After the lasagna pans were in the fridge, I sat down to read my Twitter feed and saw a tweet from several terrific librarians that they are going to hold the first annual THE CHOCOLATE WAR twitter event in May. You can read all about it here at Kelly's blog: http://www.stackedbooks.org/2013/03/the-chocolate-war-read-blog-along.html. It is almost 40 years since the publication of Cormier's first YA novel. I read it for my YA lit class years ago, I reread it often as it is one of the books required for my own YA lit class now (as a matter of fact, this was one of the books discussed in this week's assignment for the course, an assignment that focuses on Kohlberg and moral development). I plan to join in the reading (rereading) and maybe create a ladder as I read.
How do these two events intersect, you might ask. Legitimate question. I am thinking it has to do with EXPERIENCE. I needed the experience of watching Mom make lasagna and the experience of trying my own had at it as well. So did Natalie who can now take it and run with it. If I had not had that experience, I might follow directions from a cook book or from the back of the noodle box. That is NOT lasagna the way we have come to know and love it. And the EXPERIENCE of reading and reading and reading THE CHOCOLATE WAR has colored how I approach other novels. It affects the connections I make between it and other books. And I know the ladder I create on this next reading will be different because I have read lots of other books since then (thinking THE TRAGEDY PAPER, LOOKING FOR ALASKA, PAPER COVERS ROCK will be on that ladder now).
I went even further with this thinking. What about kids who have never seen WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE or THIS IS NOT MY HAT, IT'S A BOOK, GREEN, THE VERY HUNGRY CATERPILLAR, or any one of hundreds of picture books that build experience with texts? What about kids who do not know fairy tales (even the Disney-ized versions)? Or listened to the poetry of Silverstein, Lobel, Prelutsky, Kennedy, Florian, Hopkins, etc? Their experiences (or lack thereof) make a difference. I am a huge proponent of using picture books with older readers in part because of the importance of experience. I was told this week by someone seeking some recommendations on baseball books for a boy reading at second grade level that they are discouraging kids from reading picture books any more. Wow, what a shame given the great new picture books by Chris Crowe and Matt Tavares and Kadir Nelson and the rest.
What I am talking about here is, of course this endless PUSH for kids to read longer and harder books and this idea that picture books are too easy or graphic novels do not challenge readers. I will take that up in a later post. For now, I want to go back to that lasagna making: kids need to have us as models, they need to have us assist them (as they require assistance), and then we need to turn them loose. But we do need to make sure they have all the ingredients they need, too.
You can pardon me for mixing metaphors since this is a cooking analogy, right? Wishing you all a tasty weekend.