professornana (professornana) wrote,

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A Is for Agitate

I was interviewed a couple of weeks ago for an article in the Chicago Tribune. You can read the entire article here: Along with my voice, you will see quotes from luminaries of YA such as Jack Martin, president of YALSA, and Alleen Pace Nilsen, as well as Paul W. Hankins. Here is the quote I pulled:

"Hankins is among a small but growing group of educators who agitate for contemporary young adult literature to be incorporated into the required reading curriculum in high schools. Mandatory reading lists, long the domain of Dickens and Steinbeck and Melville, are compiled largely at the discretion of individual schools. Nowhere is it written that a student has to have read "Othello" and "Beowulf" to graduate high school."

How I love the idea of teachers as agitators. Not teachers as what we normally associate with outside agitators, but agitators, like the ones in washing machines. Bear with me. A washing machine can be filled with water and loaded with detergent, but if there is no agitation, cleaning is not really accomplished well. Might as well stand out in the rain with clothes on hoping for cleaning to occur. So, the machine is there. Into it we add water (kids) and detergent (books). But unless there is some movement, some agitation, not much is going to happen. So what should the agitator do? Mix things up a bit, right? Help the detergent dissolve and work within the water. What does that look like in the classroom? My colleague and friend, Donalyn Miller, would point to the need to build community. Colby Sharp and John Schu would mention reading aloud and surrounding kids with books as essential.

And Paul has another quote that did not make the article that takes this one step further: "Just like water, young adult readers seek their own level," says high school English teacher Paul W. Hankins. "They're like vessels, and if you're not very deep in your reading, you have a hard time filling them up."

Yep, we need to be readers if we want to get that agitation going. I once had a kid snatch a book from my hands when I was talking about not liking it much. He proclaimed that a book I did not like might just be the book he would LOVE (and it made me aware that reverse psychology could be used sparingly). So, as we head into a long weekend, I hope you will consider making this a #bookaday weekend. I am reading the first book with my ears as I rip and burn some new audio to my mp3 player. I have some other books lined up for the rest of the holiday weekend. Join me, please, in becoming a teacher who is deeper into reading the books that speak to our kids.
Tags: books, chicago tribune, metaphors, reading
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