Young Adult Lit/Crit

January 25, 2008

Book Whisperers All!

Filed under: from your prof — sunyprof @ 2:06 pm

It was wonderful seeing much valued students–Sarah, Allison, Raph, Mandy, Kate–again last night and meeting some new and exciting (yes, exciting!!) ones–Joyce, Josh, Erin, Kari.

Please post on the relationship between the NYTimes article handout, the TEACHER Magazine blogger’s discussion handout (Book Whisperer), and our conversation last night. Where do you see important juxtapositions?

Do share reactions to our class last night and some of your own goals for this semester in YA Lit.

Would our discussion facilitators for ABC and TRUE DIARY please post introductory prompts for discussion by early next week. Be provocative. Often the best facilitation is a result of the questions the text raises for the facilitator?

I’ve put up a category for each novel. Please use the categories to post on that title.

I have also put up a category for book club. Use that category to post on the books you are reading for book club.

I’ve also added a category for lit circles where you can post on a book (from the syllabus) you want to invite classmates to read w/you in a lit circle.

Please be in touch–I look forward to our blog’s being a site for discussion of good books and teaching, a site for sharing resources, commenting on class meetings, and posting invitations to collaborate. KES


  1. I didn’t realize that reading ability could decline, as D. Miller’s article points out. This makes me nervous for students who don’t read (often enough) for pleasure; what will happen when they become adults?

    I found it interesting that the % of adults who read for pleasure has declined the same as those who are proficient readers (NYTimes article). I would’ve thought reading newspapers (online versions, even), work related publications or emails would have counted for something. That said, if how much and what we read as teens affects how much and how well we read as adults, we need to encourage more students to read for pleasure more often!

    I totally agree with D. Miller on the concept of whole-class reading. These were my least favorite times (and books) from HS; the slow pace and topic that didn’t always interest me led to boredom. Never mind the fact that student input was rarely used, since the teacher had an agenda for that day’s class. I did have one class where we voted on what books to read, and the top 4 vote-getters are what we read. And we read those 4 books in the same amount of time as just 1 in other classes!

    My goals for this semester are to read more, learn what appeals to young students today since I feel really out of touch, and find more books to add to my favorites.

    Comment by ebrazee — January 26, 2008 @ 7:43 pm

  2. I have many goals for this semester, but my priority is to read a variety of young adult titles so that when I am in my own classroom, I can recommend a title to any and all of my students. I want to have a rich background so that I can share titles with others. I am a firm believer that there is a book for everyone!

    I read the New York Times article’s title and my immediate reaction was “no kidding!” (sarcastically, obviously). What most of us probably view as common sense, i.e. the fact that reading impacts test scores, others are undoubtedly unaware of this phenomenon. Sadly, I was not surprised by the contents of this article, and I think it relates directly back to what we were talking about in class this week: early experiences with reading are critical to encourage people to be readers for life. And as seen in the article, I think the majority of Americans had uneventful experiences as readers at some point in time, most likely as students. I think our mission as ELA educators is clear: we want every student to have positive reading experiences in our classrooms, so that reading isn’t viewed only as a school-related task, but as a pleasurable hobby.

    Further, I thought that the article raised a very important point, one that I often think about and struggle to come to terms with. In this day and age, with “the proliferation of digital diversions” reading often takes a backseat to television, internet, video games, etc. On behalf of some family members and most of my friends, this is definitely the case and I am left wondering, how do we compete with these distractions? While we want our kids to be tech savvy, reading is also incredibly important, so where do we draw the line? Further, should we even have to have boundaries? I want my kids to want to read, I don’t want to have to force them. All questions I am thinking about as we start the semester.


    Comment by mandygrl101 — January 28, 2008 @ 1:15 am

  3. When it comes to reading and test scores, the two go hand in hand. The more that you read, the easier it is to make fewer careless mistakes when it comes to either reading or writing on a test. I agree that a lot of the problem in grade school stems from two things: new technologies, and the “whole-class novel.” Technology at school and at home gives students plenty of distractions and things to do that interest them much more than reading a book that they don’t want to read and that their older siblings and peers have put the “boring” mark on.

    In order to get students to be engaged in reading, I think that as teachers we need to do similarly to what technology does for the kids; we need to give them options. Catering to each students abilities and interests is one way to create excitement for reading. The problem that we face however is that many schools have been teaching the same way for so long, they don’t see the need or they don’t want to budge the curriculum. Having never been in the position of a teacher, I don’t know how difficult these things are to change, but from our discussion on Thursday alone I got the feeling that curriculum’s are hard to dispute. I have a hard time understanding this because as Donalyn Miller wrote about in her blog, schools are not state or federally regulated when it comes to which books the students are required to read.

    I am in hopes that somehow, I can create an environment in which my kids will feel like what they are reading reading is their choice. Making it a choice makes it a lot more likely for them to turn it into a hobby rather than do what I did and blow it off because it did not interest me. It took me way to long to get back into reading, and I have so much to catch up on now, that is the last thing that I would want for any child in my classroom.


    Comment by erinlbowman — January 28, 2008 @ 2:27 am

  4. “Print is dead.” -Dr. Egon Spengler, Ghostbusters (1984)

    We all have high hopes when it comes to engaging students with “good” reading skills. I for one cannot help but think that these skills are innate and must be carefully drawn out, especially considering the fateful words of the great Dr. Spengler quoted above. If print was dead back in 1984, what do ELA teachers have to work with now? The answer is more encouraging than you might think.

    Many of the issues discussed in our reading for this week derive from one major problem the authors seem to neglect: Bad Parenting. It may be the very reason print was sent to an early grave. They killed it. They made reading print a daunting task. Our job is to counteract the apathy generated by the gross negligence of parents who encourage the current system of education (ie. this “whole class novel” nonsense, standardized tests, etc.). With technology and the arts being what they are today it should be relatively simple for us to resurrect the ghosts of print by showing our students that it can be a great companion to the latest video games, music, movies and comics, etc. After all, it’s all storytelling (ok, video games offer more of a role-playing aspect, but I think you get my point). There are many types of literacies that can be encouraged in our classrooms that will effectively generate interest in reading and help students make valuable connections. And as our students grow older and realize these connections, they’ll go on to live fulfilling literate lives and pass it on to their kids.

    As I reflect on my early days as a reader, spending countless hours at the comic book store browsing through the latest adventures of Daredevil, sitting in my living room 2 feet away from the TV playing Final Fantasy, rocking out to Devo and Talking Heads in my bedroom, watching Tim Burton’s Batman for the first time in a crowded theater with my father, I can’t help but think of how much cooler arts and entertainment have become in the past 20 years. But I was fortunate. My parents actually encouraged me to read comic books, listen to music, play video games and go to movies. The fact is, I probably wouldn’t be reading as much now without this kind of support. They had shown me all of this cool stuff so once my dad handed me his worn copy of the Hobbit for the first time, I trusted him. It would be worth the read. And to my delight, it was. We have to build this same trust with our students by relating to them on their level.

    I hope that this all made sense… It just kind of burst out of me.


    Comment by traverse02 — January 28, 2008 @ 4:44 am

  5. By the way, before I sign off, my goal is to read as many different YA titles as possible. I don’t usually read YA texts (aside from certain comic books) and I see this class as a great opportunity to get an idea of what’s out there so I can construct a formidable classroom library.

    Comment by traverse02 — January 28, 2008 @ 4:50 am

  6. My goal for this semester is definitely to read and hear about as many YA Lit books as possible, so I can share them with my students. I am really interested in hearing the opions of everyone in class on the various books we read together and apart, so I can expand the my knowledge of great YA books beyond what I have read and then relay all of this wonderful and valuable new knowledge with my with my students.

    As I was reading through the comments already made here, I have to agree with what Mandy said about the NY Times Article. This information is pretty obvious and not at all suprising. As kids starting reading less their performances are going to slip. As kids get older and older, the general trends shows less of an interest in reading. I don’t want this to happen to the kids in my class. I want to be able to help them find (and push them to challenge themselves with) books that they enjoy and keep them wanting to read! I guess the more reading I do, the better I can do for them.

    I also wanted to touch upon one point Donalyn Miller makes in relation to class. She states that the month or so of reading a novel as a class takes away from time students could be reading books on a wider range of topics, probably that they would like more and therefore get more out of. I think this is really supporting what we talked about on Thursday night. At the very least it reinforces to me why when I read a novel with my class (that I must do) I do it quickly, so everyone can get back to their wide range of different topics.

    Comment by katefrazer — January 30, 2008 @ 8:55 pm

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