Social Media and Reading

I’ve had a tough time finding many articles on this topic.  I’ve also found it difficult to track down teen reading circles on various social media sites.  I’m of the group that would say social media doesn’t inspire teen readers to read as much as other methods, nor does it necessarily organize a reader’s life.  But, and I say but, this week’s research has opened me up to a few new avenues of thinking on this topic.  The main takeaway is that social media can certainly promote reading, offer an organized gathering point for various book clubs, and actually help square away a reader’s life to an extent.  The full participation of my book club this semester has been through Skype, so I can’t bash all forms of social media.  The definition of social media is wide and can include sites such as this one, WordPress.  Therefore, the vast connectivity of this encompassing topic can be difficult to wrangle with.  I found a very good young adult book club on Goodreads, but it was open to everyone and not just teen readers.  Teenagers should be exposed to social media sites that promote reading, like the book club at Goodreads.

There are also many interesting booky hashtags on Instagram that promote a reading community through interesting and stunning photography.  Now do sites like Instagram promote reading on their own? No.  They have to be used properly in order to be effective in a sub goal of reading promotion.  The same goes for Pinterest, which has to be streamlined effectively in order to promote a reading environment.

Don’t let my cynical nature on this topic let any readers stray from a certain point.  This point is that social media can be a haven for teen readers who want to be a part of an online reading community, and teachers should push and push to promote it.  But it can never replace face to face interaction with others who love to read.  It can supplement it well, however.  Blogs are a great way for teenagers to get their voice heard, and can help them join an online community of similar and different individuals.  When I become a teacher I will be an advocate for teens to not be shy about sharing their reading life, and how social media is a good place to express their reading life, if used effectively.

Bookish Behavior #yalitclass

Penny Kittle is bookish, extremely bookish, and head over heels in love with books.  She just exudes bookish behavior in her classroom and it makes me envy the minds she is tapping into.  The advice she gives is great, the passion she has is palpable, and her heart for teaching is pumped into the words she is delivering in her text entitled “Book Love.”  This week I read over chapters five and six and came face to face with what Mrs. Kittle calls “Book Talk” and the specifics of “Conferencing” with students.  I just nodded my head and turned the pages; embracing the methods I will someday use, but with my own less attractive spin I’m sure.

The “book talk” centers around an engaged classroom while reading over texts.  I’ve found the engagement is the secret here.  While Kittle is reading, her students are underlining sentences they like and are actively engaging with the text while the teacher is reading.  Then, after the reading session has been completed, students will answer questions dedicated to the writing craft of the author.  All of this is pretty simple, but the message is powerful.  By having students simple underlining sentences they like, they have the ability to respond to questions and their feelings using “textual evidence.”  This is just good academic practice.  The “book talk” goes beyond comprehension and craft skill, though.  It leads students to create their own classroom community of readers.  After choosing the right books to discuss as a group, high school students will have an array of insights to deliver.  These insights are all categorized into an “encyclopedia of writing topics” that the class came up with.  Kittle is giving her students the reins to steer writing topics, and this is marvelous at the high school level because it keeps interest at a peak.

What about those students who are having a hard time engaging with book talk, and are finding it difficult to read at all?  This is where “student conferencing”comes in.  Here the power is in the practiced pedagogy of a teacher, and the language and mood of the conversation.  Kittle shifts everything to the motivations and problems faced by the student, with her own insights on the world of reading.  The conference is three stage in the text: conferences that monitor a reading life, conferences that teach a reading strategy, conferences that increase complexity and challenge.  These three methods are in order of difficulty.  At its heart, conferencing, is about organization.  All of this needs to be documented or else the teacher and the student will get swamped.  I will use layman’s terms for these conferences.  Number one, they don’t have to be scheduled, but the teacher needs to get to all students.  The first question involves the “what?”  Meaning what are you reading?  The second conference question involves the “how?”  Meaning how is your book going?”  The third conference question involves the “where?”  Meaning where do you go from here to challenge yourself as a reader?  The last conference stage is where every teacher needs to have their students at by some point.

In closing I have some advice for teachers, and mostly this is me talking to myself, for aren’t all blogs really a conference with yourself?  I think so.  Here is some advice inspired by Kittle.  Read to your students with an intense fervor, give your students the reins to create classroom activities that are beneficial to them and you, and never shy from inspiring students to mark their life with reading.  In all of this, stay organized, because students deserve organization.

Since I read Jason Reynolds this week here is short video of him discussing diversity.  Always teach towards diverse reading.  Keep Mirror and Window reading in mind.

Today we also lost Chuck Berry, R.I.P.



It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? #yalitlcass

I’m really happy that I read David Levithan’s “Every Day” this past week.  It is one of those books that asks big questions while delivering an easy to read narrative.  Some of the questions are still blurry to me, but this book was written in a unique technique which enhanced my reading comprehension ability.

This book answers the question of what it would be like to wake up in a different body…every day of your life.  Imagine you having no family, no friends, and no material possessions.  It’s just you.  Naturally the protagonist in this book is a bit sad at this fact, having reached the age of sixteen with nothing but scattered memories.  He wants to create memories for himself, he want to create a life.  So this character, who is named “A,” is floating along until he meets Rhiannon (a top five Fleetwood Mac song, no doubt), and the two have to figure out how to love one another in a world where A changes to another body every day.  It’s actually quite sad, but the side stories of how A helps the person whose body he finds himself in keep the narrative interesting.  For instance, he helps a young woman get help in order to prevent suicide, and helps various substance abuse users abstain from drug usage.  All of these are in line with young adult tropes.  The best part of the book is the character development of A.  As the book rolls along he realizes that he can’t be with Rhiannon and he has to find a way to avoid that pain while not abandoning Rhiannon.  This is where the climax of the book is held, and it does not disappoint.

Overall, this book is great simply because it has a fresh writing technique.  Very rarely can an author create a character within flat character, but this is what Levithan does in “Every Day.”  Usually I will be apprehensive in suggesting books to people because I know they won’t read it, but this is a book that everyone should read once.  It’s on various top young adult books of all time lists and for good reason.

Practice Diverse Reading #yalitclass

Diversity in young adult literature, and all literature, is important as a society and for individual readers.  As was discussed last week, diverse individuals need to be able to see a mirror in the books they read.  In addition to individual readers, our society needs to recognize and read diverse books because it is the reality of our culture.  Only reading one area of literature can lead to some pretty extreme confirmation bias which is a deadly enemy of social progress.  Diversity in reading can mean different things for different people but I think we can all agree that it is inclusive reading.  By reading diverse authors and books with diverse characters we are including everyone in the indelible practice of reading and writing.  Of course everyone has their favorite authors and perhaps they wouldn’t be categorized as “diverse,” but anyone can have go-to authors and still practice diverse reading.

Up to this point in this course I have read a fair amount of diverse works.  I’ve read a Hispanic verse novel, a Native American novel, and a few European authors.  This is a start, but I will have to boost my intake of diverse works in the second half of the semester.  Our book bingo guide is a great tool for this and I look forward to the opportunity to read diverse works.  There are a few goals I have set after reading the blogs that are centered on diversity.  Without question I will be reading a book centered around a character with a disability.   Also I have some Walter Dean Meyers coming my way as I will check out some of his books from the library after reading a few of his fantastic blogs on the importance of the “mirror” effect in reading.

All of this talk about reading diverse works is not just a procedure that people need to do.  It really should become a reading habit, because the benefits are paramount.  It is one of the easiest ways to connect with the “entire” world around you.  Someone might ask the question of how does a reader connect?  The clear answer is the author.  More often than not authors of all different genres will write what they know about, and that knowledge will be reflected in their writing.  Regardless if the work is fiction, any author will probably tell you fiction is still based in truth.  So, reading diverse works connects you to the world of an author, a world the author probably has lived.  This is all about perspective, and authors have the gift of giving a tasty reading perspective of where they think importance lies.  The more a reader soaks in this importance in diverse works, the better reader and person they will become.  On top of all of this it is important for diverse people to publish diverse books because they in most cases will be able to reflect the diverse culture they have experienced better than someone who hasn’t, but is still writing about it.

In closing, how can teachers implore students to read diversely?  The first solution is to put diverse books on the shelf, an easy action.  The other way to get students to read diverse books is to have students complete various assignments and passion based projects based on three different diverse works (three is an example).  Another way can be to assign diverse books, but this may take away from the students desire to read.  Students could be assigned a rotation of free will too.  Meaning they would float from genre to genre with an assigned amount of included diversity within those genres.  The best way to get students to read diversely is to have a teaching philosophy that promotes diversity and to have fun, diverse reads on the shelves.

I’ll leave you with this video of young adult author John Green who delivers a great summary of all the things we have been discussing when it comes to diverse reading.

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading?


I went back to my young adulthood this week as I read an old favorite, the book “Hatchet” by Gary Paulsen, and was able to check that off of my Book Bingo list.  I haven’t read this book in twelve or thirteen years so I was worried about it losing its luster upon my revisit.  I’m happy to say that it didn’t, and for anyone looking for a survival book with a determined protagonist alone in the woods resting on their own volition, I would recommend this short novel.

Paulsen’s use of foreshadowing in this book makes the narrative really easy to understand.  In the first few chapters the brief dialogue, in a way, summarizes all of the thematic elements of the story (survival, independence, instruction, parental secrets).  Essentially, the main character Brian, at the age of fourteen I believe, crashes into the Canadian Wilderness after the bush plane he is riding goes down, due to the pilot having a heart attack.  From there the plot is easy to foresee.  Brian must survive in a land he is completely unaccustomed to.  Through animal attacks, mosquito attacks, hunger attacks, and attacks of his own mortality, Brian manages to survive.  Not only does Brian survive he manages to learn the comfort he gets in resting on his own laurels.  So in a way near the end Brian does not want to leave the forest.  Paulsen does this to show the attractiveness of simple, primitive living and to set up a sequel to Hatchet.  While in the wilderness Brian learns to “do” rather than contemplate every single thing that is out of his control.  I think this is an important message to send in a young adult novel.  In order to survive, sometimes you just have to “do” and rely on your own intelligence and intuition to make it out.  The novel has allegorical tones in this respect in relation to human survival and sense making.  By Brian falling into action, rather than continually self grief and contemplation, he is able to form a more wholesome philosophy of life, and is able to train his mind and body in order to handle anything.  This novel is all about action and trial and error in the wild, with the occasional flashback to a distant world.

Diversity in Reading

The importance of reading books is painted on the wall.  Reading books about and by diverse people really starts to blend those colors on the wall.  First and foremost, diverse books need to be published more.  Hispanic, African American, Native American, Asian, Middle Eastern, European, and people of all diverse backgrounds need to see a “mirror” of themselves in writing. The mirror talked about by Bishops in the link in the previous sentence is an important and fun concept of literature.  “Mirror reading” is being able to see a reflections of yourself in the characters, stories, and settings that you find in books.  Think about how important this is for any young adult readers who made need to have their questions answered?  Students of diverse backgrounds need to have the option to confide in books, but the publishing numbers are simple not there for them to do so.  It is so easy to forget that the book publishing business is another market that is restricted by financial concerns, risk, and pressure.  Many publishers will say that manuscripts for diverse works simply don’t come through their doors, but Walter Dean Myers will say they need to leave the desk and find the authors.   For as much as our classrooms preach inclusion and having a model for a classroom that represents the real world (demographics), then the shelves of our libraries within those classrooms need to take the same inclusive approach with books about diverse people, and by diverse people.

Sense making is a very important concept, and books may be one of the biggest parts of the process.  Having lower publishing numbers for diverse authors and books involving diverse characters takes away from that sense making process for groups of people.  In fact, it takes away multicultural perspectives from all readers.  People of diverse backgrounds need to be able to confide in diverse characters in books, and majority groups need to read about ethnically diverse characters and settings because it is truth and reality.  Books are written in very imaginative worlds sometimes, but most of the subtle truths spoken in books are among us.  Every culture, sub culture, race, and ethnic group needs to be able to place their own truths in books; then those truths need to be read.


It’s Monday! What Are You Reading?


My reading last week took me out of my interest zone as I read “The Carnival at Bray” by Jessie Ann Foley.  This book has a slow start, but by the end I was humming through pages.  If you like a book that includes a teenage pilgrimage to a concert, an impulsive mother, the likeableness of impure characters, and a story of first love, then look no further and give this book a read.

All young adult books are “coming of age tales” in their own way, but this book left no doubt as the reader follows Maggie from Chicago U.S.A to a town near Dublin, Ireland.  Her impulsive mother has drug her children to another location, once again, due to her falling in love with a man and marrying him in a matter of months.  Worst of all for Maggie is that this moves separates her from her beloved uncle, Kevin.  Kevin is not a great role model, but carries the personality and air of a Kerouac/90’s rocker/Jeff Lebowski mix.  Maggie loves him for his simple but deep advice on cutting back the layers of life in order to live and love more deeply.  The narrative goes from there as Maggie must find a way to reach the memories of life that she desires: love, passion, stories, stability, friendship, meaning.  All of this culminates into a pilgrimage to Rome with a boy in order to see grunge band Nirvana in 1994.

This is the author’s first book and even though my description above may sound boring (oooo a teenager must adjust to a new surrounding with a no guidance from a degenerate mother, while having addicts for role models) it was very sound, and went beyond teenage cliches.  This author has a wonderful diction that will cause some teenagers to head to the dictionary every now and then.  Also the authors ability to use juxtaposition in a chaotic world is spot on.

First love was discussed in this book with quite a bit of depth.  I think anyone is a liar if they say “I don’t like first love books because they are too sappy” or “I don’t like first love books because they are unrealistic.”  They don’t like them because there will probably be the stinging memory of first love in their minds, and they don’t want to be sad.  And frankly, I don’t blame them.  This is the same reason why I don’t read first love books heavily, or listen to nostalgic old love songs too much.  The stuff is kinda depressing.  But we have to remember these books are written specifically for young adults, and books don’t need to crush the dreams of a seventeen year old boy or girl.  They are in a fragile state, in many areas, so it’s okay to have a happy ending.  It is a good thing to turn first love into an ideal setting, because really that is what it is.  Overall, this book addresses the question of whether to give into love or “duty” when the two sides face one another.