[At the 2014 National Council of Teachers of English Annual convention—themed Story As the Landscape of Knowing and held November 20-23, 2014, in Washington DC—Renita Schmidt (University of Iowa), Sean Connors (University of Arkansas), and I will be presenting as detailed below; I offer our proposal as a preview and hope you can join us as we need to raise our voices for both libraries and literature.]
Panel presentation, 75 mins
Teaching Reading and Children: Reading Programs as “Costume Parties”*
P. L. Thomas, Furman University
“[L]anguage behavior can not be reduced to formula,” Lou LaBrant (1947) argued (p. 20)—emphasizing that literacy growth was complicated but flourished when it was child-centered and practical (for example, in the ways many privileged children experience in their homes because one or more of the parents are afforded the conditions within which to foster their children’s literacy). Also, LaBrant (1949) identified the central failure of teaching reading: “Our language programs have been set up as costume parties and not anything more basic than that” (p. 16). This opening talk of the panel will focus on the importance of access to books and libraries as an antidote to “costume parties”—highlighting the work of LaBrant and Stephen Krashen as well as the speeches and writings of Neil Gaiman and Ray Bradbury as life-long proponents of libraries.
The More Books the Better!: Library Books as Boundary Objects To Build Strong Girls
Nita Schmidt, University of Iowa
Libraries provide stories for helping us understand who we are and who we might become. Sometimes, those stories take us to places we cannot imagine and we need more stories to resolve the tension. Libraries provide the books that become boundary objects or, as Akkerman and Baker (2011) describe, artifacts that work as mediators during times of discontinuity. Drawing on sociocultural theories of learning (Gee, 1996; Wenger, 1998; Vygotsky, 1978), this paper will discuss the ways an after school book club works with 4th – 6th grade girls to consider new perspectives. Book club members visit the library every month, read books with strong female protagonists, discuss topics in the books that relate to the real lives of the girls, and help the girls start their own personal libraries to encourage girls to begin to see themselves as successful young women in a complex global world. A bibliography will be provided.
Speaking Back to Power: Teaching YA Literature in an Age of CCSS
Sean Connors, University of Arkansas
If, as the narrator of John Green’s (2009) Paper Towns suggests, imagination is the machine that kills fascists, then literature, as English teachers and librarians know, is the engine that drives it. Despite the current education reform movement’s insistence on reducing the study of literature to a set of narrowly defined, measurable skills, and arguments which associate “close reading” and “textual complexity” with canonical literature, educators who value Young Adult fiction know that, like literature for adults, it is capable of creating a space for readers to examine complex issues related to race, class, gender, etc. This presentation calls on educators to recast arguments for teaching YA fiction in an age of CCSS by foregrounding its ability to encourage critical thinking. The presenter will share examples of (and guidelines for producing) student created digital book trailers that, rather than promoting books, instead “speak back” to oppressive ideologies featured in them.
*Portions adapted from the following blog posts:
Akkerman, S.F. & Baker, A. (2011). Boundary crossing and boundary objects. Review of Educational Research, 81(2), 132-169.
Bradbury, R. Fahrenheit 451, 60th anniversary edition.
Neil Gaiman lecture in full: Reading and obligation — http://readingagency.org.uk/news/blog/neil-gaiman-lecture-in-full.html
Gee, J.P. (1996). Social linguistics and literacies: Ideology in discourse. New York: Routledge.
Green, J. (2009). Paper towns. New York: Speak.
Krashen, S. (2014, January 4). The Spectacular Role of Libraries in Protecting Students from the Effects of Poverty. http://skrashen.blogspot.com/2014/01/the-spectacular-role-of-libraries-in.html?m=1
LaBrant, L. (1949). A genetic approach to language. Unpublished manuscript, Institute of General Semantics, Lakeville, CT.
LaBrant, L. (1947). Um-brel-la has syllables three. The Packet, 2(1), 20-25.
LaBrant, L. (1944, November). The words they know. The English Journal, 33(9), 475-480.
LaBrant, L. (1940, February). Library teacher or classroom teacher? The Phi Delta Kappan, 22(6), pp. 289-291.
LaBrant, L. (1931, March). Masquerading. The English Journal, 20(3), pp. 244-246.
Wenger, E. (1998). Communities of practice, learning, meaning and identity. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Vygotsky, L. (1978). Mind and Society: The development of higher psychological processes. Cambridge, MA: President and Fellows of Harvard College.