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Yaqui Delgado and essential questions

medina_yaqui delgadoIn a school world where text complexity seems to be all the rage, I am in a bunch of discussions about the place of YA literature in high schools moving forward.  My answer is I don’t always know, but I think YA has much potential to promote deep work to make meaning of text.

During the summers at Boston University, we host a group of students from Boston Green Academy (our awesome partner school) for two weeks of summer reading, writing, and learning about college. This past summer was our first to do this program, and in planning the curriculum, we decided to use a YA novel as our anchor to explore an essential question: “What makes a person worthy of respect?”

The team chose the book Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass by Meg Medina, a story of starting at a new school and dealing with a bully. We read it alongside a text set of poems and articles and other pieces about the idea of respect. And it was really fun — the students, who were diverse in a whole bunch of ways, liked the book, and the deep discussions we were able to have about our question led us to the text over and over as we explored the idea of respect and whether and how people can earn it or lose it.

So it is getting to be summer again, and we are planning for round two of the summer experience. I’m curious to hear from readers — what are some YA books you have used, and what do you think could be good essential questions to go with them?

Christina Dobbs About Christina Dobbs

Christina Dobbs is an assistant professor of English Education at Boston University. She is a former high school teacher, literacy coach, and reading specialist, and she studied adolescent literacy at the Harvard Graduate School of Education.



  1. Great choice! I like the idea of using respect (rather than bullying) as the theme/frame for conversation.

  2. Monise Seward says:

    I just picked-up a copy of the book at my local library and can’t wait to start reading! I think this is something my 13 year old daughter may like too, even though the intended age group is older. This kind of stuff actually starts in 5th grade now.

  3. Some of my students read this (for our lit circles) and hated the ending – yet it did bring up really interesting discussion about reality versus their desires for “100% justice.” I’m curious to hear about the articles and poetry you used!

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