Secrets to Teaching Reading

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Photo CC-Thomas Life

I am blessed. That’s the realization I have come to over and over this week while reading. I never really stopped to think before what it meant to have people in my life that valued books and reading. I’ve never stopped to think about the impact that they had on my life. The hours that my mom spent reading to me as a child, or patiently waiting on me to struggle through the words on a page because I wanted to show her just how much I was improving. We are increasingly becoming more aware of the impact that reading aloud has on our students. My parents valued reading a lot. They have always encouraged my siblings and I to continue to develop our reading skills. I actually used to get books under my pillow from the tooth fairy instead of quarters, which honestly I thought was cooler. My elementary teachers used to read to us over our lunch hour, while we enjoyed the various homemade lunches that had been packed for us that day. I attended a country school, so things were done a little differently.

My point with all this is I don’t really think about how blessed I was growing up. I never think about how being read aloud to helped make me into the reader that I am today. I never thought about my teacher’s pushing me to read books that I enjoyed helped make me into the vivacious reader that I became, but I’m starting to see just how they did it.

Step One: Read Aloud to Your Students

Not every student will be blessed to have parents that read to them aloud. The benefits of having a book read aloud are numerous. In fact, reading books aloud can actually help students develop better comprehension skills and vocabulary (A Curriculum Staple: Reading Aloud). This doesn’t mean just reading to those kids in elementary school, but to our high school and middle school students as well. Reading aloud helps to take strain of the brain and allow students to enjoy and comprehend what is being read to them. One of the teachers I observed during O&P, who taught 7th & 8th grade reading, explained to me that by reading aloud in class, and by using methods such as ‘popcorn reading, she had been able to improved students’ comprehension and identify areas where certain students were struggling. It also gave her the opportunity to point out things such as style, description, and define vocabulary words.

Step Two: Encourage Your Own Students to Read Books that they Enjoy

I’ve talked a lot about Penny Kittle’s suggestions for reading in the past, so I’ll keep this one short. Having teachers that aren’t focused on just the classics allows students to develop their love for reading. We have to read that students can actually improve when they are reading books that they enjoy. One thing I love about Kittle is her book talks. In these talks she gives students the opportunity to learn about books that they might enjoy. This opens the door for students to actually find books that they can read.

Step Three: Understand that Reading Leads to Learning

Reading is so important, and I’m not talking about just reading the classics and dissecting them. Reading does many things. We hear all the time how reading continues to advance our own vocabulary, and overall make us more knowledgeable. What some people don’t know or choose to ignore is that reading also makes us better writers. Stephen King even says in his book “On Writing” that one of the best ways to become a better writer is to read, read, read. More reading leads to better writing, and better writing leads to better communicators. We don’t realize how much we pick up from reading, but those who read more often better understand grammar, comma usage, and sentence structures. This is all just because they have been reading books by good writers. Kittle also points out that through her book conferences she is able to accomplish several things. She is able to push students to try books that are harder, and test things like comprehension without the students even realizing what she is doing.

 

In order to help our students we have to be willing to try new things, and speaking from past experience I never would have become the reader that I am today if people hadn’t taken the time to do these things in my life.

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? 3.13.17

I love Spring Break! For a whole week you don’t have to think about school, and you can (hopefully) do pretty relaxing things. My break mostly consisted of me laying on the couch reading, and watching Netflix. Since I had so much time to read I managed to get through quite a few books, plus the books I read the week before break as well.

The first book was Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs, which I finished just in time for book club. The book itself is about a young boy named Jacob who goes to an island while investigating his grandfather’s odd death. On the island he discovers Miss  Peregrine’s home, and learns the truth about his grandfather’s past, whileImage result for miss pereguines home for peculiar children making decisions about his own future.

Pros: I really liked the way this book flowed. It was an interesting read, and definitely took me out of my element at times. It has a darker element to it than most fantasy books, and to be honest it’s strange. All this being said, I think that it all added to the story, and made it unique. Something that Riggs does is compliment his stories with old vintage photos, and these aren’t really the good kind either. Think creepy circus acts that you hear rumors about, but aren’t around anymore and that pretty much describes these pictures. What’s great, however, is that these pictures supplement the story so well. It’s like Riggs shaped his story so that it would fit the pictures, which I thought worked really well.

Cons: Why is it that so often we end up hating the main character of the book? Okay, well that isn’t true, but I feel like lately I like the supporting characters in my books way more than I like the main character, and this book really was that. I don’t know why, but Jacob really didn’t feel realistic to me. There were different parts of the novel that I felt were unrelatable because of how unrealistic they were. I guess that made a big difference in how much I enjoyed the book.

I honestly don’t have a lot to say positive or negative about this book because I’m still trying to figure it all out myself. I think in a way it was too dark and mysterious for me. If you like dark and creepy novels, then this is a great book. If you don’t I think it’s a good novel for you to a least diversify your reading.

The remaining two books that I took in over break were graphic novels. I hadn’t really ever read much in the way of graphic novels before so this was a new adventure for me. It was, however, an adventure that was very much overdue.

American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang

This book is split up into three different stories that eventually intertwine with each other. The first is a story from China about a monkey king that isn’t really satisfied with being a monkey. The second a young boy who has moved to America, and is trying to adapt to the new culture, and fit in. The third a boy who’s cousin comes to visit from China, and ends up embarrassing the crap out of him.

Pros: This book challenges you to think about the stereotypes that we commonly put on those from Asian countries, specifically China. It forces you to look at their culture, and to understand that it is just as beautiful and rich as our own. The story of the monkey king Image result for chinese born americanhas some pretty great life lessons to be taught. The monkey king continually tries to prove that he is not a monkey, and is continually admonished for trying to be something he is not. If he was supposed to be a human after all he would have been made a human. It’s something to think about. The book examines what it means to be a citizen of two different countries, and it makes you look hard at the cultural adjustments that we sometimes force kids to fit into so that they are normal in our eyes. There is a lot of lessons and morals hidden in these pages.

Cons: Honestly can’t think of one. GO READ THIS BOOK!

 

Awkward by Svetlana Chmakova

If you’re like me your life is a series of one awkward encounter after another, but those really awkward years definitely came in middle school. It’s Peppi’s first day at her new middle school, and already things are getting awkward. After running into the school nerd, and then being made fun of, Peppi does the one thing she can to save her reputation, she pushes said nerd away and tells him to stay away from her. An act that she regrets for much of the story. Peppi is also a very active member of the school art club which is currently at war with the school science club. You could definitely say that the two clubs Image result for awkward svetlana chmakovaget hilariously creative when it comes to getting back at each other.

Pros: This book was super treatable, and fun to read. I enjoyed every minute of it. It was super light-hearted with a lot of deep lessons sprinkled in. The characters that appear in this book are very diverse. Peppi herself is hispanic, and many of her friends also represent different ethnicities and religions. The book itself deals with the awkward stages of making friends, being new, and trying to fit in. It also deals with issues such as divorce, theft, and being the better person. It all works together to create a story that is fun, and really draws you in.

Cons: Again, none. Please add this book to your reading list. I loved it!

A Fairly Incomplete and Confusing Guide to Diverse Reading in my Own Life

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Diversity. We talk about it a lot, we emphasis how important it is, and yet do we practice it? Last week we took a look at the some of the staggering statistics about diverse books. However, what I mainly focused on was the lack of different races within the books we read, and that we focus on. Diversity is more than just races. We as people are diverse, and that’s not just because we have different backgrounds, it’s because each of us is, essentially our own person. Just like rocks, or seashells, or snowflakes we all are different. Now of course there are overlaps, and that’s good because it allows us to find people that have had similar experiences as us. Except what happens is we tend to get focused on our little groups, with our specific comfort zones, and then we forget to take time to learn about all those other little groups out there. What happens when we do this? I believe that it leads to a sort of education gap. If allowed this gap can lead to serious gaps between people who are different. I can’t remember the book for the life of me, but there was a quote in it that has stuck with me ever since I read it, “People hate what they don’t understand.” So how do we bridge this gap? Of course the answer that I’ll give you is diversity, but why?

I believe that diversity can be split into three distinct parts within the world of books: characters, authors, and genres.

Characters: Each of us is different. We’ve established that. At least I hope that we established that. So, in order to read diversely we need to read about different people. Yes, it’s important to read about the life of a person who is a different race than you. It’s awesome to see characters of Asian or African-American descent as the heroes of our novels because not only does it teach us about a different race it can often teach us about a different culture, but these aren’t the only differences in people. What about characters who have different sexual orientations? These characters are just important because they show us something that we may not understand or know how to handle. Then there are characters that have disabilities. I spend over an hour this week looking at articles on a blog called Disability in Kidlit. It was intriguing to me because it showed me this whole new world of characters that are underappreciated in YA literature. These are just a few types of the different characters that you can encounter within the world of diverse characters. You can also take into account economic status, age, and family organization. These characters allow us to look at what it means to be them, and allow us to gain understanding  of the people in the world that they represent.

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Photo CC-Brooke Duckart

Authors: What drives someone to write a book? Why do they want to share a story with you? Does an author’s own experiences affect the book that they write? In Stephen King’s, On Writing, he tells us that an author always starts with what they know and then builds from there. Often the history of the author will have a huge impact on what the author writes. When you are reading books by different authors you are also allowing yourself to learn about another person. If in class you teach Uncle Tom’s Cabin you will probably spend time looking at Harriet Beecher Stowe and her life to teach your students about the background she was writing from. Just like this when we read books by diverse authors it also allows us to learn about different people and different backgrounds.

Genres: I know this doesn’t really fit into the typical idea of diverse reading, but I think it’s important so please bear with me. Say you only read romance novels. Of course, within the genre of romance you can find books about all sorts of diverse authors and characters, but how does that challenge you as a reader? How does that push you outside your comfort zone? Answer, it doesn’t. Being a diverse reader you means opening yourself up to new worlds, and gaining knowledge about those worlds. So yes, romance novels are great, but what about historical fiction, science fiction, or a good mystery? I’m saying this for myself as much as for anyone else.

From what I’ve gathered we all have two things in common: a love for books, and a love for teaching. My question is how can we encourage our students to read diversely if we ourselves don’t practice. Being read in different genres also helps you not only to be able to suggest books within a students preferred genre, but to know what they like in a plot so that they can check out a book that might be in a different genre.  I think diverse reading is important for everyone. It allows us the opportunity to learn about people, and things that are different from ourselves, as well as to help our students to find books that they may be

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able to connect with.

At the beginning I talked about bridging the gap. Diverse readers helping students to become diverse readers takes us one step closer to bridging that gap. It gives us the opportunity to help our students learn about the differences in the world. It allows us to show those students who may have those differences that they are just as important as everyone else. Introducing diverse books won’t be easy. There will be those who complain and argue, but it is our job to fight for our students’ rights to access books that will inform them about the people they are living with on this planet.

I also want to clarify one thing. When I say diverse reader I don’t mean someone that challenges themselves to read a book outside of their comfort zone once ever two months. I mean someone who makes it a habit have reading diverse books. I mean that it is natural for you to read a book with a Caucasian main character one week, and a Native American the next. I think a well-rounded reader is someone who continually pushes themselves outside of their comfort zone, and allows themselves to always be open to a new and different book. Being diverse isn’t a challenge we try and accomplish every now and then it’s a lifestyle that we adapt and make our own. It isn’t easy, and it’s not something that I’m very good at, but hey the first step to fixing every problem is admitting that you have one.

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? 2.27.17

This week’s reading was based off our discussion about diversity. When I got started looking at my own reading I realized that it had mostly been books that featured similar characters. There wasn’t anything diverse about reading, so I started off by going in search of a Coretta Scott King Award winner. As I was browsing the shelves at the library I discovered a book that caught my eye, The First Part Last by Angela Johnson. The story line was different than anything else that I had read this semester, and it not only was a winner of the Coretta Scott King Award, but the Printz award as well. I figured it would be a good book, and boy I was right.

The book itself focuses on sixteen year old Bobby who has just found out that he will be a father. The book is told in a sort of backwards order, however. As the title suggests the Image result for the first part lastbook is wrote end to beginning, not beginning to end. We also travel back and forth between present and past with each chapter. Those marked then tell the story of Bobby and Nia learning about their pregnancy, and those marked now tell the story of Bobby with his new daughter Feather. Throughout the story there is this sort of mystery as to where Nia is, but it is finally revealed at the end of the book.

Pros: This book deals with the heavy subject of teen pregnancy. We see Nia’s hardships with staying in school, and the two struggle to decide whether they are going to keep their child or not. There is a lot of education about the decision surrounding giving your child up for adoption, or keeping it. Bobby has to grow up fast. The book does a great job of showing how Bobby has to adapt his life style as he becomes a parent. He is on the journey pretty much by himself, and that makes things even harder. He comes from a family with divorced parents that lives in one of the more poverty ridden areas of Brooklyn. I think the book does an adequate job of portraying just want it means to have a child at such a young age, and the lessons that have to be learned pretty darn fast.

Cons: As I have expressed before I really hate when books jump back and forth. This book was no different. I struggled with the whole past and present thing because it was often hard to keep track of where I was at. Also, the chapters were small, so that didn’t leave a lot to happen in each one. I also felt like I was trying to solve a mystery about Nia the whole time. The book leaves you with a lot of questions right, and the beginning and you have to find the answers as the story unfolds.

Overall I enjoyed this book. It was eye opening not only as an experience in teen pregnancy, but also in experiencing what it means to come from a lower class African American family in the big city. It was definitely different.

Equal Pieces of the Pie

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As a child I never really questioned my place in the world. I read lots of books, lived in the world of literature, and learned that I didn’t have to fit a specific mold. I had Nancy Drew and the Bobsey Twins who showed me that women, and even teens, can be totally badass. There were stories about women who took on the wild west and tamed it. There was Katniss Everdeen who started a revolution. I’m sure you get the picture. My books were constantly filled with people that were reflections of myself. I never had to worry about not relating to the characters in my books. Unfortunately,this isn’t true for every student and that’s because somewhere along the way we forgot what diversity really means. We try and say things are diverse, but are they really? This doesn’t mean we just sprinkle in some characters  of a different race here and there. It means that there are books where these people are the main characters. Where are the books that tell African American child that he can be anything he wants? Where is the book that gives a Native American child the hope that she can be more than the stigma that has been attached to her race for years?

People may we need these books? Aren’t we doing well as it is? A. Just doing well isn’t good enough, and B. if you don’t think there is an issue you need to take the blinders off. Books about diverse people are so important for children. Think about your own life as a child? Didn’t the books that you read shape you? As we are growing up we pull from things like books, the media, and the people around us to shape our identity. Books are a part of how we see ourselves. As a child what if you had picked up book after book and discovered that there was no one like you within it’s pages. What would that have told you? I think I would have been discouraged. I feel like this would have hurt my dreams as a child. It’s because of the books that I read that I developed this idea that I could do or be anything I wanted to be. Every child deserves that. Every child deserves to open a book and find within it’s pages this message that they are not limited by the color of their skin, or their sexual identity.

The second importance of truly diverse books is that it is eye opening. In his article, Where are the People of Color in Children Books?, Walter Dean Myers tackles this idea with a story about two men of different colors applying for the same job. They both had equal qualifications for the job, but Myers boss is appalled that a black man can be a chemist. Of course, this (hopefully) seems awful to most of us, but Myers attributes it to the lack of positive portrayal of colors of race. Like Rudine Simms Bishop points out in her article, “Mirrors, Windows, and Sliding Doors,” that we either see books as mirrors or windows. The problem is that there are more mirrors for those of us who are white, than any other color. This leaves us with very few windows through which they can learn about people different than themselves. If we are unable to learn about our differences with other people of course there will continue to be issues in with how we view those who are a different color than ourselves.

Diversity is huge, and there are several levels on which we need to compete against the lack of it. We can do things within the classroom to bring in diverse books, that teach our students that they can accomplish their dreams, and also about people that are different than them. Maybe we can contribute as writers. As more and more people start writing books about diverse characters they can reach more people. This also allows us to have access to more books in the classroom. The biggest issue is that publishers have decided there is no market for these books. We have to find a way to combat this. This is more than money. This is our students, their identities, and ultimately developing a sense of community and understanding for everyone.

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading?

This week I took my first foray into the world of John Greene. I know it’s surprising, but I’ve never picked up a John Greene novel before in my life (gasp). Of course I’ve seen The Image result for looking for alaskaFault in Our Stars, but I can only assume that since it is a movie it didn’t truly capture everything the book discussed. Though a lot of people I’ve talked to don’t like The Fault in Our Stars, so maybe I’m not missing out on much?  The novel I picked for this journey was the only one I could find in the college library, Looking for Alaska.

For those that aren’t familiar with the book it’s about a young kid named, Miles (nicknamed Pudge), who has decided that he wants to go to boarding school. The school is Culver Creek and it’s located in Alabama. Miles is an interesting kid. He memorizes last words, which in a way is kind of cool and kind of creepy. Anyway, Miles makes friends with  a group comprised of The Captain (his roommate, Chip Martin), Takumi, and of course Alaska. The group grows close through prank playing, smoking, and the occasional drinking. The book itself is split into two parts, Before and After, but it isn’t until later in the book that we discover what that really means.

Pros: I’m not sure what it is about me and books with teenagers trying to come to terms with death, but I’ve found myself yet another one. This book definitely deals with it in a way that is different than Kit’s Wilderness. Spoiler: There is actually a lot of death in this book. This book deals with a lot of the coping methods that we develop when trying to deal with the death of someone close to us. It also takes time to examine and present different world religions and their beliefs, which I appreciated. I felt like this brought a sort of educational aspect to this book. While some may not appreciate the amount of drinking and smoking in the book, I found that it added to the characters. It brought to life who these kids were, and trust me they don’t have easy lives.

Cons: I’m trying to come up with something that I didn’t like about this book, but besides the fact it made me cry I can’t think of anything. I really enjoyed this book, and honestly I couldn’t find anything that I would want to change about this book.

Bringing Your Books to the Table

 

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Photo CC- David Orban

I’ve never really thought about a classroom library before. I guess the thought never crossed my mind. Many of the teacher’s that  I had in high school didn’t have classroom libraries. They were ultimately dependent on the school’s library or often sent us to the library in town if we couldn’t find what we needed. There was never a lot of talk about the independent reading books that we choose to read in school. In fact, besides the mandated pages per semester that we had to read and ER (Everybody Reads, mandated reading for thirty  minutes at the beginning of the day), we really didn’t even discuss independent reading. I suppose I figured I’d just get by like the student teacher in Sarah Anderson’s article, Is “getting along fine” Good Enough?.

Looking back at my past experiences I wish that my teacher’s had cared more about my independent reading. I wish they had been willing to stock their rooms full of books that they had read and could suggest to me. I wish they had taken an active role in my reading life besides just assigning me reading. I think that’s what I love most about both Penny Kittle and Sarah Anderson, they focus on their students’ reading. They care about more than just reading the classics or some assigned novel. Instead, they care about students reading books that they enjoy, and that speaks volumes. I think that makes a difference in how much students read. It’s important to ask ourselves what we can do to help out students become more avid readers.

What I liked the most in Penny Kittle’s writing is that she brings to life this idea of showing kids how to be their own readers. She takes time to help her students develop their own love for books by making it easy for them to accomplish tasks. Goals. Goals are so important especially small short term goals. I like that Kittle takes the time to show her students how to set realistic goals. It’s interesting that they were able to sit down and read

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for ten minutes to determine how many pages per week should be realistic (I’m still trying to figure out the math formula there). This not only helps students to accomplish short term and long term goals, but addresses the issue of reading speed. It took me about two days to finish “The City of Bones,” the first book in the Mortal Instruments series by Cassandra Clare, while my sister, who spent almost the same time everyday working on it, took a little over a month. This is simply because some people can read better than others. I don’t think a lot of teacher’s realize this, or if they do they don’t account for it. Kittle’s method allows for you to account for slower reading and still make progress.

One thing that I noticed in both Kittle and Anderson’s writing was this need to read books just as much as their students were. In the article above by Anderson, one of her students points out that it’s good to see a teacher practicing what they preach. If students see you reading with them it provides them with a good role model. Being a role model is so important! It shows your students that you actually think reading is a good thing. It means that you care about it, and that’s why you want them to read. You aren’t forcing them to read just because you are told you have to, but because you want to and I think that makes a huge difference.

 

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading?

I love historical fiction, especially fiction that takes me back to World War II. I’ve always been drawn to this era, and I’m not really sure why. I think the first book that drew me in was The Nightengale by Kristin Hannah (if you should ever read it I promise tears). Ever since then I’ve always looked for the next book from that era that drew me in. When I saw Postcards from No Man’s Land by Aiden Chambers on the shelf in the library I was pretty excited. Here was a YA novel that was written in an area that I enjoyed. I picked it up started reading it, and then absolutely hated it. I almost invoked my reader’s rights on this one, but decided to give it a little longer to prove itself. I’m glad I did because it did start to get good.

Jacob is named after his grandfather, a grandfather that he never knew. His grandfather died in Amsterdam during World War II. The story has two different parts. The first part is present day. It focuses on Jacob going to visit Osterbeek, the town his grandfather is buried in, on the 50th anniversary of the Battle of Arnhem, also the battle that his grandfather was wounded in. Jacob’s adventures in Amsterdam look more at trying to Image result for postcards from no man's landreconcile with who he is as a person at the same time he is learning about his grandfather’s past. The second part of the novel takes place in 1944, and is told from the perspective of Geertrui, the woman who cared for Jacob’s grandfather.

Pros: This book deals with some interesting issues. It is filled with a lot of history, and gives a lot of information about the Dutch during the Nazi invasion. It also contains a lot of information on the Battle of Arnhem, a failed ally attempt to liberate Holland. The history itself isn’t the only thing here. Jacob spends a lot of time trying to figure out his sexual identity during this book. He questions whether or not he might be gay after having several encounters with a transsexual named Ton. This brings a whole new idea of identity and finding yourself to the story. Another interesting topic is that of assisted suicide. SPOILER: Present day Geertrui has stomach cancer, and has decided that she would like to die before the cancer gets too painful. This brings up a lot of moral questions and introduces the reader to several new ideas on the topic.

Cons: I thought the present day stuff was boring. I lived for the sections in the past where Geerturi is talking, but dreaded Jacob’s parts. These parts seemed less action packed and harder to get through even though a lot of the important plot points occurred in his sections. It was often hard to go back and forth between the two stories, and often Chambers would end one section with a cliff hanger, and then slow the pace down by going to present day. This frustrated me, but I guess it did keep me reading. I looked on Goodreads and a lot of people had this complaint about the book, so maybe it wasn’t just me after all.

Anyway if you like historical fiction or want to dip you toe in it. I’d suggest this book. Yes, it can be frustrating to read, but in the end it’s soooo worth it. The historical value along with the way it boldly discusses heated topics is also eye opening and informative.

Choice Not Allowed

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The subject of book banning is one that has been ever present in my life from a young age. Especially this idea of self-censoring. I grew up in a fairly conservative school, and I remember several occasions where books within the school were challenged, or the librarian refused to order certain books because of their content. Coming into this section I was very familiar with this idea of banning books, but I wasn’t as familiar with the idea of self-censoring. I don’t really think about my reading as self-censoring, but in a way it really is. I specifically read books that I know are well within my comfort zone. I don’t read anything with certain content, and if the back of the book lists horror I’m immediately out. Give me a nice Sarah Dessen romance or some teen mystery novel, and I’ll be happy. Just this last week we read Forever by Judy Blume (which does indeed make the banned books list), and I couldn’t wait to be done with the book. It wasn’t that it was a bad book, instead it was that it pushed me outside of my comfort zone.

I was alarmed by this idea that media specialists and librarians hide books, or don’t order them because they are afraid of the backlash from parents. I find it alarming that parents are so willing to attack over a book that they don’t agree with. I understand parent’s being worried about the content, but that should be something between a parent their child. I don’t think it’s right to take a book off the shelves just because you disagree with the content. It’s well meaning, but hurtful. You don’t know the maturity level of the other kids that would potentially be having access to that book. Sure, there were certain books that my parents didn’t want me to read while I was growing up, but they also never said that I couldn’t read a book. If they were worried about the content they would sit down and read it with me, or let me know that they were around if I had any questions. My aunt, who is a librarian, says she hardly ever worries about what is on her shelves. She feels like the books a student reads should be between the child and parent, but that every book should be available to those who need it or want to read it.

While I love this policy there are some books that I definitely struggle with, but that is mostly because these books are outside my comfort zone. I’ve always struggled with books that have explicit content. They are hard for me to read, and I often question whether they are appropriate for a teen. One quote from the Dirty Little Secrets article that hit me hard was, “Children will put down what they can’t handle or aren’t ready for.” This hit me hard especially looking back at my own reading experiences. I remember picking up books where the content was way above my head and putting them back down again. I think giving students freedom is big. It shows them that you trust them to find their own books and make decisions for themselves, and that’s huge.

I think my eyes have definitely been opened to issues that I hadn’t really thought about. It’s just one more thing to take into consideration for the future. I don’t think any book should be banned, but that students should be taught that it’s okay to quit reading a book if it makes them uncomfortable. No student should be judged because of the books they connect to. Students read to find people and stories they can relate to. We don’t know what experiences our students have been through, and because of that we need to be open to books that touch on a wide range of issues. That one book could be exactly what your student needed to read.

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? 2.6.17

This week was actually pretty great for reading. I got through two books, and thankfully enjoyed both of them. The first was The Born Frees: Writing with the Girls of Gugulethu by Kimberly Burge. I’m usually not one for nonfiction novels, but this one was good. It follows a year spent by Kim (or Mama Kim as the girls sometimes call her) in South Africa. In South Africa she starts a creative writing club for girls in the town of Gugulethu, one of the poorest townships in South Africa. The book intermixes both history and current events to bring you the lives of the girls within her club. I loved that Burge was very open with the telling of the stories. She, of course, got permission to share the girls’ stories, and many of them are eye opening. The book focuses on a generation of girls known as the Born Frees because they are the first generation to grow up post-apartheid. The apartheidImage result for the born frees: writing with the girls of gugulethu was basically the segregation of South Africa prior to 1990 when the new government took control.

Pros: Burge doesn’t hold back. She tells things like they are no matter who they are about. This book has a lot of self-searching within it. She often spends moments revealing things about herself that I for one would not be caught sharing. She also tells the girls’ stories as they want them to be told. Each girl gets to write their own introduction about themselves. These girls haven’t had the best childhood and yet they still have hope. These girls share not only the bad things that have happened in the past, but also their hopes for future change. The story is easy to follow, and is told in a way that you begin to fall in love with the girls. The ending of the book had me holding my breath as I waited to find out was happening in the girls’ lives today, well in 2010 when the book was published.

Cons: There is a lot of history in this book. Sometimes the history overshadows the actually story of the girls and Burge’s time spent in South Africa. I understand that a lot of the history was needed to convey the background of the stories, but at the same time I almost felt bogged down by it. I think it was partially because the history became so repetitive. There were times I felt the same facts were repeated several times just in different ways. I found myself skipping over the longer sections of history to get more about the lives of the girls in the book.

Since I surprisingly managed to get through two books this week (I know I was shocked too) I suppose I should  talk a little bit about the second.

Do you remember your first relationship? Did you think it would last forever, but then discover that hey maybe there are other people out there? Then you might find Forever by Judy Blume pretty relatable. Kath and Micheal are high school seniors, and they are pretty sure their lives will be spent with each other forever. This book has a lot of teenage sex in it, and at times the descriptions made me feel pretty awkward. I often wondered if I would be able to finish the book, but rule number one of book club is have the book finished. In other words, I didn’t really have a choice.

Pros: This book is super informational. There is a lot in here about the teenage experience and having safe sex. Kath goes to visit a Planned Parenthood and get put on birth control after her and Micheal start having sex regularly. Micheal’s best friend suffers from depression, and shows many of it’s real effects on those close to someone suffering from it. Kath has a fairly good relationship with her parents, and they have a pretty open line of Image result for forever judy blumecommunication. Kath also has a pretty good relationship with her grandmother, which prompts many good decisions on Kath’s part. Overall it would be a good read for any teenager. It was very informative and brings up a lot of points about being sexually active as a teen.

Cons: Honestly, as much as this book made me uncomfortable I don’t think that there were really any cons to it. The one thing I did notice is that Blume almost tried to include to many teenage issues within the novel. By doing this she really wasn’t able to spend a lot of time on certain issues. These issues instead are made as passing comments that almost detract from the main point of the story. Also, Micheal has some really awful character flaws that also detract from the story. You could definitely say that I didn’t ship Micheal and Katherine’s relationship.