Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Reflection #10 and #11 (Two Weeks, One Blog): Social Justice and Global Awareness/Environmental, Ethical, and Other Social Issues

Social Justice.

This is a buzzword that you hear a lot these days. Simply put, it is when you put forth ideals of a just society by challenging injustice and valuing adversity. There are plenty of books that deal with issues like this. We have had to read eight books all about this issue over the past two weeks. Because they are all dealing with the same overall issue, I decided to combine them into one reflection (hope that's ok!).

Two of these books are repeated from weeks before: An Unspeakable Crime: The Prosecution and Persecution of Leo Frank and The Iguana Tree. The first book mentioned above is all about the persecution of a factory superintendent, Leo Frank. The people initially arrest a black watchman, but then turn to this Jewish-American superintendent. They proceed to gather evidence to try and persecute him for the crime. The second book is about these boys who cross the border from Mexico into the US and look for work in the Carolinas. It is all about the struggle they face on their journey to freedom. This one isn't social justice as much as it is global awareness - teaching students what kinds of things really go on in the world around them. Students can be so jaded and naive when it comes to issues like this, having never gone through them themselves.

The other books that we were to read over the course of this week can be ranked in the same two categories: Social Justice and Global Awareness. There is some crossover of course, in the books like I am Malala and Sold, but they all tie in to these overarching themes.

The article added to the eight books for these two weeks was incredibly powerful. On the very first page, I loved this quote:

"Literature has the power to transform our thinking. It can be a window into the world to help us recog- nize and understand the problems and injustices that pervade societies and make us realize that we need to take action to make a difference."

How powerful is that? Literature has that kind of power in our lives. Just a book? Wow. That's huge.

That really makes you think about the kind of power that teachers and librarians truly have. By simply recommending a book to a student/teenage patron, you are opening up their eyes to the injustices of the past, of the present, of the world. You're teaching them about the world and inspiring them to make a difference.

I really liked the section of this article that gave all of the ideas for literary response. I think I will be adapting them for use in my classroom with the novel that we are starting after spring break - The Fault in Our Stars. Not social justice or global awareness, but still neat ideas that I can use.

Bibliographic Information:

Alphin, E. (2010). An unspeakable crime : the prosecution and persecution of Leo Frank. Minneapolis: Carolrhoda Books.

Hiaasen, C. (2005). Hoot. New York: Yearling.

Lai, T. (2013). Inside out & back again. New York, NY: Harper, an imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers.

McCormick, P. (2008). Sold. New York: Hyperion Paperbacks.

Perkins, M. & Hogan, J. (2008). Rickshaw girl. Watertown, MA: Charlesbridge.

Skloot, R. (2011). The immortal life of Henrietta Lacks. New York: Broadway Paperbacks.

Smolen, L., & MacDonald, S. (2009). Adolescent Literature and Reader Response: "It's about Global Awareness and Social Justice!" International Journal of Learning, 15(10), 207-212.

Stone, M. (2013). The iguana tree. Spartanburg: Hub City Press.

Yousafzai, M. & Lamb, C. (2013). I am Malala : the girl who stood up for education and was shot by the Taliban. New York, NY: Little, Brown, & Company.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Reflection #9: Disability and Differences

I love that there are books out there that touch every aspect of life. So far for this class, we've read books about LGBTQ issues, diversity, multicultural struggles, books that have been banned/challenged because of controversial content, and now, we've read books that have characters with disabilities or something that makes them just a little bit different than other characters.

I first read Joey Pigza Swallowed the Key. This was such a great read. Poor Joey. He struggles with his ADHD so much. He gets into all kinds of trouble. I felt so bad for him. I hurt through the whole book, just like I hurt for my students who are struggling with this. It is so hard for them to stay seated for 8 hours a day, not talking, and listen to teachers talk about things that they don't completely understand. The focus aspect is hard enough, but when you are hyperactive on top of it, it's like the world is working against you. I think this book is perfect for anyone who is struggling with a similar disorder, or for someone who knows someone like Joey.

Marcelo in the Real World was another book that pulled on my heartstrings. When Marcelo was forced to work in the mailroom at the law firm instead of with the ponies at his school, I was upset for him. I know this is all supposed to teach a lesson about overcoming adversity and whatever, but books like this just upset me.

The book about Temple Grandin was inspiring. I've always found her story to be inspiring, in general. She overcame so much and worked to create new methodology in relation to herding cows. She embraced her disability and excelled because of it.

The two articles for the week were also very interesting (not as interesting as the consumerism articles from last week that I absolutely loved, though ;) ). I loved the three reasons for writing a literary character with a disability: "to teach about a disability, to focus on the life of an individual with a disability, or to tell a story that happens to include an individual with a disability." Kids need characters like them in literature so they don't feel so alone. This is especially true of children with disabilities. They need to see themselves in something so that they can relate.

I love the idea of teaching about disabilities and differences with picture books. I think that giving students a more creative approach to such a difficult concept gives students the freedom to question and think before they make a decision. Students are quick to judge one another and will sooner laugh and mock than just accept someone who is different from them, especially when they are younger. It's because they just don't understand why the difference exists. The older they get, the more accepting they become, but it is still hard to understand. Picture books can really help teachers and students address these difficult concepts.

Bibliographic Information: 

Gantos, J. (2014). Joey Pigza swallowed the key. New York: Square Fish, Farrar Straus Giroux.

Lok, C. (2009). Book Therapy: The Power of Picture Books for an Inclusive Classroom. California Reader, 42(2), 24-28.

Montgomery, S. (2012). Temple Grandin : how the girl who loved cows embraced autism and changed the world. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Books for Children/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

Stork, F. (2011). Marcelo in the real world. New York: Scholastic.

Wopperer, E. (2011). Inclusive Literature in the Library and the Classroom. Knowledge Quest, 39(3), 26-34.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Reflection #8: Marketing & Merchandising, Series Books

This has been my favorite week to read material for thus far. I love to think about consumerism and how it affects today's youth.

Both articles that were required reading for this week talked about what consumerism is, what a market child is, and how it affects kids. An example of this from the article would be American Girl. Children don't request a specific doll, typically. Not at first. The parents or grandparents, someone in the life of the child, recommends the doll or gives the child the doll. With the doll comes the American Girl books and movies. The child then becomes more and more familiarized with the American Girl character. When the child goes to the library, they want more books focused on their favorite character. They want to watch more movies about their character. It is not that their imagination is stifled in anyway. The kids can still play and make up stories about their doll. It's all about familiarity and comfort. They want to stick with what they know.

The same can be said about a lot of the series books that we read today. The Hunger Games is a HUGE series right now. It has completely blown up. Suzanne Collins must be loving that. But, really, we read the books first. After we loved the first book, two more came out. We read them because we loved the characters in the first book. We were all about the relationships between Katniss and Peeta or Katniss and Gale, depending what ship you're on. We wanted to read to find out what happened after Katniss and Peeta BOTH won the hunger games. Then came the movies. Of course, the trailer alone sparked book sales. People wanted to see the movie having read the book, and then the movie came out and made books popular all over again. This series has continued to rise in the ranks as the movies continue to be made. We continue to read and purchase these books and movies because of our familiarity and love for the fictional characters.

The negative aspect of this consumerism and market child mindset is that it prevents a lot of students from branching out and trying new things. Teens get so wrapped up in what they know and what their friends are doing/reading/watching that they don't try anything new. I am thankful that I was always so curious about new books that I was constantly discovering new things. But it worries me that today's youth is not like that. I don't think their imaginations are stifled because of it, but I do think that there is a limit of some kind that happens because of it. Hmmm....something to think about, for sure.

Bibliographic information:

Bickford, J. (2010). Consumerism How it Impacts Play and its Presence in Library Collections. Children & Libraries: The Journal of the Association for Library Service to Children, 8(3), 53-56.

Carman, P. & Pease, J. (2009). Skeleton Creek. New York: Scholastic Press.

Collins, S. (2008). The Hunger Games. New York: Scholastic Press.

Larbalestier, J. (2009). Liar. New York: Bloomsbury U.S.A. Children's Books.

Sekeres, D. (2009). The Market Child and Branded Fiction: A Synergism of Children's Literature, Consumer Culture, and New Literacies. Reading Research Quarterly, 44(4), 399-414.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Reflection #7: Multicultural Representations

In literature, there are many different ways that different cultures are represented. This has been an issue, especially when it comes to the American Indians and African Americans. Most authors are white. This is a well-known fact. Most award winning authors are white men. This was discussed in a previous reflection. I don't tend to think about such things. I just read for pleasure, not for analysis. However, this week required more analysis than I anticipated. 

The first article that I read this week was "Two Professors Critique the Representations of Africans and African Americans in Picture Books." It was very interesting to me that the study chose a white professor and an African American professor. I suppose they did this to balance out any bias. It was a great idea and it was eye opening in many aspects. There were several things that the white professor, Margaret, did not even notice until the African American professor, Wendy, pointed them out.

The pictures in the book sometimes did not match the tone of the prose/poetry on the page. I usually just interpret everything as a whole; I don't look at the individual pieces. They did.

They also noticed that most of the stories that were about Africans or African American families painted people in a positive light. This is unrealistic for family life, period...but especially untrue of the hardships that African American slave families had to go through in the past. Same thing for African families. The themes present were mostly positive and uplifting as well - like "hope."

It made me curious as to why they always produce fictional picture books like this. Are they meant to inspire students of color? Are they meant to give them hope that they can overcome their past? Are they meant to remind students of how far their families have come these days? I'm not sure. It's fiction.

The books for the week are great examples of multicultural literature. From the harrowing story of crossing the border from Mexico presented in The Iguana Tree to the trial of a black watchman in An Unspeakable Crime, stories about multicultural experiences are everywhere. Most of them end in a positive manner with these same happy themes present, like "hope" and "overcoming adversity." These books do as well.

I wonder if there are fictional books that present the darker side of these multicultural experiences. I'd love to read one, just for historical purposes.

Bibliographic Information:

Alexie, S. & Forney, E. (2007). The absolutely true diary of a part-time Indian. New York: Little, Brown.

Alphin, E. (2010). An unspeakable crime : the prosecution and persecution of Leo Frank. Minneapolis: Carolrhoda Books.

Gangi, J. M. (2008). The Unbearable Whiteness of Literacy Instruction: Realizing the Implications of 
the Proficient Reader Research. Multicultural Review, 17(1), 30-35.

Smith-D'Arezzo, W. M., & Musgrove, M. (2011). Two Professors Critique the Representations of Africans and African Americans in Picture Books. Equity & Excellence in Education, 44(2), 188-202.

Stone, M. (2013). The iguana tree. Spartanburg: Hub City Press.