“Field of Dreams” was on one of the channels the other morning as I was preparing to head off to work. I love this magical story and its themes that center on family, friendship, and faith. Remember Kevin Costner’s reaction initially to the whispered, “If you build it, they will come”? At first, there is disbelief. Gradually, in some large part due to the insistence of that whisper, Costner concedes and begins to build his field of dreams. What does this have to do with adolescents and reading you might ask? The analogy works on a couple of levels. First, I think, we take some counsel from the persistent whisper about building our field. Persistence is not just giving it one shot before conceding defeat. Persistence means coming back again and again, trying over and over. And there is also a measure of belief that plays a role in this Field of Dreams analogy. We have to believe that if we do build it, they will come. How do the elements of belief and persistence play out in the classroom?
My classroom (even the virtual one I now live in) is my "Field of Dreams." I am fortunate that I am the one in charge of making decisions largely without regard to the "test" which will follow. Yes, there are standards to address, but these are standards developed specifically for school librarians and are so germaine to what I do in the literature classes. Here is Standard II: Literacy and Reading:
Standard 2: Literacy and Reading
Candidates promote reading for learning, personal growth, and enjoyment. Candidates are aware of major trends in children's and young adult literature and select reading materials in multiple formats to support reading for information, reading for pleasure, and reading for lifelong learning. Candidates use a variety of strategies to reinforce classroom reading instruction to address the diverse needs and interests of all readers.
Elements 2.1 Literature Candidates are familiar with a wide range of children’s, young adult, and professional literature in multiple formats and languages to support reading for information, reading for pleasure, and reading for lifelong learning.
2.2 Reading promotion Candidates use a variety of strategies to promote leisure reading and model personal enjoyment of reading in order to promote habits of creative expression and lifelong reading.
2.3 Respect for diversity Candidates demonstrate the ability to develop a collection of reading and information materials in print and digital formats that support the diverse developmental, cultural, social, and linguistic needs of P-12 students and their communities.
2.4 Literacy strategies Candidates collaborate with classroom teachers to reinforce a wide variety of reading instructional strategies to ensure P-12 students are able to create meaning from text.
Would that the writers of CCSS had paid some attention to how AASL crafted its standards and provided broader goals for ELAR. These broad strokes here guide me as I prepare the materials and activities for my classes. And so I believe that my students need the following: they need to know books; they need to be readers, models of reading; they need to know how to promote reading; they need to be able to collaborate with classroom teachers; and they need to develop a collection that reflects diverse needs.
So I persist in reading as much and as widely as I can. I persist in holding students to a high standard (they read LOTS of books have an assignment each week of class that asks them to discuss their reading) despite the fact that some of them provide harsh feedback on evaluations at the end of the course. I persist in believing authentic literature is still the best possible material to use with authentic kids. And I persist in fighting challenges and censorship, in battling narrow-minded curriculum reforms, and in defending my field of dreams.