My friend Donalyn Miller calls what happened to me today "going down the rabbit hole." I concur. I began by looking for some research on adolescents and reading for a workshop I will be doing in Connecticut in November. I wanted to see if there was something I did not already have at hand. I clicked on a link...several hours later I emerged blinking back to reality. I landed on a piece by G. Robert Carlsen I had not seen before (and that in itself was a shock because I thought I had read all of Carlsen's work). Carlsen opened with a quote from an A A Milne poem about a dormouse and a doctor. The dormouse tries, without success, to inform the doctor that he is not sick, rather he is content. But the doctor does not listen. Carlsen concludes, "The relationship between the dormouse and the doctor is the same as that between the adolescent and the educational system in the choice of reading materials. The adolescent tries repeatedly to tell the establishment what kinds of experiences he finds satisfying with books, and the establishment steadfastly disregards these messages and insists on imposing its own choices on the youngsters."
The Carlsen piece is from a longer work, one from 1970. Every single piece could have been penned today, 45 years after the original publication. This made me ecstatic and sad at turns. I was thrilled to see so many voices (including Sam Sebesta's) raised in unison about the necessary nature of authentic literature for children and young adults. But I was also devastated to think that there are still so many who, like the doctor in the A A Milne poem, think they know best.