Young Adult Lit/Crit

April 24, 2008

Aurora the Reader?

Filed under: Articles for Class — sostrom @ 2:15 pm

There were two points from Honor Moorman’s case study of Aurora that I want to highlight.  First, Aurora’s simple yet sage advice to Moorman when asked, “So what advice would you give teachers who want their students to like reading?” Aurora suggests: “…everyone should talk about their books. […] Teachers should find out more of what their students are about — what they like and things they do.  So […] if they want to help the student find a book, it would kind of relate to the student” (12). 

I know we’ve talked about the importance of relationships and knowing your students, but here is a student’s voice giving us this advice.  We are not teaching books – we’re teaching people.

The other point I want to take up is Aurora’s resistance to being labeled a “reader.”  Even with successful reading experiences, and even when questioned by the teacher who led her to this success, Aurora resists the label.  Why do you think Aurora doesn’t identify herself as a reader?  Do you think it’s important for students to view themselves as readers?  Can students be successful English students if they don’t identify themselves as readers?  Looking forward to our discussion.



“Getting Beyond the Cuss Words” (Class Conversation)

Filed under: Articles for Class — sunyprof @ 8:27 am

I would especially like to talk about this article tonight. Continuing work some of us did in 541 last semester and, of course, work with critical theory you have done in other undergrad or graduate classes, and/or the Johnson/Freedman text, using multiple approaches to talking about YA lit is a key course theme.

This article offers an especially clear example of how we might use Marxist and Structuralist theories to read CATCHER alongside Crutcher’s IRONMAN. Best of all, the article includes a useful chart that suggests other titles and the literary theories that might inform discussions of them.

Let’s pay special attention to this article today.

But let’s not slight the case study documenting Aurora’s “transformation” Honor Moorman shares in the Winter, 2008, issue of ALAN REVIEW. KES

April 22, 2008

Alexie Article – From Wellpinit to Reardon

Filed under: Articles for Class — allison @ 8:45 pm

Hi all,

I just wanted to get some discussion started on the article about Sherman Alexie. I had already heard a lot of the background on him, but as I read, I wondered if this biographical information was new and exciting to anyone. What did you all think? Wouldnt this be a great article to share with students to show them where storied can come from: our lives, our past, our culture, our family, etc. I thought it was so cool that basketball was so important to ALexie. Being from CNY, specifically Lafayette, I knew that lacrosse is a sport that can be culturally iconic on reservations, but I had no idea about basketball until I read this article. I also thought it was cool that Alexie says that Indian is really the story of his father, too. It’s something we might not think about when reading the book, but this is the type of honesty that Crutcher talked about when he came to speak to  us. It’s what makes Alexie’s book so so good. There is a discussion of censorship at the end of the article, certainly worth reading if you have not yet, and there’s a shout out to Crutcher! He says that censorship is the notion that “kids don’t have complicated emotional lives.” Anyone who was once an adolescent knows that this is not true. Alexie, Crutcher, and others are honest with kids, and the kids love their books for the honesty.

TO say a little more about culture, I thought it was great to hear Alexie reflect upon the role of culture. It really drove the point of Part-Time Indian home for me. “When you speak of culture, if you make an anaology with the heart, it’s dangerous to think that you have to be monogamous.” I thought this was SO insightful, and kids would relate to this. Don’t kids often feel like more than one person? They certainly behave differently around different people. Alexie’s words are a beautiful way to understand one’s identity. The article ends with Alexie listing the many many tribes that he belongs to. Such a great way to think about the many groups of people we associate with, and the many different “cultures” that we belong to.


February 5, 2008

Graphic Novels

Filed under: Articles for Class — Mandy @ 8:16 pm

I read both the articles on graphic novels, but I enjoyed the one by Gretchen Schwartz entitled “Expanding Literacies through Graphic Novels” much more than the one published in the New York Times. I think Schwartz offers a lot of great insights about graphic novels, which are incredibly convincing. I found one of the most important quotes to be in the first paragraph, which states “graphic novels appeal to various readers, offer all kinds of genres, help students develop critical thinking and encourage literacy” (58). Further, she also emphasizes how graphic novels help to build “multiple literacies” and are also ways to study “…character development, dialogue, satire, and language structures as well as develop writing and research skills” (58). It seems there are overwhelming benefits and advantages to using graphic novels in ELA classrooms, so why aren’t more people doing this?!? The example about a teacher using a graphic novel of Romeo and Juliet in the classroom also resonated with me. When I was at NCTE this past fall, there were a ton of graphic novels based on Shakespeare’s works, and they are really interesting. At the very least, teachers could use these as supplementary materials if they are resistant to using them as central texts.

I thought the second most important statement in this piece was on page 59, when Schwartz writes, “the graphic novel can be legitimate literature.” I simply think this is very well stated, and backed up by everything Schwartz is discussing in this article. It seems that graphic novels offer everything that classic literature does.

Also, on page 62, Schwartz presents a list of questions that readers can ask about graphic novels, and I have to admit that these were helpful for me. Sometimes I get so caught in the actual texts, that my eyes glaze over the pictures. But now that I have specific questions to consider as I read, I think I will be a much more thorough graphic reader.

Finally, I was somewhat heated at the end of this article. First, Schwartz hits the nail on the head when she writes, “anything new often faces resistance”, which is unfortunate and something that I think we will all have to struggle with in the years to come. I am interested to see what Keith Ward has to say about this in his district. Further, she also highlights how the “current political climate is not particularly supportive of innovation” (63). I wonder if this will change in 2008, with our new President? Will education finally be a priority?


Loving Lesesne

Filed under: Articles for Class — Mandy @ 1:59 am

As I was reading chapter one of this text, it struck me how loosely many people, including myself, use the term “young adult” and so I was so glad that Lesesne tackled this issue. Although she considers ages 10-20 to be young adults, I was thinking that sometimes I still think of myself as a young adult, even at 22. I’ll be the first to admit that while I can be incredibly mature most of the time, I have moments where I revert back to my rebellious adolescent days. While on this topic, I also wanted to mention that I was at Barnes and Noble this week and for the first time I realized that there are two young adult sections. The teen section has some more mature content, such as Crank and Tamar, among others. The younger adult section has books that would typically seem more appropriate for younger adolescents, such as The Giver and Sarah Plain and Tall. I also thought the questions presented on page 16 are awesome. I can imagine starting off every school year with a survey like this, or having discussions that would hit on some of these questions.

Chapter three was very “Atwellian” in my opinion. For those who are unfamiliar with this term, I am talking about Nancie Atwell, a huge advocate of the reading/writing workshop. If you haven’t read anything by her, you definitely should. Atwell talks about many of the same things presented in this book and I think both women are essentially saying that adolescents want and need a variety of texts, since there is no mold for a young adult reader. Reverting back to my earlier discussion about still being a young adult at times, I could relate to the fact that kids judge a book by it’s cover, which Lesesne also mentions in this chapter. I still do this unconsciously sometimes, but I have gotten better over the years. But I love the idea of having kids make new book covers! What an interesting project that would require them to read, while also being authentically creative, something we want in all our classrooms. Further, one of the most important quotes that I took from this chapter was when Lesesne quite simply stated “unmotivated readers want a personal introduction to books” (35). I don’t want to speak for everyone, but I think more and more of students are reluctant readers, so the implications of NOT introducing our kids to texts could be even more disastrous in the future.


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.


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!

January 28, 2008

Filed under: Articles for Class — sostrom @ 3:53 am

I did a little searching and found this site which provides links and descriptions of several YA Lit sites.

I wanted to comment on the “Who Is a Reader Anyway?” article by Bronwyn Williams.  Overall, I think the article demonstrates the need for explicit instruction.  Williams’ last paragraph makes it clear that as teachers we need to do much more than assign a certain number of pages to be read.  What do we want students to look for as they read?  Do we want them to be writing?  Asking questions?  Making connections?

 I also think that there are important opportunities for students to learn about themselves as readers.  By this I mean not only what they enjoy reading, but also how they read.  What reading strategies are students using (and do they even realize that they are using them)?  Where do they struggle?  What do they read on a daily basis?  In the same way that we aim to make sure that our students enjoy rich reading lives by leading them to young adult literature that they will respond to, we want to make sure that they see themselves as good readers who can feel successful in their reading lives. — Sarah

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