Young Adult Lit/Crit

April 1, 2008

Rosa the reader: reflections on chapter five in Reeves

Filed under: Reeves — scrollman @ 2:55 pm

In chapter five of Reeves, we meet Rosa: a devourer of romance and mystery novels, and a budding writer: the kind of student who we would die to have in an English class, but ironically, the kind of student who is not succeeding within the traditional academic environment.  Rosa loves to read, but unfortunately, the books she reads are not valued by the ELA establishment.  Rosa loves to write, but her teachers are neither creative nor willing enough to use Rosa’s flowering literacy to help her improve.

The essential point in this chapter is that it is a high crime (the biggest of violations!) to diminish or devalue in any way, shape, or form, a students love of reading.  Rather, we should look for ways to broaden, enlighten, and expand upon this love in the most conscious and sensitive ways we can.  What a tragedy it is that English class becomes the class where students learn to hate books; or learn that the books they love are “trash”.  I keep thinking about what Ray Bradbury said last week about love.  Really, there is nothing more basic and important than loving what you do.   Why do teachers forget that inspiring students to love what they do in class is not a means to an end, but an end in and of itself.  

From a pedagogical perspective, students will learn more if they are passionate about what they are doing. This somewhat obvious and redundant point is sorely missed by most of the educational establishment.  A more subtle point is that a student’s love, such as Rosa’s love of Romance novels, can sometimes serve a purpose which trumps abstract notions of education and the literary canon.  Rosa reads Romance novels not only for pleasure, but because they provide her with a means of coping with and feeling better about the world around her.  Reading in this sense is not only an intellectual activity,  but an emotional one as well. 

For Rosa, books are an extension of herself, and any rejection of them cannot help but become personal.   Conversely, the way to help Rosa, and students like her, is through an acceptance and acknowledgement of her interests, which in essence becomes an acceptance and acknowledgement for her as a human being.  As Reeves mentions, in the case of Rosa, “emotional support is a necessary prerequisite to learning”(141); and in Rosa’s own words, “If…someone that is real close to you is not involved, then you’re not gonna really learn anything” (141).  In other words, kids don’t care what you know until they know that you care.  From my own experience, this has always been true, regardless of the many other factors which will determine a student’s success.   But caring must be proved through outward demonstrations of respect. Caring means being interested enough to ask the many questions that Reeves asked of Rosa; questions that revealed the complexity and sophistication of Rosa’s reading interests, and which shed light on how those interests could help her to develop in both a literary and a personal sense.

Jonathan

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2 Comments »

  1. Well put Jonathan! Students such as Rosa should prove to be inspiring and challening to teachers in a classroom, and should not be put down for their reading choices or discouraged from writing with creativity. Just because someone does not fit the (as Jon so eloquently puts it) ELA establishment’s mold of a reader or writer does not mean that they should not be valued as a student.

    When reading about Rosa, it made me think of Miles from You Know Where To Find Me (a novel from my seminar). She is an avid reader and writer but is a discouraged high school student who even contemplates dropping out of school. Her English teacher essentially reprimands her for her creativity with assignments and for her often controversial political views that show up in her writing. Her teachers inability to “think outside of the box” left Miles feeling disheartened and hating English class! What a nightmare…

    Comment by kariredmond — April 1, 2008 @ 9:25 pm

  2. Kari,

    It’s interesting that you found a connection between Rosa and a character in one of your seminar books. I guess this kind of thing is more common than most people would think. It’s so discouraging to see that emotionally troubled kids are made even more troubled by the teachers who are supposed to be helping them grow. Well, at least we’re on the same page. You have to start somewhere.

    Jonathan

    Comment by scrollman — April 2, 2008 @ 2:52 pm


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