By Kathy Short, The University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ
Although the classics serve as the foundation of most secondary literature classrooms, their domination is challenged by the call for cultural perspectives that reflect the diversity of our global society. The classics are critiqued for their basis in Western mainstream perspectives, biases against women and people of color, and inclusion of dated language and confusing writing styles, such as obscure expressions and unfamiliar sentence constructions. In addition, few classics have teens as main characters, having been written for adult audiences, and so teens struggle to connect. Given that these canonical texts are usually mandated reading, one way that teachers can increase relevancy and globalize reading is to pair the required classics with young adult global literature. These pairings can bring more diverse literature into the curriculum and, at the same time, create a context for understanding the classic work and its relevance for middle and high school students.
by Kathy Short, The University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ
Our careful survey of global literature available for K-5 readers in the U.S. led us to concerns as well as possibilities. We searched for global literature that is currently in print and met our criteria for text complexity as well as usefulness within the school curriculum. This survey raised several concerns as well as provided possibilities for engagements with readers, especially around paired books.
By Kathy Short, The University of Arizona
The standards movement in the U.S. has placed a great deal of emphasis on Lexile levels as a means of determining the appropriateness of a book for a reader, using Lexiles to determine the complexity of a text. The assumption is that readers at each grade level band need to read books within specific Lexile levels or their reading achievement will be negatively affected. Teachers who do not challenge their students to read books within these bands are viewed as negligent in their teaching of reading and as handicapping students. These assumptions can be challenged from many perspectives, including the lack of research to support this position (Allington, McCuiston, & Billen, 2015). Other issues emerge with a close examination of the actual Lexile levels of exemplar texts and global literature.
By Kathy Short, Director of Worlds of Words
Debates about text complexity and “appropriate” books for students at each grade level are a major point of emphasis in U.S. schools due to the influence of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). Even in states that did not adopt these standards, such as Arizona, similar state-developed standards are guiding policies and instructional practices. The belief that students will become more effective readers if they read difficult texts that continuously increase in complexity with each grade level lies at the heart of the standards. This belief has led to increasing reliance on labeling books according to their Lexile levels and on core reading lists of books for each grade level, restricting students to reading books at those levels. This series of blog posts challenges the assumptions that underlie the current emphasis on text complexity and provides suggestions for engaging students with books that reflect the lives of culturally diverse children/adolescents and the global society in which they live.
The Common Core State Standards (CCSS) and their variations influence K-12 curriculum, particularly in the teaching of literacy, across the U.S. and internationally. With funds from the Center for Educational Resources in Culture Language and Literacy (CERCLL), Worlds of Words (WOW) in the University of Arizona College of Education offers an alternative to the CCSS text exemplar list to assist educators searching for ways to globalize their classrooms and libraries.
Tucson High Magnet School senior, Parrish Ballenger, reads the graphic novelization of The Odyssey by Gareth Hinds based on Homer’s epic poem. Worlds of Words pairs this book with the CCSS exemplar The Odyssey by Homer, along with Here Lies Arthur by Phillip Reeve, Sita’s Ramayana by Samhita Ami and Tiger Moon by Antonia Michaelis.
Refugee by Alan Gratz is a poignant, unforgettable novel that effectively interweaves the stories of three 11 and 12-year-old refugees. Josef flees from Nazi Germany to Cuba in 1938, Isabel flees from Cuba to the U.S. in 1994, and Mahmoud flees from Syria in 2015. Their traumatic journeys across landscapes of danger and their sacrifices highlight struggles of freedom and responsibility. This hard-hitting novel thoughtfully raises global and intergenerational issues and invites empathy for those involved in current refugee crises. This is a book that will reverberate in your mind long after you put it down. -Recommended by Kathy Short at the University of Arizona Continue reading
By Kathy Short, The University of Arizona
The blogs for this month highlight our reflections on authors’ discussions of global and multicultural issues in children’s and young adult literature. These authors appeared on panels at the Tucson Festival of Books on March 14-15, 2015. We each selected a particular panel to share the dialogue that emerged between authors around an issue, such as resistance, cultural influences, and scientific writing. This first column is a brief description of the festival and the opening keynote by Katherine Paterson. Continue reading
Kathy G. Short
The last column for this month focuses on the process of selecting an award-winning book, rather than on resources for global literature. Because the deliberations of the Caldecott committee occur behind closed doors, I have always wondered what really goes on behind those doors and so was thrilled to experience that process as a member of the 2014 Caldecott committee. The more secretive something is, the more we all want to know what really happens. Continue reading