1. kits purchased with a program (remember, this is the UNprogram). Kits are so ONE SIZE FITS ALL and, worse, they are selected for your kids by someone not in your classroom.
2. all selected from the award winning lists. Hey, I love the awards as much as anyone and have served on numerous committees. But I have also encountered some award winning books that just did not speak to me. And, the awards for the most part do not consider popularity (though they do address appeal, a topic for another time) nor are they for a specific grade level, age, gender, etc.
3. books I have not read myself. I know others will disagree here, but I will not hand a book off to a reader unless I know the book. How else can I even approximate making a match?
4. all new books. I still love the oldies but goodies. I booktalk some mysteries written in the 80s that kids still adore.
5. all one KIND of book be it genre, form, format, etc.
So what ARE the books? I was thinking about this as I walked into church this morning. After listening to the readings and the sermon, I had a better idea. Here is the phrase that stuck in my head: every valley will be exalted and every hill made low and the road will be made straight. Let's see if I can explain (I could have done this better if only I could have taken my phone out at church and made notes).
EXALTING VALLEYS: filling in gaps, making my spirits rise, smoothing over bumps in the road. There are so many books that do this or have done this for me. I love books that can make me laugh at the end of a tough day, books that add to my knowledge of a topic or subject, books that help me tackle professional issues.
LEVELING MOUNTAINS: removing obstacles, letting me see longer into the distance, easing the journey. Again, there are many books that can and have done this for me. Books that offer me some solutions to problems, books that help me see outside of myself and my own community, books that tell me I am not alone: these are books that level mountains for me.
MAKING STRAIGHT THE PATHWAYS: taking me to the heart of something, showing me the way to go, giving me a goal. Ditto the fact that there are plenty of books out there to do this. There is a quote that books should wound and stab us: those books help me get to the heart of the matter. Books that offer direction/directions are valuable here as are books that inspire me to DO something. Great straightening books from my perspective.
You see I have avoided titles in the foregoing. I did this on purpose. MY titles might not (and probably are not) the same as yours for leveling, rasising, straightening. Sometimes we will have books in common, but we do not have to come to consensus on those books, do we? I talked about this in my ALAN speech last month. A canon is a setof sacred books. I have a personal canon. I think I can hesitate to offer some possible titles for a canon for the kids I teach (the graduate students in my classes). But you have your own kids and canons, I hope. And if you need some recommendations for canon titles, try The Nerdy Books Club and other blogs (hey, how about mine: www.ls5385blog.blogspot.com). Take a list at the starred review lists for books that many agree are some of the best of the year. Ask friends and colleagues for recommendations, too.
A shout out to Paul Hankins who pointed out that we do not need programs but paradigms. As always, my friend, you are so right.
Tomorrow, more of the building blocks for the UNprogram.