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13 March 2010 @ 09:01 am
As promised, here are the books recommended for grades 6-8 for the newly proposed COMMON STANDARDS:

"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.
Current Location: on Spring Break
Current Mood: gloomygloomy
latteyalatteya on March 13th, 2010 04:11 pm (UTC)
OMG. And people wonder why boys don't like to read.
sdn: acronymsdn on March 13th, 2010 04:36 pm (UTC)
my acronym says it all. (hey, the boys could read LITTLE MEN. i'm sure they'd LOVE it.)
ex_kmessner on March 13th, 2010 05:18 pm (UTC)
I am having trouble believing this is for real. There are just too many issues here to count... Ten books for three years? Little Women? I loved it when I was a kid, but I found it through my friend, and we played that we were Jo and Amy, and that's a whole different ballgame than having it assigned as your only choice.

I am so hoping that someone with a clue gets involved to deal with this...
mabs_log on March 13th, 2010 05:27 pm (UTC)
I about gagged when I read that list. Really? And they wonder why kids don't like to read. What about OUTSIDERS? (My seventh graders LOVED that one.) What about TEARS OF A TIGER? (My eighth graders devoured everything by Sharon Draper after we read that one.) What about GOOD books that get them excited about reading, not books that, while good and classic, aren't the ones that'll stimulate more reading and keep students' interest. (Though I love LITTLE WOMEN, A WRINKLE IN TIME, and ELEVEN).
Melinamelwil on March 13th, 2010 07:59 pm (UTC)
I'm scared that this is where the Australian nation curriculum is going to go - the whole of Australian grade 6s reading the same book at the same time. We get told it's to help the 2% of children who move each year . . . really it's so they can do more testing
paulgreci.wordpress.com on March 13th, 2010 08:43 pm (UTC)
Teacher Choice
Before resigning to write full-time, I taught English for 15 years in a school for kids who had exhausted all their other public school options, and luckily I got to choose all of my own books, short stories, what to teach, when to teach it,etc...with no one looking over my shoulder. Over the years I had teachers coming to me seeking book recommendations for their less motivated/less skilled students. They already found it challenging to work w/in the system. We need to let the experts on the front lines who are tuned into what kids are reading have a say in choosing books. I loved the feeling of connecting a kid who "hated reading" w/a book that turned him into a reader. That would have been next to impossible if I wasn't given the freedom and support to choose what books I would teach as a class and to be able to fill my classroom library with relevant YA literature. My classroom library got a boost every year after the ALAN Workshop. My students loved it when I came back with the goods!!
(Anonymous) on March 13th, 2010 09:15 pm (UTC)
Thanks for bringing this to light!
Your tag for this post is very appropriate! While I have no issue with any of the titles listed, how can this be it? Add another 100 books, even great ones, and I'd still be unhappy! What about the fantastic new titles that come out each year? And differentiation? Give me a list 100x as large and I'll BEGIN to feel less queasy, but still not be satisified.

ext_221087 on March 13th, 2010 11:39 pm (UTC)
Did you see that Where the Mountain Meets the Moon (2009) by Grace Lin made the 4-5 list? That's a nice surprise. But I don't agree with the whole idea behind Common Core Standards - let's not allow our children to explore their own interests but instead make sure that they all know exactly the same things. I'm sure I've read of this scenario in a recent dystopian novel...
ext_75623 on March 14th, 2010 01:46 pm (UTC)
Trying to keep from boiling...
Where can I find this official list? Is it posted somewhere?
What I always wonder is how we (and I mean a collective "we" that doesn't include me, or probably most of the book people I know) came to the conclusion that national standards in education are a smart thing.
What happens when everyone in the country has the exact same knowledge base? Can everything our populace needs to know really be identified and quantified? Why do people insist on sifting everything down to a simple solution (when nothing is simple in this life)?
As for this booklist, I have no objection to the specific titles. I'm just scared to think that in some future that scares me to death, this will be ONLY books many kids will have ever read...
(Anonymous) on March 15th, 2010 09:31 pm (UTC)
UHHH-greed! Why is good ya lit continuing to be written when "the classics" are still the only things allowed in the curriculum. I am s SHSU grad and now teach 5th grade Reading. We started out the school year with The Lightning Thief. My kids devoured it and now any book I start they have faith that it will be great because Rick Riordon's novel captured them from the start. Honestly, is not one of the biggest blessings we can give our students the love of reading? We have ample silent reading time with self selected books in my classroom because not only are the classics generally not relatable to my low SES kids but teaching a student how to read the blurb and self select a book is one of the strongest tools you can equip them with. Let's put some books in the curriculum like Rules, Al Capone Does My Shirts, Esperanza Rising or The Invention of Hugo Cabret... books were historical events and relatable emotions meet to form conversations about books that will linger in students' minds and leave them wanting more.

Stepping off soap box now...
Happy Spring Break!
-Leslie Hokanson