professornana (professornana) wrote,

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Back to the future

I want to return to the Rosenblatt essay from yesterday's post ( Almost every sentence could be the topic of a blog post. This work, which is 60 years old, still resonates today. Bear in mind that Rosenblatt is writing before the real birth of YA literature as well. How might she have seen the canon grow and expand were she writing today? I like to think that she would point to Walter Dean Myers, Margarita Engle, John Green, Chris Lynch, Laurie Halse Anderson, Jacqueline Woodson, and more? What would she have made of the burgeoning GN format, about the blurring of genre lines, of picture books as mentor texts? But back to the essay at hand.

"Or perhaps we should say that the symbols take meaning from the intellectual and emotional context the reader provides. " Here Rosenblatt is not referring to symbols such as the use of colors in "Mask of the Red Death," but rather the squiggles on a page (words). The words take meaning from the context of the reader. How does this fly into the face of those who assert that the meaning of a text remains within the 4 corners of the page? Meaning does not reside in some confined space, flat and lifeless. Meaning is imbued by what the reader brings to the text. I think in some ways this is why YA literature still resonates for me. My reading of the book is understandably different from that of someone with different life experiences. I think often when I talk about this of THE FAULT IN OUR STARS by John Green. It is a book that reduces many of us to tears. However, I also love the gallows humor of the support circle. And I cry in somewhat different places. And I believe the reason has to do with my own experiences with losing someone young to cancer. I know the gallows humor, I know the tough conversations that take place matter-of-factly, Others who share these experiences have similar reactions to the novel; our experience unites us in our responses. However, it is important to note that my response is no more valid than that of another reader. It is simply different and provides us a basis for discussion.

"Above all, students need to be helped to have personally satisfying and personally meaningful transactions with literature. " This was the basis for the first book I wrote. MAKING THE MATCH: THE RIGHT BOOK FOR THE RIGHT READER AT THE RIGHT TIME is now 13 years old, but the basic tenets remain timeless. We need to find books that are the right books for all of our students. That means knowing the students, knowing the books, and knowing how to bring the two together. Sometimes I forget to mention this because it has become so automatic for me. Before I recommend a book, I ask what else the person has read and liked (or disliked as that sometimes helps guide me as well). It is not enough to know it is a boy in 8th grade. If only all 8th grade boys were paper doll cutouts who could all be fed there same books. Alas, kids are individual. And Rosenblatt reminds us that we need to make sure we have provided SATISFYING and MEANINGFUL transactions with literature. It is why many of us rail against every kid reading the same book as every other kid all year long in class. CHOICE must enter in here, too.

Finally (for today), Rosenblatt cautions us about assessments and reaching for the "easy to assess" rather than keeping our eye on the prize, the creation of someone who will have a lifelong love of books and reading. This caveat resonated yesterday as I read an article about a new drive to assess and measure CHARACTER. There is a move in some districts to measure the character of its students. All I could envision was some sort of mad scientist experiment with electrodes a la A CLOCKWORK ORANGE scene. In our rush to measure and assess, we seem to have forgotten the message of Rosenblatt (and countless other leaders of our past and present). We need to stay focused on what is the cornerstone of teaching literature: creating lifelong readers.
Tags: lifelong reading, response
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