This is an issue that I have never really looked into before. As a kid you never think about the color of the skin of the children in your books, you just laugh and giggle at the pictures. There is nothing special about children’s books except for what is missing. As a white female, I have never given much thought to children literature or why there is not much diversity in it, but this week’s readings have really opened my eyes to the issue. Years ago, there was a national issue with a crayon color called “Flesh”. It was the name of a crayon that was a pale, peachy color. People of color and whites alike took issue with this as it taught children that the word “flesh was associated with white people and not people of color. This issue was resolved and it should be just as easy to fix this problem in the literature. Just because the author is white, should not indicate that the characters in the book must be white. In an article by Walter Dean Myers, we read about his past as a reader and how reading has been a safe place for him. When he discovered the lack of colored people in children’s lit, he wanted to make and change and began writing children’s literature with African American or Hispanic characters. He saw the issue and mended it, but the problem is much bigger than one author. It spans all the way to publishers. Publishers claim to publish diverse and cultural books, but that is like saying McDonald’s salads are the healthy choice. Instead, they publish books about slavery and the black culture which ducks them around the barriers rather than running through them. The most frightening aspect of this problem is that it is not changing and so many books are based on white culture. While we can always admire the white culture and its literature, it is the time that we started questioning our ability to write for all cultures, color with all races, and start using all the colors in the crayon box as “flesh”. I find it upsetting that it has taken me this long to notice the issue, but the only way I can change it is to start making my pieces diverse, teaching my students to write for and with diverse cultures and to teach them the literature of all colors. They are the future authors and illustrators of our world, and possibly new CEO’s of Crayola!
This week, I read “The Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds. This is a verse novel that takes on a hard topic. Not only had I struggled with the language of the novel and the form of the pages, but also with the topic that is discussed. This is a sort of coming of age novel where a young boy, Will, watches his brother get shot in the street. The boys are from a predominantly black community and struggle with gang relations, loss of parents, and substance abuse, but after his brother’s death, Will is determined to get revenge. He plans to kill the man that he assumes is the killer and plans to follow that short list of rules that a boy must follow if he wants to be a man. This list is composed of things like “Don’t cry, and if someone is killed unjustly you must find his killer and kill him”. After stealing a gun from his brother’s stash, Will heads out to kill his brother’s killer. Will hops on the elevator where we then see a 60 second trip to the bottom filled with ghost, a lot of smoking, and some wise words from people of Will’s past. In this epic and intriguing account, we are left guessing the final move of the young and grieving boy who must use his family and friends advice to set him on the right track. To kill for revenge, or to get killed.
I absolutely loved this book and it definitely broke down a few book barriers with me. I will try a verse novel again and am actually excited to see how the next author portrays his or her story through verse. The next book I hope to read is to finish Percy Jackson. I am liking it, but just not too attached yet.
For this week’s readings, we read from Penny Kittle’s “Book Love” chapters three and four. I found a lot of helpful thoughts on this reading. I will highlight some of them here. One thing that I found very interesting is that Kittle does not want to make slow readers read faster, but fast readers take their time to dive into the book and analyze its parts. She has her students keep a log of how many pages they read a day to see if they are improving their stamina or not, but instead of telling them to finish two chapters at home, she asks them to read for twenty minutes or two hours and see where they get to. This is to make sure students don’t feel rushed through a book. Although this will alter how you can analyze a book in class, you can ask the students to keep a journal about what they are reading and after a couple weeks tell them to share what they like, questioned or were confused about. Her emphasis is on the understanding and growth of the reader, not how fast readers can get through a book. This is how I was taught to read, and it was miserable as a slow reader. I always felt behind and lesser than my peers. Kittle wants her students to feel competent and able to read along with the other students. She explains that they may only fit ten pages into ten minutes at the beginning of class, but throughout the semester, they will become faster and stronger readers. She also talks about one-on-one attention and interaction with students. They will be less likely to cheat or slack if you seem like you are counting on them to give you a little insight into their reading. They will also feel encouraged and motivated to move up in the reading spectrum. Kittle believes in the relationships that we make with our students and says that if we give them books, encourage independent reading and establish that student relationship we should have no problems getting our students to read and to love reading.
I am going, to be honest with you all. I have not finished the first Percy Jackson book yet. Four hours is just not enough as I am a slow reader. I have a hard time pushing myself through a book if I really want to get into it, and if I am planning on reading the whole series, I don’t want to miss any of the action. That being said, I love what I have read so far. I know that this series is meant for a much younger age than high school, but I think it will be a great series to add to my book collection. As I have mentioned before, I am not much into Sci-Fi, but I am finding mythology to be pretty easy. I always loved reading the stories of the gods and goddesses, and Hercules is one of my very favorite animated movies. This account of mythology is definitely geared towards a younger audience then let’s say “The Odyssey”, but would be fun to compare to that type of reading.
I think this would be a great book to replace with one of the “classics” maybe read this book and excerpts from classic mythology and compare the two types in the classroom. This way students are understanding that difference that decades can make on literature and can compare the two times. I think it would be a fun group and discussion oriented project to get the kids thinking about the transformations of literature and its overall appeal to mythology. Anyway, while I am working on finishing this book, I will also be starting “The Long Way Down” for my book club. We are meeting in a week, but it is a verse novel so I should have no issues with finishing it and Percy Jackson by next Monday.
As a future educator, I believe in the act of banning books in schools. Some books deal with ideas and essences that are far to mature and complicated for students to be reading. That being said, if a parent trusts their students and knows that they can handle such book, what happens at home is none of the schools business until it begins to affect the student’s school life. But, in no way do I think a librarian, teacher, or principal should be able to self-censor books that circulate through their class or school. Students should have access to all books that are not publically banned in schools. Along with this, I will hopefully have a classroom library one day, and I can personally say that I will not directly purchase some books that I find controversial or extremely sexual or violent. If they are donated or happen to wander into my room, I have no right to keep them off the shelves. Taking this position as a future teacher, I also need to understand the importance of reading every book that comes into my classroom. Meaning I will need to expand my book comfort zones. While I am pretty comfortable reading any book, I find it hard to really be intrigued by some. The one book genre that would really be a stretch for me would by Sci-Fi. I have such a hard time enjoying things like Star Wars, Alien Invasions, or anything to do with Halo like characters. I have such a hard time finding satisfaction in these characters and plots. while I would do anything for my students, I know there will be a scarce number of these books on my shelves, until they are requested. These books would simply be for pleasure, but we also have to think about the books that our students need to read. What about “Thirteen Reasons Why”? The ideas and issues that she faces are very real and could happen to some students. While I do not condone the TV version, I believe that the book takes a great role in depicting suicide as wring and not the only way out. I think all students should read books like this and understand that this can happen to some and know that if it happens to you or someone around you, you need to find help. Books like these and many more can save lives.
I have always loved the work of Gabrielle Zevin. She produces a young and exciting tale each time I read her. The First book I read by Zevin was “Elsewhere”. This was a story of a young girl who is hit by a car and dies. She does not understand that she is dead until later when it is explained to her by the people of Elsewhere. It is an enchanting and enticing book and I would be happy to let anyone borrow it. I do not think that Zeven has received enough credit for her work especially considering that I have read two of her books now and have flown through them! I love her writing and her original and well thought out plots.
This week, I read “Memories of a Teenage Amnesiac”. A quick overview of this book: Naomi Porter is a teen living a patchy life. She is never really sure of her future or her past. Naomi finds herself running back into the school newsroom to collect some things she left behind, and ends up falling down a flight of stairs. The school’s quiet boy sees her and quickly calls the ambulance. He climbs in with her claiming that he is her boyfriend. As you can imagine, she already has a BF and now has lost her memory and imagines her life with the quiet boy. The story may seem cliche, but Zevin’s intelligent and witty writing develops the story into much more than a sappy romance and uncovers aspects of Naomi’s past that she did not even know before the accident. This story is beautifully written and an exciting a new read. I would recommend it to all young and old readers, but only after you have read her first YA novel “Elsewhere”. PS, I just bought the Percy Jackson series at BAM for a grand total of 12 dollars as they were all on sale…looks like I know what I’m starting next. Even though a seven-year-old picked them up as well and exclaimed to his mother how excited he was to read them. No shame!
This week, we were asked to read the first two chapters of Penny Kittle’s “Book Love”. I was introduced to the wizard of YA literature when I first came to college, and have been impacted by her work ever since. I believe that she has the keys to improving reading skills and passions, and is doing what she can to instill these keys into every classroom. The main key to getting students to read and to love reading is to give them the chance to read and to read something they would enjoy. If you hand a student “1984” and say read chapters 1-3 by tomorrow and be ready for a quiz, chances are, that student will go home and hop onto Google typing in “1984 chapter summaries”. The student will see tons of hits and will click on something like SparkNotes or CliffNotes. He will come to class with the most basic understanding of the chapters and get a 7/10 on your quiz. He will do well enough to continue his method because at least he does not have to “waste his time” reading. But, what if you asked the same student to pick a book off of your shelf, and read it, and let you know when they finish, chances are that during your ten minutes of silent reading, he will take a look at the book he chose, he might not dive in, but at least he is looking, he will take it home, and before bed, he will pick it up and read a couple pages, not enough to get too interested, but enough the light the flame. The next day, he thinks about the book, and when you ask the students to get out a book for the reading time, he pulls out his book, finds his page and begins reading. Now he has a small interest in the characters and the plot. He finds himself thinking about the book in the back of his mind and decides to go to bed early so he can read. A week passes, and you ask how the book is coming. He smiles and says “I am almost done with it”. You smile back and that next Monday he replaces the book on the shelf, and worms his way through each cover looking for another one. You just got a kid to read, who would have otherwise shrugged it off. The next book may take his two weeks, or he might stop in the middle and find a new book, but he is thinking about it, and becoming a better reader. As educators, we have to ask ourselves “Is it better to have our students skim and spark note a couple classics, or read books they are interested in, and watch that passion develop?” it is a hard pill to swallow to hear that what you are doing is not working, but the bigger pill is going to be looking back at your teaching career knowing that you failed your students because you forced their eyes to do something they refused to do, and they took nothing from your class. We have to ask ourselves “how do we want our students to remember us, and what changes can we make in their lives that will stick with them?”
I would like to say, before I dive into this post, that I have never read a John Green novel. While I have seen the movie “Fault in our Stars”, I have never read one of his books until now. I chose the book “Looking For Alaska” because it was on sale at Walmart, and I knew that as a High School teacher, I should probably try out John Green because my students will likely be reading his books.
“Looking For Alaska” is a great coming to age tale of a boy shipped off to boarding school where he meets some shenanigan ridden friends including Alaska. She beautiful and mysterious and intrigues Miles immediately. Although she has a boyfriend, she and Miles share a kiss…only for Jake to call Alaska and send Alaska running after a night of celebratory drinking. She is then reported to have died in a car accident. As the students rush to find out what happened to Alaska, they discover more than they could have expected.
What I liked about this book was its ability to relate well to all teens who are struggling, and not be too far out of the norm like “The Fault in Our Stars” I mean two teens with cancer falling in love??? Yeah right, but this story was much more believable. What I didn’t love is how used this plot felt. The teens solving the mysteries of life…how often do teens take precedence over the police in life. I read so many books where a group of teenagers finds the answer to the murder before the police, and none of us can forget the goonies. While it was a decent read, I think I could find something a little more to my taste.
We had our first book club meeting this week, and it could not have gone better. Some of our members could not make the meeting, but they communicated with us well and seemed to love our book choices. What I noticed already about our club is that we all get along nicely. We all were able to come to an agreement on the first three books for our reading and I think we found books that everyone will be interested in. I am really excited to get to know my club better and hear about all their insights into the books we are reading.
We have a facebook group set up for communication and that is where we came up with our rules and goals. We decided for that first week, we would just meet on facebook, and it went off without a hitch. Everyone participated, and we came up with our list very quickly and efficiently. We really work well together and I can’t wait to see where this club takes my Adolescent literature reading journey.
As one of our goals, we wanted to read a book from a different genre for each meeting. This way we are each moving out of our comfort zones and reading something that we have not read in the past. We have also decided to read books that we have all been wanting to dive into. Our first three choices for books are: “The Hate U Give” by Angie Thomas, this book covers our fiction genre. “Long Way Down” by Jason Renolds which covers our action/suspense/mystery genre, and is also a verse novel. And then “The Graveyard Book” by Neil Gaiman. While this is also written as a novel, we chose the graphic novel version to cover that genre. The book that I am most excited for is “Long Way Down” I love suspense and mystery so I think I’m going to really get into this book. I have also never read a graphic novel, so I am pretty excited to see where “The Graveyard Book” can take me.
We will keep you updated on our club adventures!! See you soon.
For this week, I decided to read the book “Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children” by Ransom Riggs. What first attracted me to this book was its cover. I inserted a picture below. The cover really sets the tone what you’re about to dive into in this book. After I bought the book, it sat in my room for a while until this class came along. I decided to finally pull it off the shelf and give it a shot. I was immediately intrigued from the first page which isn’t usually the case for me when I begin a book.
What I really loved about this book is its ability to be creepy and exciting and intriguing all in one. I think Riggs does a great job of appealing to all audiences. He also appeals to a few senses as well with his addition of pictures. The one reason you need to read this book is that of the awesome images you can find inside to help you really dive into the characters and visuals of the story. the pictures and photoshop used are remarkable and are half of the reason I was so intrigued by this story. The other half is the way that Riggs recounts the happenings. His images seem so real and pure that you actually feel as though you are in the story. I am a very visual learner, and not only to see real images but also to have the author integrate perfect imagery helps with the overall perception of the novel. I often think some books are read and some books are imagined…this is definitely one for imagining, and I think everyone should read it and see where their imagination can take the characters.
(Challenge: try to imagine the characters before you get to the pictures)