WOW Currents

Seeking Peace in Children’s Literature

By Susan Corapi, Trinity International University, Deerfield, IL

As I began to write this post, President Trump returned from the Singapore summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. The goal: a fragile peace. While I don’t work towards peace at that diplomatic level, my desire to foster world peace motivates what I do on a daily basis. My hope as an educator is to shape my students to be peace-seeking individuals. But fostering peace in the classroom or at home isn’t always easy because peace is abstract and difficult to describe; it’s hard to figure out how peace “happens.” It’s not passivity, ignoring conflict in the hopes that it will go away. And it’s not the opposite, digging in heels at all costs because we feel we’re right.

So what is peace? I went to an older book written and illustrated by Katherine Scholes and Robert Ingpen–Peace Begins With You. I used their description of peace as the organizing tool for this month’s posts. The questions I have explored are: What is peace? What does it feel like? What does it look like? How can I describe it through stories? I’ve explored one descriptor each week by looking at books that give a picture of what peace means for a young person.

The first descriptor of peace is having the things you need: water, food, shelter and safety. The United Nations considers these as rights for children. The following books explore the implications when those necessities are missing.
Seeking Peace Continue reading

WOW Currents

Uplifting Indigenous Literature

By Celeste Trimble, St. Martin’s University, Lacey, WA

Daniel Heath Justice’s new book Why Indigenous Literatures Matter is a marvelous look at the the critical issues within and surrounding Indigenous Literature in Canada and the United States. Justice, Colorado born Cherokee citizen, now also a Canadian citizen, holds the Canada Research Chair in Indigenous Literature and Expressive Culture at the University of British Columbia. The work is academic, but personal and poetic. It highlights contemporary Indigenous authors writing for adults and children and touches on fiction, poetry, personal essay, and memoir.

Indigenous Literature Continue reading

WOW Currents

Indigenous Comics and Graphic Narratives

By Celeste Trimble, St. Martin’s University, Lacey, WA

Last week at AILDI, the American Indian Languages Development Institute at the University of Arizona, Jon Proudstar gave a talk about infusing Indigenous language and culture into his comic books. Although I was unable to attend, I am happy to see Indigenous comics and graphic narratives being a part of the conversation at AILDI.

Indigenous Comics: Tribal Force Continue reading

WOW Currents

Indigenous Own Voices after Sherman Alexie

By Celeste Trimble, St. Martin’s University, Lacey, WA

I grew up on a steady diet of Island of the Blue Dolphins, Little House on the Prairie, Walk Two Moons, Julie of the Wolves, et cetera, stories with native content written by non-native authors. Before The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian, I hadn’t read Cynthia Leitich Smith’s or Joseph Bruchac’s novels. But I had read Michael Dorris’ and Lousie Erdrich’s work for children, thanks to my love affair with Erdrich’s novels for adults. I hadn’t read any Indigenous Canadian authors writing for youth. Before The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian, I offered my students and my children solely historical fiction about Indigenous identities and stories. Nothing contemporary, and so very little, sadly, Indigenous Own Voices.

Indigenous Own Voices Sherman Alexie Continue reading

WOW Currents

Globalizing the Reading of Middle and High School Students

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.

Globalizing the Reading of Middle and High School Students Continue reading

WOW Currents

Engaging K-5 Readers with Global Literature

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.

The Red Pencil Continue reading

WOW Currents

Limitations of Lexile Levels for Global Literature

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.

Limits of Lexile Levels Continue reading

WOW Currents

The Complexities of Text Complexity

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 Complexities of Text Complexity in Common Core State Standards Continue reading

WOW Currents

Explorando Libros: Publishing Houses in Mexico Transforming Children’s and Young Adult Literature–Editorial 3 Abejas

By Andrea García, Ph.D. Literacy Consultant, Pädi, Queretaro, Mexico

My writing for this week focuses on the work of Editorial 3 Abejas, an independent Mexican editorial house launched in 2013. Editorial 3 Abejas is dedicated to publishing children’s and young adult literature with special attention to bringing together imaginative stories with innovative graphic design and illustrations. Their catalog represents a carefully curated collection of books intended to bring together young and experienced readers in the sharing of meaningful stories.

Editorial 3 abejas at FILIJ Continue reading

WOW Currents

Explorando Libros: Publishing Houses in Mexico Transforming Children’s and Young Adult’s Literature–Fondo de Cultura Económica

By Andrea García, Ph.D. Literacy Consultant, Pädi, Queretaro, Mexico

This week, I will focus on one of the oldest and most important editorial houses in Mexico, and across Latin America, the Fondo de Cultura Económica, FCE or “el Fondo,” as it is usually referred to. FCE is a nonprofit organization that is partially funded by the Mexican government.

Fondo de Cultura Económica at FILIJ Continue reading