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20 April 2015 @ 07:28 pm
Jibber Jabber-wocky  
The content of a tweet threw me for a loop this morning. It talked about high and low value reading and how we might show kids how to deal with each. I know enough of the jargon to understand this, I think. High value reading consists of text that is "worth" exploring. It is worthy of close reading. It is rigorous and complex. I get that.

But I started to wonder about low value reading. What is reading that we might deem low value? Street signs? Billboards? Those could be deemed low value unless we are dealing with traffic and looking for information about the exit to take for that pecan log (remember those?).

How about price tags and shelf labels in a grocery store? Food labels? Could these be low value? I guess they could unless you are looking to comparison shop items or working from a budget. Or if you are looking for information about nutrition and GMOs.

In the preceding cases, the value of the text we read depends upon our purpose, in this case, obtaining information, guidance, direction.

What about when we are reading for pleasure, for entertainment, for recreation. Is there such a thing as low value text then? I think there is among those I call the literary snobs, those who decry the use of "popular" texts as simply for "fun." I suspect these are texts deemed by some to be low value. And I bristle at this implication that, if something appeals to a reader, it cannot possibly be of high value. As I read the books being published for children, tween, and teens I see high value. There is high value on having a character with whom readers can relate and with whom they can empathize. I see the high value in the exquisite language, the barrier-breaking forms and formats, the incredible palettes and media and techniques of the illustrations.

I look back at the Caldecott winners from last year and analyze color, texture, composition, line, and there visual elements. I read the Newbery winners and marvel at the variety of story, the turn of phrases, the arc of character development, the themes, and other literary elements. I read the books I picked up at TLA and am so excited to float these on to new readers. Low value? Maybe to the outsider. But to those of us in the community of readers, value rests not with the text but with what the reader discovers within the pages of the text.

College Girl discovered motifs from reading Rowling and Lewis. Career Girl discovered symbolism reading SPEAK. They joined hundreds, thousands, millions of other readers whose empathy grew as they read LUNA and NOTHING and so many other books. They tested their convictions safely within the passages of HUNGER GAMES. They mused about deep questions, wrestled with issues, and more.

So, when it comes to value, I want to avoid using military terms like high and low value. And I want each and every one of you to call BS when you see it. If you see YA books being called "fun," call it. When you see picture books being called "cute," call it. We need to stop the jibber-jabber-wonky that is a thin veil for disdain of materials some do not find worthy. We need to demonstrate that real readers need books of all kinds to satisfy their needs and interests and desires. We need to VALUE kids and their choices.
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