Often, when I’m out visiting with teachers and consulting, I make the positive presupposition (Thank you Kathryn Kee! ) that teachers are having their students read a text of their choice everyday. I might make such comments as, “This would be an easy strategy to integrate into students’ independent response time during their free reading time in class.” Or, “When you book-talk to your students, you might frame it in terms of genre…”
Sometimes I receive polite head-nods and sometimes I receive eye-rolling. Independent reading time in a high school English classroom? (And unicorns poop rainbows.)
Every now and then, I’m greatful for the honest and inquisitive participant who timidly raises her hand to ask, “What exactly do you mean by ‘independent reading’?” She is usually within her first 5 years of teaching, graduated from a stellar English literature/ composition program, and is the dark horse of the English department who spends her time reading things like English Journal or following Jim Burke on Twitter.
When these gems come my way, I leap at the opportunity to unravel some perpetuative myths that exist in high school English departments and their most faithful faculty regarding independent reading. These conversations allow me to dig down to my most fervent beliefs about reading communities and often do challenge some of those beliefs. But, by the end of our conversation, whereas we may not still agree with one another, both the participant and myself have expanded our views just a little bit broader.
And so, here they are! The top 5 most common myths surrounding independent reading in high school:
Myth #1–Today’s teenagers don’t read.
Myth #2–I have to know a lot about YA literature.
Myth #3–Students won’t read in class if I give them time.
Myth #4–It’ll mean more time spent on grading poster and book reports or messing with those leveled reading programs.
Myth #5–I don’t have the time. We have all this literature we have to “cover.”
Boiling down all of the– honestly– valid obstacles to independent reading I have encountered myself and heard from colleagues to these five things is probably oversimplifying the issue. If I’ve learned anything about problem solving as an educator, it’s that I need to start with what seems simple first. Then, as I work my way through one problem at a time, the larger obstacle doesn’t feel quite so overwhelming.
As a novice teacher, the five statements above floated above my head as I began to dig more into the possibility I knew was there for amazing reading experiences for myself and my students. Please understand, I am not trying to be-little anyone’s experience or perspective. The following “myths” I’ll offer as a series of posts echo my deepest, darkest, and most powerful experiences along my own journey.
More importanlty than de-bunking these “myths,” I hope to provide a snippet of success here and there and resources that I rely on to create a transformative, empowering reading community.
By Elizabeth Wein.
2012, 337p. Hyperion, $16.99 (978-1-4231-5219-4).
Under pain of torture and threat of brutal execution, Verity, a Scottish-British spy, artfully confesses to her Gestapo captors her involvement in the Resistance. Her confession is penned on scraps of paper—everything from prescription pads to sheet music–belonging to former inhabitants of a country hotel in fictional Ormaie, France. Through a physically, mentally, and emotionally excruciating written confession, we meet her best friend and civilian air corps pilot, Maddie, who flew her on her last mission. Although the novel begins in medias res, Verity, in a defiant, sarcastic, and, at times, beaten tone begins with her best friend’s story up until the point she jumps from Maddie’s wounded plane in occupied France. It is here that Maddie continues the narrative through her pilot’s notes in her simple, honest voice. Maddie and Verity’s friendship is not one based on boys, clothes, or summer camp; instead, Wein crafts a narrative told in two voices that paints a portrait of genuine friendship in wartime. A cast of secondary characters on both sides of the war provides depth and contrast to the two friends’ lives. As historical fiction, some may be bothered by the inventive history and anachronisms, but the author seeks to justify her creative and research processes in the endnotes. The narrators’ voices are in all essence la verite, truthful. In the beginning a reader might feel bogged-down by the Scottish brag of Verity’s voice and minute details; however, once immersed in the relationship between the two young women, they will want to prolong the finale and their farewell to these friends. –Audrey Wilson-Youngblood
Tech Tuesday #1
Welcome to the first edition of Tech Tuesday! Each Tuesday I will post a blog that highlights technology tools for instructional use. This week, I thought we’d take some time to explore two tools that I shared with the staff at Fossil Ridge High School as part of library orientation: Prezi and QR Codes.
Both of these tools have the potential to engage an audience by disseminating information through Web 2.0 tools and smart apps. Both are free (whoop!) and both are rather intuitive for the presenter and the audience.
|Click on the logo to go to the site|
Check out some of these teacher Prezis for more ideas!
Quick Response “QR” Codes
Did you speed through The Hunger Games trilogy with the speed of a tribute train? Are you sorely missing the excitement and drama of the arena? While you wait for Catching Fire, second film and book two of The Hunger Games trilogy, to be released on November 22, 2013 (15 more months!!!), check out some of these books that might help pass the time between films. Click on the title to view book trailers, authors’ pages, and reviews of each title!
From the co-creator of the bestselling “Animorphs” comes a gripping new series in which everyone disappears in a flash on their 15th birthday. It’s a terrifying new world, and time is running out.
|NOOKcolor/ NOOK side-by-side|
One obstacle that stands in the way of placing e-books in the hands of readers is the availability of digital reading devices. In fact, 67% of librarians surveyed by School Library Journal, report that this is the biggest obstacle even over the cost of the e-books themselves (“Things are Changing. Fast,” 2011, p. 28). A plethora of reading devices exist in the market: Nook, Kindle, Sony, iPad, and numerous other devices. Purchasing these devices can quickly deplete an already shrinking budget with prices ranging from $99-$600. Linda Ashcroft (2011) suggests that librarians can learn from e-book suppliers and features such as “Open eBooks” that allows nearly any e-reader or software that can display EPUB and PDF files to display the text (p. 44). Distributors such as Follett now provide e-books that are compatible with multiple devices and smart phones (Android, Apple, Nook, Kindle) and that can be accessed online. Although libraries may not be able to circulate the devices themselves, publishers have taken a significant step towards improving accessibility of e-books by increasing compatibility to allow readers to use their own devices. This advent to the e-book market will allow more school libraries and districts to invest in e-books themselves rather than shying away from venture. Personal device compatibility will be the key to successful school library integration.
In addition to devices, librarians also reported digital rights management and competing platforms to be a concern (“Things are Changing. Fast,” 2011, p. 28). With their e-book collections scattered among multiple platforms and questions of digital rights causing publishers to limit accessibility, librarians feel overwhelmed with the amount of hoops they have to jump through to put e-books in students’ hands. Sixty-nine percent of respondents, according to Ashcroft (2011), report that the limitations for content usage is a significant or very significant hindrance (p. 401). Digital rights management issues muddy the waters for many school librarians to the extent that the time and energy trying to understand the varying issues and perspectives outweights the possible benefits of integrating electronic books into their collections.
|E-books accessed through personal devices such as smart phones|
In contrast to SLJ’s survey, Ashcroft (2011) finds that the biggest limitation librarians report for e-book usage is reader awareness. When respondents were asked why they didn’t use the e-book collection, the highest response was “I do not know where to find e-books” (p. 399) What was more concerning to Ashcroft was the librarian’s lack of awareness of readers’ needs, “users need to know that their library provides ebooks, then how to find them” (p. 399). To overcome this obstacle librarians can again learn lessons from publishers who are offering events such as OverDrive’s Digital Bookmobile that goes into communities to raise awareness (Ashcroft, 2011, p. 405). A school librarian can take advantage of social networks such as Facebook and Twitter to publicize e-book holdings, create video tutorials for accessing e-books using VoiceThread or host online chats to answer questions and book-talk specific titles in the e-book collections. The more tools librarians utilize to reach student readers, awareness will grow and readers will seek out this special part of the school’s collection.
Despite the rapidly evolving world of e-book technology, librarians continue to demonstrate their enthusiasm for the future of their collections. In fact, in five years, librarians projected that “ebook penetration to increase 14-fold by 2016, to 7.8 percent” (“Things are Changing. Fast,” 2011, p. 28). In order to get there, libraries will need to re-focus multiple resources to support e-book acquisition and usage. Budgets, professional development, and initiatives will need reconsideration in order to provide funds, skills, and awareness. For now, a keen awareness of what is available from vendors and publishers and a healthy “wait and see” attitude might be the best course of action while the many issues surrounding e-book integration continue to be refined. Knowing when to act and when to wait will enable the school librarian to wisely and cautiously integrate the service into the school’s collection.