professornana (professornana) wrote,

Made you look!

Have you seen the billboards whose tag line is: "made you look!"? They pepper the skies along highways. What calls these to mind as I spend some of Spring Break in New Mexico, you might ask? One of the quotes at the Georgia O'Keefe Museum connected this image of billboards with her art. The walls of the museum have several of her quotes. This one was about her large images of flowers. She indicates that the large size in part draws our attention to the flower. But then we hang our own associations on the flower, so that what we see is not what she saw or painted. Thus, her flower and our flower may well be quite different.

Is this not the case for our books, too? Today's post at the Nerdy Book Club ( by Donalyn Miller entitled CANON FODDER is about those sacred texts we red time and again, about the books that filled special moments in our lives, about the texts that connect us to others. My sacred texts may well be different from yours (though I know that many of us share some common titles). And yet the textbooks many use as their source of literature do not permit kids to find their own canons easily. I know sharing common texts is important for instructional purposes. However, I question the approach where everyone reads the same thing all year long. Especially when those texts come from the hefty textbooks, commercial products, that do not contain sacred texts as many readers would define them (think back to O'Keefe's assertion about flowers).

Take a look at the table of contents of the textbooks. Researchers have done this over the past half a century. Guess what they discovered? There has been very little change in the selections in the textbooks. Some additions are there thanks to the hue and cry of those who noted the dearth of writing by women and people of color. But if you look more closely, you will see that the texts present when I was a teen (and when my Mom was a teen) are still there. Yes, there is an occasional nod to something contemporary, but those are still rare. So, the canon of those who create these textbooks is the canon we deliver to kids unless we use REAL books, REAL texts.

And how are we to find our canons and help kids find their own unless we absolutely flood them with books, books of all shapes and sizes and genres and forms and formats. Books from the US and books from other countries (see the USBBY site or some help here). Books about our kids and the world in which they live as well as books about being a kid decades or ceturies ago ro decades or centuries into the future. We have to be prepared during this flood for kids to reject some books we hold sacred (what do you MEAN you don't like ____________? Does this sound familiar?). We have to be prepared to accept that our sacred texts may not be theirs (and this stands to reason as we are two different readers with different backgrounds, needs, desires, abiliies, experiences, etc.), that our flower is not their flower. O'Keefe understood this. Folks who write curriculum who are not in the classroom do not, I fear.

I am preparing to do a session at TLA with my friend and colleague and fellow book lover, Rosemary Chance. The session is called 100 books in 100 minutes. We will be talking "fast and furious" about books. It is my fervent hope that one of those books might be a seed for a sacred text. Who knows? I just knnow that we plan to flood folks with books and see what happens. I know that when I listen to someone talk about a book they care about passionately (looking at you Colby, Paul, Donalyn, Cindy, Katherine, Susan, Rosemary, Karin and so many others), I want to find the book and read it, too. So, how will you let kids know about the books you will read during your Spring Break? I will blog mine. And they will make their way into an inservice or presentation as well. Who knows what might be a sacred text? But even more importantly, who knows which book might be the very FIRST book a kid picked up and read on her or his own?
Tags: art, booktalking, canon, choice
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