Thursday, December 31, 2015

It Said WHAAT?! Part II

My friends and family read my blogs, but seldom post. They prefer to just talk to me about what I've written. (Do you see where this is going? No? Well, look at the title and think about what I just wrote.)

Can you guess what I've been asked about my previous post on December 23rd?

"Have you told anyone at your school about this book?!"
"Have you tried to get the book removed from your school library?!"

The answer to both those questions is, "No. Absolutely not." The "why" part of it is a bit more involved, and I should have added it in when I wrote the original blog about the book Proxy. Forgive me, and allow me to explain it here:

Children are drawn to what's forbidden (which is why I question if labeling would be a mistake). Don't mention it, and they don't notice it. Sadly, there are many children who walk around my school with a big book in their hand, and they have no intentions of reading it. It's just for show. Sad, isn't it? And, yes, it's important I notice such things. It's my job. You thought I was a reading and writing teacher? Oh, that's just a very small part of it. I'm also a detective, a snoop, an observer, a fake-finder, and a lie detector. I'm quite good at it. I consider myself a stealth and lethal fighter in the war against illiteracy. And I fight the good fight, all in the name of growing better readers.

Now, I know that of all the sixth grade children who have checked out Proxy from our library, maybe five of them have actually read the whole novel. Maybe. And, truthfully, that may be a high estimate. If you knew the number of children who have checked out the Harry Potter books and claimed to have read it, you'd be astonished. They've seen the movies, not read the books. It takes very little observation and questioning to figure this out.

I said in my original blog, about all this, that I do not like censorship. I don't believe in it. I'm aware that many of my students are exposed to far worse things than anything that book exposes them to. I'm also aware that most students who actually read the entire novel are students who are good readers and have read other good books for comparison. They will have a more mature way of handling the contents of the book because reading exposes you to a variety of worlds. They are usually more empathetic young people, as well. Like the student I referred to previously, they may not like what they read - may not like the book, but they will dismiss it and go on.

Now, if I make a big deal about the book, it becomes a big deal. Students who might have ignored the book before may be intrigued as to why it was taken from our library's shelf. And God help us if some well-meaning, uninformed adults go running rampant through our hallways with their cries of concern. Students who aren't avid readers may choose this one to get curious about because of all the ruckus and not be prepared for what they encounter. Not to mention, if a struggling reader finally takes an interest in a book for the wrong reasons and doesn't like it, it may be a very long time before they try again - if they ever make a genuine effort to try again at all.

So, what, if anything DID I do?

Well, my students saw that I was reading the book and tabbing it. I model for my students when we read silently in class (what we call SSR - silent, sustained reading time), and they see me do what good readers should do by interacting with the text as I read. When I was done with the book, I purposely left it on my desk with the tabs on it. When my students asked me if I liked it, I told them the truth. I said it was weak. I told them it was, in fact, a weak and watered-down version of some great original books. I told them what those original books were and encouraged them to check those out.

That's it. That's all I did. That's all I needed to do.

Censor? Nah.

Teach? Absolutely.


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