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28 September 2014 @ 04:54 pm
Pushing limits  
I was monitoring a conversation about books on a listerv last week. This one drew my interest because of the query that started it all. One educator asked if a certain book lusted by its publisher as being appropriate for 14 and up would be okay for her 6th graders. That tells me two things. First, the educator posting the question has not read the book in question. And second, the message that makes me want to tear out my hair yet again: let's shove this book intended for older readers down to younger readers.

I posted out my frustrated reaction to Facebook. Within the space of a few hours, I had another educator post that she was told her 5th graders were destined to read THE GRAPES OF WRATH because some committee had deemed it at their level. Shudder.

I settled in this past week and read quite a few books below my level and Lexile. I read picture books, chapter books, YA novels and nonfiction, professional journals, email, Twitter, and FaceBook posts none of which had sufficient syllables and sentences nor syntax and semantics complex enough to challenge me. Did I find all of these easy to read? Not at all. One book required that I have an interest in the subject matter I did not possess at the outset. Some of the social network postings took me to websites with some dense text. And some took me to cartoons which required I use inferencing skills. No mean feat when I do this before I have had my morning coffee, too.

Seriously, I am more than weary of this idiotic pushing of books down the throats of kids and its converse, the taking away of books someone deems too simple. Neither seems to take into account the developmental needs of kids (and adults, too) nor their reading interests and preferences or even schema and prior knowledge. It seems to be the fashion to see how far we can push kids in terms of curriculum: the CCSS is a prime example. Critics continue to point to the developmental inappropriateness. Media seems to ignore it all.

Thursday morning on MSNBC, hosts berated the new head of the NEA who talked about Arne Duncan as a nice guy but not much of an educator in terms of his lack of experience and his alignment with business and corporations. They jumped on her in a chorus. She did manage to get through a couple of bon mots including my favorite line, "There is no Teach for Finland." While I am not a fan of our professional organizations including the NEA for their lack of a stance against CCSS and its implementation, I did appreciate this leader's demeanor in the face of totally dismissal and disrespect. And I think the hosts of "Morning Joe" need to be careful when they dump their opinions (based of course on their VAST experience as teachers) on someone who has been in the classroom, who does know a little something about teaching and kids, someone who is now speaking out clearly about the mess that politicians and journalists and corporations have made in their rush to fix something that was not broken.

So, I wandered a bit here. What is the take-away? Fist, if you have a question about the appropriateness of a book even after seeing there recommendations of publishers and reviewers, do me a favor: READ THE BOOK YOURSELF. Second, stand up to those who would suggest GRAPES OF WRATH for 5th graders. And, third, stop relying on measurements about text and focus on the text and its meaning.

You can accomplish all three simply by reading and then reading more and then talking about reading with other readers, and then maybe reading about books and reading. READ.
 
 
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