I keep thinking about two specific comments from my AP Lit workshop that I am struggling with in regards to adolescent reading and writing practices today. When I first started researching new literacies and the ways in which students (and really all of us) are becoming increasingly multiliterate, I truly believed that “Literacy as we know it is not in a crisis, but instead evolving as we know it.” This belief still holds true today as I think the majority of kids are reading and writing, a lot, just not in ways that the traditional classroom has always valued.
With my belief in place, I think many of you will see why the two comments below got my attention…
- “It’s just too hard to fight for certain books.” This comment stemmed from a discussion about what books were and were not allowed in the various school systems around the room. First, I have a problem with books that are NOT allowed because I feel that ALL books should be valued. You never know when that one book that you would never even think of picking up might be the “light” someone else needed. (I also think this belief stems from when I was a child when I can specifically remember my Grandpa telling my mom to let me read everything.) Anyway, what bothered me the most is that here was a large consensus of educators saying that it was too hard to even TRY to have certain books brought into the curriculum. And that it was “too hard to fight.” It just makes me sad to hear those words. I know I’m not the only one out there willing to “fight,” but how can so many simply just not care? (note: checkout #yasaves and #speakloudly for connections to two powerful movements that deserve to be heard!)
- “Reading and writing practices are not natural activities for kids.” Maybe I’m wrong, but I don’t think we give kids enough credit for all of the reading and writing they ARE doing. I also think the basic, inherent need of communicating ties into reading and writing practices. I’m not advocating for “txt talk” in academic or workplace settings. However, I am advocating for code switching and helping our students understand the how’s and why’s behind code switching while gaining the knowledge and communication skills for any realm they are living/working in. In my opinion, and from what I have found within my classroom, there’s a whole other “world” of reading and writing practices taking place. These “underground literacy practices” are running rampant in our schools and communities if we would just open our eyes! Just because the reading and writing practices today don’t follow the traditional route, doesn’t mean they are any less “unnatural.” The bottom line is I think that if we, as educators, approach the classroom with the “superiority complex” that reading and writing activities are natural for us while these practices are not normal to the faces staring back at us in our classrooms, we are in for a big wake-up call. Kids are reading and writing. Pay attention. It’s our job to help show them all the ways they can read and write, AND it’s our job to validate all of the ways they are reading and writing outside of our classroom, too…that’s how we build confidence, make connections, and create more critical readers, writers, and thinkers!
- (note: Ironically enough, after these comments about reading, writing, and books, we were presented with this. Not even all of the “natural” readers in the room got all of the in’s and out’s of this poem down. It’s tough! I can’t wait to work with my students on it this year!)