My seventh graders are writing children's stories, so we've been reading picture books for a while together and talking about how the authors approach the stories, the kinds of stories young children enjoy, and issues of craft. It's a lot of fun - I have to admit that reading aloud is one of my favorite things to do, so I probably chose this unit partly because of that.
This year's seventh grade class is extremely opinionated and not at all shy about expressing those opinions. This week in our three days of school I read three books about people: Miss Rumphius, My Great-Aunt Arizona and Island Boy. They hated all of them, especially the last, which we read today.
"Why does everyone die in these books?" they grumbled. I pointed out that everyone really does die, and not just in these books, but they thought that young children should be spared that knowledge. They found the books depressing, too long, and, as one student always remarks, with not enough explosions.
Another book they hated was Jane Yolen's beautiful Owl Moon. The word "boring" was mentioned more than once.
This class doesn't do lyrical, and it doesn't do melancholy. The specific request for next week is "funny books." But I know that not all kids feel this way. A case in point: myself. My favorite fairy tale as a child was "The Little Mermaid," not the Disney version (far in the future still) but the heartbreaking Hans Christian Andersen original. It made me sad, but in a pleasurable way, and I loved the language of it. I cried when I read Little Women at about ten, not a few tears but deep, racking sobs. And then I reread the book countless times until I almost had it memorized.
I guess you could draw the conclusion that I was (and perhaps still am) strange. I wouldn't read those stories to this class, for sure. Instead I choose the funniest, most action-packed read-alouds I can find. I just finished Carl Hiaasen's Flush with them, and they liked it a lot. Now I'm reading What Child is This?: A Christmas Story, by Carolyn Cooney, a book about foster children. So far the kids are a bit grumpy about this one; it does tend toward the lyrical, and there are a lot of characters, something they find confusing. But I'm persevering because it's a good book and eventually everything will come together for them, I hope.
4 hours ago