Good Quality Literature is needed for Reading/ Writing Connections

You would have to asleep on the job not to have read about the ‘reading –writing connection’ and how one aspect of literacy feeds the other. We know they co-exist in an effective literacy program. We also know how important it is to choose good quality literature for children to read. Such literature plays such a strong role in improving the quality of student writing. The writing workshop is the perfect opportunity for teachers to share their knowledge of children’s literature. It’s a chance to share the author’s deliberate use of craft- leads, endings, voice, style, vocabulary, format, sentence structure, vivid verbs and accurate adjectives. If you are attending to such aspects of the writer’s craft by reading and noting the author’s attention to such fine details, you are teaching so much about writing!

To do this we need to create time to read the available literature. This enables us to make informed choices about the texts we bring to the classroom- the authors with whom we share the task of teaching writing. I have made it a habit to read, purchase, collect and share example of good quality literature over many years. -Resources in which I have faith and confidence. These are my mentor texts. I am continually scanning the literary horizon for new acquisitions…
With these thoughts in mind, I recently noted (with much alarm) a box of books from a publisher sitting in a staff lounge awaiting approval for purchase. It wasn’t the fact that a publisher had left the books for consideration that alarmed me, but rather the lack of quality and range in the titles presented. A quick perusal of the books revealed the following topics –ogres, dragons, ghosts, freaks, aliens, sorcerers, ghouls, witches, curses. Not one realistic fiction title! Not one factual text! No poetry, just simply a selection of fantasy. It was then I realized the enormous influence of the phenomenon of Harry Potter and Twilight and the propensity for publishers to flog an idea for financial gain. Go into the children/young teen section of any book shop and you will see this scene repeated. The book section of almost any department store presents an even bleaker scenario! -Shelves crammed with fantasy novels and little else! Effectively, realistic fiction has been pushed to the outer margins and non fiction is limited in range and quality. There is little in the offerings bearing any resemblance to children’s own lives, fears, hopes, dreams, aspirations and realities. Just title after title of mostly unrealistic fluff and mayhem! Children are generally being offered a reading diet that is narrow and poorly considered. Fantasy deserves a place on the shelf, not the whole darn shelf! Don’t get me wrong, there are some excellent books out there for children to read, but without knowing what to look for or knowing where to look, how can we approach the purchase of books sure that what they are looking at represents good quality and range?
So, some critical questions arise –who buys the books in your school? Is input and discussion part of the process? -And what is the agreed policy regarding the acquisition of quality literature?
How do we begin to make demands on publishers about the kinds of books we want instead of having such narrow options presented as a matter of course? Think about the standard book fairs that are used to raise funds for schools. So often what is presented for sale, is representative of what publishers wish to move, rather than titles schools view as desirable reading materials for developing readers.
It appears our young readers and writers are being short changed…

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