Diversifying My Reading

stack-of-books-vintage-books-book-books.jpgDiversity in reading is an important issue, one in which more people need to be aware, myself included. As I have previously stated in blogs and tweets, I had not really thought a lot about diversity when it came to reading. Now that it has come to my attention, I actually feel bad that it wasn’t an issue I was keeping in the forefront of my mind.

I think when you talk about diversity, you have to look at all the issues that surround it. If you want to truly get a diversified look at cultures, you need to take into consideration not only the topics that are in books, but also the authors and genre. As stated in the Ellen Oh’s blog “Hello Ello Blog“, “Diversity is important because racism still exists in the world. And racism comes from ignorance.” If  we want to help to put a stop to racism, we need to surround our students will material from diverse authors and books dealing with diverse topics. I really liked another quote that I read from her blog in which she stated, “Literature is one of the best ways to reach out to all children, to teach           someone to care about and love a character regardless of their skin color or hair type or religious beliefs”. What a powerful tool Literature is in regards to that! I believe this just goes to show how important it is to us, as teachers, to make sure that we are aware of the need to diversify our libraries and to recommend that our students read as much diverse literature as we can possibly get them to!

pexels-photo-888703.jpegI have now given myself a goal to try to read much more diversely. Not only for myself, but for my students as well. I want this to come not only in the form of the subject matter but also in the authors I choose. I want to be able to have as much knowledge about books, genre, and authors from other cultures in order to help lead my students to become more diversely read readers too. If I’m not knowledgeable enough to help lead my students to wonderful diverse authors and books, I’m doing a huge disservice to them! One thing that I’ve started to do now is to blog about the books that I have been reading on my teacher’s blog for my students. The first thing that the students have to be aware of is the multitude of books that are out there. I have noticed with my students, if you share and discuss books, they are more apt to become interested in reading them. Therefore I’ve been blogging about the books I’m reading, and adding book trailers when they are found (as we all know, videos really grab their attention). Another thing that I”m in the process of doing is to have more diverse literature in my classroom library. With this, I will be able to make more personal recommendations for the students.

I realize that for some, it will be an uphill battle to get them to read diversely, whether that is caused by personal preferences or by their own (or others) prejudices. In that case, we are going to have to become cheerleaders that make diverse reading appealing to them. If you can find at least one book that they can connect to, the possibilities will be endless. I believe especially in the world today, anything that we can do to help bring down the amount of hate, we need to do it. Books are a wonderful tool to use in bringing about such a change.

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Reading Response ~ It’s Monday!!

13 Reasons Why by Jay Asher

The second book that we have read for our book club is the book 13 Reasons Why by Jay Asher. I was very excited to read this book and was so glad that my book club members suggested reading it. I had actually watched the Netflix series a year ago and really enjoyed it as I believe it was very thought-provoking, and I wanted to see how well the book followed the series.

The book follows the story of Clay Jensen who receives a box of cassette tapes and learns that the tapes were made by Hannah Baker, who was a classmate of Clay and had committed suicide. While listening to the tapes, Clay discovers that there are 13 different stories on the tapes about the people that in some way or another were part of the reason why Hannah committed suicide. As you read the book, it’s easy to see how people’s actions can directly or indirectly affect those around them. Clay, who we find as a very likeable character, was actually very much in love with Hannah, but we learn that even he, let her down in the end.

I enjoyed the book as much as I enjoyed the Netflix series. I felt that the series went along fairly closely to the book; the major difference is that the book makes one feel that Clay listened to the 13 tapes in one day, whereas in the series, it takes place over several days. I usually don’t like reading books after I’ve seen the video productions of them, but in this case, it was really nice to have the visual of the characters in mind as I was reading.

Considering the content of this book, I believe that this book would be better suited for high school students verses lower levels. But with that said, I do think that this book does a good job at highlighting what consequences someone’s actions can have on others. I have had discussions with others that feel that Hannah went through what every normal teenager goes through and she just took the easy way out. I do not agree with this. I think that it does show what can happen by the actions of others. I have not had a chance to discuss this book with my book club yet, as we had to postpone last week’s meeting until this coming week. I’m very excited to see what the other members of my club think about this book and whether or not they agree with others I have talked to.

And We Stay by Jenny Hubbard

My independent book of the week was the verse novel And We Stay by Jenny Hubbard (It is also a Michael L. Printz Award winner). This book tells the story of Emily Beam whose boyfriend, Paul Wagoner, took his life with a stolen gun in the school library in front of Emily. Emily transfers to a boarding school, which also happens to be the same school Emily Dickenson attended, to try to “get away” from the guilt and anger of the shooting. In order to help her deal with what has happened, Emily writes poetry. Her poetry is actually snippets of what happened to facilitate Paul’s suicide and Emily’s emotions about everything that happens. (I’m choosing to leave out the catalyst that caused Paul to do it in order to not spoil it for others). In the end, Emily has to come to grips with the reality of what happened and learn to forgive herself.

This book was written in prose and poetry. I enjoyed the book and liked the way it was a mix of both prose and poetry. Although I enjoyed the way the poetry was used to show Emily’s internal thoughts throughout the book, I do have to say, I didn’t enjoy the poems as much as the prose portion of the book. I found myself as times, skipping some of the poems to just continue on with the story line. Even with doing this, I was able to follow the plot with no difficulty. This book would appeal more to adolescent girls, and it does deal with mature issues. There are some subtle graphic parts in it that would be a concern for some students, therefore I wouldn’t recommend it to everyone. If you are looking for a verse book that isn’t completely written in verse, this could be the book for you.

Diversity in Literature

“When children cannot find themselves reflected in the books they read, or when the images they see are dpexels-photo.jpgistorted, negative, or laughable, they learn a powerful lesson about how they are devalued in the society of which they are a part” (“Mirrors, Windows, and Sliding Glass Doors“). This statement is one of the most powerful statements that I have ever read.

This week I found the articles to be extremely eye-opening. I had not really given a lot of thought to the diversity that is found/not found in literature. As I was reading the articles, I started to think about all of the books that I have read, and it dawned on me; I have not read many books with diversity. Even the books that I have read with minority characters, tend to be books that show those characters in a bad light and usually are not the main characters.

As I quoted from the article “Mirrors, Windows, and Sliding Glass Doors” at the beginning, it is so important for students to be able to find themselves in books in order for them to feel valued. When students are not able to see themselves in books, or when those images in books are distorted, students will not see the value in themselves. This of course, can have detrimental effects.

Publishing industries are in the business of making money. As described in the article “Something like an open letter to the children’s publishing industry”, they are publishing what they perceive the market to be at any given time. Unfortunately, I think that these publishing places are not keeping on top of what the current trends are in relationship to the world. I’m wondering if they think that minorities do not buy and read books often, and that is why they cater more to Caucasians? I found it telling when the article stated that we have had an African American President but still 98% of the publishing industry is white (“Something like an open letter”).

child-children-girl-happy.jpgA couple of other surprising things I read this week had to deal with the last two articles: “The Apartheid of Children’s Literature” and “Why Are the People of Color in Children’s Books?”. I felt a huge sickness when the the author of “The Apartheid of Children’s Literature talked about how his conversations go with children. They ask why there are talking animals, magic, and other things in books, but not children of color. That is something that has to be changed. Just think about what those children think: I’m less important that talking animals and pretend magic. In the final article, “Why Are the People of Color in Children’s Books?” I thought it was interesting that Walter Dean Meyers had written it. I will admit that the only book that I have read so far from him is the book Monster. In the book, the main character, Steve Harmon, is an African American boy who is on trial for murder during a robbery. Even though Steve is eventually acquitted, I felt that the book is still stereotyping young African American boys. I do agree that he has written this book to show what inner-city life is like, but still, to me, it is stereotyping a race.

We need to have more literature that is written with diversity in mind. If this is not accomplished, what are we telling those children? They are not worthy enough to be a part of the literary world. I don’t want to be in a world where we pick and choose whom we believe are the ones worthy enough to be a part. I want each student to feel worthy and valuable and to feel wanted.

 

Reading Response~It’s Monday!!

Monster by Walter Dean Myers

Monster Graphic Novel Adapted by Guy A. Sims & Illustrated by Dawud Anyabwile

This past week, I decided to read two different versions of the same novel, Monster by Walter Dean Myers. My reasoning behind reading the novel and then the graphic novel was twofold; first I wanted to read the novel itself and secondly, I had never read a graphic novel so I wanted to see what the differences were.

Monster is a novel that follows the trial of a sixteen year old African American boy named Steve Harmon. Steve is accused of helping to rob a drug store and in the midst of the robbery, the owner is shot and killed. The story is told by Steve Harmon, who writes about his trial as a movie screenplay. On trial are two of the four accused robbers; Steve and James King. The other two accomplices Richard “Bobo” Evans and Osvaldo Cruz, have entered plea deals in exchange for their testimony. Throughout the story, Steve flashes back to times in his school’s film club and the discussions he had with his teacher. The majority of the book follows the trial and we find that the title “Monster” is derived from the prosecutor Sandra Petrocelli, who describes the accused as “monsters”. Steve maintains his innocence throughout the trial telling the jury that he hardly knows the others involved. In the end, we find that James King is found guilty and Steve is found innocent. But even though he is found innocent, when he goes to hug his lawyer, Kathy O’Brien, she pulls away. This brings to question if Miss O’Brien ever saw Steve as himself or if she also saw him only as a “monster”.

I really enjoyed the novel and especially the format in which it was written. It was an extremely quick read as a movie screenplay, and it allowed you to really visualize everything as it was happening. I think this book would be an excellent book for anyone to read but especially youths who may be headed down a wrong direction. It shows how choices can affect your life and the consequences of those choices. It also is very revealing that even though you may not be guilty, people’s perception of you can change from even being accused; as Steve found out from his dad, who basically was never able to see Steve as the same boy he was before the incident.

The graphic novel was very well done and I enjoyed the illustrations. I can not say that I enjoyed the graphic novel as much as the regular novel though. This is completely a personal preference. I have never been much of a “comic” reader and to me, that’s what the graphic novel felt like. I can see where students that have a hard time reading a novel would enjoy the graphic novel version, but it just wasn’t for me. I think that if I had not read the regular book first, I would have been completely lost as to what was going on. I do plan on reading one more graphic novel, just to see if my perception changes; maybe if I don’t read the regular story first, I might enjoy a graphic novel. We will wait and see!

Classroom Libraries/Book Love

One of the most important aspects in getting students to read is to surround them with material that will inspire them to read. When I moved to the high school from teaching elementary, I left apexels-photo-590493.jpeg classroom library that I had built from the ground up. Unfortunately, now I’m in the process of doing it again.

There were a few things in Sara Anderson’s blogs that I found really helpful. The first one coincides with me trying to rebuild a classroom library. It is awfully expensive to try to furnish all the books myself so I really enjoyed her idea about having a budget to start with. I can definitely see where this would be a good idea. It would prevent what would inevitably be “buyer’s remorse” or more appropriately “husband’s remorse!”. Also, I really loved her suggestion of letting students know they can donate books they are done with to the class library. Adding the personal stickers of dedication is a great idea! What a way to honor those who give!

She’s absolutely correct that you need to have a classroom library so students have easy access to books. Especially books that you can talk to them about and recommend to them. This year, my second group of sophomores are at a time when the library is closed. This has created a huge issue with independent reading because they don’t have access to the library, and my classroom library is so sparse. We have SSR on most Fridays, and this class is continually full of students with nothing to read. I’m hoping that I will be able to avoid this in the future by building my class library. It was also refreshing to hear from her that she also struggles with a checkout system. This was always an issue in my elementary classroom. It’s just one of those issues that you keep working at and tweaking as you go.

Chapter 3 in Book Love really got me thinking for next year. I enjoyed reading about the way she sets the goals in her classroom. I remember reading this over the summer, and I really don’t know why I didn’t try it this year, but it is something I really want to do for next year. I’ve always known what I want my Independent reading to look like in my room, and I know that my overall goal is two-fold; get kids reading and increase reading stamina. But I will admit that I haven’t used good goal setting in my classes. Her weekly tracking sheets seem like something that could be easily incorporated into my classes. Kittle also states in her chapter 3 that two important things need to be used if we really want kids to grow: a to-be-read-next list and reading conferences. I already use conferences, but I definitely want to use the to-be-read-next list.

Kittle also mentions in chapter 4 that we have to provide a wide variety of books for students to read. This is absolutely true if we want to maintain interest for everyone. Every student has a different need; what they may need at the time, is not what we may need or even like. I thought her idea of having a parent/student letter to inform parents about the fact that it’s impossible to know everything in all the books that are available was a great idea. It would help cover yourself in the event that a parent doesn’t agree with some of the material that is available.

Overall, both readings this week reinforce that in order to develop life long readers, we need to make sure that students are surrounded by books. We also need to give students the time to make those special connections with books. Reading should be enjoyable and does not always need to be the “hard” reading. Reading first and foremost needs to be enjoyable!

Works Cited:

Kittle, Penny. Book love: developing depth, stamina, and passion in adolescent readers.         Heinemann, 2013.

 

Reading Response ~ It’s Monday!!

Independent Study ~ by Joelle Charbonneau

This week one of the books that I finished was Independent Study by Joelle Charbonneau. This is the second book in her Testing series and the first book that my book club chose to read.

This book starts where the last one left off….the main character, Cia (Malencia) Vale, has passed “The Testing” and is now enrolled in the University. She has no memory of her time spent during the testing, but thanks to her brother Zeen’s transmitter, which she used to record the happenings during The Testing before her memory of the events were erased; she has reason to believe that something sinister happened.

Life at the University starts out well, just as one would expect. When time comes for the students to be chosen for their specific studies, Cia is chosen to work for the Government. It is not an assignment she is excited about, but she takes it like she does with everything; she will put her all into it. During this time, an older mentor student, Ian, tell Cia that they will soon be choosing candidates for internships. Cia hears what he’s saying: Either you make it or you’re eliminated (dead). During this time, Cia happens upon a building where students whom don’t make it are taken for “reassignment”. There she witnesses what really happens to the students who fail.

Again, Cia and others from the University are put through tests that require them to either survive or die. In the end, Cia and her group make it and become interns. While interning at the Government building, Cia discovers that there are two rebel factions that are trying to put an end to The Testing; one by peaceful means, the other planning on war. Cia is recruited to try to help uncover the truth of what happens during The Testing. Together with her boyfriend, Tomas, and a new ally, Raffe, Cia sets out to help bring down The Testing and its creator, Dr. Barnes.

I  enjoyed this second book from The Testing series. Cia is a strong female protagonist that one is easily drawn to. Again, if you like reading Dystopian genre, this series is another excellent example. One of the largest surprises in this novel is how you are never able to fully trust any of the characters. Just when you think you understand a character, something happens. I think any student who loves reading Dystopian genre would find themselves drawn to The Testing series.

Shatter Me ~ by Tahereh Mafi

The second book I finished this week was the book Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi. This is the first book in her Shatter Me series; the latest to be released Mashatter merch 2018 titled Restore Me.

The first thing you notice when you begin the book, are the numbers (digit form) that are being used and the fact that there are words and sentences that have been struck through, as if they were not meant to be said. As we read, we begin to find that the numbers are associated to the length of time the main character has been locked up and how long it has been since any human contact. We also learn that this is a world that has been changed by some cataclysmic event.

Shatter Me is told from the first person point of view of its main character, Juliette Ferrars. She is being held because she possesses the ability to paralyze or kill people by touch. Soon, she is accompanied in the cell by a boy named Adam Kent. From Juliette’s thoughts, we learn that Adam was a childhood classmate, one of the only people that was ever nice to her. She recognizes Adam, but Adam doesn’t seem to recognize her.

We then learn that Juliette is actually being held by a group called the Reestablishment and their leader’s 19-year old son, Aaron Warner. Warner plans to use Juliette as a weapon in their war to take over the world. Juliette then finds out that Adam is also a soldier for the Reestablishment and was in charge of watching over her. This in turn, tears Juliette apart, until it is revealed that Adam actually is in love with Juliette and had himself “planted” into her cell to help her escape. Adam has actually been in love with Juliette since they were kids. We also discover that Adam can touch Juliette without anything happening to him.

Juliette and Adam escape from the Reestablishment and find themselves back at Adam’s house with Adam’s younger brother, James. During this time, a soldier from the Reestablishment shows up by the name of Kenji. He says he knows of a safe place for them to hide; weary, Juliette and Adam agree just as Warner and his group find them.

Juliette and Adam are caught, with Warner shooting Adam. Warner then proceeds to tell Juliette that he actually loves her, is also able to touch her, and they would be perfect together. Juliette ends up shooting Warner and escaping to find Kenji, who has Adam and James, and takes Juliette to an underground fortress.

Here we learn that Kenji is actually part of the Rebellion, an army lead by a man named Castle, who is preparing to overthrow the Reestablishment. Castle, along with many of the other members have “gifts” similar to Juliette’s. Juliette finally finds a place she feels she belongs and this is where the books ends…

I really enjoyed this book. I picked it as my YA romance novel, even though it was another dystopian novel. I was first afraid it would be like the other dystopian novels, but the way this one is written and structured really captured my attention. As I said earlier, one of the first things you notice are the words/sentences that have been struck out. These are the thoughts and emotions that Juliette tries to hide and in using this, it allows the reader to really understand her inner thoughts. Another structure that I really enjoyed were the short chapters. It made the book seem like such a quick read; more so than when author’s use long chapters. I have just discovered this about myself as a reader; I enjoy when chapters are shorter. I think this book would be appealing to anyone that enjoys a romance or dystopian novel. It does contain more romance than Hunger Games or The Testing; therefore I see this as appealing more to a female audience than male. I can’t wait to read the rest of the series to see where it goes.

 

Book Banning and Self-Censorship

“Fear and control” these are two of the main reasons for censorship according to the article “Facing the Issues: Challenges, Censorship, and Reflection through Dialogue” (Lent 62). pexels-photo-207636.jpeg

I think that fear and control perfectly describe what happens where censorship occurs. Because we read something that makes us uncomfortable (fear) we try to then ‘control’ the situation. This is especially true when it comes to our teens. A lot of times we try to shelter our teens from things that are out there in the world. But I think that this can have a negative effect. A lot of the books that are “censored” are books that maybe a teen would be able to safely navigate through to help find answers to questions they otherwise couldn’t.

I found it interesting in “A Dirty Little Secret: Self-Censorship” when they talked about how easy it is for people to censor books for anything. Any little thing nowadays, can be used as a catalyst for censorship. I can’t imagine how hard it is for authors and publishers. I especially found it interesting when the publisher for Carolyn Mackler asked her to change the title of her book The Bitches to Rhymes with Witches (qtd. in Whelan) and it still received opposition because now it might be about witchcraft! That’s crazy!

The article though, did get me thinking about myself, and that yes, I am also guilty of self-censorship. As I’ve Tweeted, I am pretty comfortable reading mostly anything, but am I comfortable enough to put any YA literature on my class bookshelf? The truthful answer to that unfortunately is no. There are very few titles that I can think of that I, myself, would object to having on my shelf; but there are titles that I would be worried would be called into question by parents and administration alike. Therefore, I am guilty of the “fear” part of censorship; fear of backlash.

I think there are many types of books that not only my students, but other students would benefit from reading. Many of these books could give them insights into what others are going through, and maybe at the same time, create more empathy in the world. I would like to think that if a student read Positive: A Memoir by Paige Rawl for instance, they would be less biased against people with HIV and much less likely to bully.

It would be great if you could have all types of books for students to choose from on your shelves. You could give each student their own choice as to what they wish to read and what avenues they wish to travel. Unfortunately, this just isn’t the case.