Sunday, November 22, 2015

Thanksgiving every day of the year

I can’t help thinking of William Steig at Thanksgiving. In addition to the fact that he was born in the month of November, I thank him year round for igniting my passion for children’s literature. His books showed me how extraordinary a book for children could be—with language that soars, pictures that captivate, and stories I want to go on forever and ever.

Yet as much as I adore the books he wrote, what captured my heart and mind were the questions his stories ignited. Moral dilemmas not easily solved, showing us the wonderfully complex humanity of his characters, along with his humor that always delivered a brand of wisdom, with no lesson to teach. Robust conversations are a hallmark of Steig’s books. 
To have the continued opportunity to introduce children every day to Steig’s books, truly calls for a profound Thank You, with deep gratitude.

What are you most thankful for this Thanksgiving?  

Monday, November 16, 2015

Stories help us hang on to our humanity

The recent attack by terrorists on the people of Paris was an act of brutality. The attack was an act of inhumanity; The following story is one man’s response to the atrocity— his music was his effort to help restore humanity, those qualities that make us human, mortality, compassion, and kindness.

In an extraordinary gesture, a Parisian man rode his bike to the Bataclan Concert Hall, one of the attack sites, with his mobile piano in tow. He then proceeded to play John Lenon's Imagine on the piano for all those gathered. After the performance, he broke down and left without uttering a word.

Telling stories are what make us human, it is how we make sense of the world, sharping our beliefs and our ethics.  No story can take away the pain we feel, but it can offer a catharsis, something we are all in great need of in this troubling time

Stories are one of the ways we get to know people who are just like as and
at the same time, very different. They are windows on the world and by inviting us into the lives of others; they promote tolerance and build bridges of understanding. The recent tragedy in Paris tests our tolerance and challenges us to hang on to our humanity. Fear and rage are powerful emotions and they make it difficult to think clearly.

Along with the French people, the world feels deeply sad about the terrorist attack. In times such as these, it is important to tightly cling to what makes us human.


Monday, November 9, 2015

Celebrate the freedom to read

Banned Books Week was launched in 1982 in response to a sudden surge in the number of challenges to books in schools, bookstores and libraries.
The story behind why a book is challenged or banned is fascinating and merits attention. What is often overlooked or just not spoken of, is the all too often practice of how many books find themselves on the list of challenged books, that have never been read.

Call it incuriousity or a group mentality that is short on thinking, this practice of challenging books that have not been read allows falsehoods to fly with nobody able to counter with facts or page numbers. The miss information, the damage done to books that deserve to be read, all because of the pernicious activity of nonreading a book you remove from the public is unforgivable. That activity deserves to be banned!

Make it your business to find out which books have been banned & challenged. I am pleased to say, many of these books are ones I choose to teach, allowing the book to stand on its own, meeting the minds of readers who think, make meaning, and come to know more about themselves and the world they live in.

More than 11,300 books have been challenged since 1982 according to the American Library Association

Monday, November 2, 2015

Energetic reading offers nourishment & is a transformative experience

I am saddened to see that teaching literature is becoming more of a transaction than an experience of transformation. Forging meaning out of a book is a transformative experience, not a transactional exercise of questions and answers.

To energetically read requires a reader to support assertions with proofs, to consider counterarguments, to be willing to listen to what others say and in doing so, allows you to strengthen or force you to alter what you think.

When we base our choices of what to read on what will offend the least number of people, we are at risk of losing the benefits found in reading.

Through stories we make connections to An Other. In my literature classes Readers put aside their politics and immerse themselves in an empathetic cocoon for the characters they meet, offering them understanding and compassion.

The habits of mind readers acquire teach us to think. Books are both windows and mirrors, offering us the experience of meeting characters that feel what we too have felt, offering a bridge of understanding and compassion. To read is to think.