Teaching Children’s Literature: It’s Critical Responses to “Risky” Texts Jerome C. Harste Vivian Vasquez Andrew Manning Peggy Albers
Participants: 14 Elementary Teachers(N=42) 19 Secondary Teachers 9 AdministratorsMaster’s Degree in Literacy Teacher as Research Critical Literacy Multiple Ways of Knowing 2-Year Program
What are teacher concerns and reservations about using risky texts in theirclassroom? What factors do they take into account when selecting children’sliterature for use in their classroom?Given a better understanding of teacher concerns and reservations aboutUsing risky texts in their classroom, what are the implications for teacher preparation?
Three Questions: Three BooksWould you use this book in your classroom? If “No,” why not?If ‘Yes,” how do you see using it?What reservations or concerns, if any, do you have about usingthis book in your classroom?What factors do you take into account when selecting books foruse in your classroom?
Woolvs in the Sitee:ˆHow participants thought they might use this book intheir classrooms:Use it to explore words as toolsHave kids edit the spelling and grammar in the book (“Let’s correct it!”)Call attention to the fact that the author uses first person to express his ideas and opinionsUse the misspellings to help students understand voice in textUse it to explore voice – difference between how you speak and how you writeUse it to discuss authentic languageTeach an art lessonUse it to teach art – mood evoked through colorUse it to study the relationship between ‘abstract text’ and ‘abstract art’Use it to talk about how images further the meaning of a textUse it to encourage visualization (dramatize moods/darkness)Discuss point of viewUse the book to develop inferencing skills – What do wolves represent? Why don’t they have water? Where is his family?Use it to teach main idea (stated evidence) and inferencingLook for metaphors and descriptive language: What do the wolves represent?Use open-ended questions: What do you think is the author’s message? Use evidence from the text to support your ideas
Continued: Woolvs in the Sitee:ˆHow participants thought they might use this book intheir classrooms:Use the book to discuss social issues and to build emotional bridges and understandingExplore the relationship between the boy and neighbor; social issuesTalk about how the book gives hope – boy goes out at the end; he begins to reflect on past, talk about repressed memoriesHelp students connect the story to their own lived experiences: How does the story relate to your experiences living in the city?.Focus on self-esteem, independence, maturity, social support networks for childrenIdentify the big ideas: Mental illness, Thugs, Lack of Family Support, Lack of ResourcesUse it to demonstrate compassion – Mrs. RadinskiUse it to teach about bullying and its effects on individualsUse it to talk about loss, depression, wolvesUse it to talk about resurrection – a new lifeDiscuss who gets to determine why a book can be written with obvious spelling and grammar issuesDiscuss why the book is written in a chaotic fashionTalk about the relationship between language and culture – cultural literacy/ situated literacy
Would you use this book in your classroom? If “No,” why not?If ‘Yes,” how do you see using it.Elementary:NoDeath, Duck, & A Tulip: 82% (Maybe: !0%) Probably Means 92%I Am Thomas: 64% (Maybe: 7%) Probably Means 71%Woolvs in the Sitee: 52% (Maybe: 41%) Probably Means 93%Intermediate/Secondary:NoDeath, Duck, & A Tulip: 3% (Maybe: 6%) Probably Means 9%I Am Thomas: 0% (Maybe: 0%)Woolvs in the Sitee: 26% (Maybe: 20%) Probably Means 46%Administrators/Staff Support:NoDeath, Duck, & A Tulip: 0% (Maybe: 11%) Probably Means 11%I Am Thomas: 0% (Maybe: 0%)Woolvs in the Sitee: 62% (Maybe: 0%) Probably Means 62%
What reservations or concerns, if any, do youhave about using this book in your classroom?(76 identified)Psychological Concerns 52 --readiness to discuss topic --sensitivity of topic --emotional impactParental Concerns 31 --topic best handled at home --inappropriate for schoolEducational Concerns 21 --lack of administrative support --not comfortable handling topic myself --can topic be explored openlyReligious Concerns 12 --doesn’t match the church’s stance8 participants had no concerns
Reading and Rereading Responses Resulted in 9 Categories:Is the book age-appropriate?Would students in my class find this book interesting?Would this book promote in-depth student engagement?Is there a curricular tie-in?Am I comfortable handling a discussion around this topic?Would my students find the illustrations engaging?Does this book have literary merit?Would this book support students in taking on a critical stance?Other (Personal taste, access, fun, etc…)
Book Selection Criteria in Order of Importance (N=40)Elementary Teachers:Would the book promote in-depth student engagement? (13/14)Would the students in my class find this book interesting? (12/14)Is the book age-appropriate? (10/14)Would the book support students in taking on a critical stance? (5/14)Secondary Teachers:Would the book promote in-depth student engagement? (17/19Would the students in my class find this book interesting? (17/19)Would the book support students in taking on a critical stance? (11/19)Is the book age-appropriate? (9/19)Administrators:Would the book promote in-depth student engagement? (7/9)Would the book support students in taking on a critical stance? (5/9)Would the student in my class find this book interesting? (4/9)
Age-appropriate Elaborations by Elementary Teachers:“Is it meaningful/relevant for Grade 3 kids?” (Rebekah, Grade 3 Teacher)“I think I need to be aware of my children’s ages in picking books. I find there are topics that are too mature for my students and I feel they wouldn’t get anything out of it. I wouldn’t get the discussions.” (Amy, Grade 2 Teacher)“Could I read this to my students and could they take meaning from it?” (Dawn, Grade 3 Teacher)“This is the primary concern I have when choosing texts and content for my youngsters. I always consider this. This is my first year teaching kinders; I’m very conscious of my choices.” (Diana, JK/SK Teacher)“The subject must be appropriate – it’s not about ‘level.’ (Claire, Grade 2 Teacher)“*Age-appropriate+ for the issues they can handle.” (Julie, Grade 3 Teacher)“Is it a topic that students are developmentally able to work with?” (Megan, Grade 1 Teacher)“Content (maturity level required), level of vocabulary, topic, what kinds of prior experience are necessary for students to make meaning of the text make connections.” (Meghan, Grade 3 Teacher)
Concerns:“Some parents would not feel comfortable with this. I had a parent call this past week about a story that a child was reading “Losing Grandpa.” They wanted it pulled.” (Amy, Grade 2 Teacher)“I think it may be difficult for some of my students to make connections that are needed for comprehension.” (Roseanne, ESL Teacher)“8-year-olds are not mature enough to process /fully understand what is taking place in the book.” (Rebekah, Grade 3 Teacher)“My students attention span is no longer than 10 minutes; the book would be too long. Just not right. (Diana, Kindergarten Teacher)“It seems too vague and I am struggling with how it can connect with my students.” (Anita, Special Education Teacher)
Concerns“How do you explain to parents why you are using a book with grammar and spelling mistakes, when you are, at the same time, teaching correct spelling and grammar.” (Christine, Teacher-Librarian, JK-Grade 8)“Not written in proper grammatical form/spelling.” (Lucy, Grade 7 Teacher)Scary – “shadows prowling against pavement”-Is there mental illness?” “Are children ready to discuss mental illness/concerns (developmentally, socially)?” (Pat, Junior High Teacher)“I don’t feel equipped to deal in mental disorders/paranoia,” (Lisa, 11-12 High School Teacher)“Doesn’t seem like a positive story.” (Lisa, 11-12 High School Teacher)“I’m not to sure how to present its content (I don’t know exactly the message because it is very vague.) (Josie, Grade 8 Teacher)“Positioning it as a published piece.” (Paul, Resource Teacher/Teacher Representative for Board on Library Policy)
Interesting Comments:“Reads as being written by an adult pretending to be a speaker from a different discourse/social culture” (Meghan, Grade 3 Teacher)“Some *parents+ will probably complain, but those will always complain about something.” (Nicole, Core Resource Teacher) *You should+ “know, at this present moment, we’ve had students cutting themselves. I would have to really question whenis a good time. (Roberta, Reading Recovery/Literacy Leader)“Also important to me is whether or not the book fits with Catholic values or stirs up controversial issues.” (Adam, Grade 8 Teacher)
Things to Talk About:Age-Appropriate – seems like a reasonable concern, but can bethe home of a scoundrel. (ALA reports that teachers are thebiggest censors of books)Parents – In past research I have done, this is one of manyteachers’ major concern for not implementing change.Protect the Innocence of Children – This attitude can reallyhinder opening up much needed conversationsLiterature as Positive – We have inadvertently taught teachersthat literature addresses should be enjoyableand entertaining.Not knowing how to talk about important issues.Books are social. Importance of text sets.
Reflective Comment on Response Paper“And now, a few words onRisky Texts. I am wonderingif the risk in these texts might be mitigated somewhat if we don’tpresume that the only authority or perspective on the topic is thatpresented by the author. It seems to me that if we make a commitmentto offer, welcome and intentionally provoke multiple perspectivesin our classrooms, then we have to worry less about risky texts.If students are compelled and know how to question texts,each other, the teacher and themselves, then I think the risk is reduced.I think that we get into trouble when we allow anyone, including ourselves or a text to use our classrooms as a place topromote one ideology.” (Nicola, Resource Teacher)