CON-tent seems of late to be the focus of a great deal of discussion about education. Somehow, the focus on kids has been lost amidst standards and exemplars and the rest. Teachers need to be CON-tent experts. I have no issue with teachers knowing about our field(s). I took 51 hours of undergraduate courses as part of my first teaching degree. I took more classes in English and in juvenile literature as I worked on subsequent degrees as well. However, in a very short-sighted attempt to ensure that college students graduated on a 4 year plan, out state legislature decided to cut the number of classes undergrads needed on the way to attaining certification for teaching. One of the casualties on our campus was the loss of children's and/or YA literature. The argument was made that the students would get information about books in other teacher education classes. And, of course, what would authentic literature contribute to the culture of skill, drill, and test after all? Now, however, with a new interest in nonfiction, it seems that a working knowledge of literature for children and young adults might actually come in handy. Ah, pendulum swings. Dizzying, aren't they?
Now, on to con-TENT. Con-TENT is one of the many feelings that run through me as I read books. This morning, as I had my first cup of coffee, I read a handful of picture books. THE QUIET BOOK, a collaboration of Sarah Stewart and David Small (husband-wife team who have created separately and together some of the most moving picture books), gave them that deep sigh of contentment as I read a book that talks about the need for a quiet place to sit and read and get away from all the rest of the world. I can do that even in the midst of frenzied activity due to a stage in the development of lifelong readers known as "unconscious delight," a time in which we read and the real world falls away and we become lost in a book. I wonder, though, how many of our kids get the chance for this unconscious delight? How many times do they get to close a book they have just finished and heave a sigh knowing that this tale has ended (for now at least) and they must come back to the real world?
I loved getting lost in books. never was it so easy as when I was reading Nancy Drew and other series books. For the next generation, it was Sweet Valley High and then Babysitter's Club and Hank the Cowdog and Orphan Train. Now, it is Wimpy Kid and Kane and Percy Jackson and more (see this Wikipedia entry for lists: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Category:Series_of_children's_books). So. coming back to an earlier post about environment: does your classroom offer CON-tent and con-TENT?