Course Work Survey

I make goals all the time. Sometimes they are good goals, sometimes they are… not-so-good goals. One of the many noble, but slightly unrealistic goals I have made occurred right before Christmas break of my freshman year of college. I wanted to read 20 books over the break, and each was going to be a classic. I made it through Animal Farm, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, and the beginning of 1984. That means that I read about 17.5% of what I had intended to. This semester I read hundreds of pages of textbooks, several classic short stories and novels, dozens of poems, and 19 YA books. Honestly, I do like a great deal of the classic literature I’m assigned to read, but I’ve never (not once!) been unable to put a classic down like a YA book. If I found a classic novel and a YA novel of the same exact length, I would be able to finish the YA novel at least three times faster and comprehend twice as much. This semester, the best realization that I had was the fact that reading is reading. There are so many classic pieces that I will be assigned to read in the years I have left in school, so I need to chill out. We learn, as education majors, about how easily teachers can squash students’ love of reading. Why, after learning about this, would I make the same mistake with myself? I realized that it’s great that I want to read every classic literary piece I’ve ever heard of, but it’s also completely understandable and okay if I don’t. There are literally millions and millions of books in the world and I don’t have seven or eight lives to get through them all. So, I now understand that yes, I should read classic literature. But, I also should feel fine about myself if I throw in fun YA books, too. It really doesn’t matter what I read, I just need to read. Since that’s the case, I might as well enjoy what I read, too. Like The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie – my favorite book from the required reading list this semester. Or Al Capone Does My Shirts by Gennifer Choldenko – my favorite book from this semester that I picked out to read. Or one of my all-time favorite books Sideways Stories from Wayside School by Louis Sachar – a book that I think should be added to the required reading list.

When I look through all of my blog posts from this semester, I also see a great change. I went from short-essay-writer to casual-conversation-writer (somewhat back to essay-writer for this post). I like the casual posts better than my formal posts, however. Just like the difference between classic and modern YA lit, I think my casual posts are more reader-friendly. Oddly enough, one of my favorite blog posts is pretty early on with my “It’s Monday! What are you reading? Al Capone Does My Shirts” post. After I wrote it, I thought it revealed too much information. I felt that way other times with my posts, too. So, sometimes I hardly revealed any plot information. But I think that (as long as you really don’t reveal too much like sudden plot twists or the shocking ending) the description can make a reader want to read the book more. I hate that it took me until the end of the semester after I went through all of my posts to realize this; ce la vie.

Speaking of blog posts, my favorite blog over the course of the semester would probably have to be Tatum Renken’s. There were so many times that I read his post and it was so insightful and analytical and I felt like a bum comparing his posts to mine!

Which leads me to a question that I often wondered and sort of wished that Dr. Ellington would have had us discussed on our Twitter chats: When we read YA lit and have our students read YA lit, should we have them try to analyze it, or does that come naturally? Is it more hurtful than helpful? I felt like having reading blogs and other assignments to try to have us analyze what we read made a lot of kids in my high school class hate reading. I’m glad it didn’t make me hate reading, though. Especially after this semester, I’m in love with reading!

There were so many posts about books that made me want to read them, but I never ended up reading so, so many of them! After a wonderful semester of reading so many posts about great books, what should I read next? If my public library has Beastly, I’d like to try it. I just love retellings of fairy tales and fables and whatnot. I can’t remember who posted about Beastly earlier in the semester, but it made me definitely want to check it out. Any other suggestions? I’d love to hear from you all! I hope you had a fabulous semester and will have an even better summer! Good with your finals and your future adventures in the world of YA lit!! 🙂

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One thought on “Course Work Survey

  1. I’m so glad you enjoyed your reading this semester! You ask a great question here about analyzing YA lit. I do think that part of what we do in a secondary English classroom is analyze literature, and that’s important work. Understanding how a piece of writing works helps us grow as readers and as writers. For instance, I often ask students to analyze what they read as writers–looking for craft, noticing cool and effective writerly moves, developing their understanding and appreciation of writing technique. I think it’s important to reflect on what effects a piece of literature has on us–and why. But all of the reading we do doesn’t need to include this kind of analysis. I think it’s important to have a very heavy dose of reading that requires no analysis whatsoever. The very slow march through a novel that we usually see in secondary classrooms will kill YA novels just as they kill classic novels. I might select a passage from Speak or Absolutely True Diary for analysis but not try to analyze the whole thing–or even require all students to read the entire book. Using short passages allows us to have common texts that we can discuss; it uses classtime effectively and efficiently; and it introduces students to books they might want to read independently.

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