SATURDAY MORNING FOR KIDS (On Sunday)

I’m having trouble with my laptop and could not post Saturday’s post.  I did what most Senior Citizens do when having technology problems–asked my grandson. The result is I have the missing “Write” tab back.  Thank you Dr. P.

Saturday’s book is one of the best kid/YA books I have read (and I have read many in 50 years of teaching). Jordan Sonnenblick’s novel, Zen and the Art of Faking It, is a funny, age-appropriate book. San Lee, a teenager and his mother have left Houston where his father is in prison and have relocated to a small apartment in a Pennsylvania town. It is quite an adjustment for everyone. San thinks, “Blending in is impossible, so maybe it’s time for me to stand out.” San begins to invent a “new” past for himself that makes him very popular.He has let the students think he is a Buddhist who practices meditation. He meets a really cool girl who becomes his friend.  Of course, eventually things start to unravel.

Here, at the front of the book, is “A Note to the Reader”:

“Have you ever switched schools? I have, and let me tell you–a school is a school is a school.  Every middle school on God’s green earth smells exactly the same because damp lockers, industrial cleaning fluids, and puke are universal. The lunch is the same: How many ways can you flavor a freakin’ Tater Tot? The guys are the same: like a show on Animal Planet without the cuddle factor.  The girls are the same: Martians with human hormones. And the teachers? Please.

So when I dragged my feet in their rotting sandals through the gray midwinter slush and up the stairs of Harrisonville Middle School for the first time. I knew exactly what I was getting into. Sure I did.”

I highly recommend this book to kids and kid-friendly adults everywhere.

LITERACY AND TWEENS, PART TWO

How can we get middle graders to read? How can we get them to like reading? How can we get them downright excited about books and reading? Those questions are exactly what language arts teachers are asking themselves, experts on reading, and other teachers. “What works in your classroom”? is often heard in middle school among conversations in the faculty lounge.

More and more schools, literacy organizations like Imprint in Houston have begun to arrange author-events, book signings, book fairs with decorations, life-sized cardboard characters to take selfies with, and “take-offs” on adult book signings (but a lot more fun). In Brazoria County ComicCon gets the whole family involved in a family night at the local junior high. It is sponsored by the Brazoria County Library System, held in a local school, and a good time is guaranteed for all. Tie Ins with current family-approved movies (like Wonder) are promoted and encouraged by teachers and book clubs alike. Because films are made with “something for everyone,” films made from popular YA books are most often successful with middle schoolers, sometimes viewed after reading the book at school.

Often authors will greet fans and sign and sell their books, which builds an author-reader relationship only equalled by the child- book (or more often book series) relationship–a win-win for all involved. Students and their families begin to “think of reading as a cherished part of their lives, not just homework.” (Samuels, Bobbie “Houston’s Tweens Should Read For Fun” The Houston Chronicle) In the same article, Jeffrey Wilhelm and Michael Smith (authors) are quoted as saying, “Reading for pleasure is better for developing minds than assigned books.”

It has been my experience over the past fifty years that students identify with characters in age appropriate books, often reading about characters slightly above the age they currently are, perhaps to get a sneak peak at what lies ahead. Books that deal with family and social issues (putting up with embarrassing parents, problems with older and younger siblings, troubles with demanding or even unreasonable teachers, bullying, students with “differences” etc.) often have a way of equipping a student to deal with the life issues he/she faces.

According to the NEA report ,”To Read or Not to Read, quoted in Samuels’ article in the Chronicle,” Independent readers are more likely to be good citizens–to volunteer, vote, exercise, attend sporting events and support local arts.” These traits are what we should be promoting in our schools, and it can be done through promoting literacy.