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Language Arts, Vol. 87, No. 3, January 2010

Cover Art for Language Arts, Vol. 87, No. 3, January 2010

Table of Contents

Issue Theme: Who Is Reading? What Is Being Read?

  • Thoughts from the Editors: In Support of a Range of Choices for All Readers

  • Calls for Manuscripts

  • A Children’s Choice Program: Insights into Book Selection, Social Relationships, and Reader Identity

    Valerie Bang-Jensen

    Abstract: This article considers three emergent themes from informal discussions with fourth and fifth graders about their book selections from the Vermont Children’s Choice program.  Twelve students were interviewed about how they selected books from the list.  Student responses showed that they held the DCF nominee list in high regard, that they relied heavily on peers for suggestions within the list, and that the broad range of books on the list allowed them to consider their own preferences for titles, authors, and subjects in book selection. The conversations highlighted the importance of student choice in book selection and its possible subsequent impact on the language readers use to describe their reading and themselves as readers; several students compared their experiences choosing from the DCF list with choosing from leveled texts. State and library children’s choice programs offer nominee lists for readers created with different, and often richer, criteria than a narrower focus on readability levels and text characteristics allows.  When readers have their say in selecting books, they exercise agency in the development of their own reader identities and create rich relationships with books.

    Keywords: Literacy, Literature, Elementary

  • Reading, Readin’, and Skimming: Preadolescent Girls Navigate the Sociocultural Landscapes of Books and Reading

    Jennifer M. Graff

    Abstract: This article shares the voices of preadolescent girls as they participated in an eight-month book selection study which enabled them to be active agents in their book and reading experiences.  The girls, school-identified as struggling readers and self-identified as resistant readers, complicate current notions of reading, as influenced by education policy, and trouble the potential tendencies of educators to equate books with reading.  For these girls, books and reading converged and diverged within various sociocultural spheres and ultimately served as conduits for academic success and social power as well as literary entryways into particular peer communities.  The girls’ words and actions reveal the social and economic currency of particular books within larger communities and remind educators that the social stories may be more valuable or more worthy of “reading” than the literal story within the bounded pages of books.

    Keywords: Literacy, Literature, Middle, School/Community

  • More than Book Talks: Preservice Teacher Dialogue after Reading Gay and Lesbian Children’s Literature

    Jill Hermann-Wilmarth

    Abstract: In this paper, the author looks at how she attempted to teach her students—preservice teachers—to engage in dialogic conversation about gay and lesbian identity using children’s literature with gay and lesbian characters as a jumping off point. Through her analysis, the author has identified two requirements for dialogic conversation among students with divergent approaches to an issue: time and practice.

    Keywords: Diversity, Literacy, Literature, Pedagogy

  • Research Directions – Asking the Experts: What Children Have to Say about Their Reading Preferences

    Denise Davila and Lisa Patrick

    Abstract: Ironically, adults control most of the world of children’s literature: adults write the books; adults choose which books to publish; adults review the books, adults bestow the awards on books and adults purchase the books for bookstores, libraries, and their children. In this paradigm of adult control, children’s opinions are often overlooked.  The goal of this paper is to review the current literature on reader preferences, with the intent of understanding the intersection of the children, adults, and publishing constituencies. We hope this article will support teachers in engaging students with reading materials that will match their interests.

    Keywords: Literacy, Literature

  • Focus on Policy - Policies Can Follow Practices

    Nancy Roser

    Abstract: Roser discusses how both teachers and librarians, whom she calls the preservers of children’s reading, should cling tightly to three essential practices to ensure that our children read more, read better, and read more widely.  She argues we should:  a) keep the classroom library viable; b) preserve, protect, and defend time for self-selected reading; and c) make certain there are shared texts to talk over or to do something about.  Regardless of instructional climate, level of student, number of benchmark assessments, surety of supervisors, quoted and misquoted reports, and curricula that leans toward “one size fits all,” Roser argues that teachers help to ensure that kids read both in school and beyond when they help make for access, choice, time, and talk in the classroom.

    Keywords: Literacy, Literature, Elementary

  • Profiles and Perspectives - The Road to Shadowland

    Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni

    Abstract: Divakaruni reflects on her path to becoming an author for children, including her formative encounters with stories told by her grandfather in her native India, and experiences as a mother and as an Indian woman in the post-9/11 context of the United States.

    Keywords: Literature

  • Professional Book Reviews - Children’s Reading Today and in the Future: Igniting their Passions and Engaging their Interests

    Martille R. Elias, Rebecca Rogers, E. Wendy Saul, Lawrence R. Sipe, Jennifer L. Wilson, and Karen E. Wohlwend

    Abstract: Often, the reading practices that children encounter in school represent only a small range of the countless ways in which students engage meaningfully with texts.  Recent reports indicate that children are reading less literature than they have in the past.  Are children reading less overall, or is it simply that the texts they are reading are changing?  The reviews in this column reflect the complexity of these questions.  The review of Play, Creativity, and Digital Cultures edited by Rebekah Willett, Muriel Robinson, and Jackie Marsh examines how children’s interactions with digital media influences their multi modal literacy development.  It addresses ways for teachers to connect children’s love of new media to classroom practice.  In keeping with the theme of new literacies, the second entry in this column does not review a book, but rather a website, INK: “Interesting Non-fiction for Kids,” that seeks to encourage children’s reading of non-fiction.  This site includes commentary by non-fiction authors and provides opportunities for sparking young readers’ interest in non-fiction texts.  This is a particularly salient issue as the concern that children are reading less is perhaps exceeded only by the concern that readers have abandoned non-fiction altogether.  The next title, Embracing, Evaluating, and Examining African American Children’s & Young Adult Literature edited by Wanda Brooks and Jonda McNair highlights the importance of including rich, culturally diverse literature in the classroom.  If we are to engage all readers, then children of all cultures, ethnicities and races should be able to see themselves in the literature of our classrooms.  The final title reviewed in this column is Readicide: How Schools are Killing Reading and What You Can Do About It by Kelly Gallagher.  This book challenges educators and administrators to consider how policy and curriculum is extinguishing children’s passion for books.  Gallagher asserts that the only way to create readers is to give them books that matter, and teach them to read deeply.

    Keywords: Literature

  • Children’s Literature Reviews – What Did You Think of the Book?: Kids Speak Up

    Lisa Patrick and Denise Davila

    Abstract: According to a publishing assistant for Bookpros, an independent publishing company, “Even though kids are the intended audience for children’s literature, their opinions are often overlooked.”  Therefore, for this edition’s book reviews, we turn to the experts: the children. We asked children in first through eighth grade to read and review recently and soon-to-be- published picture books and novels. The reviews are organized according to the grade level of the reviewer and the title of the book.

    Keywords: Literature, Elementary

  • In Closing… - Those “Struggles” with Reading

    Sarah Bridges- Rhoads

    Abstract: A former fifth-grade teacher reflects on her experiences reading in a non-native language and notices unexpected benefits and joys of struggling with reading.

    Keywords: Diversity, Language, Literacy

* Journal articles are provided in PDF format and can be opened using the free Adobe® Reader® program or a comparable viewer. Click here to download and install the most recent version of Adobe Reader.

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