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12 February 2014 @ 04:31 pm
trying to make meaning  
When I see a link that refers to Adolescent Reading and Achievement and Assessment these days, I have to steel myself. In the past, I might have written about how my own middle school students read and responded to books and then still managed to score well on the mandated state tests (becuase they did and still do). Instead, I know I will read sommething that is alien to me. Yes, I have a different focus these days. Since I teach graduate students in a school librarian preparation program, my focus on the adolescent centers on adolescent development and YA books. However, the article in question (a link to an EJ article from last fall) was proceeding well. Two of the 4 essential elments the author discusses in terms of assessing and elevating adolescent reading achievement were: having a strong knowledge in adolescent reading and having a flexible curriculum with diver materials for adolescents. I was nodding in agreement. But then I was puzzled. Where were the books? Where was the discussion of adolescent development not just in reading but overall? Both were missing from my perspective.

Now I realize that this piece was about formative assessment and how such assessment needs to be conducted. But I am, nonetheless, puzzled by the lack of discussion of the two salient points, those two essential elements. There was one book mentioned in an attempt to demonstrate to teachers that unfamiliar or rigorous text can be frustrating. However, even then I wondered, why shold we be frustrating kids? There are plenty of "diverse materials" we could be using in our instruction. Just on the last 30 days I have read dozens of books, many that I could use for instructional purposes, all written for adolesccents and not for adults. Again, this is my pet peeve. I cannot write an article or chapter or book about adolescent literacy and not mention books. Often. Every page. Maybe every paragraph.

I realize, too, that providing lists of books was not the purpose of the article. I get that. But when one is discussing adolescent development and diverse materials I would like more than a reference to someone's curriculum. And I would argue that providing some clue as to the materials might be helpful for teachers.

All this aside, my comment on Facebook about this reading experience and how it made me RESPOND drew soome discussion as well. One of the comments indicated that CCSS is not blasphemous (which I never said) and that standards promote adolescent literacy. What the what? Standards promote literacy? I guess by following that logic that rigorous standards promote rigorous literacy and the old standards promoted only mediocre literacy?

First, standards do not PROMOTE anything except a new round of tests, a new round of PD, a new round of professional texts loudly proclaiing how they align with the standards. Here is the definition of blasphemous: adjective--sacrilegious against God or sacred things; profane.
"blasphemous and heretical talk"
synonyms: sacrilegious, profane, irreligious, irreverent, impious, ungodly, godless More
antonyms: reverent


While standards might not be blasphemous, they are narrow; they are NOT new and improved; they are restrictive; and they are, in effect, creating censorship of a different kind, the kind that limits the autonomy of teachers and the materials that might be used. How? Using the term "rigorous" pretty much eliminates any materials that might be deemed YA. It permits the old snobbery of some teachers who look down their noses at YA and dismiss it as (horrors!) "popular" or "only good for outside of school and certainly not for study in school." It is for leisure reading. But it is not for serious study.

So, I think I will take more care when I click on links. I certainly will keep in mind that some others see YA literature in a different light (if they see it at all). And I will keep writing about books (my other blog is updated through March right now: www.ls5385blog.blogspot.com). So, here are a few new books you need to read if you work with adolecents: NOGGIN by John Corey Whaley, GRASSHOPPER JUNGLE by Andrew Smith, and WE WERE LIARS by E. Lockhart. They speak volumes about adolescents and their development. They deserve a chance to be read by teens and their teachers.
 
 
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