professornana (professornana) wrote,


When people ask me for a recipe for a soup or lasagna I have cooked, I am happy to provide it. However, I am pretty much a cook who learned by standing at the counter watching my Mom, so dashes, sprinkles, etc. are my basic measurements. I know the value of measuring when it comes to baking. That is something that requires a bit more precision. But even when baking I tend to alter the recipe once I make the baked goods more than once. There is no one way to make most of the things I do make.

However, there are all sorts of things that defy accurate measurement. A recent article in the Atlantic ( drilled down data and came up with the six main arcs in storytelling. It is fascinating to read. But does it add to my enjoyment of story? Not so much. I know basic themes, tropes, archetypes, etc. But I do not tick off how many of each type of them I read in my #bookaday listings. Why would I? And now there are new tests to measure bias. I understand how important it is to understand the biases we bring to the classroom, to a committee, to our reading. But, again, I wonder how accurate this type of measurement can realistically be.

In some ways, it is one more label we can affix to a book or a person. And we have enough labels already. This morning I saw an ad for "Christian" clothing. I wondered what that might be. I get T-shirts with quotes from the Bible, but are there other items deemed "Christian"? And do all Christian books need to be from a Christian publisher? Certainly so many of the books I read have elements of morals and morality in them. Is that somehow not enough/

I know I am rambling a bit. These are the questions that float across my consciousness at odd moments (generally over my first cup of coffee). They are the random thoughts I would love to have the chance to discuss, but they usually occur when I am in a hotel room in a place far from my home.

When it comes to books, though, we offer so many labels. We give them Lexiles and levels. We use age or grade designations. We have forms and formats and genres (and they are often used interchangeably and incorrectly). We have lists: 4th grade book, 10th grade book. We separate books in many ways instead of connecting them. Today, Donalyn Miller and I showed the audience at Nerd Camp some text pairings and ladders. Sometimes we paired an older title with a newer one. Sometimes we paired a picture book with a YA novel or a classic with a contemporary selection.

I want to broaden how we think about books, eliminate the labels, and instead offer ways we can place more and more books into the hands of more and more readers.
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