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23 April 2014 @ 10:20 am
Staking a claim  
It is interesting to watch commercials these days. Since we tend to either mute the sound of the commercials or fast forward through them on the DVR, it has become sort of a game to see if we can figure out what is being advertised and what claims are being made for the product.

When it comes to staking claims, education seems to take the lead. Take Accelerated Reader, for example. Touted as a reading "program," its claims are incredible (in the true sense of the word incredible). Here is their newest addition to the site which ensures folks that AR is your #1 stop for CCSS materials: http://doc.renlearn.com/KMNet/R0056070F0FD6A62.pdf. Now, AR can tell you if your students are college and career ready. Well, not really, but it sounds good, right?

And now, look at all the literacy skills we can measure with a 10 items multiple choice quiz over a book: http://doc.renlearn.com/KMNet/R004090617GG9110.pdf. This form suggests that AR can measure engagement as well: http://doc.renlearn.com/KMNet/R004090313GG93AB.pdf.

Now I am seeing hosts of webinars and professional books promising "deeper literacy." I understand what Kelly Gallagher talks about in his groundbreaking book, Deeper Reading. But so many of these webinars and books boil deeper literacy down to close reading and complex (as measured by levels and exiles) texts. I am growing more than a little tired of the claims about complexity and close reading. First, we have done critical reading for years. Critical reading, unlike the CCS-prescribed close reading, does allow for background information, does allow for personal response (does Rosenblatt not count under CCSS, I wonder?), does allow for questions beyond those which are text-dependent. And complexity? If all measures of complexity have to do with numbers (and that is where the CCSS discussion begins), then we are not looking at texts critically (or closely) enough.

I posted out this week, the list of books suggested for reading aloud that I compiled from Facebook and Twitter. Here are some complex texts from that list.

1. The Anansi stories are trickster tales from Africa. How the tables are turned so that the trickster ultimately loses presents some complex ideas for young readers.

2. CREEPY CARROTS can be used to discuss mood and tone and humor. Not too shabby for a picture book, right?

3. EACH KINDNESS, EXTRA YARN, and OFFICER BUCKLE AND GLORIA present stereotypes, archetypes, motifs, and other quite complex elements.

I could go on (and I will when I do a presentation on picture books for all ages in San Angelo this summer), but please be aware of the over-hyped claims being made by folks whose interests are not kids by PROFITS.
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