Tag Archives: John Green

Novels to Motivate African American Males

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By far, one of my greatest struggles this school year lies within motivating my African American boys to read independently during their required SSR time. I know much of this struggle was a fault of my own. These students were unengaged in my bookshelves as well as the school library, not finding the popular sci-fi novels such as The 5th Wave or John Green texts “interesting.” At the beginning of the year, almost every book on my bookshelf featured a white protagonist and became unrelatable to these students. Therefore, one of my professional goals was to research this demographic and find novels that my boys really wanted to read. If you read my last post, the Allison Van Diepen novels proved sufficient in this matter. However I needed more than four novels could provide, both time wise as well as variety.

Many recurring themes appear among the wide body of research regarding adolescent African-American males. These themes identify the struggles these males have, “among the most prominent are issues of self-concept, self-efficacy, and identity development” (Tatum, Literacy Practices from African-American Male Adolescents, p.6). Adolescent African-American males, as do many students, struggle with finding their identity in the world starting in the early middle-school years. It is essential for these students to be able to have access to literature reflecting their background and current struggles.

Literature that influences student motivation, “address[es] a range of experiences, including stories about teen wresting with issues of acceptance based on family gender preferences, ethnicity, immigration issues, and gang and cult membership” (Moss, Voices from the Middle, Volume 19, p.39). Readers, especially the African-American male, have more motivation for reading a text, “contain[ing] well-portrayed authentic main characters who grapple in realistic ways with the challenges of today’s world” (Moss, Voices from the Middle, Volume 19, p.41). Students should have access to highly engaging texts and literature, this in turn allows a lens to explore their own identity and persona through characters that mirror their current lives.

There are many conditions necessary for literacy development with reluctant or struggling readers, including the need for student engagement in the text. In terms of engagement, which corresponds with motivation, “reading intervention classes should be filled with high-interest books that march a wide range of students’ reading interest” to foster a true wanting to explore a literary text. (Wozniak, Voices from the Middle, Volume 19, p.17). Educators, as I have, will likely find success with reading motivation when including texts in their classroom embracing students’ ethnic group identities. These specific texts could enhance literacy experiences and correspondingly could increase reading achievement and standardized testing scores.

Overall, research indicates males become more motivated with a literary text when the basis is upon connecting or making the literacy life-like and relatable. This form of connecting to the text, or seeing the text as life-like, allows students to mirror their own life in the story in some context. The emphasis on including historical literary and traditional texts, especially with the African-American male population, is critical to engagement and motivation within a chosen or class-taught text. It is imperative that educators are “honoring and respecting students’ cultural backgrounds” and integrating historical and traditional African-American texts (Flowers, Urban African-American Students, p.166). This is central to actively acknowledging the various cultures.

Historical accounts of the earlier African-American life display the “types, characteristics, and roles of writing embraced by African-American males as they sought to protect their dignity in a racist society” which is still current and relevant in student’s lives today (Tatum, Literacy Practices for African-American Male Adolescents, p.13). Students can analyze historical writing to interpret how politics, race, class, and sex were woven together in the works of writers and themes of literacy and liberation are evident among various historical texts, in which both are placed heavy emphasis upon. African-American males learned to read and write to provide different perspectives on current events and historical emphases leading the actions in their lives. Integrating Fredrick Douglass’ Narrative of the Life of Fredrick Douglass and Harriet Ann Jacobs Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl provides students with the urgent and life-changing reasons to pursue and become proficient in reading and writing applicable in their own lives as well. Types of selections as these, which honor and respect the African-American traditional texts, open up a classroom for cultural safety, identity discovery, and rich discussions on the value of literacy in life.

In my next post, I will provide specific examples of texts I used in my classroom to supplement traditional literature to engage these students. Be on the lookout for that in the coming weeks! If you have had success with specific texts in this demographic, I would love to know and collaborate with you!

 

-Stephanie Branson

References:

Flowers, T. A., and L. A. Flowers. “Factors Affecting Urban African American High School Students’ Achievement in Reading.” Urban Education 43.2 (2008): 154-71. Web. 1 May 2016.

Moss, Barbara. “Fitting In or Standing Out: Finding Your Place in the World of Adolescence.” Voices from the Middle 19.2 (2011): 39-41. NCTE. Web. 1 May 2016.

Tatum, Alfred. “Helping Struggling Readers: Reading for Their Life.” YouTube. Heinemann Publishing, 30 Mar. 2010. Web. 02 May 2016.

Tatum, Alfred W. “Literacy Practices For African-American Male Adolescents.” Students at the Center. Jobs for the Future, Mar. 2012. Web. 1 May 2016.

Wozniak, Cheryl L. “Reading and Talking about Books: A Critical Foundation for Intervention.” Voices From the Middle. NCTE, Dec. 2011. Web. 1 May 2016

 

 

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June 2, 2016 · 8:47 am

Simplicity

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“Why do nice people choose the wrong people to date?

Are we talking about anyone specific?

[Charlie nods]

We accept the love we think we deserve.

Can we make them know they deserve more?

We can try.”

–Stephen Chbosky The Perks of Being a Wallflower

I recently paid homage to one of my favorite new(ish) young adult literature novels at the wedding of my husband and I. I, obviously, am a sucker for good, emotional quotes.  Ever since I read The Perks of Being a Wallflower, I have had a really difficult time clearing the novel from my mind. So many of the words resonate deeply within me. Therefore, I find myself returning to what I really feel is a true representation of art.  The writing is brilliant and the themes, unfortunately, ring so true with the teens of this day and age. Authors JK Rowling and John Green have such marvelous and uncanny abilities to relate to the mindset of young adults, tying in difficult and relevant themes that not only allow for great entertainment but also lends clarity for young minds struggling with adolescence and who are diving deeply into their literature.

Stephen Chbosky has this same rich ability. Chbosky develops characters that are real and transparent. Characters that foster the same personas as friends I could have had in high school. Personally my favorite is not even “technically” considered a main character, but he is simple and honest. His transparency allows for a slight flicker of hope to be placed into Charlie, a freshman in high school attempting to overcome an arduous inner struggle.  Mr. Anderson, Bill, never becomes more than Mr. Anderson. He simply is a compassionate teacher who gives out good books and good advice.  This compassion and simplicity leaves a meaningful legacy onto Charlie that I crave in teaching.

As romanticized of a teacher Mr. Anderson is in The Perks of Being a Wallflower, I truly hope that one day I will have such a meaningful and intense impact on one of my student’s lives as he had with Charlie.

Just one student.

I think this profoundness is what drives me deeper into my passion for students. I am not saying I am trying to be a lifesaver, to vastly alter the paths that some troubled students are walking along, or to be some sort of life-long influence in the future of a student.  I simply want to exist as a constant positive in a student’s life, and sometimes give out novels that left a lasting effect on me to students that seem in need of some extra care.

I know I cannot force my students to love literature as much as I do.

I know I cannot force students to have such life altering experiences from novels as I have had.

But as a teacher-and simply a caring teacher- I hope I can be a ray of hope in some student’s life, even if I never know the influence I had on anyone. All I can ever hope for is my wisdom, compassion, or advice to live on as my legacy.

Until next time,

Stephanie

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Marriage and Romance Novels

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“But I lacked the courage and she had a boyfriend and I was gawky and she was gorgeous and I was hopelessly boring and she was endlessly fascinating. So I walked back to my room and collapsed on the bottom bunk, thinking that if people were rain, I was drizzle and she was hurricane.” -John Green Looking for Alaska

Marrying my husband set a whirlwind of emotions inside of me that I have not been able to quite shake. If I could sum up my emotions on my wedding day the phrase that resonates within me would be that of pure joy. I’m sure all of our close family and friends that attended would qualify that notion by how huge Scott and I’s smiles were throughout the day. I was promising my life to the most compassionate and caring man I have ever come to know, making the covenant we now hold sacred.

Recently there has been an uncanny shift in the type of novels that I usually choose to read. My go-to for the past few years or so has been in the Sci-Fy/Fantasy YAL genre. My obsessions usually included the Harry Potter series, The Maze Runner series, and anything dystopian/vampy/zombie fiction. So, with this background information, it should come as a complete and utter shock that I have really been delving into romance novels. For this, I blame my wedding.

For some reason or another I find myself reading novels and craving romantic scenes with the characters. My real life love and enamor with my husband seems to project onto what I want of my literature.  My kindle, my most prized possession, usually holds titles such as The Maze Runner, Divergent, Ender’s Game, and Brave New World along with classics that I am trying to catch up on for my new teaching career. However, upon pulling up my home page, Wuthering Heights (a lovely classic), Redeeming Love (such a fantastic example of true love), and Looking for Alaska (teenage love tugs at my heart) all attest to my recent change in genre. Instead of techno/science action scenes, I find myself finding comfort in intimate, “kissy”, steamy, true and pure love scenes. Again, I blame this on my wedding.

I suppose this new shift in what I want for my reading materials comes from the profound and pure love that I am growing into with my husband. Every day breeds new experiences and trials that our love explores, deepens, and perseveres. Reading about fictional character’s love allows me to gain ever-changing perspectives and allows me the opportunity to explore beyond what I “think” love should be.

Most recently I read Redeeming Love. The beauty of this novel, usually categorized as inspirational romance, is not just the powerful, biblically rooted love story that engages between Michael and Angel. It is about rising up from the ashes of despair in your life and finding and knowing that you are worthy.

I am worthy. I am worthy not only to my husband but to my Creator as well. This knowledge leads us to the unparalleled ways that love and faith can conquer all, and that my marriage is going to be a loving and fulfilling journey for years to come.

Until next time,

Stephanie

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Filed under lifestyle, Marriage