professornana (professornana) wrote,

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Okay, I am sorry if you now have this song stuck in your head for a while. But this op-ed piece in the New York Times caught my attention yesterday: NO LEARNING WITHOUT FEELING

While I disagree in part with some of the points made in the editorial, the concluding paragraph sums my sentiments up quite nicely:

"Put this way, it sounds obvious, but it isn’t what we’re doing. Skills-based standards ignore the basic fact that language learning must occur in a meaningful context. The basis for higher-level learning — for philosophy, psychology, literature, even political science — is the emotions and impulses people feel every day. If we leave them out of the picture, reading is bled of much of its purpose."

I have written here and in other places before about response to text. The works (poems, stories, novels, and nonfiction) that stay with me long after the reading is complete are those that strike a resonant cord within me as a reader. They are the texts that exact or elicit an emotional response of some kind. Here are just a few of my favorites.

The opening scene in THE WATSONS GO TO BIRMINGHAM, 1963 is snortingly funny. Not just a chuckle, a guffaw. Stuck to the sideview mirror by his lips.

The scene in JACK ON THE TRACKS as Jack gets even with his sister by lowering a palmetto bug on a string down to her mouth (which is open as she is snoring) and then waking her in time to see this huge bug almost on her face. Ick!

When Jonas in THE GIVER learns what "release" really means. Punch in the gut moment, right?

FAITHFUL ELEPHANTS. If you have read the book, you know. If not, grab the book and some Kellenx, too.

"The Little Boy and the Old Man" by Shel Silverstein. You begin by laughing, if a bot ruefully, and end with tears.

EVERY MINUTE ON EARTH full of facts that make me laugh.

Books that cause me to respond on the emotional level keep me going as a reader. I know that sometimes I must read for information, for meaning, for advice, for knowledge. But without the opportunity to read texts that speak to me on a personal level, I think that I would not read nearly as much as I do. I think our entry point with kids is with books that speak to them, that are written for them. Unfortunately, too much of the CCSS Exemplars were never penned with a kid audience in mind. Yet, somehow, we have forced these books on kids because they are "good for them." And we force them on kids much too early in some cases, too.

Think about the insanity of making kids read PLAYS, for instance. This makes no sense whatsoever to me. I watched the Tony Awards last night and loved seeing MATILDA and other books acted out on stage. Why would I want to read the book from the show in lieu of seeing the show itself? That is the insanity of reading Shakespeare flat on a page instead of performed as the author intended.

We need to make sure kids feel connected to books, that we create that community of readers, that we honor interests and preferences, that we provice choice, and that we offer something for each and every kid.
Tags: choice, feeling, response
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