The reality is that the more students read now the better
they will do on standardized tests (ACT/SAT, not just EOC) and the eventual AP examinations in their junior and senior year. I have included a definition of "Literary Merit," a term that pops up in AP classes. Students have asked me to define what the term actually means. Wikipedia has a pretty good definition:
"A work is said to have literary merit (to be a work of art) if it is a work of quality, that is if it has some aesthetic value. The concept of "literary merit" is impossible to define, and it is hard to see how such an idea can be used with any precision or consistency by policy makers, magistrates or judges. A common response to this criticism is that, while the process of establishing literary merit is difficult, fraught with dangers, and often subjective, it is the only method currently available to separate work that has significant cultural value from work that is ephemeral."
That is to say, a work of literary merit will stick around after years of scrutiny by literary critics and readers alike. The book will stand as a "work of art" long after any fad associated with the plot has dissipated.
Works of literary merit continue to be respected in this way because of the various levels of depth that can be read into the story.
(click on the underlined links):
Time Magazine's 100 Greatest English-Language Novels
Modern Library's 100 Best
The College Board's List (The AP curriculum designers)
This is a looonnngg list. Bear in mind: These are all of the works that have been on the AP examination since 1971. Do not pick drama or short story collections.
Pulitzer Prize Winners
Fiction and Nonfiction