Childish Things

August 17, 2014 — Leave a comment

booksClasses have already ramped back up and are absolutely insane in pace. I love it, but it has definitely taken me away from exploring new edu-things and writing. I had a few free moments this morning and remembered that I had bookmarked something that I really wanted to write about “at some point”. (I may never get through THAT list!)

One of the early assignments in my ED554 class this past summer was to some edu-blogs (and then report on them). You may have already read about some of my adventures in that exercise, including how hard it was to pick just one blog, how I found edshelf, and then later my journey to help save edshelf. Two of those were required posts, the other a heartfelt plea.

At any rate, during that blog research, I stumbled upon a blog called the Intrepid Teacher. Jabiz Raisdana has an engaging blog and his writing style really appeals to me. I suspect that it is in part because his philosophy on education has so many points that mirror my own, and that in that philosophy he claims himself to be an “avid reader”.

I, too, am an avid reader (though right now, only of text books). So much so, that when my oldest child was in first grade and it became apparent that he was a reluctant reader, I fell into despair. I took me nearly three years to get myself to the point (without him realizing it – of course I did all I could to get him reading) to get to the point where I decided that it would have to be okay if he didn’t love to read so long as he was able to read well. In that journey I also had to accept that graphic novels constituted reading material, and quite frankly, as long as the kid was reading SOMETHING, I guess that was okay.

In third grade, my son fell in love with social studies. Anything history-related, really. He just could not get enough. I thought, “Maybe this will spur some reading on.” And so it did, sort of. This was the year Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson series became huge and my son really liked those books. Well over his head, and probably his reading ability too, but hey, he was reading. And I was still reading to him, so we got through those without conflict. Sadly, my hopes for his reading were dashed…he failed his reading SOL. But somehow, this kid scored 566 out of 600 on his social studies SOL. I know – I don’t get it either.

In the meantime, I was reading everything his school librarian suggested. The hope was, he would see what I was reading and maybe, just maybe get interested enough to read more himself. And eventually, that did happen. When he was in sixth grade, he discovered The Hunger Games.   Then James Dashner’s Mazerunner series came out. FANTASTIC! Here I was, actually having to ask my child (with great pain) to put the book down!

So here is the thing. The books these kids are reading are GOOD! Way better than anything I had at that age. So now I am a huge upper elementary book nerd. Harry Potter? I visit Hogwarts regularly. Hunger Games? Can’t wait for the next movie and am very curious to see what they do with the CGI Philip Seymour Hoffman. Mazerunner? Please, dear me, do NOT make a mess of this movie.

So I found it interesting when I stumbled upon this post from Jabiz. He had just discovered this. He hadn’t done it previously. He declared himself a “book snob” and felt that youth lit did not scratch the “intellectual itches” he needed. I found this fascinating and it made me examine my own reasons for continuing to read youth literature well after my son decided that reading was indeed enjoyable.

What I found was that I enjoyed it. I enjoyed escaping to a world that didn’t exist. I enjoyed having to use my imagination to envision things that are not typical. Imagining a post-apocalyptic, dystopian society was fun! And because I was working as a substitute teacher, I found that I really enjoyed the connections my youth literary knowledge allowed me to make with my students.

And this is what I found fascinating. Raisdana had wildly different reasons for not reading youth literature, as well as what prompted him to begin doing so. He felt these books did not scratch his “intellectual itches”. I like to think I am an intelligent person. Being that I’m headed to a classroom in a year, we better hope that I am! But I had never been averse to reading youth literature; it was just that until I had children of my own, I saw no real reason for doing it.

But my reasons for starting this practice were purely selfish. I wanted my kid to read. Jabiz was spurred to begin reading youth literature because he received funding for a large classroom library. What he and I have in common here is the desire to gain the ability to be able to recommend books that our kids (my children, his students) would enjoy fully.

Raisdana’s post has given me two new things to put into my “teacher toolkit”. And they are fantastic! He discusses being able to “sell” books to his students with confidence since he has begun reading the books, which to be certain, is valuable. But since I had been doing this already, this wasn’t the take away for me. One of the things Jabiz began doing after he began reading was to begin each class “pushing books”. I like this, because I have noticed that kids will return to re-reading books they already know rather than trying something new – all because they may not have enough information to make that jump.  I really like this idea, because it allows for some serious connections to be made – not just between my students and me, but between students as well.

But my favorite bit was that he created a place for a physical list where kids could make recommendations for books that should be added to the classroom library. He reckons that this empowers the students to feel like experts, that it allows them to feel like they are influencing the teacher with their own love of books. And I totally agree with him.

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