Diversifying my Reading

Featured image by Chris Devers

Diversifying my reading means reading outside of my comfort zone. To me, reading books from different genres is diversifying my reading. I tend to stick to the fantasy genre, and reading books from other genres will broaden my views on different people and situations. Diversifying my reading also means reading books by different authors that I may not have heard of, and reading books with characters from different cultures. A diverse reading life, to me, is reading many different books, about different cultures, and written by diverse authors.

My goals for diversifying my reading for this semester include: reading at least two nonfiction books, read many different authors, read books on the banned book list, and read books recommended by classmates about diversity. I stick to fantasy books a lot, so reading nonfiction books will get me out of my comfort zone and may teach me a few things. I tend to only read books by authors I know; I read Stephen King, Jodi Picoult, Darren Shan, J.K. Rowling, and a few other fantasy authors. Reading books from authors that I have not heard of or have not read books by may give me more reading experiences and give me more favorite authors. Reading books from the banned book list will introduce me to many different experiences and many diverse characters because books about diversity and adult situations tend to be the books that are banned. I will expand my reading by reading books that my classmates like about diverse characters or written by diverse authors.

Due to the resources that I have gotten from blogs for this class, I have not had troubles finding titles with diverse authors or diverse characters. I have added many of the books that are listed in blogs about diversity and diverse publishing to my want-to read list on goodreads. I do not foresee any challenges in finding or reading books about diverse characters or written by diverse authors.

It is important for students to have a diverse reading life so that they are introduced to a variety of different people, situations, and cultures. Reading can open student’s minds to people of different races and to different cultures. Diverse reading helps students to step out of their comfort zone, and learn something about the world or about themselves. In order to promote diverse reading in the classroom, I would include many books about diverse character or written by diverse authors on my classroom bookshelf. Students would be encouraged to read any of the books on the bookshelf that interest them.

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Twenty Better Questions Reading Response

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Twenty Better Questions

Reading Response for Little Peach by Peggy Kern

1. What character(s) was your favorite? Why?

Michelle, the protagonist, was my favorite character. Michelle is young and in search of a place where she feels like she belongs. When that place turns out to be a nightmare, Michelle is strong enough to be able to try to find her way out of her situation. The reader’s heart breaks for Michelle because she is so young and she falls into a situation that takes away her innocence. Michelle’s grandpa was also one of my favorite characters. He was the only person in Michelle’s life who cared for her; even Michelle’s mom sent her away.

2. What character(s) did you dislike? Why?

I disliked Devon because he makes little girls feel like he is saving them, and then he traps them into a horrible lifestyle. Devon lies and give Michelle food when she is in her time of need. He gives girls who have nothing else a place to stay and food, and then he takes advantage of them for his own use. Michelle believes he is her savior until she realizes that he is a monster. He gives girls who have no one hope, and then traps them.

3. Does anyone in this work remind you of anyone you know? Explain.

No one in this work really reminded me of anyone I knew. I could relate to some of the struggles that Michelle goes through with trying to find somewhere to belong. Don’t we all go through a stage where we are trying to find out place with people who care about us? The way that Michelle’s grandpa teased her reminded me a little of my own grandpa when I was little, but, other than that, no one in this work reminded me of people I know.

4. Are you like any character in this work? Explain.

I do not think I am like anyone in this work simply because I was raised in a very good situation. Michelle was not raised in a good situation, and as a result she had to seek out a home that lead her to dangerous things. I was never a runaway or experienced the devastating things that Michelle endures in this book. So, simply because of how and where I was raised, I do not think I am like the characters in Little Peach by Peggy Kern.

5. If you could be any character in this work, who would you be? Explain.

I would not choose to be any of these characters in this book; they all have very hard lives or are simply horrible people. I would not have wanted to go through what Peggy went through with the death of her grandpa, being kicked out, and being trapped into prostitution. I would not want to be a pimp like Devon, or in a gang like all of his associated. I would not want to be like Baby who is too young to understand what Devon is making her do. All the characters in this book have very hard lives or are in very hard situations, so I would not want to be any of them.

6. What quality(ies) of which character strikes you as a good characteristic to develop within yourself over the years? Why? How does the character demonstrate this quality?

Michelle shows real strength when she calls the police on Devon and escapes to the hospital. She seeks help from a nurse. Michelle struggles with trusting the nurse, or anyone really. Somehow, even in her difficult situation when she had nowhere to go and no resources, Michelle still finds the courage to call the cops on her pimp. She finds a way out of her situation and has the strength to trust again after everything she has been through. I would like to have the kind of strength that Michelle has in the ending of this book.

7. Overall, what kind of a feeling did you have after reading a few paragraphs of this work? Midway? After finishing the work?

Peggy Kern writes beautifully, and in a way that really gets the reader engaged in the story. I was hooked after a few paragraphs. The writing is simple and it flows in a way that the story goes by in a flash without the reader even realizing he is reading. I read this book quickly. Halfway through the book, my heart was broken for Michelle, for Baby, and for any other woman or young girl that finds herself in such a desperate and horrific situation. After finishing the book, I felt a little bit of hope that Michelle would be able to move past this stage of her life and make something of herself. Michelle got away from Devon. There are implications that Devon may simply find her and kill her for snitching on him. But, there is also a shred of hope that Michelle has escaped Devon completely.

8. Do any incidents, ideas, or actions in this work remind you of your own life or something that happened to you? Explain.

No incidents, ideas,o or actions in this work really reminded me of my own life or something that happened to me. I never really faced these hard of situations in my life or went through stuff like in this book.

 9. Do you like this piece of work? Why or why not?

I really enjoyed Little Peach by Peggy Kern. It opened my eyes to the struggles that some young girls face. It was sad, and it was heart-breaking. It was real, and it showed me a culture that I will never (I very much hope) get to experience in real life. It is easy to read, and I was really engaged in the story.

10. Are there any parts of this work that were confusing to you? Which parts? Why do you think you got confused?

There were not really any parts in the book that confused me. Peggy Kern writes very simply, and gets the story across in a clear way. I understood the story very easily.

11. Do you feel there is an opinion expressed by the author through this work? What is it? How do you know this? Do you agree? Why or why not?

I do not know necessarily if there is an opinion that is being expressed in this book; obviously Kern isn’t advocating prostitution in the book. I think maybe Kern is just trying to show a horrible facet of this world that many people do not know about or do not want to think about. The book calls on young girls to be strong for themselves and to protect themselves. The book makes the reader want to take action against prostitution. It made me sad, and it made me want to save all the girls in this world that are in that situation.

12. Do you think the title of this work is appropriate? Is it significant? Explain. What do you think the title means?

The title of this work, Little Peach, is very appropriate. Little Peach is the name that Devon gives to Michelle; it is her prostitute name. Devon forces Michelle to get a tattoo of a peach with “Devon’s girl” written under it to show that he owns her. The tattoo makes it clear to other gang members on the street that she is part of the group. The tattoo protects her from men on the streets, and gives her protection from gang members.

13. Would you change the ending of this story in any way? Tell your ending. Why would you change it?

I do not think I could come up with a better ending than Kern’s ending. For my own selfish reasons, I would have wanted the book to end happier. I would want Michelle’s mom to come find her, quit drugs, and care about her. Or I would want the caring nurse to decide to keep and care for Michelle. I would want Michelle to escape Devon forever. I would want Devon to get arrested for what he does. I would want Baby to be saved and placed in a good home. However, all those things are not real life. The way that Kern ends the book is realistic.

14. What kind of person do you feel the author is? What makes you feel this way?

I think the author is smart and cultured. She understands the struggles that young girls who do not have caring parents face, and she understands the lifestyle that she portrays in Little Peach. 

15. How did this work make you feel? Explain.

This book broke my heart. It is a very sad book about a young girl being put in a horrible adult situation. Michelle does not even know what she is getting herself into or what she is doing. She is scared, and she is alone. It is a depressing book.

16. Do you share any of the feelings of the characters in this work? Explain.

Michelle feels like she is alone and needs a place to belong. Michelle is alone in a very real sense; her grandfather died, and her mother does not care about her. She does not have friends to turn to, and she does not have resources. I have felt like I was alone before even when I had many people who did care about me. However, my loneliness was in a much less real sense where I simply felt like no one understood. I have also yearned for a place to belong in the sense that I looked for a group of friends that I belonged with in high school.

17. Sometimes works leave you with the feeling that there is more to tell. Did this work do this? What do you think might happen?

The book ended with a little bit of hope, but not in a way that the reader felt like Michelle had things figured out. I felt like Little Peach could have used a little more of a resolution. Did Devon find Michelle? Was the nurse able to help Michelle? What happened to Baby? Did Devon kill Kat?

18. Would you like to read something else by this author? Why or why not?

I would read other books by this author because I really liked her writing style. It was simple enough that I understood everything easily. But the subject matter was challenging enough to keep me intrigued in the story. Peggy Kern writes very well.

19. What do you feel is the most important word, phrase, passage, or paragraph in this work? Explain why it is important.

The most significant passage of Little Peach by Peggy Kern is when Michelle calls the cops on Devon. Michelle realized that Devon has gotten rid of, probably killed, Kat, and she calls the cops on Devon while he is in the shower. Devon throws her into a coffee table, cuts her leg up, and beats her up. Michelle is lucky she lives, and gets to the hospital. Michelle escapes Devon’s grasp in this passage.

20. If you were an English teacher, would you want to share this work with your students? Why or why not?

I would want to share this book with my students, but I would chose which students to offer it too carefully. I would only recommend this book to very mature students who enjoy books about real life, adult situations. I would be worried about parent’s reactions to their children reading a book like this, so, though I really enjoyed this book, I would be careful about whom I gave the book to.

Reading Response for Two Boys Kissing by David Leviathan

Quotation Response Journal for Two Boys Kissing by David Leviathan

Quotation #1 from page 4: “It was an exquisite irony: Just when we stopped wanting to kill ourselves, we started to die. Just when we were feeling strength, it was taken from us. This should not happen to you. Adults can talk all they want about youth feeling invincible. Surely, some of us had that bravado. But there was also the dark inner voice telling us we were doomed. And then we were doomed. And then we weren’t. You should never feel doomed.”

Response to Quotation #1: Leviathan is speaking about the gays of the past starting to die of AIDS, but this quotation goes far beyond speaking of the past generations of homosexuals. We all have a dark inner voice as teenagers that tell us that we are not good enough or that something is wrong with us. We all think we are doomed at one point in our lives. Leviathan is speaking to the homosexuals of this generation and telling them that they should never feel like they are doomed or that there is something wrong with them.

Quotation #2 from page 70: “Max is a marvel to us. He will never have to come out because he will never have been kept in. Even though he has a mom and a dad, they made sure from the beginning to tell him that it didn’t have to be a mom and a dad. It could be a mom and a mom, a dad and a dad, just a mom, or just a dad.When Max’s early affection became clear, he didn’t think twice about them. He doesn’t see it as defining him. It is just part of his definition.”

Response to Quotation #2: David Leviathan presents how far we have come as a society by showing the reader Max, who has not been taught to define and label himself by his sexual orientation. Max bewilders the gays of past generations because they had never seen this kind of acceptance of who they were. Leviathan shows that being gay does not define a person. I think, in a way, Leviathan is hoping that we all raise our children not to label others or themselves. Max does not see two boys kissing as something strange; he is open-minded to homosexuality. I was really inspired by this quote because I believe that, with more education, we can all live in a world where sexual orientation is not used as a label to define people.

Quotation #3 from page 84: “There are all these moments you don’t think you will survive. And then you survive.”

Response to Quotation #3: This is a simple quote that filled me with inspiration. There have been a lot of things in my life (and I believe everyone’s lives) that I did not think I would survive. And yet I am still here, and I always came out on top. Our teenage years are a bit dramatic; we think that everything is the end. To us, some things emotionally are the end of us. Emotionally, some things in our teen years kill us. But we keep surviving; we have to keep surviving. Leviathan encourages us to keep surviving despite the things we do not think we can overcome. I really enjoyed how simply stated this powerful quotation was.

Quotation #4 from page 196: “Cooper will live to meet his future self. You should all live to meet your future selves. We saw our friends die. But we also see our friends live. So many of them live, and we often toast their long and full lives. They carry us on. There is the sudden. There is the eventual. And in between,, there is the living. We do not start as dust. We do not end as dust. We make more than dust. That’s all we ask of you. Make more than dust.”

Response to Quotation #5: Again, Leviathan encourages the reader to keep living despite the bad things in our lives. He asks us to make more of our lives, to fall in love and experience our lives. He wants us to be more than just alive; we have to enjoy life. Do not just make dust with your death; make your life more than dust. This is a very inspirational quote because Leviathan encourages us to live. I believe inspirational books like this help teenagers who are going through troubles to work themselves out of the darkness.

Diversity in Children’s Books

Books help children to understand who they are, and to understand who others are. I really enjoyed the metaphor in Bishop’s “Mirrors, Windows, and Sliding Glass Doors,” which states that books are windows that show us other worlds. These windows can become reflective, and books can become mirrors that show us ourselves. Books are sliding glass doors because the reader must engage their imagination and walk into the world that the book is showing. Ignorance promotes hatred. Being exposed to protagonists of color, of different sexual orientations, and of different cultures allows the reader to understand that these people, though different from the reader, are humans that have emotions and face problems. Being exposed to diversity allows children to feel empathy for others; it promotes good-will and open-mindedness. What does simply not showing characters of color say to our children? That people of color do not exist? That people of color are not worthy of their own stories? Nothing good, that’s for sure. Young black people need characters that they can identify with, and young white people need to be introduced to characters of diversity in order to relate to people who are different from them.

I think being white made the facts about the lack of diversity in children’s book very surprising to me. I never had troubles finding stories that were revolved around a white teenage girl. I never had problems identifying myself in popular fiction books. I was bewildered by this piece of data in Walter Dean Myer’s blog post “Where are the People of Color in Children’s Books:” Of 3,200 children’s books published in 2013, just 93 were about black people. Children need books that they can identify with in order to find themselves in these books. Children need character role models in order to identify what they want to be. Now that I think back to all the books I’ve read, I am surprised to think that a vast majority of the books do not include a single character of color, and if they do include a character of color, then it is always a background character. I do believe that the problem of the lack of diversity in children’s books has nothing to do with the readers of children’s books. Lovers of books read without even considering the race of the author or the race of the protagonist. I believe the problem resides with the publishing companies that turn away black authors or books about black people because they “do not think they will sell” or “there is a not a market for them.” They will sell. There is a huge market for these books.

Christopher Myers says, in his blog post “The Apartheid of Children’s Literature,” that when talking to a young black bog, the boy said that he wanted to be in the NBA and then become a rapper. Myers states that he does not think that these are actually the boy’s dreams, but the only role models he has seen of successful black men. Books present us with character traits that we want to live up to. When I read books about strong women, I found traits in the characters that I knew I wanted myself as a woman. The lack of role models for young black people in today’s literature results in the children looking to the media to find role models in rappers and basketball players (I’m not saying these are bad role models, though I could make a case that both are not the greatest of role models. I simply mean that young black people should have more variety of role models to look to than basketball players and rappers). They do not have characters in books to relate to, and they need these characters in order to identify what it means to be black and who they are in this world.

So, what do we do? How do we stop this? We promote books by people of color and about people of color. We buy books about people of color and by people of color to show the publishing companies that there IS a market for these books. We continue to write books about people of color. We do not let publishing companies dictate what we read. We become more interested in self-published books instead of sticking to books that are popular. We diversify our reading.

 

 

Book Love by Penny Kittle

Featured image by Hannah Higdon.

I really enjoy reading Penny Kittle’s Book Love, and I believe that every future English teacher should read it. There is something wrong with the way we try to encourage students to read in our classrooms. We push hard books on them with time limits and assignments. Many of these old techniques tend not only to make students cheat when it comes to class work, but it also makes students have a hatred for reading. Something has to change. Penny Kittle presents great ways to harbor a love of reading in students, and presents great ways to make your students life-long learners.

Penny Kittle states that students should be reading and writing more than they should be listening to her talk. I thoroughly agree with this statement. Every English classroom should include more reading and writing by the students than lectures from the teachers. The only way students can become good readers is to practice how to read. The only way that students can become good writers is to read a lot of books and practice their own writing. I agree with Kittle when she says that students want to read as long as we let them. I believe allowing students to set reasonable goals for their own reading (like Kittle illustrates in chapter 3) helps students to analyze their own reading abilities and grow their reading abilities. The English classroom should really revolve around the students’ reading and writing.

Kittle illustrates that some students are going to be hesitant to read due to their past experiences with reading where they either did not comprehend the text or did not find interest in the text. Kittle states that even the most reluctant readers can come to love reading when they find books that they are interested in. My question is: why not encourage our students to read anything, as long as they are reading? Is that not better than them cheating their way through the classics that are assigned? Is that not better than them not reading another book after high school? English teachers should be focusing on creating a love for the English language and for stories in their students.

Reading Response to Dark Minds by Alexandra Bracken

Never Fade by Alexandra Bracken is the second in a series of dystopian novels. If you want my overview of the first book so that you may understand this blog post more easily, then please go to one of my most recent blogs and watch the book trailer I made of The Darkest Minds (the first novel of the series) by Alexandra Bracken. Never Fade continues to tell the tale of Ruby Daly, and her struggle to survive in a world where children are too powerful that they are often killed or captured and put in concentration camps. Ruby Daly has mind control. She struggles through identity issues resulting from this such as whether she is a good person or not and whether other people like her despite her being able to control/read their thoughts. In Never Fade, Ruby becomes friends with a group of young adults with their own powers. She feels especially attached to a boy named Jude who can harbor and control electricity. Jude is young, happy, and not yet tainted by the rough world they live in, and Ruby feels the need to protect Jude. Jude wears a compass around his neck that he believes can guide him through danger, and Ruby tends to associate Jude with the compass and any compass with Jude. Ruby believes that everything will be alright as long as her friends have survived. Whether it be a bombing or a raid on a factory for food, as long as her friends survive, it is okay.

It was really hard for me to decide the most significant scene from this novel. Every scene is either very action packed or full of emotion. However, I settled on the scene I drew because it seemed to have the biggest emotional impact on Ruby. Ruby and her friends narrowly escape the bombing of Los Angeles, California by the President, or tyrant. She believes that all her friends are safe until she cannot find Jude. Ruby believes he is still alive and sends several people down the tunnel they recently escaped the bombing through to look for Jude. She does not believe anything bad could happen to Jude because he is so innocent and happy. When the search team comes back without Jude, Ruby still believes he is alive and wants to go search for Jude herself. It is only when Liam hands Ruby Jude’s bloody compass that she understands that Jude has died in the bombing. This is a very significant scene in the story because it is the scene where Ruby realizes that she cannot keep even her closest friends safe in a world like this. In this moment, Ruby feels an utter hopelessness for the world and for herself. The compass symbolizes loss for Ruby, and it symbolizes that only she can decide the direction to go with her life.