Young Adult Lit/Crit

April 30, 2008

An exciting future of access!

Filed under: Adolescent Readers/Reading, Resources to Share — allison @ 7:49 am

Hey eveyone,

Here’s an interesting NPR article that was in my NCTE inbox this morning. Its about libraries putting their collections online. Exciting, right? Think about it: free access to books for everyone. Any Google and Microsoft have offered to put the collections online for free. Nice of them, but it’s a little scary to think of one corporation having their hold on all online texts. The libraries have been putting the texts online themselves, which is really cool. In fact, I just noticed this morning that the onondaga library system now has a bunch of texts and sound files online that you can download. I plan to check this out more later. It’s a great idea, if you ask me.

Of course, I like this because 1. I’m an English teacher and 2. I’m a reader. But what will kids think? Will the texts included online cater to them? presumably, because the whole collection is supposedly being put online. If this is true, we could see a renaissance of the library system amongst young people. Wishful thinking? Maybe. But I believe the internet is their preferred medium, and if libraries are to capture them, the internet would be the way to do it.

Do share thoughts.



April 7, 2008

The End

Filed under: Adolescent Readers/Reading — Mandy @ 9:43 pm

After the book club and literature circle discussions last week, an important question was raised, that I have been contemplating ever since. In my group we wondered how should books for adolescents end? Alison brought the book CRANK to class, which she had read, and the end was very disturbing. The narrator basically says that she is planning a school shooting, and BOOM the story ends. Although we want to talk about these important issues, what happens when kids read books that have endings like this? Sure, some readers may be objective and read stories to understand why things happen, like school shootings. But what happens if other students read these books to learn about inappropriate things? What if this was their plan all along? I remember at my host school last semester, there was a student reading a biography on Charles Manson, and while his story is eerily interesting, I was slightly disturbed. I don’t want to be judgmental, but is there a line that shouldn’t be crossed? Do we have the authority to tell students that they cannot read certain things in our class? Should we ever be suspicious? These are some issues I am thinking about this week, because I want to be prepared for these controversial situations. I would love for others to respond to this, especially practicing teachers. What would you do or what have you done?


April 1, 2008

Accelerated Reader is Decelerating Readers

Filed under: Adolescent Readers/Reading — allison @ 7:20 am

Hi everyone,

The article on Accelerated Reader (AR) that Professor Stearns posted below shows what many other studies are finding: this program does not work. The topic is of particular interest to me, because for AED 663, the research methods class, I am currently working on a synthesis of related studies. My topic is the role of choice and independent reading programs on adolescent literacy motivation. Some of the studies I have read discuss AR.

The first issue I would like to bring up is intrinsic motivation, which not a type of motivation that is built by this program. In the article, the authors write “Although the creators of AR claim that the
program will “get students excited about books” (Renaissance Learning, 2005), both Persinger (2001) and Brisco (2003) questioned whether AR creates lifelong lovers of reading or students who are merely addicted to earning points and prizes.” Rewards are a form of extrinsic motivation, which has been shown to be less successful in motivating students. I would like to share an excerpt from my 663 article that I think will help everyone understand what causes motivation.

Maslow’s hierarchy has led to more theories of motivation, including a theory by Leonard, Beauvais, and Scholl (1995), who examine motivational sources. They present five sources: 1) Instrumental (offer of a reward or punishment), 2) Intrinsic Process Motivation (enjoyment), 3) Goal Internalization (personal goals or ideals), 4) External self concept- based (ideal self is determined from expectations of others, 5) Internal self concept- based (ideal self determined by conception of ideal self) (Scholl 2002). Again, we will see the relevance of these sources for motivation in research studies of motivation to read. Internal sources of motivation (2, 3, 5) were shown to be the most effective in motivating students in the studies by Battraw (2002), Ivey & Broaddus (2000), Kasten & Wilfong (2005, 2007), Strommen & Mates (2004), and Worthy et al (1998). The external influences (1, 4), particularly a system of rewards and punishments were shown to be ineffective in the studies by Battraw (2002), Ivey & Broaddus (2001), Kasten & Wilfong (2005), Warrican (2006), and Worthy et al. (1998).

In the studies that I have read, students are motivated when they are allowed to choose from a wide variety of materials. The article Prof. Stearns shared with us points out that the AR program does not always suggest approptiate books, and the schools are not equipped with diverse selections.

This program also takes away the social aspect of reading and learning, which is another important factor in motivation. Students should feel that reading will make them part of a larger group of readers. The best way to effectively do that is by sustaining conversations about reading with their peers.

In order to be motivated, students also need to feel like they can be successful in their endeavors. I have read studies that report students crying with frusteration after reading a book and being unable to answer AR’s tricky questions. The same problem was reported in this article. Students should be given choices of creative and authentic ways of responding to texts. They need to feel like there is a larger purpose for discussing the book, like a book review/recommendation/advertisement. Nancie Atwell suggests book letters. All of these ideas are better than the tests. It might mean more work for the teacher to grade these assessments, but I think the extra work is worth it for the student’s sake.


February 11, 2008

It finally happened

Hi All,

Those of you who took AED 541 with me will delight that I have finally experienced the horrible: I sat in a classroom and observed the students attempt to listen to Of Mice and Men on tape.

It couldn’t have been more perfect. It was my first day at Corcoran. The students came into class, and they immediately started going over the plot details from chapter two of the book. As the teacher tried to get them to concentrate, a fight seemed to be going on outside the door in the hallway. I looked over towards the door, but no one else in the room seemed to notice. After an enlightening plot summary of chapter two, the teacher cued up the good old tape player. SSHHHEEEESHSHHEEEEEESHEHEE “of mice and men ssssschapter three static.static.static” The least they could do is give these kids a decent recording. The teacher walked around the room, nudging kids to wake them up and reminding them to follow along. Clearly, none of them were paying attention.
After a few minutes of staring off into space, one girl raised her hand and said “It would help us to pay attention if we could take turns reading out loud.” The teacher gave her an incredibly sympathetic look and said “I know, HUN, but we need to get through this book quickly, we just dont have time hun.” I just wonder what the point is of getting though a book quickly, if none of the students are paying attention.

Also, talk about irrelevant. The only concern for this teacher was getting the students to learn the plot. Sparknotes could teach them that quickly, since she is in such a hurry to finish the book. Now, I am a huge fan of John Steinbeck, but this book is totally irrelevant for these students. If they HAVE to read it, why can’t they employ some critical literacy- Johnson and Freedman would tell this teacher that she should make it matter. If my district told me I had to teach this book, I’d be pulling out everything I could think of to make it interesting to these kids- Lennie and his instability and potential for violence despite his innocence; the culture of irresponsible sex at brothels; the brotherhood despite conflicts and hardships; and, of course, who’s missing from this text; etc. etc. Plot summary doesn’t cut it, and there’s no excuse.


February 6, 2008

Reflections on the “Problem Novel” or Why are so many YA books so depressing?

Filed under: Adolescent Readers/Reading — sostrom @ 4:45 pm

A few years ago, I read this article from American Educator, a quarterly magazine published by the AFT (American Federation of Teachers).  It basically asks the question I posed in the title of this post.  Having just finished Touching Snow and having recently read Sold, I was reminded of this article.  The author questions the effect of reading books about trauma, violence, abuse, etc. on children.  She refers to a variety of books, shares her son’s reactions to reading books by Sharon Creech and They Cage the Animals at Night by Michael Burch Jennings (a story of a boy abandoned by his mother and his ensuing experiences in the foster care system), and offers responses of teachers and parents to these books. 

I think it’s an interesting article.  I have found that students love reading “problem novels.”  In fact, the memoir, A Child Called “It” has not yet failed to engage every student I recommend it to.  Over the years I have had to purchase five copies of this book because students beg to keep it for themselves.  However, I have avoided reading the book myself precisely because of its graphic, true story of abuse.  After reading Toni Morrison’s Beloved last semester (which dealt with slavery, rape and infanticide), I felt emotionally wrung out – and the feeling lasted several weeks.  How do you think reading this type of literature affects students in both the long and short term? 

What do you think?  Is YA lit depressing?  Is it realistic?  Why do you think the “problem novel” has such appeal to students?  How does reading this type of book affect you personally? 


Reluctant Readers

Filed under: Adolescent Readers/Reading — scrollman @ 4:09 pm

YALSA (Young Adult Library Services Association) has a portion of their website listing suggested books for “reluctant readers.”  I’ve used this site in the past and it has informed my decisions on what books to buy for my school.  There are some pretty cool looking books on their top ten list.  Has anyone read these titles?  If so, which ones would you recommend?


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