Stranger, and maybe even better, at least when author Catherine Thimmesh is recounting it.
What’s right about children’s literature?
Teachers bringing books into the classroom. Every year it seems publishers release a bumper crop of fabulous books for children: creative, engaging, challenging, distinguished. And with each passing year, more and more of these books—fiction and creative nonfiction—are finding their way directly into the classrooms. (Often, paid for from the teacher’s own pocket!) Having access to books is key to actually reading books. Whether reading in the classroom is more structured (teacher read-alouds, guided book groups, critical reading), or less formal (DEAR time, availability of books during “down time”), teachers have made enormous strides in encouraging and fostering reading by making a variety of books available and accessible in their classrooms. Most of us in children’s literature recognize that in order for kids to become life-long readers, they first need to find books that interest them—and hook them. It is encouraging that so many teachers are trying to make that easier.
What can be improved?
Stop testing on books! Seriously. And while we’re at it (and I begin my rant), stop with the book reports. Let kids read for reading’s sake and enough with the quizzes and the tests and the reports and the over-analysis of the character’s motivation or the author’s intent. It is killing an otherwise healthy appetite for books and reading in so many kids. (And as someone who failed an AR test on a book that I wrote (!) (sad and pathetic, but true), I can tell you first hand that test writers haven’t cornered the market on understanding “author’s intent.”) Reading tied to a test or a report becomes a chore. And sure, some kids thrive on racking up AR points or aceing a test, but most kids dread it. I’m not blaming teachers here. Much of this testing crap is handed down through the system. But it needs to change. And it’s so simple to do. Give a child a book. Leave them the hell alone.
Catherine Thimmesh is the Sibert medal-winning author of Team Moon: How 400,000 People Landed Apollo 11 on the Moon. Her newest book—Friends: True Stories of Extraordinary Animal Friendships—was a Summer IndieNext List book, a NSTA Outstanding Science Trade Book, and a recipient of the California Reading Association’s Eureka! Nonfiction Children’s Book Award. Her other award-winning books include: Girls Think of Everything, The Sky’s the Limit, Madam President, and Lucy Long Ago. Learn more at http://www.catherinethimmesh.com.