For the past couple of days, I have been talking about knowledge, book knowledge in particular. There is so much to learn still about books and readers. A friend emailed me (and some other colleagues) this morning looking for some recommendations of books. I offered some suggestions and then read the emails from the other folks and thought, "well, yes, why did I not think of that?" Truth be told, we think better together. I know that is the case when I am planning with my department colleagues about curriculum; it is true as I work with another colleague on an article about NF. Collaboration makes me consider some things I might not think about in isolation. "WHAT DO YOU THINK?" is perhaps one of the best questions we can ask of one another.
When I begin to put together the reading lists for children's and YA literature, I look at the lists from other instructors, I ask on Twitter and Facebook, I troll at conferences to discover what kids are still reading and not reading. I ask colleagues who are in classrooms and libraries. Each semester, those reading lists evolve. Some titles drop off; new ones are added. And I am never totally pleased with the final list. I always think it could be better. If I could require hundreds of books (and if you ask my students particularly at this point in the semester, they might insist they are reading hundreds of books), I would. I want to ensure as much as I can that the grad students who will go on to become school librarians have a wide and working knowledge of titles to recommend and booktalk and put on display.
When I first began using YA in the classroom (many many moons ago), I started with a list of about 30 books I knew. I asked my students to read from that list and then to recommend other titles I should know so I could add them to the list. Funny how obliging eighth graders can be when asked for their opinion. That list of 30 grew and grew and grew. My friend Lois Buckman and I spent summers lounging poolside reading and trying to extend our lists. Committing to the New Centurions (thanks Paul Hankins) and #bookaday (thanks Donalyn Miller) and other challenges keeps that list growing and growing and growing. Serving on book committees has also served to push my reading outside of the comfort zone. While I still have favorites, there is not much I will not read. That knowledge has made me a better teacher (I hope). It surely has made me a better person.
IRA begins later this week, and I am already anticipating the collaborative learning that will take place. Much of it will take place on the Riverwalk and we eat guacamole (Boudro's!) and drink prickly pear margaritas and talk. We will talk about all manner of things, but I can guarantee you that books will be mentioned. I will be blogging and tweeting from San Antonio beginning this Friday. If you are there, I hope we get the chance for some collaboration, too. There is an ad campaign called THE MORE YOU KNOW. I think it might be better called THE MORE YOU COLLABORATE.