Young Adult Lit/Crit

January 31, 2008

Readings for 1/31

Filed under: Articles for Class — kariredmond @ 4:42 am

I had some thoughts after reading the articles for this week, specifically the blog from Donalyn Miller.  Mostly I appreciated the sense of urgency from Miller that something in the way that we teach readers needs to change.  Similar to what we discussed in class last week, it seems that the more we try to force feed novels to students, the less they are interested in reading. I was particularly interested in what part of her blog where she used the phrase: “get your students “through” a book.” (1/13/08) It is fascinating to think of how many times I have heard this phrase used in this context, but only in the past couple of years have I really thought of it in a negative connotation.  Why on earth would we be trying to merely get students “through” the book if they aren’t enjoying, understanding, or appreciating it? When reading these “neccessary novels” in schools, instead of ripping it off quick like a band-aid to satisfy curriculum requirements , we draw out units in a painful, almost torturous manner.  Instead of catering to all styles of learning and personality we are teaching in a cookie cutter manner that turns off the majority of students from reading altogether. I agree wholeheartedly with the idea of Miller that: “Teaching whole-class novel units does not create a society of literate people”. 

Along the same ideas, I find that Williams’ article also had some valid points to this argument.  Instead of teaching the skills of good reading, and promoting the ideas of reading with purpose and comprehension (not to say that every kid will understand everything that they will read) regardless of the content, we are merely forcing reading onto students.  Teaching kids how to read with quality as a life skill seems far more important to me than teaching “To Kill A Mockingbird”.  Years later if you were to ask my 7th grade English class what the purpose of reading this novel was, they probably couldn’t recall that we were learning diversity and tolerance, and educating ourselves about prejudice.  Sure some of us understood the implications of what we were reading, but most of the class was just trying to get “through” the novel.  This again goes along with what we discussed in class the other night, so I apologize if I am being redundant. 

I also liked the idea of the science class physically drawing what their perception of a scientist looks like.  Applied to a reader, this could prove to bring up some very valid points in a classroom discussion.  Are kids who are known readers looked upon differently? Are they not as “cool” or accepted as the other kids? I could guess that several of the pictures that the kids could draw of readers would be of taped-glasses wearing, stuffy nosed, bow-tie adorned nerds.  Perhaps they would be surprised to find out who amoung them really was an avid reader and who hadn’t touched a book in years. I also think this applies to our course. 

As a first semester grad student, this is the first time I have walked into a classroom and actually felt comfortable discussing my reading habits amoung my peers.  In my undergrad work at Oswego in Communications, most of the reading I did outside of class was private.  My friends knew that I read, but it wasn’t something that we really talked about or got excited about until we were “real” adults.  At our first class meeting, however,when I first pulled out my paperback (in its zippered cover) and apologized for being a “book nerd”, someone else said: “don’t worry we are all book nerds”.  This type of “fraternity” of readers is so important to me and I look forward to our class meetings already, but what if a teenager could walk into their HS English course and feel similarly comfortable in discussing their reading patterns? Could it be contagious?

Sorry this is so long and randomly composed… hopefully my chaos of thoughts will make sense to some of you!

See you in class tomorrow night.

~Kari

PS: Allison and I are still looking for another Lit Circle participant for DOES MY HEAD LOOK BIG IN THIS… consider this a lobby to make it happen because I think the book is really worth it!

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