Saturday, September 20, 2014

A Woman's Prerogative

Have you ever heard it's a woman's prerogative to change her mind? Well, I've changed mine. (And, actually, it's everyone's prerogative,...not just a woman's.) I find that I have too much to say about books I'm reading to keep quiet all the way until Thanksgiving. I'd like to tell you what helped me come to this decision...

One of my wonderful sixth grade students asked me to read a book that she really likes. She told me she connects with one of the main characters and felt that she was like the character in many ways. She even allowed me to borrow her personal copy to read. Now, I have quite a few students who want me to read what they're reading and, when I can, I do. I am always honest with them in my opinion of the book after I read it, and it's never been a problem...until now.

You see, I'm having a real problem with this one, and I haven't resolved it yet. My first thought was to blog about it, and then I remembered I had decided to take a break from blogging. I now realize it's my cheapest form of therapy. I need to write things down to figure them out.

So, I am.

The book my student likes so much? It's bad. Why is it bad? It is poorly written, it feels...clunky...when you read it. There isn't a nice flow to how it reads or describes scenes and characters. The dialogue is pretty cheesy, too. I think the plot is ridiculous, but...I tried to look past that and just focus on what the student must like about it,...and I am at a loss. A real loss.

What do I say to this precious student? How do I tell her I don't like her book at all? We've only known each other four weeks now, so my first feedback to her on the first book she suggests is really important. I know this. I know what it means to her, but I can't say a book is good - or that I enjoy it - when I don't.

To be completely honest, I am forcing myself to read it now because I hate to really pass judgment until I've read it all. (Sigh) Trust me, it feels like a beating. It's a horrible way to feel about a book. It makes me think this student doesn't truly read as well as she wants me to think she does, and I don't want to hurt her feelings.

A friend of mine, who is also a teacher, said that I should suggest another good, well-written fiction book on the same subject. The student could read it and see the difference for herself. I love that idea, and will do that, it just doesn't solve the problem of looking in the face of this child and telling her the book she asked me to read is...awful. (No, of course, I won't actually use that word, but I will use it to tell you. It really IS awful.)


I still have to finish it.

Maybe I could convince her to start the other book before I finish this one and say we'll swap reviews after she finishes the other? I could hope that she sees the difference for herself. And if she doesn't...?




  1. You are establishing such a wonderful relationship with the student and now I AM curious about the reason for her love of the book.

    1. She loved the book because the young girl in it always felt she didn't belong, she felt different. In the end, she finds there is a reason for this: she isn't completely human. Feeling out of place is a common emotion among middle school students. It helps when they read books that confirm they aren't alone in feeling that way. I suggested some...less complicated...more interesting books for her to read, which she's enjoyed. She still says her favorite is the one I talk about in this blog, but she's also not read the other books in the series. Perhaps it was the first book she felt she could relate to, and she didn't realize you don't have to muddle through a 'doorstopper size' book to find the same kind of connection. We read a good bit of realistic fiction where the characters feel that same way, but it's because they ARE human. We all feel like we don't belong sometimes. The student does struggle with her reading, but she's doing better with the lower level/high interest books.