professornana (professornana) wrote,

It's all about syllables, syntax, and sentences. Ideas not welcome

When you read this headline, what goes through your mind?

Are Today’s Schools Giving Children “Worthless Literature” to Read?

If you are like me, you gnash your teeth, shake your head, and click on the link ( I read this so you don't have to unless you are up to date on your blood pressure meds and would welcome a piece comparing books from a century ago to today's offerings for children.

It is hard to know where to begin with the problems in this piece. So, in no particular order:

1. The author is using the AR reading level to judge the worthiness of the titles.

Not wanting to climb up on my AR soapbox, I will just observe that syllables and sentences and even syntax (for those Lexile fans) do not adequately either indicate the audience for a book nor do levels and lexiles discuss the ideas, themes, character development, or any other facet of literary quality.

2. Not all of the books from the 1892 list were written for children. Adults read many of them. So, I guess the headline should read ARE TODAY'S ADULTS READING WORTHLESS LITERATURE? instead.

3. the author indicates these books are still being read today. She does not say who is reading them or why. Are they assigned? Or do kids gravitate toward them on their own? I know the answer and so do you.

4. The two lists are not comparable. While the first list comes from a much larger list of 500 books deemed worthy by a NY grammar school principal in 1892, the second list is a list of suggested good books from Scholastic. The Scholastic list is one of books to be read when young. It is not a reading list for a particular "level", but rather a compilation of some excellent books in children's literature. We are comparing apples and adobe bricks here.

5. There is NO indication that the author has read ANY of the books on either list. Had she taken the time to do so, perhaps her final paragraph might have been considerably different.

She concludes, "Judging from the difference of these two lists, have we indeed fallen prey to “the defective scheme of elementary education”? Do you think we would see an improvement in reading scores if today’s schools re-examined and improved their literature offerings?"

So, is the suggestion that we replace WONDER with LITTLE LORD FAUNTLEROY? or CHARLOTTE'S WEB with THE MERRY ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD? or perhaps HOLES should be replaced with ROBINSON CRUSOE?

Thank heavens that there are 6000+ books published each year for kids. That was not the case, of course, in 1892. As for me, I think I will stick with Judy Blume C.S. Lewis, Lowry, Spinelli, and Cleary when it comes to books for today's kids. And I will add to that hallowed list each year. A reading list from 1892 makes as much sense as the rules for teachers from that time period.

I wish before people wrote these clickbait articles they would actually read the books they would toss out in favor of those good old books their great-great-great-great grandparents read.
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