Alice Hays Reflects on the 2015 ALAN Workshop
After experiencing the sheer joy and pleasure of opening up a box of FREE books, you start to realize all of the amazing opportunities you have at ALAN. There are so many panels to see, and, even better, they are full of rock stars. Not just any rock stars-but approachable rock stars who are incredibly kind and giving because they care about the students as much as you do! The first time I met Laurie Halse Anderson, she asked me if I wanted a picture with her, and I was so grateful because I was too nervous/shy/stars-truck to actually ask her if she’d be willing to take a picture with me. :) I was lucky enough to get another picture with her this time around again, and you can see her exuberance bursting through the image! What an incredible woman she is.
When asked what they liked about those books, their responses were varied. They said that they had a “good plot,” “gets into action fast,” had a “good setting” and most importantly had “characters like me”. This was mentioned multiple times by the students, and it was clarified that the characters looked like the readers were “right now”.
The books that the students identified as being THE book that turned them on to reading included: A Child Called It, American Born Chinese, Hamlet, Monster, and The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian.
As a teacher, you might be wondering how you could beat those librarians out of the coveted hero role! Some suggestions from these former reluctant readers include letting them pick the book! Help them find a book they might like. (How does one do this?) The students suggested asking them questions about their reading interests or personal interests.
They also suggested that teachers ought to get to know the students and then suggest books they might like. (I can’t help but think that this indicates a certain level of personal interest in the student, which might make that book recommendation a bit more meaningful than just trying to help them find a book to meet a reading requirement.) This also reminds me of the headstrong librarian depicted in Kwame Alexander’s Booked. The protagonist in his story couldn’t escape the insistent recommendations of the librarian eventually, and I know I desperately wanted to be that character in my own students’ lives!
If you are like me, you want to share the absolute joy of reading with all of your students, and don’t emotionally understand why everyone doesn’t love reading even though it might make sense logically. And now those students who confuse us are talking to us and giving us an in about how to reach reluctant readers. I think it might be a good idea for us to follow these guidelines. I know I am certainly going to try!
Thanks Alice, until next week.