September 19, 2013

Fifty Shades of Censorship

Last week on FaceBook my sister posted an article titled, Fifty Shades of the Common Core. The article is about the use of the book Dreaming in Cuban in a high school classroom. Knowing I'd have an opinion, but probably not realizing I'd write my own book in response, she tagged me and asked or me to speak up.

Here's what followed:

My sister (not posting her comments as I haven't asked permission to show her name here) responded that I had some good points, and went on to say "But the porn in the section showed is still a bit much for me to handle being in a school library."

Even though I know her heart and her concerns come from a good place, this comment hurt, and here's why -- if one person wants a book out of the library, and pushes hard enough, it can definitely happen. In fact, in this case, it did. On the same day my sister shared the original article, I found an article from The Huffington Post explaining that Dreaming in Cuba was pulled from Sierra Vista School in Arizona after a parent complained about the "pornographic" nature of the book.

Banned Book Week

While my sister agreed that the book probably doesn't deserve to be banned completely, she wondered if it might still be acceptable to ban it from school libraries, since most parents probably wouldn't want their kids reading it. She argued that since we don't allow things like Hustler in schools, why is it any different when it's "just" in written form? Where is the line?

I think it's dangerous to see one section of text from one page in a book and determine the book's literary value from that tiny glance within those pages. If a work has literary value, cultural significance, or otherwise important contributions to offer the reader, who am I to judge it as unacceptable for a library collection? But her points are valid. Parents are concerned about the material being put in front of their children, so where is the balance?

I still want the other side of the story. Where is the teacher's voice in this discussion? I'm definitely curious to know what s/he has to say. Or any teacher or librarian of young adults. I hope you'll speak up in the comments and add to this conversation.

September 16, 2013

Let Them Be Boys!

In the past few years I've found myself rewriting, resending, and basically just resharing the following post. Since it's information I'm asked about so often, it suddenly dawned on me (I'm fast, that way) that it was worth blogging about.

I have a heart for helping boys find their voice in a world that tends to prefer they leave the rough and tumble at the door. Yes, by world I mean school - because when you're eight, nine, ten, or even older, school is your world. It's difficult for boys to become strong writers if they never have the opportunity to become strong readers. And many boys struggle to find a place as a reader, because their desire for blood, guts, vampires, and fart jokes is seen as unacceptable for school.

When we tell a child that their reading or writing choice is unacceptable, we may as well point at them and say, "You sir, are unacceptable."

I think that's when we lose many boys that so desperately need to be found.

For me, the important thing about boys is remembering they need to feel like they have a place and a say. Often, we let our own thoughts on what is appropriate dictate their reading and writing style, and it shuts them down.

They want to read Captain Underpants? Cool. Only will read Sports Illustrated for Kids? Good enough for me. Reading Stephen King? Eek, that terrifies me but if it’s working for them, more power to them! Refusing to even glance at anything that's not a comic book or graphic novel? Awesome. What better place to get excited about reading than a book filled with amazing illustrations, built-in scaffolding devices, and nonstop action? 

Let them know they have a choice – even if it seems completely backwards, and things will change. Comic books, blogs, magazines, picture books; if it has words and they’re not cussing or otherwise profane or harmful to anyone – let those boys read.

Some places for help:

Guys Read is an amazing website for books and other resources that boys will love. It has never failed me.

Any of the actual “Guys Read” books – each is a collection of short stories written by male authors with the intent of being interesting for boys. Also, this book by the same authors, all about what it means to be a boy.

Ralph Fletcher is another "can't miss" author for boys, and for teachers. Definitely check out Boy Writers and Spider Boy, for starters.

Any blog post by The Nerdy Book Club gang. This book-savvy blog is a mashup of posts on reading and includes several noteworthy book recommendations, written by teachers, librarians, and authors  -- basically anyone with a passion for reading and getting kids excited about reading. Follow this link to a search of all their posts on graphic novels.

And if you can get your hands on The Book Whisperer by Donalyn Miller, it is so worth your time. It's one of those books that make you rethink your current practices, and we all need that from time to time.

When in doubt, just let them read. How can you go wrong when they happily have their nose in a book?

September 12, 2013

Join the Creech-a-Thon!

You guys. I am doing my best not to completely geek out over this one, but trust me – it’s awesome!

First, if you haven’t read Love That Dog (with your class or for yourself!), you’re missing out. It’s short, sweet, sad, empowering, and just lovely for teaching figurative language, inferring & predicting, poetry, and more.

Second, kids LOVE her stuff. Seriously, it’s a little crazy. Put a copy of Granny Torrelli Makes Soup in their hands.

Last, did I tell you last year she actually commented on one of my student’s blog posts? All I did was tweet that I had a student writing poetry inspired by Love That Dog… she saw the tweet, went to the post, and commented to the girl, “Love that poem!”

Talk about igniting a love for reading and writing!

Anyway, if kids sign up for her reading pledge in September, they could win all 16 of her books, including a signed hardcover of her newest, The Boy on the Porch!

You can follow this link to see the pledge page – hope you will consider sharing this with your readers! For more stellar Creech stuff, be sure to follow her on Twitter @ciaobellacreech.