professornana (professornana) wrote,

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M Is for Mindful

During Banned Books Week, it is important (IMHO) to keep some things in mind.  Often, a book is challenged because it is being recommended for readers who are not developmentally ready for the book.  I can still remember when College Girl came home with TANGERINE by Bloor when she was in third grade.  Her older sister, who had read the book recently (she was in high school at the time), told her to take it back to the library.  I gave a brief booktalk and College Girl did decide to return the book.  I stuck a note inside letting the librarian know that I felt the book best belonged in middle or high school since the elementary school ended at 3rd grade.  Was this censorship?

I think of it as being a good parent and teacher.  Obviously, this was a book ordered because of its reading level (4.3).  It was not one I felt had been read by the person ordering the book itself.  TANGERINE is intense, a wonderfully written book that deserves readers capable of comprehending not just the words but the emotions and themes and characters of the novel (you can read more about it here if you do not know this remarkable book:  What brought this to mind recently was another example of a book being used with an audience not quite ready to appreciate it.  Actually, it was two books: TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD and ANIMAL FARM.  Sixth grade reading?  Well, from a readability perspective, TKAM is 5.6 and 870 lexile, and ANIMAL FARM is 7.3. with 1170 lexile. One could argue that striving readers might access TKAM and advanced readers could access ANIMAL FARM.   It is more than numbers, though, that makes me concerned: these are two books that I truly do hope students get to read when they are READY to truly find them rewarding.  I am not sure 6th grade is the place.  And certainly not as class sets of novels (more about that in another post, I think).  

Of course, this is one of the problems I have with assigning numbers to books including reading levels, lexiles, grade levels, and any other label that does not consider the reader first.  There is no computer or list that can replace the teacher or librarian who can consider the reader when trying to "make the match."  With all the push of late with CCSS and nonfiction and close reading, I worry that we might lose sight of the forest because of the trees.  We need to be mindful of the needs of our readers.  Talking about books, showing trailers, posting kid reviews, shelf talkers, and the like are all ways to ensure we stay mindful.
Tags: banned books, leveling books
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