This tag was created by Ariel Bisset, who can be found here, based on a series of videos she did on her channel discussing reading in, you guessed it, schools. If you want to watch her videos there is a playlist you can watch here.
Today I thought that I would answer her questions in blog post form. The tag is seperated into three sections, elementary school, high school, and beyond.
What technique do you think teachers should use to engage young readers?
Personally I feel like the thing that worked for me the best when I was younger was having a teacher who set aside time to read to the class. Sometimes it was only five minutes and other times it was closer to half an hour depending on how long they put up with the shenanigans that some of the students put up with. There were several times when my English teachers would be reading a book that I really enjoyed to the class but because it went so slow I asked my parents to buy me a copy so that I could read it myself at my own pace. While that meant I spoiled myself for the rest of the time the book was being read in class it also meant I could say to my table mates, “oh, you are going to enjoy this part.” or something along those lines. Another thing that I greatly enjoyed and was employed first by my fifth grade teacher was having an option of several books that we were allowed to choose and then reading them in small groups. The first part about this was that we were able to at least choose the book that sounded most interesting to us. That doesn’t necessarily make it a fun read but it meant that we had some responsibility, we CHOSE that book. It also meant that we were discussing the book with other kids who chose that book and that meant we had similar tastes. Now I know for a fact that this makes a tad more work for the teacher because there is no way to test for comprehension on that many books, but instead they created a final project that we could complete once we had read the book. In fifth grade only one other person chose the book I chose and we read it faster than any of the other groups besides the fact that it was maybe the second longest book. We were in charge of our pace we knew when the project was due but we also enjoyed reading it enough to push faster than anyone else. For our project we created a pop up timeline of the plot of the book so we could present it to the rest of the class. I had a lot of fun doing this, was able to read at my own pace, and felt much more in charge of and engaged in reading in this way.
Do you think that it is the school’s job to instill a love of reading in children?
I don’t think that it is the school’s job to instill a love of reading necessarily, I definitely don’t think that they should hinder a child’s love of reading and sometimes it feels like that’s what school does; not purposely of course. If a kid is interested in reading but they are forced to read books that don’t interest them then that inquisitive nature might die out. I think all children start out loving stories and books, some just lose interest. I have recently been thinking about becoming a librarian, at least part time, since I am already going to graduate school why not more? A librarians job is to not only run the library but also to be a resource to people in finding new books. Librarians in the school environment should be doing the same, meeting with the kids and talking about what their interests are and helping them find books that cater to them early on. The school should a lot time for kids to be in the library but not just roaming free, although as a child I found a lot of great books that way, but sitting down with the librarian and perhaps their English teacher trying to find the story that is right for them.
What was your favorite elementary school read?
Outside of school my favorite books were The Pendragon series by D. J. MacHale. I loved all of those books and it still has one of the best endings to a series I have ever read, even if it was crazy and out of left field, and if it dragged on a bit in the middle, the dragging was necessary for the rest of the books to make sense. I would recommend them to any young adult book reader, even though the first couple might technically be middle grade, they get more interesting and complicated as the series progresses.
In school my favorite book was probably The Outsiders but only because I can’t remember many others I read in elementary school. I know I read Number the Stars, The Fall of the House of Usher, The Most Dangerous Game, Esperanze Rising, Frost and Poe poetry, but that’s all that I remember. I know I read more, they just don’t stand out among the slew of books I read on my own.
Do you think that incorporation of YA books should be made? If so which YA books would you add?
My school already had incorporated YA books into the reading, at least for the summer reading initiative which I had all throughout my years at school. Books I remember being on the list that were YA:
I think that during the year, not just over the summer, there should be some YA to help break up the intense reading of classics and literary fiction. It isn’t necessarily lighter but it would definitely be more relateable and easier to sink into. Classics can be difficult because as teenager as you don’t necessarily want to have to struggle to understand that the story that’s being told is an allegory for war rather than just a story, and most of them won’t appreciate the intricacies that those books are made of; rolling their eyes at metaphor and symbolism, at least most of my classmates did. I think that reading books containing protagonists that around the same age group written in a way that puts the story first and literary prizes or complex analogies second would help ease the pain of muddling through Shakespeare each year. Books that I would recommend, any John Green novel and any similar contemporary fiction, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children perhaps, Anna and the French Kiss mostly for the females because I find teenage boys, one don’t want to read romance, and two don’t want to read romance from a girls perspective, it would put them off I think. I’m not sure what else because I haven’t been reading YA as of late and I can’t recall any other books that could work.
Do you think it is important to read books from a wide variety of nationalities?
I do feel like we should read more books written by others from other countries. I do know that a handful of books I read in school were written by some latin american and south american author’s or latino american authors and were translated from Spanish, but other than that most of the books we read were British or American authors. I think that we should look at more translations and if you reach the proficient level in language classes try reading some texts as they were written. I know that at my school they teach a spanish literature course that I would enjoy, I just don’t have the time for it in my schedule, especially since I would have to take advanced grammar beforehand. It is always interesting to see how other cultures view the world and a great way to do that is by seeing how they sculpt their stories.
What was your least favorite book in highschool?
I actually legitimately hated How I Live Now in high school. It creeped me out. It bothered me that it just disregarded certain punctuation marks. The plot bothered me. I hated it. Not my favorite book. Not a fan.
Do you think there should be an emphasis on creative writing?
I think that my school systems need to bring back an emphasis on grammar before creative writing because we don’t even have grammar lessons after fourth grade. I do think that if we had more opportunities to create our own works than I would feel more comfortable writing now. I think that there should be a time for learning essay writing and a time for writing creatively. I liked art classes because I was able to flex my imagination a little bit and do what I wanted with an art piece. If I had had the same liberty in English classes I think I might have more fun in college as well. Although my English program is a literature program and not a writing program, that is a separate degree.
How do you think the reading you did in school has affected the reading you do now?
I know that my Advanced Placement Language class instilled a love in figuring out how author’s construct stories and the actual tools they use work. I like seeing how tricky and subtle and author can be. Though I have always held contempt of people who dig too far into works. It is cool to see foreshadowing, metaphor, and allegory it is not cool to presume that the donkey that shows up for one paragraph is meant to be a metaphor for life and death. It was a donkey, she lived on a farm, it is expected that there would be animals there.
If you had to choose one book that you’ve read in the past year outside of school, to be taught in schools, which would you choose?
Oye, you are killing me here. In the past year, I would have to choose The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern. I really loved the story of that book and it was such an interesting world. I enjoyed following the characters through their journey and I feel like it has a great lesson that teenagers and children alike could understand. It has magic and mystery, and just interesting unique characters. The growth of these characters is great and watching their stories intertwining is really cool to me.
I am going to tag Gretchen from My Life is a Notebook to do this because I want to hear her take on these questions and since she lives downstairs I am going to go inform her that I tagged her this minute.
I hope you guys are having a great day and feel free to answer these questions yourself. Link me to your responses in the comments below and be sure to go back and comment on Ariel’s video as well and let her know so that she can see your responses to her conversation. For now, The Pied Piper is Calling me.