Using Literature to Help Troubled Teenagers Cope with Family Issues

By Joan F. Kaywell | Go to book overview

Chapter 10
Using Tears of a Tiger for Psychological and Literary Analysis

Sharon M. Draper& James D. Kelly


INTRODUCTION

Capturing the attention as well as the spirit of the contemporary adolescent reader is a difficult task. Students of the 1990s have grown up with momentary video images with much sound and very little substance. Kids today are frenetic, energetic, and restless. They're channel surfers in all aspects of their lives--busy and constantly bombarded with stimuli from radio, television, and computers. Adolescents rarely take the time or even have the patience to sit quietly and read a newspaper, let alone a full length novel. If they have 15 dollars to spend, most would choose to spend it on a new compact disk rather than a book. In addition, the numbers of adolescents facing significant life difficulties are growing. Statistics for the United States show that 24 million children live in poverty, and three million are victims of crime annually ( Miller, 1994). Approximately 25% of American children live in a singleparent household with usually a divorced or never-married mother ( Kaywell, 1993). Thirty-seven percent of high school seniors engage in heavy drinking, and 25% of adolescents drop out of school each year ( Miller, 1994).

The adolescents facing these difficult situations are often unmotivated in school and uninterested in academics. How can teachers engage their interests? And how can teachers make a difference through the use of literature? The idea of using literature as a psycho-educational tool to change behavior or attitudes is not new. Literature has been used to improve the self-concept of students with difficult family situations, self-concept problems, and abuse ( Miller, 1994). In this chapter, we will explore how a particular novel

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