Tuesday, September 17, 2013

I Swear!

Last year I had a student return a Chronicles of Narnia book to the school library because the author used the word "damn" and the student's parent didn't want him to continue reading it. Having listened to almost the whole series on audio book, I knew C.S. Lewis used that word a few times throughout the series.

I am convinced that "damn" isn't a swear word in Britain. J. K. Rowling uses it throughout the Harry Potter books. She also has scenes in which characters swear, but she never gives the reader the exact words. I love that. It is enough to know that the character is using foul language without telling me verbatim which words he/she uses. If she is that careful to just describe the swearing, but she freely uses "damn," it makes me think that it doesn't mean what we think it does in America. But American authors use it, too.

I have been reviewing books for our upcoming book fair over the last few weeks. I do this not only so I can talk intelligently with students about the books when our fair rolls around, but also because I teach at a Christian school. I have a responsibility to know what's in as many of the books that we sell (or choose not to sell) as I can.

Two of the books in my preview pile also used the word "damn." One was an historic fiction novel taking place in the early 60s during integration. One of the black characters is frustrated about the discrimination he is experiencing every day, and he is ranting to his younger sister about her naivety. He swears twice.  In the other book, one character uses the word one time. I don't even remember the context now.

My first thought with both of these was "Was that really necessary?" In books that are marketed to upper elementary students as well as middle school students, do we have to include foul language, even if it is minor in the world of foul language? I don't think either of these stories would have "lost" anything without the language.

My second thought was "Does this mean I can't put this book in our library or sell it at the fair?" This historic fiction one was an AMAZING book. When I type up my review, I will give it 5 stars because I thought it was that fantastic. I would love to share this with students. But that little bit of language - language that didn't feel essential to me in the telling of the story - could raise flags for administration and parents. I believe that authors have the prerogative to write their stories as they choose. I guess I just wonder why they choose to include language you wouldn't want to hear your 10-year-old use at school....

My school has a policy for situations like this. And I can comfortably make a case for this book fitting in our policy. The larger story says important things about our history, about race, about education, about writing. The book is not "saturated" with foul language. If challenged, I can cite why I believe we should overlook the language in favor of the larger story.

I just wish I didn't have to....

Thursday, September 12, 2013

The BenJarvus Green-Ellis Incident

Our family is crazy about football. Because of our great love of the game, we have played fantasy football for years. This year, my son "fired' my husband as his co-manager and picked me up as his helper instead.

The main reason for this personnel change was the draft philosophy.

My husband is a by-the-book drafter. He follows the recommendations of the "experts." In my son's league, my husband was drafting for one of the kids who couldn't make the draft. He picked three running backs and then three wide receivers. He didn't panic and jump out for a QB just because other folks were picking them up. He followed his plan, picking the best player available at each round.

My philosophy is that I want players on my fantasy team that I actually LIKE. As a Packers fan, I will NEVER draft Adrian Peterson, even if I have the first pick in the draft. I won't bother with players in the NFC North unless they wear green and gold. I've been in leagues where I picked Aaron Rodgers "ridiculously early" by the expert's advice. But I knew that if I left that draft without Rodgers, I would not be looking forward to playing fantasy football. So, when my son wanted Jimmy Graham in the second round, I said "Go for it." He had Graham two years ago and loved having him on his team, but he missed out on him last year. When he wanted Reggie Wayne in the third round and Andrew Luck in the fourth, I said, "Sure!" What's the point of playing fantasy football if you can't root for some guys from "your team?" The other, older players in the room kept their scoffing to a minimum and my husband kept his comments about our picks to himself.

Then, in the 5th round, my "go ahead, pick with your heart" philosophy hit a snag when my son said he wanted to draft BenJarvus Green-Ellis. With the 43rd pick in their draft. On our list, Green-Ellis was the 36th ranked running back. There were still lots of better-ranked RBs available at this point in the draft. My son's not even a Bengals fan or anything. I have NO CLUE why he latched onto this player! This was going to be his last pick for 14 picks! But he was adamant. And it was ultimately HIS team and HIS draft.

This early in the season, it remains to be seen if this will be a good pick for my son, or if it will always be referred to "The BenJarvus Green-Ellis Incident" in our home. What I do know is my son left his draft happy, looking forward to playing fantasy football this year. And that's all that really matters to me.

My husband read me this article over the weekend about fantasy-football expert, Matthew Berry's experience of drafting with his son. I'll let you decide based on my story and his which is a better draft plan - follow the plan or follow your heart. But I imagine he will hear about "The RG III Incident" at his house for years to come.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

What Should I Read Next?

Here is a fun graphic from Teach.com to help readers of young adult fiction figure out what to read next. I'm posting it here and also on my book blog; it's great! Teach.com also sent me some background information on the flowchart - take a look.

Teach.com, a comprehensive online resource dedicated to helping great teachers use resources to support students in their learning and development, has just released the Young Adult Summer Reading Flowchart—a follow up to their successful Summer Reading Flowchart. This year, they addressed a second demographic, focusing on books for young adults across many genres; though, these books can appeal to people of all ages. The past few years have seen the mass popularity of young adult novels and series, including Twilight and the Hunger Games, as well as the revival of a few older books. The Young Adult Summer Flowchart walks you through roughly 100 books, asking questions about a series of genres and themes to help young adult readers to arrive at the perfect book. The chart helps students who are looking for a specific title, or those who have yet to establish what they are looking for. The summer months is a break from school, but shouldn’t be a break from learning (and by extension, reading). The Young Adult Summer Reading Flowchart is a fun infographic to help students get excited about reading and finding the right book for them.

The Young Adult Summer Reading Flowchart
Brought to you by Teach.com

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Parenting Dilemmas

A friend said something to me last week.

"If you give your child the 'treat' before she does what she's supposed to do, it's a bribe. If you give it to her afterwards, it's a reward."

She had heard this from her pediatrician. I thought that was really interesting....

My son forgot to bring some homework home last weekend. My first thought was to take away a game he had just gotten. Video games, computer time and TV time are the first things we take away when he is in trouble. But then I got to thinking that the game was a REWARD for something he already did. It felt crummy to take away something he had just earned.

My husband wondered if we were going to go by the school and get what he forgot. I have keys. We could have done that. But I didn't want to bail him out like that. I can't do that when he is in middle school. What would it teach him if I bailed him out?

My son said he could get the homework done at school. I decided I'd let him try. If he could pull his fat out of the fire on his own, okay. He'd learn a couple lessons that way - to fix his own messes and to remember his homework in the future so he doesn't have to scramble like this again.

This parenting thing is tough sometimes - where do you help and coach and where do you step back? Where do you dole out consequences and where do you let circumstances do that? When do you offer rewards (not bribes) and when do you let the satisfaction of the work speak for itself?

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Career Day

We had "Career Day" at school last week in honor of Labor Day. I went as a librarian. I even got to get a picture with one of the aspiring librarians at school, which was a treat for me.

Sometimes I think about going back to school to get some training specifically for this calling in my life. I don't have formal library training and I have only had a handful of education courses. For a couple years now I have had my eye on a master's program in Children's Literature. It just sounds so cool! Children's literature is my passion.

But something else happened last week besides Career Day. I got to watch two of our youngest students work on their first reading assessment of the year. Something just wasn't working when they did it with the whole class, and the teachers didn't have the freedom to sit and watch these two kids test for 20 or 30 minutes. So they came to the library and tested with me. It was fascinating! I loved watching the kids work on each question, listening to them sound things out. The assessment is set up so when the student chooses an answer, it gets highlighted on the screen. One little guy thought that highlighting meant he got it right, so every time it lit up, he said "yes!" and punched his fist. Darling!

It made me wonder what it's like to work closely with students on their reading. It made me wonder what skills I could help with in the library that would support what students and teachers and parents are doing already. Maybe certification in reading would be a better way to take my training rather than Children's Literature.

I'm not in any position to go back to school right now, but while I am waiting for the right time, there's lots to think about.