a rather indistinct category that does justice neither to the actual readerships nor to the often cynical and bleak visions of possible futures far exceeding some traditional "adult" dystopias. To complicate matters, many of these series are no longer "just" serial fictions but have turned into transmedial universes with licensed as well as unlicensed remediations and extensions.

    This is a key factor not only for the critical assessment of contemporary YAD; it is also a propitious opportunity for "reading" and teaching them in the (EFL) classroom because it means there are various different, interesting, and productive inroads for approaching these often complex and comprehensive "texts" and media. Accordingly, in my presentation, I will primarily address the extant (thematic, formal, generic, textual, medial) diversity of contemporary YAD and the opportunities this may offer for the (EFL) classroom.


  • Silke Braselmann: “I hope all the books I've read will save my life” – Reading YA Literature as an Antiracist Practice in the EFL Classroom

    Young Adult Fiction has become a source of hope for book-loving English Language teachers – a steady increase in sales suggest that YA literature helps against the frequently lamented loss of interest in reading. But, when taking into consideration that a growing body of recent publications deal with highly political topics such as racism and social injustice, YA Literature does even more than make young adults read: It also offers various opportunities for addressing societal issues and for active participation in complex discourses in the EFL classroom.
    By using two rather different, recent examples of antiracist YA Literature (I. Zoboi/ Y. Salaam Punching the Air, 2020 | A. Thomas The Hate U Give, 2017), this paper wants to outline the potential and the challenges of addressing the issue of racism in the EFL classroom. Focusing on the ways in which these works can foster self-reflexivity and hone critical thinking skills, I will explore methodological challenges and limits and wants to outline some activities that make the learners engage with the topic. With meaningful tasks that connect the issue of racism to the students’ lifeworld, their own experiences and their specific position in the discourse, I will argue, reading YA literature can become an antiracist practice.


  • F. Matz & R. Römhild: Courage, Defiance, and Resistance: (Non-)Fictional YA Activist Texts in English Language Education

    This paper takes a closer look at recent (non-)fictional texts about activists and activism written for a young adult audience (including handbooks, essay collections and novels) which not only cover issues of contemporary significance, ranging from social and environmental justice, but also aim at supporting learners in taking action themselves.
      The texts will be presented in the context of both the UN's Convention on the Rights of the Child (particularly Article 29 "Best Possible Education") and the UN's Sustainable Development Goals (Particularly SDGs 4 "Quality Education" and 16 “Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions”). While the former states that education should not only inform children and adolescents about their rights and to respect other people, but also ensure "that all can live in peace and that the environment is protected" (UNICEF 2022), the SDGs strive for peaceful and inclusive societies and aim to provide access to justice and quality education for all (UN 2022).
      Applying these overarching guidelines to the English language classroom, we will discuss the significance of children's rights-based language education for the appreciation and cultivation of learners' agency. We further provide a practical outlook on experimental (language) learning settings, in which these rather new forms and formats might aid students in learning languages of hope and finding their own voices.


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