Dana Goldstein penned a compelling feature on New York Times recently. "Why Kids Can't Write" would put the blame on the teachers. The fault wouldn't be solely on them, as their knowledge in literature would envy anyone. But they weren't confident about their writing skills. In turn, many students were unable to compose a complete sentence (among other things).
Good writing is a sum of experience, a keen sense of words, and a love of the craft. Young students couldn't be expected to possess any of them, but reading would be another thing. Teachers should instill a passion for literature at a young age, but it would be easier said than done. A kid won't be interested in "Don Quixote" unless Big Bird impersonated the quixotic knight in "Sesame Street". It should adopt to popular culture, and Hollywood would know a thing or two. (Jane Austen may not like Iggy Azalea's homage to "Clueless", which was a modern-day update of "Emma". The author might be grateful to the curious viewers, though.) The solution would lie on literature, and how to teach it to young students. Is there a better way to do it? Yes.
High school students are expected to study popular classics like "To Kill a Mockingbird" while college students are required to read the works of Virginia Woolf. Some instructors may not be open to change, which might make the coursework more interesting to the students. You can suggest it, and there are five ways to do it.
5 Great Ideas to Connect Literature to Students
Young-adult fiction. Rick Riordan taught at Presidio Hills Schools (in San Francisco) for eight years, and his experience played a major part in his huge success in Young-adult fiction. The Texan was aware of the short-attention span of most teenagers, as well as the superficiality of some of them. They won't be able to finish Edith Hamilton's "Mythology", but depicting Apollo as a self-absorbed, whining teenager should change their mind. (It also helped if some demigods were fans of Taylor Swift.) The ancient Greeks who have thought about the Olympians and their demigod children wouldn't roll in their graves. Literature must have universal appeal, which would ensure its growing popularity through the years. In Riordan's case, giving Greek mythology a superficial treatment wouldn't make it less of a classic. If it would prompt you to do an online search on ancient Greece, then it should be a good start.
Film adaptation. Most critics wouldn't like a Hollywood adaptation of a popular classic, even if Aldous Huxley and John Steinbeck have brief stints as (Hollywood) screenwriters. A novelist won't have any limits on the number of pages of a book, but Hollywood studios are more keen on the budget and return on investment. It shouldn't discourage you from watching these big-screen versions, as many filmmakers manage to retain the essence of the novels. This doesn't give you an excuse not to read the book. (It could help you finish reading it in a few days.) Try to look at cinema as a reference.
Contemporary fiction. There's a little chance that novels like "The Kite Runner" won't be assigned as an essay assignment, but there's no harm in asking your professor about it. Moreover, recently-released books could help you appreciate the classics that are included in the reading list. A comparison will be one thing. (The tale of Amir and Hazara is far from the Biblical tale of Abel and Cain, but the backdrop of Afghan history may remind you of Charles Dickens.) Keep in mind that creativity doesn't have to be original.
Graphic novel. Many books are getting the comic treatment, which is far from a Marvel (or DC) comic series. A graphic novelization would have its share of critics, pointing out the commercial interest behind it. This wouldn't be the reason to dismiss it, as Alan Moore's graphic novels are getting serious treatment. Think of "The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen", which depicted literary characters as (DC) superheroes of the Victorian era. This wouldn't be Moore's cheap attempt to cash in on the ever-popular superheroes, as his works are way above the other titles in this genre. If you think not, then you may pen a 2,000-word essay on this topic.
Doing it the "American Idol" way. You're not thinking of "1776", where the Founding Fathers belt out songs (while mapping out the birth - and future - of the United States of America). Think of a few authors that interest your course mates. Talk about it in an animated, lighthearted manner. (A serious approach would defeat this purpose.) Try to be constructive about any shortcoming. After all, many popular (literary) figures are flawed characters.
What can you expect at the end of this exercise?
You'll learn a great deal about adjectives and adverbs, which can result to a more engaging narrative. Too much could muddle your storytelling, though.
You'll look at reading as a necessity. Knowledge will help you finish (long) essays in a shorter time, but it won't solve your problem on how to write a conclusion paragraph (for an essay).
You'll be able to tell your own story. And it's more than a series of (complete) sentences.