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Susie by Hannah

Insights from Journey Book:

Personal choice in reading is crucial to becoming an avid reader

Teaching Experience:

None, but was a “young adult” not so long ago, and love to talk to people of all ages about YA literature

Special Interests in Teaching ELA:

Discovering ways to foster teens’ reading through encouragement

Progress Toward Professional Self:

Confident in leading meaningful discussions about literature and finding ways it relates to real life.

[I think I’m even more confident now about leading literary discussions with young adults. I was able to do that through my Action Learning Project, and I loved it. I found that I really had a knack for getting students to open up. Also, I think I now have a better idea of what my role is as an educator – to set a good example of a literate person, to encourage teens to explore who they are through literature, and to encourage teens to explore the world around them through literature.]

Progress Toward Literate Self:

Loves young adult literature, and though she has tried to “rid herself of this habit” in the past, her love of YA books will be instrumental in her future teaching.

[I don’t feel the least bit embarrassed about liking young adult literature anymore! I think, because of this course, I’m now a better judge of what makes for “high quality” young adult literature. Also, it was refreshing to meet many other adults, like myself, who love young adult literature. Plus, I now realize it’s my job to know what kids are reading and what they may like and identify with.]

Progress Toward Virtual Self:

Grew up in digital age, and is comfortable with online tools. Has her own website and contributes online theater reviews.

[I thought I was extremely skilled in the virtual world before I took this course. Taking it made me realize just how much I don’t know and how much there is to learn. I did pick up several new virtual skills in class though. I learned how to use Second Life and how to form relationships in the virtual world. I used VoiceThread for the first time. I became familiar with Photostory. I even got better at finding research materials without actually being in a library!  I learned about the “creative commons,” and copyrighted material – before I used songs and images that didn’t belong to me without a second thought (major faux pas!). I also learned how important it is to set a good virtual example for students. I couldn’t figure out, however, how to make this text appear in a different color, so I guess I’ve still got a ways to go!]

Goals for the Class:

Susie would like to find more creative ways to make literature come alive, learn more about what books appeal to teens and why, and discover how to relate online persona to teaching.

[Wow, did I ever find more creative ways to make literature come alive! I’d never heard of the concept of a “bookcast” before this course, but from the second I heard the description – literally creating a response that the book “cast” out of you – I was hooked. I absolutely loved the freedom and fun of bookcasting, and I plan to use it with my students. I even discussed it in another class where we had to design projects we would use with our students. I also learned a lot from working with others through the book club projects. They gave me great ideas and showed me how very much students could learn from forming such groups in class. I do think, especially through my ALP, that I learned more about what young adults like to read – books that don’t talk down to them and that they can identify with. And I definitely found ways (Photostory, etc.) to use online tools for teaching. Plus, I even got to use my Facebook account to work with students on the ALP!]

Theory to Explore (to be assigned by Cris):

For Susie — Reader Response


Choice in Learning ALP

For my action learning project, I surveyed and then worked with a group of students to find out how they felt about choice in the classroom. Originally, I thought it was going to be a pretty open and shut case. They’d say, “Of course we love choice! We like being able to do whatever we want.” Imagine my surprise, then, when most of them responded that choice made them uneasy in the classroom. Later, though, they told me that when they were given choices, they tended to care about and enjoy their work more. That was more like what I was expecting! Eventually, I came to understand that they liked making choices, but that too much choice was overwhelming for them and that it was best if I gave them some guidance.

When we finally got together for the “action” part of my project, they did some reading and talked about how they would respond to it if they could do anything they wanted. That’s where I got to see their imaginations run wild. They all responded very well to choice in presentation of the reading material and seemed to genuinely enjoy sharing their opinions about what they’d read.

Ultimately, I learned that I’m responsible for giving my students GOOD literary choices. As for how they respond to the literature though, I think it’s safe to leave that completely up to them, only stepping in if a student isn’t meeting the requirements of the assignment or is feeling stumped. My students certainly weren’t lacking in creativity or ideas though. Responses that couldn’t fit into the video included enacting a scene from The Giver (the scene where Jonas sees color for the first time); writing a journal for Stolen‘s main character, creating wanted posters for Ty (the kidnapper in Stolen), and more.

I didn’t realize how much I had learned or how short five minutes was until I tried to compile it all into one video:

Also, this was just below five minutes on my computer. I had to upload it to Youtube, because the blog wouldn’t let me upload wmv files. Now, it’s at 5 minutes; one second. Sorry! Bookhenge

Bold Choices CCI

I’ve always been a fan of literature that deals with “tough topics.” I remember how upset my mom was at me for reading the “smutty” (her word, not mine) Forever by Judy Blume, which deals very honestly (and very beautifully I think) with teenage sexuality. Then, there’s The Catcher in the Rye which discusses teenage sexuality, depression, less than positive views of the rest of the world, and all the things that most adults don’t want to know kids feel and think about. There’s Go Ask Alice, which deals with drug abuse in a way that is, on the surface, “parent friendly,” but that really makes drug abuse seem kind of fun and glamorous. Having been someone who suffered from an eating disorder in my young adult years, there were also many books, like Stick Figure and Wasted that tried to discuss this difficult subject honestly, but just ended up triggering me more and giving me tips for my behaviors. I can’t blame what I took away from those books on anyone but me though. In the end, I was the one who made the decision to engage in eating disordered behaviors. I think censoring books or asking writers to deal with “tough topics” In a certain pre-approved ways is wrong. Writers do not have any “responsibility” to their young readers in my opinion except to write honest stories that show a little slice of life.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower article made me really sad…and mad. It’s a beautiful book, one that is sitting on the bookshelf in my kitchen (yes…my kitchen…I buy way too many books for a tiny apartment) right now. My knee-jerk reaction to Krueger’s quote:

“I home-schooled my kids for 10 years,” she said. “Never in my wildest dreams would I have thought when I put them in public schools that this would be given to them.”

was that she should send her kids back to being home-schooled if she didn’t like it! And I just got angrier as I read. The oral sex in the book…that happens among young people. So does drug use. These parents need to wake up and realize that kids are faced with tough decisions every day, and that the material in these books is often nothing new to them. Besides, The Perks of Being a Wallflower scared me off of drugs, because of the “flashbacks” the main character has. Seriously, though, reading the article and feeling so angry and wanting to say rude things made me realize that I’m really going to have to reign that in when I actually am teaching. I’m going to have to deal with parents, perhaps even students, who don’t feel the way I do about censorship, and I’m going to have to be respectful toward them and their opinions, even if I don’t agree.

Since I’m not yet teaching, I haven’t faced censorship in that regard, but I have had to deal with it in my life. I went to a Christian school as a kid, and I remember my English…yes my English teacher…describing The Catcher in the Rye as a “horrible book.” We never officially studied it in school, because it was “sinful,” but thank God my rebellion made me pick it up and devour it over and over again.  Luckily, I transferred to public school for my junior and senior year, but I still wonder what other great works I might have missed out on by going to that school. I’ve also felt censored in my fiction writing. I was working on a novel about a young girl who plans to commit suicide at the end of the week; the novel dealt with what she did during that week, but I was dissuaded from completing it due to suicide not being an appropriate topic for young people. No one really had a problem with the subject; they just thought I’d have a very hard time publishing it, and I think they may have been right.

I’d like to think that, as a teacher, I can introduce my students to all kinds of literature, but I doubt that, in reality, I’ll be allowed to. I’m sure some books will be off limits. I can tell my students my views on censorship though and hope that they follow in my footsteps. I can also find hope in the fact that many books that are now widely taught were once banned or met with outrage—Catcher, Huck Finn, The Outsiders, etc. The world might not change at the rate I would like it to, but it does change eventually.

I think it’s important to make bold personal choices and to stand up for them. However, I think the making choices WISELY part comes in when we decide what to do with those personal choices. I don’t think we should deliberately disobey school rules, go against parents’ wishes, or have prohibited material in the classroom. What I think we must do—and this can make a huge difference—is say when we don’t agree with these choices, to work to change them in a sensible way, and to set a good example for our students by stating and standing by our opinions, even when others don’t agree. Bookhenge

Multicultural CCI

Pre-Reading Reflection: Book awards given to identity-based books is an interesting topic, one that I hadn’t really thought about before. I guess I don’t really understand the term “identity-based books.” Isn’t everything an identity-based book? Some books are geared toward women, others toward children of a certain age, others toward people of a certain religion or way of thinking and on and on it goes.

 I feel the real question being asked is how do I feel about identity-based books that focus on minorities. As for that question, I think I feel two very different and conflicted ways. One part of me thinks it’s great that there are awards for African-American literature and Hispanic literature. It shows that these two minority groups are being taken seriously, and it also draws more attention to books that, unfortunately, might not have been as noticed otherwise. It has been my experience that minority books still do not get as much attention as they should. When I took an African American literature class in college, for example, we read a plethora of literature geared toward high school students or that would have been ideal for students of that age, and my teacher asked us some hard questions: Why do you think this wasn’t taught to you in high school? Do you think maybe we don’t focus as much on minority authored works or works geared toward minorities as we do other works? I’m still not entirely sure why minority authored and minority focused books don’t get as much attention, but I know that it’s not right or good. At least these awards will cause more people to pick up these books.

The second part of me doesn’t like that minorities are set apart and singled out for their literature. I think, in some ways, this might do more harm than good. Instead of the book just being honored for being a great piece of literature, we have to draw attention to the fact that it was written by a minority *r focuses on a minority group. I think, by drawing our attention to this fact, it kind of separates us –it sends a message that “they” (minorities) are different from “us” (non-minorities). Sadly, it might also make some people not pick up the book due to their own biases or prejudices, and these are the people who most need to read such a work. It would be better for someone to pick up a book because they like the story, to start reading, and then to find out what race or ethnic group the characters belong to or that the writer is than for people to pick a book with this knowledge in mind; I think it could limit the audience. Obviously, I’m quite conflicted, and I feel somewhat uncomfortable talking about this and scared of saying the wrong thing or offending anyone. I’m going to do the reading and see if/how my opinions change.


“Slippery Slopes and Proliferating Prizes”: This article cleared up what the term “identity-based books” really means. Before, I had assumed they were books written about or geared toward a specific minority or “identity.” When I realized, in reading this, that the author of the book had to be of a certain race to even be considered for the award, I became even more against it. I completely agreed with this article and with the statement that, “It is the wrong way to bring more kinds of books to more kinds of readers; it is wrong in that it does not evaluate literature in its own terms but by extraneous standards; it is wrong because it is a very slippery slope down which we are already tumbling; and finally it is wrong because even as ALA sponsors more and more such awards, we have not openly debated and discussed their merits” (4). It seems very backwards to me that we would even think to ask a writer’s race or ethnicity, let alone to make it a requirement for winning a certain award! That is type of racism in its own right, and as the author states, it makes the assumption that only people of a certain race/ethnicity are capable of writing about that race/ethnicity. That’s as silly as saying male authors can only write about male characters. There are so many situations the awards don’t take into consideration. What if a person was adopted and raised in a Hispanic family but is not actually Hispanic? Does that somehow make his or her views less valid? Or what if an author spends years researching a particular culture in order to write about it authentically? It just seems very, very wrong to make identity such a factor, and I loved the author’s suggestion to “honor content alone, not identity” (10).

“Awards That Stand on Solid Ground”:  I did not agree with most of Mrs. Pinkney’s response, and I found myself growing angry at some of her statements, showing me that I really did have a stronger opinion on this matter than I thought. Pinkney states that the awards are a “gateway to progress” and that they “provide a door for authors and illustrators into the world of children’s literature” (12). Quite frankly, I don’t think providing opportunities for new or struggling writers is really the point of literary awards. The point of such awards is, instead, to honor works of great literary merit. Later, Pinkney refers to the awards as “awards that celebrate ethnicity,” but I think, if anything, identity based awards are exclusionary and create a rigid definition of ethnicity. A white person growing up in a Hispanic neighborhood, for example, and who had many Hispanic friends might very well identify with that ethnicity more than his or her own, but this award wouldn’t let that person’s voice matter. I was also bothered by the statement “The CSK Award seal lets me know that a book has been created by someone who is black” (14). Ouch. What if I said, “The Cracker Award seal lets me know that a book has been created by someone who is white.” That would be considered pretty racist, I think, and I felt that her statement was as well. It shouldn’t matter the color or ethnicity of the person who wrote the book. All that should matter is the story and how the reader feels about it. I do see Pinkney’s point, and I might feel differently if I had struggled in the same ways she has and had felt excluded in the literary world, but I think the big problem is that I’m idealistic. I want people to not care at all about race/ethnicity. I want it to not matter for any reason what color or ethnicity a person is. I want us to not even think about it. I just want us all to look at each other as fellow humans, but we just don’t live in that world yet.

 “Responses to My Critics: The Claims of Principle and of History”: I appreciated this article and the fact that Aronson did not apologize for his views or back out on them as I expected he would. I had to laugh at how, in the synthesis of his criticism, he writes “We do not live in a color-blind society, and we do not function in a color-blind publishing system, thus it is either heedlessly idealistic or somewhat conspiratorially disingenuous of me to suggest that our awards should be color-blind” (17). I suppose that I can agree, as I stated in the above paragraph, that both Aronson and I are overly idealistic, but I think that’s a good thing. We see the world as it should be, and we don’t accept anything less. Like Aronson, I wish that I could take away all ethnic qualifications and make it so all types of children read all types of literature (19). While I can’t do that, I can do it with my own children one day, and I can choose to read diverse literary works myself. I can make it happen in the classroom as well. It’s a start in its own way. I agree wholeheartedly with this statement: “I fundamentally cannot accept the idea that we honor, we give value to, we treat as valid, distinctions based on race, or ethnicity, or religion” (21). I’d probably add sexuality in there too, as I don’t think that should matter either. All that really matters to me when I pick up a book is whether or not the author can write, just as how the way I treat a person is based only on how that person treats me and how I would like to be treated.

I enjoyed Kendra’s blog a lot. I felt like we both started out torn on the issue, for similar reasons, but then came to two very different conclusions from the reading. Despite some of the differences of opinion that we have –I think a Hispanic person could write just as well about the black experience as a black person, depending on many different factors –I really liked this quote from her:

“These awards were created because of the problem that exists in a society that does not recognize all ethnic groups and these awards shouldn’t be done away with until there’s no reason to have them. “

I think she hit the nail on the head in that what we really need to be concentrating on/working toward is making the need for these awards disappear, not  the awards themselves.

Finally, I am not sure why there are no “Best Books for Teens” on the ALA site for Multicultural Literature. Maybe young adult writers don’t tend to tackle these issues. When they do, I think it often tends to come off as preachy and overly obvious, so perhaps there just aren’t enough high-quality books that fall into the category. I think, as teachers, we should find books written by all kinds of writers about all kinds of people and have them in our classroom and, when possible, teach them. Every person is different; every experience is different, and the more people/experiences we read and learn about, the more whole we all become. Bookhenge.

Radical Change CCI

I like to think of myself as a progressive kind of person. I understand that the world changes and that people’s interests change with it.  So, I don’t really have a problem with radical change in poetry or literature. In fact, some of my very favorite authors and poets, like Mark Twain and E.E. Cummings , are those who took big risks and whose works were considered to be evidence of “radical change” in their day. Cummings threw aside all formalities of grammar and syntax, and Twain, as Dresang also says, made big changes with The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by putting the reader in the head of a “bad” kid on the dregs of society (38). I think we have to embrace change and also to find and embrace the constants that stay the same no matter how old a piece of literature is.

I think I’ve read a lot of books in my life that represent “radical change.” The first graphic novel I ever read was Diary of a Teenage Girl by Phoebe Gloeckner, and it had both the “interactive” and “non-linear” qualities Dresang refers to as the marks of a radical change piece (3). It combined photos and text to draw the reader into the narrator, Minnie’s, world. The drawings in the book were supposed to be drawn by Minnie herself, but they allowed the reader to see the narrator in a real, fleshed out way most books don’t allow for. To this day, it’s still one of my favorites. I think that Rot and Ruin by John Maberry represents a radical change too. It certainly take an interesting look at zombies and uses them to explore deep issues and as a catalyst for a coming of age story. In most young adult novels, zombies and monsters are just things to run from and to add excitement to the story, so I was quite impressed by this. Likewise, Stiches, a graphic novel by David Small, is so powerful and deep and tells its story through such minimal words and such bold, sometimes shocking images that it definitely represents radical change.

I have to say, too, that I was surprised to see Dresang mention two childhood favorites, Charlotte’s Web and Goodnight Moon, as examples of radical change (35). I had never looked at these books as anything more than fun childrens’ stories. Dresang is right though; Charlotte’s Web is quite the complex read now that I think about it – it explores some concepts that most writers would never broach with children, but it does so in a way that is understandable to them. Likewise, I love how Dresang described the foresight of the Goodnight Moon authors, and how so rarely had childrens’ book authors left so much up to the young reader. The description of the book brought to mind the time I would spend as a child poring over the pictures, ignoring the simple words, and making up my own story, which I can now see is exactly what the authors wanted.

I very much enjoyed Angela’s story of introducing graphic novels into the classroom and of how it got one young boy to really love reading. I definitely think there is room for the graphic novel in the classroom. Anyone who thinks that the graphic novel is not art or cannot possess literary value is simply not reading the right graphic novels. I’m reminded of the older gentleman in the writing group that I run who always turns up his nose at graphic novels and who doesn’t want to allow fiction or fantasy writers into our group. Not only is he missing out on the interesting new direction in which  the literary world is headed,  but he’s also cheating himself out of some powerful stories, amazing inspiration, and very lively, real characters. That, to me, is sad. There’s room for everybody on the bookshelf and in the literary world. Just look at all the Jane Austen novels that have been transformed into zombie stories if you don’t believe it. Seriously, though, we should introduce our students to both the great literature of the past and of the future and help them to see how radical change happened in the past and is still happening today. This will also help students to see that as much as the world changes, some things – like the desire for love and acceptance- will never fade away.

After having said and thought out all of that, I went and read “Skeleton Sky,” a self-termed “millennium poem.” I really liked the background images accompanying the poem. I liked that it was like living, breathing art. Instead of just having a personal feel, I could feel what the author wanted me to feel. Instead of imagining images in my head, I could see what the author wanted me to see. That was a cool experience, but I did not like how much was going on in the poem. I felt overwhelmed by the fact that clicking on one word would take me to one place and clicking on another would take me somewhere else.  It didn’t really give it a sense of fluidity for me, and it made me feel like I had to scramble to read the whole thing. I was so worried about remembering where I had already clicked, choosing where to click next, and making sure I tried out every link that it actually took away from what could have been a very powerful experience. For me, the poem was about all the many very different things that the sky can be and represent; the different ways in which it might look to different people or to the same person on a different day. In that regard, the lack of any real order to the poem suits the message well, but I wish there was a way to do this without having it be so confusing.




Book Club Graphica Bookcast

Here is our group’s bookcast:

<img style=”visibility:hidden;width:0px;height:0px;” border=0 width=0 height=0 src=”*xJmx*PTEzMDg3MDE2NTc5MDImcHQ9MTMwODcwMjA4OTI4MiZwPTIwNjQyMSZkPWIyMTIyMzcyJmc9MiZvPTFiOGZhMTg2MWQ*/MzRlZDhhYmNiMjM3OGRkYzk2N2YzJm9mPTA=.gif&#8221; /><object width=”480″ height=”360″><param name=”movie” value=”″></param><param name=”wmode” value=”transparent”></param></object>

I’m quite proud of it and think that it was very powerful, but how could it not be? Stitches was such a powerful book. It dealt with abuse in families and how abuse is cyclical, as well as with getting past abuse and learning to “stitch” oneself back together and become a complete person.

As someone who grew up in domestic violence and who later entered into a domestic violence relationship  myself, the book really touched me. It inspired me to keep pushing to be different and to break the cycle of abuse in my own life and in the family I will one day have. I was surprised at how open I was in the bookcast. It was difficult to bare my soul in that way, but also quite freeing and empowering.

Stitches really evoked a powerful response in me and in the rest of my book club. It will have a place on my shelf for the long haul.


P.S. I’ve tried everything, but I can’t get that link to embed correctly!


ALP Proposal

Inquiry Question/Issue/Problem:

How does choice affect students’ experiences with reading and responding to literature?

Relevance of this Inquiry to Young Adult Literature and how it is supported by our Waves of Change Theoretical Framework:

This inquiry will help me to determine what effect (if any) choice has on many different aspects of the reading/responding experience as it relates to young adult literature. Does choice help students to learn more? Do they have a stronger personal connection to the text when they choose it? Is the assignment less of a slog to get through when they’ve chosen the reading material? I think this is mostly reader response theory, since I will be examining how students respond to the texts, but also to the choice they have been given.

Project Design (what you intend to do, what aspect of the inquiry you will implement, how you will evaluate your project, how will you collect student feedback . . .)
I am going to be exploring choice with young adults. I have set up a Facebook group where we can have discussions as we continue through our project. First, I am asking preliminary questions of the group about their experiences with past assignments and choice – whether they’ve been given choice in past assignments, if they’re preferred to have choice, etc. Some students feel more comfortable emailing me their thoughts or talking via messenger, but I’m trying to encourage them to discuss them using the Facebook “wall” where they can talk amongst themselves. After preliminary discussion is complete, each student will choose from one of four YA books – The Giver (Lois Lowry), The Pigman (Paul Zindel), Rot and Ruin (John Maberry), and Stolen (Lucy Christopher) during an in-person get together.  Each student will then read one chapter from the chosen book and discuss how he or she would likely respond to the book based on what has been read so far, how choice influenced the desired response, and if the student would continue reading the book if given the choice. I plan to collect all of their responses, to see which ones come up the most, and to also showcase interesting things I learn from the the students.

Project Multimedia Report (how you intend to tell the story of your project, including what kind of artifacts you will keep and what type of documentation you will do. Also, any issues related to school policies on media and privacy, security that you have researched and will adjust for).

I will probably end up making a video/slideshow of some sort. I want to talk about what I’ve learned from my students, showcase interesting quotes from them, etc. Is it acceptable to show a photo of a Facebook post with the students’ name if they give permission?
How can I help? Any burning questions you have and ideas/plans I can help you clarify.

Hmmm… I’m not sure yet. I will let you know if I think of anything.  I would definitely like to hear any suggestions you have on the project.