Tag Archives: non-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. Theย  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.ย  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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Short Kid’s Book Review: What Body Part is That?

Book: What Body Part is that?
Author: Andy Griffiths
Recommend: Umm.. not really.

I got this as as ARC. As a teacher I thought this would be a great addition to my classroom library. A funny book about the body. Awesome. I needed more non-fiction text in my collection anyway. After reading this book, it won’t be joining my classroom library. This book has little to no factual information. In fact, it is filled with disinformation. I really just don’t get the point of it! This one is not going to end up in my classroom library. Instead it is going directly into the “I-don’t-care-how-I-get-rid-of-it-I-just-want-it-gone” pile. Avoid this one if you can.

Final Rating:


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Book Review: Fire in the Ashes

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Book: Fire in the Ashes

Author: Jonathan Kozol

Recommend: It was interesting…

I received this book as an ARC a couple of weeks ago. I wasn’t sure exactly why I had decided that I wanted to read it, but I finally dived in a couple of days ago. While this was a short book, it took me a few days to get through. I blame Sunday’s marathon of Law and Order:SVU and my husband being sick, but I digress.

Jonathan researches and works with families in some of the poorest areas of New York City. In this book he discusses the lives of some of the most stand out people he has come across in his work and how they either persevered despite their circumstances or how they went down in flames because of them.

This book isn’t something that I would typically pick up. It was an interesting read and definitely got me thinking but honestly, I found that I would have liked the book better if there had been fewer people and more information about them. There seemed to be large gaping holes in their stories which failed to get me really bought into what I was reading. The moment I really started to connect with someone, their story was over and we were on to someone else.

Overall, I thought it was an interesting read but I think the author could have given us a lot more and it would have been more captivating, creating more of the result he seemed to be going for.

Final Rating:

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A voice screaming to get out!

Book: Carly’s Voice

Authors: Arthur and Carly Fleischmann

Recommend: Anyone who has ever met, dealt with or will ever meet someone who is Autistic should check this book out!

I was introduced to Carly a year or so ago through a friend of mine whose son was diagnosed with Autism. I read everything I could, watched the interviews and started following Carly on twitter. I found her to be an amazing young lady who has done so many remarkable things in her short life. It is hard to believe that the person that is sharing their thoughts with you has any challenge in their life, let alone one that can interfere as much as autism can, especially to the severity that Carly has to deal with it.

I found the journey of the family refreshingly real. I love that they were willing to be bold about what they could and could not handle. Parents aren’t saints and these people were open about their experiences and the difficulties they faced, especially when Carly was younger. Knowing many kids who are autistic, I know what it is like to deal with them in my classroom and how challenging it can be (although very rewarding). I can’t imagine how hard it must be when it is your own child. Someone you want to give the world to and make their life easy and then that precious child ends up unable to speak or communicate and does things that seem completely irrational to them.

I would definitely recommend reading Carly’s chapter. It’s at the end of the book. She is funny, full of spunk and has a great way of communicating her thoughts.

The only negative I could come up with is that I would have liked to hear from Carly more. Understanding what is going on with her has been such a huge insight into what an Autistic kid experiences.I wanted to hear more form her. I guess I’ll have to keep an eye on her twitter feed ๐Ÿ™‚

Final Rating:

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Why do we let this happen?

Book: Why Me?

Author: Sarah Burleton

Recommend: If you can handle it

Believe it or not. Yes. It’s actually non-fiction on my blog. I have read a few books about kids who were abused through their lives. It helps me remember to be looking. I am thankful that it is not the norm, but I work with children and have had some kids who have been through horrible things in their young lives. I would never want a child to go through something like this when it was simply not being noticed for what it was.

This is a very powerful story about one woman’s journey through an abusive childhood. It highlights some of the extremes in her life and tells how she finally escaped her horrible home life. The only complaint I would really have about this very short book is that it felt like there was too much information missing. I wanted to know more about her mother’s motivation, more about her step-father and more of the background. It really felt like large chunks of the story were missing for no apparent reason.

This is one of those tough but good reads. Not one I would want to visit again but one I am glad I read.

Final Rating:

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