My summer reading plan is one in the making. I don’t think I have ever approached reading with a plan, outside of school that is. I just sort of grab a book, open it, and get lost in the printed pages. This summer I have an extensive list of books to get lost in. Some of them are just titles on a notebook page, some old favorites and a few are ones I started that are still holding my place to come back to. Books and good friends are like that – timeless companions you can always come back to.
I enjoy reading romance novels classics, and, of course, YA novels. A few in my current line-up are; Salt of the Sea, The Rules of Civility, A Touch of Stardust and Lord of the Rings (to the satisfaction of my boyfriend). I also have a few favorites I would like to reread (again) like Catcher in the Rye and The Lord of the Flies. The summer would not be complete if I did not read my favorite “Little House on the Prairie” as it is a tradition.
When I was younger, I was the kid who the library cut off after three reading logs because they thought I was in it for the dollar store prizes – what morons. Why would you tell a child they have read enough? Why would a library of all places tell a child to put books down after they reached a silly number? Even though I didn’t get to color in a new circle with each book I finished, I kept on reading because reading is worth so much more than a glittery, mom-hated sticky hand. Now I would probably be turned away from the program for age-related reasons, but that is not the sad part of this story. After this, I didn’t want anyone involved in my reading life. My reading was for me and my books. I prefer to read and think about my reading on my own so I have never actively searched out a book club back home for the simple reason that I do not wish to be in one. I know now that my perspective, ideas and even writing skills can and will improve with literary discussion. Knowing this, I can work on being more open-minded towards book clubs.
As for a reading challenge, I would like to make sure I am reading a sustainable amount at least once a day. I don’t want to set a book goal or a number to reach because I would rather read for enjoyment than under pressure during the summers.
There are some of Penny Kittle’s ideas I agree with and some I just can not see eye to eye with. I understand how she has become a revolutionary in the teaching world. No one gets to the top of any field by being completely loved and agreed upon by their peers; it is the competition that creates a “top” to get to in the first place.
Our differences and ability to respectfully disagree with our colleagues create a stronger force. I can see where Kittle is coming from when she says she would like to axe the Accelerated Reader program altogether. it puts en emphasis on on points instead of reading and gives books a material value instead of a literary one. But, she looks past one highly important factor; the way teacher present it. The points are emphasized in a way where they are all that seems important. In my eight years of AR reading, never did a teacher pump us up by explaining how we were going to get to go to different worlds, meet hundreds of new friends, go to any place in the world we wanted and learn about things curriculum skims over, leaving us wanting more. No, they told us how we could earn points that honestly didn’t mean anything except maybe a lame prize from a cardboard treasure box or a certificate printed in the teachers lounge on cardstock from Walgreen’s. I know these comparisons seem long and unnecessary, but that is a reflection of how the teachers explain the program. If points were not the emphasis in the program, it would work in a more efficient manner.
My favorite Penny Kittle moment/lesson of the year was the video we watched her class made about their reading experiences. I have read research articles, case studies, and ideas for changing your class’s perspective on reading, but this video was the eye-opener. Hearing it from the source and the first-hand experiences made everything we had read about it 350% more real. Any teacher can say they “changed a student’s life” or that their entire class “fell in love with reading”, but watching the proof was more relevant than anything else. The best part was there was no magic trick, she just told them to keep reading. Not the classics, not nonfiction, not textbooks, just whatever stories they wanted off the shelf.
*I have done a IMWAYR blog each week, I’m not sure where my numbers got mixed up*
This weekend I went home for the holidays and celebrated by hanging out with my old shelf. Two of my favorites have always been Staring Sally J. Freeman as Herself and Are You There God? It’s Me, Margret, both by my girl Judy Blume. It has been a few years since I read these two so I decided to crack them open again. Now I am reading them as a
young woman who (somehow) survived puberty and adolescence and is working on an education degree, so my mindset is quite different to the preteen/teen who read them before. I also chose to reread these titles because they have both been challenged and banned before and have diverse themes.
Sally J. Freeman has an element of everything. Her home life includes her, her mom, brother and grandmother. Now don’t go thinking her dad is out of the picture or was left behind in a divorce – he lives in New Jersey while the rest of the family moves to Miami Beach due to his job. Blume sets this plot up in the late 1940s with tension of WWII still fresh in the air. The Freemans are a Jewish family in a very Christian community. This becomes clear to ten year old Sally in the most minor ways as she grows accustomed to her new school and apartment building. No other families are glared at the way the old lady upstairs glares at them and their family is always the last one to get to use the community telephone in the lobby. All the while Sally is learning to make more friends, competing with her brother for attention at home and all those fun changes we all get to experience during puberty. Anti-Semitism and racism are strategically built in to this story of a ten year old with dreams to dance on a stage.
Margret also hits at some religious topics in a big way, I mean it’s in the title after all. Like Sally, Margret and her family have just moved, but they move to New Jersey from New York City. Margret’s parents have raised her without a religion because they each have a separate faith and would rather let her choose once she is old, rather than making a decision for her. This was never a problem until she is asked questions like, “Do you swim at the YMCA or the Jewish Community Center?” or “Will you be attending church or synagogue this holiday weekend?” All of a sudden she is lost in herself. Her teacher assigns everyone a personal project – to focus on something all year that will better themselves and report back periodically. Our heroine takes this chance to explore religions and form her own relationship with God. Not only that, but now Margret has to make new friends and twelve year old girls are particular about EVERYTHING. Luckily, she bonds with a few girls who help her through life as she goes to her first boy/girl party, buys a bra and learns boys can be more than just classmates. The characters and dialogue in this book always make me laugh and cry, I would recommend it to any teenage girl.
This week I tried something a little new (or my book club made, either way, I did it) and read “The True Diary of Part-Time Indian” by Sherman Alexie. I was not sure if I was going to like it or not but I think I ended up liking it in the end, even though it made me feel different than most books do.
So the main character, Junior, as he is known on the “rez”, has had a rough life. His medical history presents an array of issues, including water on the brain, which left him with a largely unproportionate head. He claims to look like an “L” due to his overgrown feet, has glasses and his parents try hard to create the best life they can for Junior. His dad is a drunk but Junior has grown to just accept it as a fact of life, cause the way he sees it, that’s just life on the rez. His best friend, Rowdy, has a personality to reflect his name.
After an incident at the Native American school, Junior decides if he wants to be better than the world around him, he’s going to have to get a quality education. When he asks his parents if he can transfer to the school in the town 22 miles away, they agree and are surprisingly compliant. The kicker with the new school is it is a small, dominantly white population of farmers’ kids with a severely low tolerance for those different than them. When Arnold gets to school on the first day, he decides it is time to go by his first name; a new identity for his new school.
As the school year continues Arnold experiences hate from the rez and the kids at school. He also dates the prettiest girl in his class, starts on the varsity basketball team as a freshman and learns more about heartache than any teenage boy deserves to.
I think you would have to be very careful about teaching this book in a classroom setting. Depending on the environment or relationship with the Native American community, clarification on each other’s cultures at the beginning and throughout the book may be necessary. It would also be a good lesson on the importance of diversity and perspective on life problems.
This is a topic that has been a scratching bug in the back of my head since I started studying education. How am I suppose to get every student excited about reading? Is it right for me to expect them all to enjoy reading when I know very well I did not enjoy every subject I was signed up for? How can I ensure their reading and writing will improve together? How do I know they are all really reading and not just using other sources to learn enough to get by? How do I make reading something they love and not just something they do? (Okay, so maybe there was more than one bug back there this whole time.) It turns out there is one simple answer for all these questions; let the students chose what they read.
AP tests examine how well students read, not what they read. If students read, whatever they read, they will be able to decipher any text, as long as they read. Reading what they enjoy will give them the same skills as reading the classics when it comes to understanding the context. A student is more likely to dive into a novel they choose than an assigned read simply because they are humans with rights as well. “Many times these teachers mistake their duty: to teach the child and not the book.”-Amy Rasmussen
Students need to be reading more than just books. We need to show them articles and graphic novels that entice them. If the true goal (as some teachers think) is to prepare secondary learners for a higher education, we cannot keep just filling them up with the classics. They need to know how to read research articles; raw material. Another reason to advocate for the reading of articles is the selection is never bare. Due to the straightforward presentation of information, each student will be able to find at least one topic they are interested, teaching them how to pull those articles apart for the information that matters. These skills will be far more helpful in a lecture hall than understanding the plot of 1984.
This week I read “Summer in the Invisible City” by Juliana Romano and I got so into it I finished it in three days. I know that sounds crazy for a class at this level, but with a college kid schedule, I considered that quite a feat.
The main character is Sadie, a girl in New York the summer before her senior year of high school. Her and her mom, an educated yoga instructor, have lived in the city since she was born and have an untraditional relationship – closer than most mother-daughters and stronger than friends but less than best friends. Sadie is enrolled in a photography class where she will discover all the secrets the invisible city can hold.
The cover, the subtitle and the informative blurb on the inside cover of the book all anticipate Sadie’s summer with Sam, the unexpected heartthrob she meets on the beach at beginning of summer. I admit that the cover art caught my eye and it is probably the reason I even picked it up, but I do not think there is a love story at the focus of this novel. The common stereotype for Young Adult novels is a classic, girl meets boy, girl loves boy, conflict arises romance and I think the advertisement and enticement for “Summer in the Inviable City” trying to ride these coattails which makes me mad because the story is so much deeper than that. Sadie faces her absent father and winning his approval, all while asking herself why she needs it when she has always had a happy life with her mom. She also finds herself in situations placing her life-long best friend up against the cool, popular girls who suddenly befriend her. Meanwhile, she is pursuing her dream as a photographer and still trying to abandon thoughts of her “first mistake”, Noah, who just happens to weave himself into the plot. Sam, while not a small character, seemed like a secondary character to all of these plot lines.
I would recommend this novel to anyone looking for a fun read filled with multiple morals. Due to the variety of relationships intertwined together, everyone can relate to at least one of Sadie’s struggles (or her addiction to iced coffee).
I think one of the best things about Young Adult Library Services Association is it is a professional place for students to be exposed to a mature setting within the realms of something they understand – ya books. This isn’t just a blog they made for class, a pixelated website they made to list their favorite books or a forgotten Wattpad account. Think of how many teen novels are centered around feeling misunderstood – here is a mature place specifically for them. This is a real website made especial to expose young adult literature to the world.
YALSA is important for teachers to understand. How can students become familiar with YALSA if teachers are not there to guide them? I do not this it is likely that they would find themselves on the site alone, but crazier things have happened. By using YALSA as a resource when teaching, students can gain a deeper understanding of how literature really can and does connect the world. They would also be able to see the accreditation behind their education – the teacher is not just talking at them; the information is coming from a valid source.
I think my favorite rabbit hole I found myself in was the ‘Handout’ section under ‘Teachers’. There was a plethora of printable specifically for teachers. These could be used as decorations in the classroom, informative pieces to pass out or outline the next steps for curious readers. For example, “Ten Things You Didn’t Know Were in Your Library” advocates for libraries by explaining resources beyond the books. I personally think this is important because so many people just see libraries as the home for books and with the rise of technology in our everyday lives, they are continually being viewed as old school or dying establishments. Change starts with the younger generation and that is why we need to introduce students is YALSA.