professornana (professornana) wrote,

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more from the Washington Post article

Here is the next quote that took my breath away from the recent article (you can find the entire article here:

Tackling rich literature is the best way to prepare students for careers and college, said Stotsky, who blames mediocre national reading scores on weak young adult literature popular since the 1960s.

Okay, given that YA has been around for a while (let's say the late 60s), have reading scores been plummeting that long? And where does the blame rest for the decline or lack of improvement in scores on tests following NCLB legislation? And who or what will we blame if scores do not skyrocket with CCSS?

You see, we need a scapegoat. We have basked teachers and unions already. So now declining reading scores must be blamed on the materials being read, right? Let's parse this a bit further. I am assuming the scores being referred to here are NAEP scores. The CCSS document indicates that much of the NAEP content is nonfiction. So, here is one disconnect. We are measuring student performance on tests that are more NF than fiction (especially as we move to secondary grades). Why then point to YA as the culprit?

Indeed, if you take a look at YA nonfiction (which these "experts" must not have thought to do), we can see that it is not mediocre or weak. Here are a few examples. BOMB (six starred reviews this year), MOONBIRD (five starred reviews) and A BLACK HOLE IS NOT A HOLE (four starred reviews) are rich not only in vocabulary but in content and in the masterful "storytelling" that takes place in each. I wonder if teachers were to share these (and the many other) books with students in content area classes as well as ELA classes we might see some increase in reading scores?

But one more thing about scores: scores are a snapshot on how kids did on ONE test on ONE given day. They should not be the only assessment/evaluation. However, they do seem to be just that in this era of CCSS. I would include some other assessments: are they reading? how many books are they reading? are they reading widely? are they talking about their reading with others?

And while we are at it: please define what is meant by RICH literature? Rich in character development? Then how about THE ONE AND ONLY IVAN? Rich in theme? Then, how about IN A GLASS GRIMMLY with its motifs and archetypes? Rich in language? Then how about OCTOBER MOURNING? There are riches in YA. And they are not buried. Just look and see the gems gleaming each and every year.

So, to all those who decry the sorry state of YA (and it has been done before beginning in the 60s and 70s), you are missing the richness because you are not even looking for it.
Tags: ccss, richness, rigor, washington post, ya
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