But the season that is garnering most of my attention is the TESTING season. All across Texas (and I know there are plenty of other places where this pays out), teaching has come to a grinding halt (if it ever got underway what with all the benchmarking and test prep). Students are sitting still for hours at a time and taking tests in ELAR, Math, and other subjects. And so much depends on how they perform on these tests. For some, not passing the test will mean being retained in their grade for an additional year; for others it can mean no high school diploma. And for some teachers, the scores might mean the end of their careers.
We seem to have turned to the test as some sort of validation in schools. Kids who do well get rewarded; kids who perform poorly are chastised and punished by being isolated from the other students. When did we begin ignoring the affective part of the child? When did teaching become all about cognition so that kids become data sets? When did learning become reduced to answers on a multiple choice test? Why is there not a huge protest to the testing season?
The title refers to a song based on a psalm which talks about the need for a time to grow and a time to reap, a time to mourn and a time to dance. It seems to me that we have spent too much time drilling (and killing) with kids and not enough time dancing and planting and living and laughing. And I wonder if abandoning reading aloud (as the NRP elected NOT to include it in their pillars of reading) has meant less laughing, planting, and even crying (in response to text)? Actually, I do not wonder. I KNOW. I know that if we do not celebrate with Flora and Ulysses, if we do not laugh at the hijinks of Elephant and Piggie, if we do not dance with Flora the Flamingo, or cry when The Paperboy discovers he has been robbed then we have somehow lost so much.
I am amazed when I speak to teachers and librarians who do not read, who do not know the award winners or new books (and sometimes even older books). I hurt when I see colleges of education drop the requirement for preservice teachers to take children's and YA literature courses. But then, I read the latest stats from Publisher's Weekly and see book sales from last year, lists of the books that sold more than 500,000 copies. I know that somewhere someone is sharing books with kids. And I take heart. So let me leave you with some good news today. Here are the bestselling books, the top 25 hardcovers, from 2013.
1. Hard Luck (Diary of a Wimpy Kid #8). Jeff Kinney. Abrams/Amulet (3,010,093)
2. Allegiant (Divergent #3). Veronica Roth. HarperCollins/Tegen (1,526,294)
3. The House of Hades (Heroes of Olympus #4). Rick Riordan. Disney-Hyperion (1,470,021)
4. Rush Revere and the Brave Pilgrims. Rush Limbaugh. S&S/Threshold (765,073)
5. Tales from a Not-So-Happy Heartbreaker (Dork Diaries #6). Rachel Renée Russell. S&S/Aladdin (749,685)
6. The Wheels on the Bus (Pete the Cat). James Dean. HarperCollins (472,018)
7. OMG! All About Me Diary (Dork Diaries).
Rachel Renée Russell. Aladdin (442,376)
8. Emeraldalicious (Pinkalicious). Victoria Kann. HarperCollins (385,355)
9. Clockwork Princess (The Infernal Devices). Cassandra Clare. S&S/McElderry (378,939)
10. The Day the Crayons Quit. Drew Daywalt, illus. by Oliver Jeffers. Philomel
11. Big Nate Flips Out. Lincoln Peirce. HarperCollins (329,990)
12. Pete the Cat and His Magic Sunglasses. James Dean and Kimberly Dean. HarperCollins (303,591)
13. How I Survived Bullies, Broccoli, and Snake Hill (Middle School #4). James Patterson and Chris Tebbetts, illus. by Laura Park. Little, Brown/Patterson Young Readers (297,618)
14. Revealed. P.C. and Kristin Cast. St. Martin’s Griffin (269,509)
15. Princess Adventure Stories. Disney Press (266,778)
16. I Even Funnier: A Middle School Story by James Patterson and Chris Grabenstein, illus. by Laura Park. Little, Brown/Patterson Young Readers (261,213)
17. The Perfect Tea Party (Disney Junior: Sofia the First). Andrea Posner-Sanchez. Random/Golden/Disney
18. My Brother Is a Big, Far Liar (Middle School #3). James Patterson and Lisa Papademetriou, illus. by Neil Swaab. Little, Brown/Patterson Young Readers (253,042)
19. Treasure Hunters. James Patterson, Chris Grabenstein, and Mark Shulman, illus. by Juliana Neufeld. Little, Brown/Patterson Young Readers (246,574)
20. Fanciest Doll in the Universe (Fancy Nancy). Jane O’Connor, illus. by Robin Preiss Glasser. HarperCollins (242,079)
21. Captain Underpants and the Revolting Revenge of the Radioactive Robo-Boxers. Dav Pilkey. Scholastic (235,481)
22. One Direction: Where We Are. One Direction. HarperCollins (227,856).
23. Everything I Need to Know I Learned from a Little Golden Book. Diane Muldrow. Random/Golden
24. Nancy Clancy Sees the Future (Fancy Nancy). Jane O’Connor, illus. by Robin Preiss Glasser. HarperCollins (213,220)
25. Monsters, Inc. Storybook Collection. Disney Press (209,714)