Monday, January 07, 2008

Why I Read Books

I read so that I can tell my students what books they might like. I read so that I know what to order. I also talk to my students a lot about the sorts of books that appeal to them. There are many books that are perfectly fine, but which the majority of students will not find interesting. My job is to find books that walk that fine line-- thought provoking AND interesting.

One of these was Katherine Brubaker Bradley's Leap of Faith. Kicked out of her public school because she attacked the principal's son with a knife, Abigail is forced to attend a Catholic school. While there, she finds out that she has a flair for theatre, and also thinks a lot about what she believes. Certainly, this is something that a few students would find very compelling, but it suffers from what students calls "nothing happened". That's slightly more polite than my "introspective navel-gazing" description. In short, it's a fine book, but one that would gather dust most of the time. I can only afford books that will get used frequently.

Another book where not much happens is Sharon Creech's Replay. Leo finds his father's teenage journal and is surprised to learn that he liked to tap dance. Child's Language Arts teacher read this and thought it would be good for discussion in class, because it is largely concerned with issues of personal identity and how people change. Leo is involved with a play at school, and there is a lot of discussion about the roles that are cast, and this would also lead to good discussion. Child, however, read about three chapters before returning the book to me and telling me it had no plot. (I.E. Nothing happens.) My 4th grade daughter didn't get that far, because she was sooooo bored. (She's a reluctant reader.) My 8th grader started it but put it down in favor of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. General verdict: fine book, but it's not going to thrill children who HAVE to read it for class.

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