"Little Women," Louisa May Alcott
"The Adventures of Tom Sawyer," Mark Twain
"A Wrinkle in Time," Madeleine L'Engle
"The Dark Is Rising," Susan Cooper
"Dragonwings," Laurence Yep
"Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry," Mildred D. Taylor
"The People Could Fly," Virginia Hamilton
"The Tale of the Mandarin Ducks," Katherine Paterson
"Eleven," Sandra Cisneros
"Black Ships Before Troy: The Story of the Iliad," Rosemary Sutcliff
I count here a picture book (Mandarin Ducks by Patterson), historical fiction (ROLL OF THUNDER, LITTLE WOMEN, TOM SAWYER, DRAGONWINGS), fantasy WRINKLE IN TIME, DARK IS RISING), traditional literature (PEOPLE COULD FLY), a story (ELEVEN, and it is pubbed adult). Where are the contemporary realistic fiction books? You know, the ones that reflect the lives of our students? Missing, I think, with the exception of ELEVEN (and they elected ONE story from that collection which is fascinating). There is poetry in a separate category and dozens of informational selections as well. But this is the sum total of the "stories" (their term, not mine) for three grade levels. Some questions:
*Won't the boys love reading LITTLE WOMEN? (insert sarcastic snort here)
*Will kids have to read THE PEOPLE COULD FLY from cover to cover? (remember we cannot read aloud by this age range)
*How will they react to having a picture book assigned? How will it be presented to kids? (and please note that I adore this book and Katherine Paterson and think picture books are totally worthwhile for older kids).
*What about the books that are part of a series? Will we even let kids know there are other books they could elect to read? Will these (shudder) be in the standard textbooks? If so, we might as well kiss them goodbye now.
The one big question I have is: who picked these books and why? I am fairly certain that no one with a broad knowledge of literature, education, and librarianship was involved. This past week, the state education board here in Texas passed new social studies standards without the assistance of folks whose job it is to study and write about history, sociology, and economics. The ELA standards were drafted by the same group who told the ELA folks to go away.
Do people with no medical background proscribe procedures? Do folks without legal background tell lawyers how to try cases? Do I tell my own plumber how to fix pipes? And yet, we have no problem telling teachers how and what and when to teach. Why, then, do they need to have a college degree?
I want to see BOE members, Arne Duncan, Barack Obama, the governors group who drew up these standards, and anyone else who is dictating ed policy to have a special season on UNDERCOVER BOSS. Make them all teach: inner city, low income, learning disabled, etc. etc. etc. No aides, low pay, all of our perks. Then come back and FIX education. Or you could just listen to the experts now and drop the new NCLB, RttT legislation and address the real problems teachers face: low pay, hazardous working conditions, poverty, inadequate resources and support.
Now, I think it is time to go read a "story" for grades 6-8 that they might actually LIKE.