Children's Books discussion

Resources: awards, clubs. etc. > Summer Reading Options -- Appropriateness?

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message 1: by Kate (last edited Aug 25, 2016 11:45AM) (new)

Kate (katiebobus) I was looking online at some elementary and jr high schools' summer reading lists and was surprised by some of the books included. For example, Mitch Albom's Tuesdays With Morrie and The Five People You Meet in Heaven. Are these really considered literature? And The Devil in the White City -- great writing, but do we really want kids reading that much graphic, detailed description of a serial killer's plotting and murdering?

I guess what I wonder is if it's enough just to get kids reading, or even to read anything that elicits conversation, or if we should really be guiding them to books that might (a)resonate with them about life issues and (b) require some actual thought to interpret? There is SO MUCH good young adult and children's literature, I don't understand why these books are recommended for an English class.

message 2: by Kate (last edited Aug 25, 2016 11:47AM) (new)

Kate (katiebobus) Sorry, I didn't introduce myself (not just trying to bump the post). I moderate a group where people just start talking, so I apologize if I seemed abrupt. Thanks for starting this group!

message 3: by Marsha (last edited Aug 25, 2016 11:47AM) (new)

Marsha Hi Kate,

I think that there should be a huge variety of books available for kids, be they in high school or elementary school. Age doesn't have a whole lot to do with reading interests or maturity. When I was a kid, I hated reading until I glommed onto some meaty big fat novels.

I read a good quote lately, from Susan Patron, who wrote The Higher Power of Lucky. She said, "we don't harm kids with books, we arm them."

message 4: by Kate (last edited Aug 25, 2016 11:47AM) (new)

Kate (katiebobus) I would never censor any reading material from anyone -- as a kid I was allowed to read whatever I wanted, and I have always appreciated that. And I guess it is good to get kids into reading, no matter the text. Just, why Albom? Why not stick some Gary Paulsens in there instead? Oh well. Thanks for the response.

message 5: by Marsha (last edited Aug 25, 2016 11:47AM) (new)

Marsha I'm sure they've got some Gary Paulsens in there too. A summer reading list is meant to expand from one's typical reading, don't you think?

message 6: by Gwennie (last edited Aug 25, 2016 11:47AM) (new)

Gwennie I'm rather impressed that the reading list you saw, Kate, included some newer titles. Around my neck of the woods, the teachers seem to stick with the moldy oldies--never mind the age appropriateness. Often they are so old as to be practically inaccesible. I've often wondered how we can get teachers, and schools to include newer titles and YA books on their lists. It's probably that all titles must be vetted by the powers that be...and they play it safe.

message 7: by Clare (last edited Aug 25, 2016 11:48AM) (new)

Clare I've long had a beef with the required reading lists for public schools (I have no idea what private school lists are like, if they're different). I remember all the people in middle school and high who really hated reading and I don't think that requiring them to read, say, Dickens and Hawthorne and Hemingway was going to engage them. And it never did - they avoided the reading, did the bare minimum of discussion, and swore to avoid reading once they weren't forced to do so any longer. I think the book choices are largely to blame for that. I think there's this notion that you have to force the kids to read classics or they never will. But these kinds of books, wonderful though they are, have no relevence to contemporary young adult audiences, especially among groups of kids who are likely to be struggling in school already. There is excellent literature available for teen and pre-teen readers - Walter Dean Myers, Bruce Brooks and Louis Sachar leap to mind - and I think asking kids to read THOSE books would allow them to see that literature can have real meaning to them. I think the first job of education should be to teach not that classic books are "required reading" but that reading is a fun and exciting enterprise. Kids who feel that way may just grow up to read the classics on their own. I couldn't stand Silas Marner when I was told to read it in high school, because Silas Marner has nothing to do with what my world was about and teenagers in general are not very good at looking beyond themselves. But now I love it dearly. I wish the school system had respected me enough to give me reading material I could really get something out of at the time and trust that as I grew up, my tastes would grow too.

message 8: by Marsha (last edited Aug 25, 2016 11:48AM) (new)

Marsha Here in Ontario Canada, we have some awesome teacher librarians who are passionate about instilling a love of books in their students. Martha Martin, who is a teacher-librarian with the Windsor Essex board of ed, helped put together this amazing resource to help teachers navigate through the mind-boggling array of choices in children's and YA lit:


message 9: by Marsha (last edited Aug 25, 2016 11:48AM) (new)

Marsha Hi Clare,

In most Canadian provinces, there are "readers' choice" book lists for various ages of elementary and high school students. The lists are selected by teachers and librarians, but then the kids all sign up and read and VOTE for their favourite. There are usually ten books on each list, and students must read at least five to vote. I think these programs have done more to instill a passion for reading than just about anything else I've ever seen.

I've been nominated for these awards 7 times. The most recent was for the Silver Birch Express here in Ontario. It was amazing! It's as close as an author gets to being treated like a rock star. Kids get so excited about the books and about meeting "their" authors.

message 10: by Kate (last edited Aug 25, 2016 11:48AM) (new)

Kate (katiebobus) Clare,

Yes!! This is along the lines I was thinking -- that these books were not going to reach kids on their emotional plane: generally speaking, they aren't usually confronting their own old age, and they don't care about the history of Chicago architecture, as cool as it may be for some of them later. If we want kids to view reading as an enjoyable, meaningful activity, we should present them with options that will really grip them. I agree with your gripe about teaching the classics: I might have appreciated Hawthorne and Arthur Miller had I chosen to explore them myself -- AFTER gaining an appreciation of things I COULD understand at the time.

Marsha, that list sounds absolutely fantastic, and congratulations for your multiple nomination!

message 11: by Marsha (last edited Aug 25, 2016 11:48AM) (new)

Marsha So Kate, are these summer reading books compulsory? If they are, I can understand the concern.

(and thanks for the congrats!)

message 12: by Kate (last edited Aug 25, 2016 11:48AM) (new)

Kate (katiebobus) Yeah, I think I didn't write my first post very well...

I guess I can't really have any beef with Summer reading options -- all kids have to do is write an essay, usually. Required reading that the class spends weeks on is where concern lies.

message 13: by Marsha (last edited Aug 25, 2016 11:49AM) (new)

Marsha Hi Kate,

Your first post was thought-provoking and interesting. And I do agree with you about how important it is to choose books wisely for kids.

Inappropriate required reading inoculates kids against books. I love Shakespeare myself, but never could understand the rationale for making high school students suffer through it.

message 14: by Laura (last edited Aug 25, 2016 11:51AM) (new)

Laura I just have to complain briefly. One of the THIRD GRADE lists had "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings" by Maya Angelou on it. Does anyone else find this totally ridiculous?

message 15: by Marsha (last edited Aug 25, 2016 11:51AM) (new)

Marsha THIRD GRADE?? I agree, that's nuts, Laura.

message 16: by Deborah (last edited Aug 25, 2016 11:51AM) (new)

Deborah (deborahfreedman) Yes, NUTS.

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