Readers Have Rights

I distinctly remember the first book that I ever hated (yes, English majors can hate books, too). I was in 8th grade, and my English teacher made the class read Johnny Tremain. I remember complaining right along with everyone else; Why were we reading such a dull and boring read? The couple of weeks that we were stuck reading and discussing that novel I could be found staring out the window of our classroom silently waiting for the torture of that novel to end.

I know, I know. Since that was a class assignment (and I was a goody two-shoes), there was no way around reading it. However, this type of a thing happens more often than I care to think about. How many kids have turned away from the idea of reading because they are forced to read books that they loathe? How many fantastic books have these kids missed out on because of this?

4131076475_9de5de1cdc_o.jpg

(Photo: flickr.com)

These are the reasons that I loved Daniel Pennac’s “Reader’s Bill of Rights” so much. The 10 Rights that are outlined are crucial. We need to empower kids to know that they can read (or not read) at their pleasure. Kids and adults need to feel as though they have control over what they read and how they read, because they should have this power. If we are asking everyone to read and then read more, than shouldn’t they at least be able to decide what to read?

Readers, you have the power. You don’t have to continue reading a book if you feel like it’s sucking the life out of you. You can skip pages to get to the “meat” of the novel. You are able to pick where you want to read and when you want to read. You have the absolute right to reread anything you want (I especially enjoy this one) without feeling ashamed and having to justify your choice with others. You don’t have to defend your choice in books; once you find a series or author that you love, go for it! Read all of what your choice has to offer. Most importantly, you have the right to not read at all.

Readers need to exercise these rights. Use them all. We can’t keep discouraging readers by forcing them to read a certain way or to read at all. By doing this, we effectively turn them off from reading for good. Let them choose. These Rights will hang in my future classroom with bold lettering. I want my students to read, but I want them to read what they want to read; whether it’s a classic, a YA novel, a graphic novel, or even the newspaper, I’ll just be happy to see them engaged in reading something. If we let students feel empowered by their choice instead of dragged down by our choice, we allow them to be more confident readers. This, in turn, just might get them to do the thing we all want them to do: read more.

-Regan

Advertisements

So, Why YA?

Young adult literature is hands-down my favorite genre to read. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy a fabulous Nicholas Sparks book every now and then, but there is just something so captivating about being able to sit down with a book and devour it in (literally) one sitting. I love the feeling of not being able to set my book down because I just have to know what happens to my favorite character or love story within the novel. But, many people today question the genre and why they should read books that involve the lives of teenagers. Why should people who are not necessarily teenagers engage in this type of reading?

YA As I Know It

As a senior, I was the teacher’s aid for our school library. I absolutely loved this job; I was able to get the first look at books when they came in the summer before and could read nearly every day during the school year, so what more could you want? Since I got the first look, my librarian that I worked under allowed me to take the books home to read before they even went into the system (Mrs. B, you rock because of this). This was when I noticed the large amount of YA novels that were being filtered into the library. The number was huge, and made me even more excited to look through them and get to make my selections on what to read.

14416147547_cdb5fdd79d_z.jpg

(Photo: Flickr.com)

YA literature is currently seen as being in its second “golden age” and is ever growing. Novels are becoming more diverse and have focuses on more than just the old style problems, such as divorce or drug abuse. We can now dive into a novel that focuses on LGBTQ issues that teens go through or even enter into a magical world that includes vampires and werewolves trying to co-exist (inserting my mandatory subtle Twilight reference now). Books serve as an escape and an entrance into the mind of our younger generation. However, these books aren’t just meant for teens anymore; a higher percentage of adults are digging into this genre as well. According to the article A Brief History of Young Adult Literature, 55% of YA books that were purchased back in 2012 were purchased by adults that were between the ages of 18 and 44. Nothing excites me more than seeing this jump; I’ll be reading YA as I age, so it’s a good thing that it’s becoming more accepted. 😉

So. (Wh)YA?

So. Why read YA literature? Simple. By reading this type of literature, you can enter into a completely different world of your choice. You can follow your favorite hero/heroine into their world and live vicariously through them. For once, you’re able to exit your life and forget about your worries and enter into something completely different. This alternate world will allow the reader to go to a realistic or supernatural place. I, myself, particularly enjoyed visiting the world of the supernatural/fantasy or the dystopian lands of the future. Whether I went to Forks, Washington with Bella or visited the Capitol with Katniss, I always enjoyed my time escaping reality.

The readings for class this week were ones that I found interesting and enlightening. They discussed why we should keep reading YA literature, and the bottom line is that these books can change the lives of those that are reading them. Teens can connect to these stories and tackle some of life’s hardest issues by reading them. Long gone are the single problem novels and in their place stand novels that look deeper into the complex issues that teens face today.

It was also pointed out within the readings that it’s important for adults to not criticize their kids or students for reading YA novels. These adults need to understand that reading is a uniquely personal experience for the individual. Shannon Hale’s post outlined this stance in a way that is interesting for everyone to think about. In my opinion, her words hit the hardest and drove the main idea home:

As adults, I think we need to respect the teenage years and help them live through the experience with as little permanent damage as possible, while still allowing them the experiences themselves. And as readers, I think we need to respect the stories that express those years.

 

What I Want to Learn

This semester, I want to broaden the umbrella that I read under. I want to diversify my novels and branch out even more. I want to read novels that really make me feel something inside. I want to understand the world that we live in from someone else’s viewpoint, whether that’s the viewpoint of two young women with special needs trying to make it in a cruel, cold world or the viewpoint of a boy or girl that identifies as LGBTQ. To do this, I will ask questions. Lots of them. I’ll go to classmates, professors, and trusted resources to help me find new and engaging literature. I’ll look to my book club to guide me in a different direction than the traditional one that I would normally take. And, finally, I’ll allow myself to branch out and find new loves within the literary world while still holding my old ones.

I firmly believe that, as a future educator, it’s my duty to understand the thoughts that are running through my students’ minds each day. I want to see the struggles that are possible and find books that will inspire the kids that will sit in my future classroom. I want to learn how to identify with my students, and I feel like the best way to do that is through the pages of a novel.

Best,

Regan

“Girls Like Us”- Cruelty, Love, and Joy

Have you ever read a book that made you feel immense joy, pain, confusion, and anger all at once? Have you ever read something that made you want to act and help out the characters within the novel? Joy, pain, confusion, and anger. These are four of the most overwhelming senses that you can feel, and one book made me feel them all.

224945_4120014089168_1261462159_n.jpg
I grew up in a great family; I honestly mean that. I have 3 siblings (seen above) and 2 parents that I know love me very much. I also grew up in a home that believed in compassion and love for everyone around us. My mother was (and is still) a Special Education teacher at my high school, and my younger brother has Down syndrome and needs extra help in various areas of life. My siblings and I were raised to treat those around us with respect and love, despite what they look like or the way that they speak or act. This novel spoke to my heart for these reasons. What would it feel like to grow up without this knowledge that I was loved? What would it feel like to grow up in an environment where I wasn’t wanted and was constantly reminded of that fact by my family and the people around me? This week, I read the book Girls Like Us by Gail Giles. It covered multiple hard topics that included the treatment of “Speddies,” or students in Special Education classes, as well as rape and how our culture perceives it.

“Some call me names.

Granny call me Retard.

Quincy call me White Trash sometimes and Fool most of the time.

Most kids call me Speddie. That’s short for Special Education.

I can’t write or read. A little bit, but not good enough to matter.”

18404410.jpg

In this book, we follow the lives of Biddy and Quincy, two young women with special needs who have recently graduated from high school. The story bounces between both of the girls’ point of view. Biddy is a sweet-natured girl who loves everyone around her despite her past with a family that is broken. Quincy is her tough, headstrong roommate that is upset with the fact that they were paired together. They embark upon the world together, being placed in an apartment as roommates that are there to help an elderly woman named Elizabeth. As they move out into the world, readers are allowed to follow their individual stories and see the girls transition to their new roles. They grow together and encounter multiple circumstances that two women shouldn’t have to encounter. As Biddy relives her painful past and tries to move forward, Quincy faces an obstacle that no one should have to go through alone. As the unlikely pair continues forward in life, they begin to realize that they have more in common and can help each other through life and all of the challenges that it hands them.

As I read this novel, I couldn’t help but feel both elated and saddened. These young women were put through so much in life and still kept moving forward in a world that showed cruelty to them. After the first three lines, I was hooked; I smiled, shed tears (often), laughed, and fell in love with the characters put forward in this novel. I couldn’t help but feel protective towards them and their well-being. A Schneider Family Book Award Winner, Girls Like Us is a compelling and heart warming read that will open the reader’s heart and mind to an entirely different world that is all around us. This book will invoke compassion and love into anyone’s heart, and should definitely be placed on a must-read list for future educators everywhere.

Best,

Regan

Week #1:5 Stories About Me

 

Man, do I love books. I always have. My love for books started at a young age and has continued on since then. I find that whenever I have a terrible day or I’m incredibly stressed out all I have to do is open a book and I immediately am transported into an alternate world. This week, I was asked to write a post about my experiences as a teen reader and what led me to where I am today. The following stories are reasons why I love books and how they made me into the person I am.

book-707387_960_720.jpg

Growing up, I was what could be considered a “goody two-shoes.” In fact, I have been told numerous times by my big brother that I am that exactly. I followed my parents’ rules on almost everything. I always did my chores and ate my vegetables. However, I broke one rule almost every day; I never followed the bedtime rule. Every time I went into my room, my light would stay on for extra hours simply because I couldn’t set my book down. Thirty minutes turned into two hours of reading once I got lost into the world of whatever book I was reading. Although I started doing this at a young age, I still find myself doing this today. Even though I seem to have less free time the older I get, I still enjoy reading and try to find all the time that I can to devote to it.

11784270525_a8229a07b3_z.jpg

My entrance into the world of Young Adult Literature was spearheaded by none other than the Harry Potter series. I still remember my feelings of anxiety when I picked up the first book. It was the summer between my fourth and fifth grade school years, and my mom had suggested that I start reading it. Would I like it? Could I understand everything in it? After reading the first chapter, I was immediately hooked. Suddenly, the Muggle world didn’t hold a candle to the world of Hogwarts. The imagery and magical qualities of the books opened my mind to new thoughts and allowed me to live as though I was attending Hogwarts. I read the first six books within two weeks and was hooked. Since then, I’ve re-read the series numerous times, and each time I read it I’m able to go back to the carefree times of that summer. To this day, I am still waiting on my admission letter to Hogwarts.

woman-notebook-working-girl.jpg

My class was the one that all of the teachers gossiped about in the teacher’s lounge. We were the ones who talked in class and gave substitutes hard times. However, I was not necessarily included in the “we” portion stated above. When my class started talking after finishing assignments in class, I pulled out my book to read. When I was younger and had to ride to school with my parents, I would immediately go to the library and read while waiting for the bell to ring. While my classmates were more interested in talking or running around the classroom giving teachers a hard time, I was more inclined to sit quietly and read my book. So, I guess if I were asked if I were like my classmates in this respect I would have to say no. We read everything from poetry to the classics, and most of my classmates today will probably still tell you that they hated English in high school. They often despised the literature that we had to read and, in my opinion, this pushed them away from all of the wonderful literature out there. As my friends moved away from their love of literature, my love for reading only intensified. Through my English classes, I was entered into a world of different and new literature. Although classics never stole my heart, I still read them as I continued to read my young adult novels.

1506515_10201335665224114_1133573330_n.jpg

When I was a senior, I was as involved as I could possibly be. From basketball to speech and from FCCLA to my duties as class president, I was constantly on the go. However, everything changed one December night as I sat on a gym floor unable to walk without falling. My genetics had (finally) caught up with me, and I had torn both my ACL and my MCL just like my sibling, parents, and numerous family members before me. I remembered my moment of panic right when the doctor told me what I already knew: I was done with sports for my senior year and, if I was smart, for good. What in the world would I do now that I was hurt? I couldn’t drive myself places and would be spending a good portion of my spring semester both in pain post-surgery and in North Platte (a town about forty-five minutes away from my hometown) for physical therapy. This meant less time devoted to friends and less time spent on the activities that I loved. I was, of course, devastated. I had surgery over my Christmas Break and spent most of that time hooked up to an ice machine at my house (seen in the picture above). But, with all of this free time, what did I rediscover? My absolute love and passion for books! I spent my free time escaping my own reality and entering into the world of books that I loved. I re-read old favorites and found some new series that I fell in love with. It was over this break that I decided to enter into the field of English Education. I used books to help me get over the hump of that period of time, and I knew that I would forever love and appreciate them.

3615656703_321f3ca492_z.jpg

I know that to many of you this appears to just be a picture of an apple. However, to me, it’s much more than that. A red apple holds with it so many incredible and awful memories of my teen years. I, like so many fan girls before me, was a lover of the Twilight series. I remember my feeling of joy when I found time to crack open a novel from the series and read it, regardless of how many times I had read it before. I remember the feeling of deep, very real, depression that hit me when I read New Moon (Disclaimer: This was incredibly real. My friend and I bawled while reading New Moon, and I think that I would still cry today). I felt like my heart was being ripped apart, just like Bella’s was in the novel. Honestly, I think that my mom was probably a bit worried about me during that period of time. It was here that I realized that books have the ability to change us. Once we find the perfect book or series, we can let them consume us. I felt like I lived in Forks, Washington. I wanted to read and be apart of that world more than I can communicate on paper. These were the books that helped me through my awkward junior high years. I knew that I could escape every time that I read one of them, and that was my solace. Whenever I had a friend issue or something happened that upset me, I immediately dove into a novel to take my mind off of the situation. I will forever be thankful to the Twilight series and Stephanie Meyer for that.

So, there you have it. My odd, somewhat strange path with young adult books that led me to where I am today. Sometimes I wonder where I would be without the guidance that Albus Dumbledore gave me or the strength that I pulled from the character of Bella. Without books, my life would be dull and boring without a question. My reading as a teen opened up so many doors and possibilities that I love and am thankful for to this day. My past experiences have intensified my passion and spark for reading, and I can’t wait to continue with that as I go on in life.

Cheers,

Regan