professornana (professornana) wrote,

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firing the canon

I spent a few hours yesterday reading my friend Joan Kindig's new professional book from Stenhouse ( entitled CHOOSING TO READ.  Here is the cover:


I will talk about the book later in a separate blog post on my Blogger site ( but one sentence hit me immediately.  Joan included a definition of the word canon in her introduction to the book thusly, "an officially recognized set of sacred books."  Wow, those books on the literary canon are sacred?  To whom, I wondered.  Not to me.  Not to kids.  I suspect they are sacred to a few who have not read much written since the old dead white men canon wedged itself into the ELA curriculum.  So, here is what I propose:  let us all in our classrooms and schools and districts and libraries compile a list of contemporary books we find to be sacred and create our own literary canon. 

Here are a few sacred books I would add:


Actually, I do not want to create a canon.  To me, canons are exclusive.  It is tough for new books to enter and there seems to be NO way that some books can be eliminated either. Go back and look at the past winners of an award that has been around for a long time such as the Newbery.  Take a look at the winners and honor books from the 20s and 30s and 40s and even later and see how many of those books still speak to kids today.  So, maybe not a canon.  But I do make a list each and every semester of sacred books I will require my students to read in children's and YA lit classes. My canon changes; some books stay and others remain.  Another canon? My list of best books that I keep each year and share in workshops.  I am certain that if I go back 10 years there will be books that have gone out of print or books I might not even recall too much about.  That canon shifts as well.

The one canon I fear (besides the literature textbook one)?  The CCSS Exemplar texts.  I fear that, too, will become a canon.  You should, too.
Tags: canon, changes, literature
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