To me, the most interesting part of the Farewell to A Farewell to Arms: Deemphasizing The Whole-Class Novel came on page 496. About mid-way down the page, Fisher and Ivey suggest that educators “select texts that span a wide range of difficulty levels” (496). I think it’s important, as these two convey, that if we want to encourage our students to read more, then we offer books that are appropriate for all reading levels.
In observing the other day, my host teacher had a free-period, so she set me up to observe a teacher across the hall. This was a 12th grade English class. This teacher was introducing a literature circle project that the students would be involved in everyday. After introducing the project, the said teacher then came to talk to me while the students read. She told me that it is important to have all sorts of books in her class, but, either way, the students aren’t going to read them.
When she introduced the books, they were all “the classics.” The Old Man in the Sea, One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest, The Color Purple, and others. There were two YA texts that were available: Cut and Friday Night Lights. However, when she introduced the YA titles, she said something like: these are for those who don’t like to read. they’re… well, they’re not dumbed down, but they’re for the people who don’t read a lot. It probably won’t be a surprise to you when I tell you that most of the students wanted to read Cut. Why wouldn’t they?
There was one student who was enamored at the fact that he would have a chance to read Hemingway. I overheard him say that his 11th grade teacher said that he wrote like him. Way cool.
This is what I thought of when reading the Fisher and Ivey article. All sorts of books, all sorts of difficulty-levels will be needed in order to challenge the students to become readers. It also made me think of multiple literacies and students getting into multiple genres and media (which these two briefly touch upon, also).
I’ll end this with a quote. They write:
We agree with literary scholars who suggest that literature provides the reader with a mirror to examine oneself, a window to consider alternative experiences and beliefs, and a door to walk through forever changed. We just haven’t found the book that does this for every member of every class at the same time. (496)
Oh, right. Ray H.