Monday, December 15, 2008

Reading is like breathing

All together, I finished four books this weekend, though two barely count because I was already half way through them. Regardless, it felt great to have a few hours to read each day!

Young adult literature didn't appeal to me until I took a class on it. (There were 43 books to read in that one month course!) Even as a teen, I preferred perusing the adult section of the library.

Things have changed. It's a job requirement that I stay up to date with current adolescent lit, and be able to recommend titles to reluctant and voracious readers alike. Besides, there are some fantastic YA authors these days who refuse to sugar coat teen life.Laurie Halse Anderson is royalty in the YA universe. Not only are her books unfailingly realistic and straightforward, they're studied in classrooms far and wide while she is still in the prime of her career. Speak, in which a teen reacts to an atrocity by refusing to use her voice for nearly a year, has spoken to a great many students. Catalyst, in which a preacher's kid endures academic heartbreak, theft, and an unsatisfactory romance appeals to older teens. Twisted, her newest paperback, is what I read yesterday afternoon.

Twisted opens with a two page lead-in that perfectly focusses the narrator's voice and reveals just enough about his crappy family and social situation to compell the reader to turn pages until the end. The main character is not the greatest guy. His failings are plentiful, yet empathetic.

The concept isn't overwhelmingly original, but its execution is grand. Hints of The Perks of Being a Wallflower, by Stephen Chbosky and Run Softly, Go Fast, by by Barbara Wersba are found in its pages, probably because the three books have frank and guileless male narrators in common.

The events of this story are not comfortable to witness, but their honest-yet-cleanly-wrought details will draw even reluctant readers into the tale.

Another book from this weekend is Teachers Have it Easy. I certainly am not in the target audience, but I found the tome intriguing. Within its pages are confessions from former teachers about why they left the profession, and confidences from current teachers about their struggles. All of the teachers interviewed felt passion for the energy of a classroom, but frustration with the existing system.

I am always alert for "new" or alternative methods of teaching, always yearning for that ideal student-teacher ratio with the freedom to teach in an organic manner: siezing and expanding on interests of the pupils, and, therefore, I oft end up disilusioned. Creativity is being squeezed out of the classroom in favor of uniformity, in a misguided quest for better and better test scores.

Without preaching further, I'll say that the book is meant to reach policy-makers and voters concerned about educator quality. (It's not meant to discourage devoted teachers!)
Read on!

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