Tag Archives: fiction

Why ban books when we can just get kids to hate reading?

Please note that I wrote this a couple of years ago. While I still feel like common core standards are creating these issues, I am in a more moderate place than when this post was first written. Of course, I have left the public school system behind for now and currently teach in a charter school. There is still some definite fuel for thought here so I decided to share this post even though I have mellowed a bit in the interim.

man-hands-men-book.jpgI don’t know how many of you know much about common core standards and the dangerous implications for the future of education that they hold, but if you haven’t done any research into this topic, I would recommend looking through the common core standards for yourself and when you see that teachers are being pushed in the younger grades to use at least 30% informational text, 50% informational text in the middle grades and 70% in the upper grades, you will quickly see why this plan is going to lead to a generation of kids that absolutely hate to read.

man-hands-reading-boy.jpgFirst though, what is informational text? Informational text is text that fails to follow a narrative form and provides information. We are talking word mapping, tables on contents, diagrams, indexes, glossaries and other forms of reading designed to give out information in a non-narrative form. The rest of their reading should be in the classic drama, fiction and poetry. Does anyone else see the huge problem here? First of all, whoever designed this decided that no one needed to learn information in a narrative way. That kids should only be able to learn new ideas when they are presented in a non-narrative form. Right now, that means that instead of kids getting new ideas and information from the text and pulling it out of the context, they are being trained to only identify valid information when it comes in a non-narrative form. This means that kids are being trained to treat every ounce of regular reading as FICTION. While teachers don’t see this conclusion yet, they are going to make this unintentional connection for the students who in turn are only going to believe something that is written in a manual. This means that things like biographies, historical narrative documents (like informative essays and persuasive papers), the Constitution and even the Bible will become unimportant to these kids who are being trained that information only comes from these non-narrative sources. They are teaching kids that there is a whole huge section of reading material that isn’t valid at all. In fact, it is so invalid that they will never study it formally in school with these new standards outside of possibly reading a textbook which will contain more and more informational text instead of traditional narrative.

Fiction is also being damaged by common core. Fiction is supposed to be 70% in the younger grades (in reality they are pushing 50%), 50% in the middle grades and only 30% in the upper grades. Then the fictional text that students will be reading will be focused on only teaching age-appropriate classics. I don’t know about most of you, but I learned to love to read through picking up fictional stories that interested me. I eventually graduated to the classics but only once me reading level was high enough to support it, which came earlier than most of my peers, but I still didn’t venture into classic literature until I was ready for the complexity held within it’s pages. However, instead of gradually increasing the reading level, common core puts a focus on almost all classic fiction.

The problem with focusing on only classic literature, especially in the younger grades is two fold. First of all we need to look at vocabulary. Language is ever evolving and changing over time. The  meanings and word usage itself changes over time. I can give you instances where today’s meaning of a word is drastically different and sometimes even opposite than the original meaning. The word choice will have very little meaning and connection for students who are young readers and if they don’t understand the vocabulary or struggle with it, there is no way they are going to have any comprehension of what they have read, if they can even figure out what the words are. The second issue is context. I live and teach in a pexels-photo-261895.jpeglarge city. Living on a farm during the early days of our country has very little context for me, let alone the students that I teach. When the students have no connection to the people they are reading about and have no understanding of what they are doing, there is no way they are going to understand the text they are being asked to read. Let’s not even start on other cultures and our students lack of awareness about them. We are creating confusion and complication for our kids far beyond what is going to be a challenge and move straight to the place where they become frustrated and give up.  However, having seen the text selections in person, the vocabulary is completely inappropriate for the age level of the intended audience, using archaic terms and ideas far outside what most American children are familiar with, with no explanation or clarification. When the reading they are assigned is cumbersome, what is a kid going to do? Simple. They aren’t going to enjoy reading fiction. They will associate reading fiction with a laborious process full of confusion and things they cannot relate to because they are completely beyond their knowledge base. Let me say that again – due to common core and the complex nature of the completely age inappropriate texts, kids are going to hate reading fiction.

So, now that reading for knowledge is going to be discounted or completely simplified and reading fiction is going to be too difficult for 98% of the children at the grade level that it is intended for, we are creating a generation of kids with the new common core who are going to hate reading. They aren’t going to view it as something fun to do when they have spare time. They aren’t going to understand that it is a great place to escape. They aren’t going to value it as a place to learn from. They will have virtually no reading comprehension skills because they won’t enjoy reading and kids who don’t enjoy reading, aren’t good readers.

So unintentionally or even perhaps intentionally, common core is going to create a group of kids who will grow into adult who not only don’t like to read but due to the lack of practice due to their intense dislike of reading, will be poor readers. The implications for the future are sad. We are going to have a generation of workers who cannot grasp complex ideas from text. We are going to have a generation of people who will only be fit for blue collar work. The few who go to expensive private schools will be groomed to be more than this but we are intentionally dumbing down the next generation of workers by creating a generation of non-readers.

That is just the reading standards by the way – don’t get me started on the new way to do math.

What can you do to stop common core?

1.Do your research – find out more about common core and why it is such a bad idea

2. Research groups in your state that are fighting common core and see what you can do to help

3. Contact your state legislature to get common core removed from your state – flood their email and mail boxes with letters about how you do not want common core for your state

4. Contact your state department of education and let them know that you do not want to see common core in your state and request a return to your state’s standards

5. Contact your federal representatives(house and senate) and tell them that you want the federal government out of state education. That they shouldn’t be allowed to control state’s interests by dangling federal dollars over their heads.

Don’t take just my word for it – here are a couple of videos that explain further why common core should be removed.

 

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Book Review: Amped

Book: Amped

Author: Daniel H. Wilson

Recommend: Definitely an interesting and thought provoking what if.

I picked this book up ages ago and found it the other day while working on the last couple of boxes that needed to be unpacked. I had originally found the concept behind the book fascinating and so when I stopped and decided that I would just read a few pages in, I found myself getting up a few hours later having finished it.

This book is all about the idea that we could fix the brain and mental issues that we have whether they be medical, intellectual or someone just wanting more than they naturally had in some kind of ability. How would the world treat these people who had amped their brains for the sake of a cure from some kind of defect. When the world decides that people with altered or amped brains no longer deserve the rights that everyone else enjoys, suddenly there seems to be no where save for these people.

I thought it was an interesting read. I think that the theme has been a bit overdone but the point is that we shouldn’t discriminate based on people’s choices. I think this is a dangerous idea to put out there in a way. In this instance for this book it makes sense. However, if you follow this idea to its logical conclusions, you are going to end up saying that someone’s choices shouldn’t have consequences. For example, if someone has violent tendencies, following this idea would say that they are not responsible for their violent actions and should be accepted the way they are, no matter how many people they kill. While the example is extreme, the point should be fairly obvious. Where is the line where a person’s choice becomes wrong and who is to judge whether or not it is wrong. This idea, while valid, depending on the circumstances, creates a slippery slope that could quickly turn into a mess.

While I applaud the author for using science fiction to really examine deeper ideas through fiction, I wonder why the author never addressed why there is a line and this idea shouldn’t be carried past a certain point. Definitely an interesting read but one with some potentially disturbing conclusions.

Final Rating:

 

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Book Review: Harmony

Book: Harmony

Author: Keith Brooke

Recommend: Definitely not worth the time or effort to get through this one.

This book had a lot of potential. An interesting idea of a world where aliens ruled and we were at their mercy. The thing that doomed this book honestly was the fact that the author simply didn’t construct his world well. With a little bit more effort and clarity this book could have been so much better than it was. Basically this author needed to read Card’s book about writing science fiction and fantasy. He had no clue how to create a world or add the right amount of details so that the reader could see it in their heads. Some things were very well defined but others were so vague that you couldn’t really get a good sense of what was going on. The storyline is good but the world underneath it isn’t established well enough for the reader to really get into it.

I would skip this one because it will only create frustration and aggravation for you.

Final Rating:

TRASH IT!!

TRASH IT!!

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Book Review: The Hollow Man

Book: The Hollow Man

Author: Dan Simmons

Recommend: It was a change of pace with a depressing ending… I wouldn’t go straight to recommend… but it wasn’t awful either.

I realized at my most recent trip to the library that I had picked this book up a half a dozen times and not taken it home so I decided that I needed to finally put it in my bag and read it already. So in the amazing  Disney Villains bag it went.

The centers around a man who can hear everyone’s thoughts and his journey after his wife dies. She was the only thing keeping everyone at bay and the moment she was gone, there was nothing to keep him from hearing everyone’s thoughts. When he decides to end it all, he will end up in the wrong place at the wrong time and it will start a desperate journey all over the country desperately trying to outrun the mob and himself.

I have to say that this book was written really well. Simmons has a way of allowing the reader to see and understand what he is talking about. The depth of his characters are wonderful. The action is exciting and watching this character grow and change through the book was very engaging and in some ways kept me on the edge of my seat. I loved the fact that this had a huge element of real science fiction and even though it was there it still read a bit like fantasy and straight up serious fiction.

I will say that there were quite a few drawbacks in this one for me. Honestly, I hated the ending. I hate it when I grow to like a character so much only to have them decide that the world is better off without them. I’m sorry but suicide is not a good way to end a book. I hate when this gets romanticized. Suicide is the most selfish decision that someone can make and yet so many authors feel the need to make it look like this beautiful release from life. It’s not. I also found that sometimes the book would get far too technical. While that was part of the appeal, it took it a bit too far. I also thought a few of the action pieces were too abrupt. There was no build up, which was exciting and shocking but it really hard to keep up with.

I think that I might try something else by this author because I liked the way he wrote but the story line of this one got really old.

Final Rating:

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Book Review: Beautiful Darkness

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Book: Beautiful Darkness

Authors: Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl

Recommend: This was actually better than the first – marginally.

Lena is not out of the woods yet. She is torn apart by the fact that she is responsible for her Uncle’s death in order to save Ethan’s life. She blames herself completely and to punish herself for it, she decides to hang out with her dark cousin and a cute boy that doesn’t quite fit anywhere. Ethan finds out why he is so special and goes in search of the girl he loves to save her from herself and her dark caster mother.

I am noticing a disturbing trend in YA fiction lately. Maybe it’s just the string of stuff I’ve picked up has unfortunately had this in common or it really is happening a lot (I’m hoping it’s the first, the second makes me slightly depressed). The trend I have noticed is that in a YA fiction series, it is necessary to rip the two main characters apart in the second book. Examples: Peeta and Katniss, Bella and Edward, Tris and Four, and many more. I was hoping this second book wouldn’t do that. I really wanted them to keep the two of them together and fight it all together. That was not what happened. This one pulled them apart and did it spectacular fashion, a la New Moon.

This book doesn’t have a love triangle, it has a love rectangle. Except it wasn’t that exciting because we all know that in YA fiction, the girl always picks boy number one and never boy number two.

This book was much tighter and the pacing was better. I also become more emotionally invested with the characters than I expected.

After reading other reviews, I’m a bit nervous about reading the next book in the series. I’ve heard many things from other reviewers. They all say the same thing. Book three is very hard to get through. It looks like this is not the end of the massive character torture.

Final Rating:

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Book Review: The Double Game

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Book: The Double Game

Author: Dan Fesperman

Recommend: I don’t like spy novels…

I received this book as an ARC. I don’t know why I kept putting it off but for some reason I just couldn’t bring myself to read it. Then I got a few pages in and realized that this was an old-fashioned spy novel. UGH! I really don’t like spy novels. They are not a genre I enjoy but I wasn’t sure if I had requested this ARC or not and so I gamely kept plugging through.

The story is dated, the action is trite and there never really is anything exciting. A spy novel should have something to really hook the reader but this author frequently uses the same idea over and over again. There was no surprise and no suspense. The best thing I can say is that the author was very good at creating a scene that I could imagine in my head, of course, most of the time, I didn’t want to.

Not one to waste your time on. I promise.

Final Rating:

TRASH IT!!

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Book Review: Caught in Crystal

Cover of "Caught in Crystal (Lyra series,...

Book: Caught in Crystal

Author: Patricia C. Wrede

Recommend: It was okay. A pleasant read..

I know I’ve been saying it quite a bit lately, but I’ve been putting this one off. I have read so many books that I didn’t enjoy that I am becoming more and more wary of many of the ARCs I’ve been receiving. This one screamed cheesy fantasy to me and so I kept delaying. Finally though, I decided to bite the bullet and get going.

This book is part of a loosely connected series. It is not, by far, the first book but they are written so that they can stand alone. This tells the story of an innkeeper with a magical past, one that she left behind in order to marry and have children. She gave up a life of adventure for something simpler. However, when strange visitors begin to show up, she is dragged back into a world that she thought she had left behind forever.

This book told a classic fantasy story with a main character who is more than they seem. It takes this character out of their comfort zone on a whirlwind adventure. This book was unique due to its inclusion of children and the complication they bring to the adventurous lifestyle. It was a fun, traditional fantasy in every sense of the word.

There were a couple of things the author could have done better. For one, her names for things were just cheesy. Examples: The Twisted Tower, The Shining Sisterhood, etc. Characters names included weird spelling and lots of unnecessary letters. Yes, we get it, it’s a fantasy novel but I would like to figure out what the main characters names sound like in my head thanks. Finally, it just takes far too long to get to the main part of the story and when we do, it’s rushed and not well-developed.

While this was an enjoyable, light read, this author isn’t going to be one that I must read more from but she’s also not someone I would avoid either.

Final Rating:

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Breakdown

did they try with this cover??

Book: Snapped

Author: Pamela Klaffke

Recommend: For the mature audiences who can handle it…

I picked up this book at a whim without knowing much about it. I have to say, I absolutely loved it. It was completely different. The main character is almost forty and trying to figure her life out. She’s a alcoholic, caffeine addicted, chain smoker who has a successful career at a magazine who gives it all up.

This book is definitely not for anyone under the age of eighteen. The narrator and main character have a very adult life and her mental state isn’t completely stable. I would basically call her a tortured artist. I was able to relate to

certain parts of her personality and found her to be extremely compelling.

The only negative about this book is that it is rather graphic and not for just anyone.  I wouldn’t recommend this to the um-conservative crowd.However there are so many redeeming qualities that it makes for an amazing read.

 

Final Rating:

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