Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Emerging Scholars

There are two books that I think the students in the emerging scholars program should read. I could not choose between the two of them so I will discuss both!
“Esperanza Rising” would be a great choice of a book for these students to read because I really believe that they would connect with her. Esperanza is thrown into a situation and she does not really know how to deal with it. In the end of the story, however, she prevails. If these students were not previously considering college then they are probably in a situation where college is discourages or not an option. By reading about a girl who had to deal with so much at once, from her father dying to having to flee the country, they will understand that they are not alone in their struggles. Esperanza is a really good role model because she manages to come out of her struggles alive, well, and a better person. This is a success story that hopefully they will want to relate to. The students probably already have some motivation to learn since they agreed to spend their summers doing work, so they will probably want to connect to Esperanza’s success story and even create their own success story. The only problem I have with this book is that it may be a little young for students in high school. Since the reading is easy, the teacher would have to go very in depth with the message in the story. The teacher would also have to emphasize the connections until the students made them.
Another book that I think would be great to read is “Black and White”. I really enjoyed this book and I think others would as well. It is definitely suited for their age range, so the teacher would not need to stretch her lesson quite as much to make them relate to the book. “Black and White” features two boys, each incredible at basketball, during their senior year of college. Throughout the story, choosing a college is a constant conflict in their lives. The both have plenty of options because of their basketball stats, but don’t know exactly where they want to spend their next 4 years. Even though this is not the same situation the students are in, they still will be able to relate to hearing about college in school and having friends that are going to college. Even though Marcus goes to jail in the end, he still is planning on going to college once he gets out. This teaches students that even if there are obstacles, they still can find ways to get through them and get an education. Since they were not “college bound”, they can use this book and the characters in it to discuss why they were not considering college and whether or not the emerging scholars program made them change their minds.
Although these were the two that immediately popped into my head, I think that most of the books we have read would be of value to them because the books feature an adolescent who overcomes a struggle.

Sunday, April 11, 2010


I really enjoyed watching the movie Mulan. I think that the makers of this movie did a really good job of making it interesting for people of all ages, especially children. Children are much harder to entertain than adults, and I think that this movie does its job in that it keeps most children entertained. I nannied for two boys last summer who were both a complete handful, but they loved the movie Mulan. I knew that I could pop it in the DVD player for them to watch if they got too out of control. This is good because both young boys loved it and I liked watching it too; it satisfied a range of audiences.
The main difference I found in the movie and the legend of Mulan is the way that everyone finds out that Mulan is a girl. In the Disney movie, Mulan is injured while doing a heroic act that saves lives. In the legend, Mulan chooses to reveal her identity once she is done fighting. I like the legend’s version better because I think it is cool tha tMulan actually chooses to reveal that she is a woman, even though she has gained so much respect as a man and knows that women are not respected. I think that the movie makers probably changed this because they wanted another conflict in the movie.
Ailin is definitely a great role model for older adolescents, but younger adolescents may not understand the importance and significance of what she is doing. I think that Mulan entertains younger children because they are intrigued by the war and fighting. They may not understand the importance of Ailin’s actions because they will not appear as heroic to a young child (although when they are older, the children will understand that her actions are equally as heroic as Mulan’s actions). Since Mulan’s actions are more obvious (she literally is fighting, whereas Ailin is resisting), her heroic actions are more obvious to young children and adolescents.
Older adolescents should definitely read Ties that Bind, Ties that Break, because it shows them the importance of standing up to cultural values that are worng and/or harmful. Ailin refuses to let her culture choose her destiny. She realizes that by not having her feet bound, she will not lead a normal life. She would rather be an outcast, however, than fit in and be miserable. Going to school is also a big deal for her because Chinese women are not usually educated. By refusing to have her feet bound and by going to school, she pretty much ruins any chance she has of being respected or getting married. She goes against the norms because she knows she can be more than a wealthy Chinese wife with her feet bound. I truly admire Ailin, and believe that older adolescents will as well.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Black and White

I think that this book pays tribute to many true life experiences. The one that stuck out the most to me was that of loyalty and dependability (or lack of) in a friendship. Best friends, in my opinion, should treat each other with respect and understanding. In this novel, Marcus shows Eddie true friendship by refusing to turn him into authorities, even when it could help Marcus out with his own case. Marcus also tries to understand Eddie’s thoughts and feelings and doesn’t get truly angry at him for looking after only himself. Eddie, however, does not return the favor to Marcus. Eddie does not act like a good friend, or even a decent human being, even though Marcus is acting exactly how a best friend should act. I know that this situation happens all the time with friends. It does not necessarily under the same circumstances, but it still happens.
The book also discusses issues that have to do with race. I think that it does a pretty good job of explaining a realistic point of view. Marcus definitely has worse luck than Eddie in this book, but it is not because he is black and I don’t think the author wants the audience to believe that Marcus’ race led to his bad fortune. His race, however, was a big deal because the book described how blacks generally had different fates than whites in the court system. Marcus, who is black, could not make bail right away and had to go to Rikers. Eddie, who is white, immediately made bail and never set foot in a cell. When Marcus was in Rikers for a short period of time he noticed that it was mainly blacks and no whites.
Monetary differences were also discussed in this book. Eddie’s family had enough money to hire a good lawyer and (at the close of the book) Eddie did not have to go to trial. Marcus’ family did not have enough money to hire a lawyer, so he had to work with a state appointed lawyer. He never had a trial, but that is only because he took a guilty plea. I believe this must happen all the time in real life. I would imagine that many innocent people go to jail for crimes they didn’t commit because they didn’t have the money to hire a good lawyer. I also strongly believe that many guilty people walk free because they have the money to hire a good lawyer.
I definitely think that this book is very realistic. I would recommend it to kids because I think it touches base with many things kids are dealing with in life. I also think they would be able to learn from this book. I definitely enjoyed it and would read the sequel if he were to write one.

Sunday, March 21, 2010


Children are very different from adults. Since a child’s brain is still developing much more rapidly than an adult’s brain, it is important that children’s literature be written in a way that children can comprehend and learn from. The Thompson article discusses differences in writing styles in children and adult literature, fiction and nonfiction. Children’s brains are not nearly as developed as adult’s brains, so they need literature that caters to their level of intelligence.
Many children’s books are written from the point of view of another child character. I think that this is important because it makes the novel easy for a child to identify with. When a story is narrated by a child, the child reader is more likely to empathize and care about the narrator. The child also can relate to the narrator’s thoughts, feelings, and opinions. When narrated by a child, the writer also can write the book in a simple language. The child narrator (who ideally should be the same age as the targeted audience) will have a vocabulary similar to that of the reader. This is good because “scary”, “big” words will not intimidate a young reader from reading.
The Thompson article also addressed specific words and phrases being repeated over and over again. I believe that this is done intentionally in children’s literature. Children are young and do not have a full vocabulary yet. The repeated use of words and phrases helps them to familiarize with what words and phrases mean. They also serve as context clues. If there is a tricky word in the story, the young reader can check the familiar words and phrases around the odd word and figure out what it means. These easier words are also good because they encourage the reader to continue reading. If the young reader were to read something that made no sense to them and they were constantly looking up words in the dictionary, they probably would eventually stop reading.
It was also noted in the Thompson article that there is much more fictional children’s literature than nonfictional. This does not surprise me at all. Children are full of imagination and are constantly finding ways to make games and have fun. Children also have a short attention span. In order to keep their interest, children’s writers must use their own imaginations as well. Harry Potter and Twilight are two best sellers. They both are full of creativity and create a whole new world for young readers to imagine. I know that as a very young child, all the way through high school, even now, I have always preferred fiction.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

My favorite fairy tale is the Disney movie “Beauty and the Beast”. I love this movie; it has been a favorite of mine since I was a little girl. I think that it also has a great meaning to it. Belle refuses to marry the most attractive man in the city because he is mean and rude. Everyone is astounded that she rejects him because he is the most “popular” guy in the city. Belle ends up falling in love with the beast, even though he is very ugly and hated. This teaches children that looks are not the most important thing. I know all of this now because I am able to analyze the fairy tale. When I was younger, however, I think I just loved the movie!
I think most of the popular Disney fairy tales impacted my childhood because I was always watching the movies. I loved watching them with my younger sister and brother. I remember watching “The Swan Princess” and each of us acting out a different character (I was always John Bob, the French frog). I think that these movies were very important to my childhood because they helped to fuel my imagination. For example, my favorite part of “Beauty and the Beast” is (and always has been) when all the plates and silverware and furniture rush around to make dinner. I do not think I was very impressed by the princesses, but more by the magic in the stories.
The tale I remember the most vividly is not a classic or even one that anyone will know. My family goes to Cashiers, North Carolina every Thanksgiving for a big reunion. Many years ago while we were up there in the mountains, there was a huge storm and the power went out. As hours went by, it got colder and darker in the house. All the cousins began getting antsy and bored, so my Uncle Bill took us all into a room and told us the story of the “Fagan Brothers”. The “Fagan Brothers” tale is now repeated each Thanksgiving at our reunion… and each year it gets more and more elaborate (and ridiculous). My Uncle Bill completely made up the story off the top of his head, but it is one of the most memorable fairy tales from my childhood.
Another factor of fairy tales that has affected me is, of course, the music! Disney music is one favorite things in the world. In fact, I am listening to “The Little Mermaid” as I write this blog. I think that Disney music is so great because it is loved and known by so many people. I still listen to it all the time and I know many of my friends listen to it too. It calms me down when I am stressed out (so I have recently been listening to it all time!). For this reason, these fairy tales did not just affect my childhood, but continue to affect me, even now!

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Linda Sue Park Article

I completely agree with what Linda Sue Park is saying about demanding quality books for children. Children generally do not know and do not care whether the book they are reading is written by a celebrity or not. Good literature is very important for children, because they are still learning what good literature means. It would be a complete shame for a child to read a bad book that is popular and recommended on the shelves simply because the author of it is a celebrity. All children deserve to learn by reading the best literature that is available to them.
An example of good literature, in my opinion, is the book Esperanza Rising. In this book, the characters are all believable and the author makes sure that the readers understand why Esperanza acts the way she acts. I think that it is a very enjoyable book that offers important lessons for children. They are able to read Esperanza’s story and learn from it. I think that the lesson of being humble is applicable to all school children; every student could benefit from reading this book. Copper Sun is also an example of good literature for children to read. It introduces them to a scary topic in a way that they can handle.
A Single Shard, by Linda Sue Park, is another example of excellent literature. The story was a great read and had a lot of meaning in it. I believe that Park took a great deal of time and effort in writing this novel. This book is interesting to analyze in terms of the article, because both the book and the paper were written by the same author. It is very reassuring to read the article by Park and know that she values children’s literature in such an intense way.
While adult literature is very important, children’s literature may be the most important thing written. Children are introduced to so many topics through the books they read. They also are strongly influenced by what they learn in these books. It is important that children are introduced to quality literature from the second they begin reading, because it will impact their outlooks from that moment, on. I really hope that all children’s book authors realize that they are helping to sculpt the minds of the next generation and take their jobs as seriously as Linda Sue Park.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Beach Article

In Esperanza Rising, Esperanza’s little friend, Isabel, did not win the Queen of May award in her class, even though she had the highest grades out of everyone. Isabel did not win the award because one of her classmates, a white girl, was selected by the teacher. This book demonstrates the argument that the Beach article makes about Affirmative Action. Although many are opposed to Affirmative Action because they think it is unfair, they do not realize that the “playing field” is also unfair. For example, Isabel clearly did not win the award simply because she is a minority. After a few more big disappointments, Isabel may decide that school and education is just not for her. This is unfair because Isabel is actually very smart; she just didn’t get the support and encouragement her classmate got from her teacher. If Isabel continues to try her best in school, she deserves extra consideration because of the outside prejudices that she had to deal with that her classmates did not.
Fender also plays a large role in understanding and relating with characters in literature. For example, in Fresh Girl I could identify with Mardi because I remember what it is like to be in school and have a crush on the cutest boy in class. Although my life has been absolutely nothing like Mardi’s life, I definitely understood her feelings for Santos and could relate to her. Although I am sure that the boys who read this novel were definitely able to somewhat relate to her (because they have had crushes on someone in their class before), I think that as a female I can better relate with her character. This proves that race and ethnicity are not the only important characteristics to consider when an audience tries to relate to a character.
It is very important to discuss perspectives in class because students in the classroom are different genders, come from different backgrounds, and have different experiences. While a student may not understand a character at first (when reading the book), the student may gain a better understanding when a classmate relates to the character. Each student has different perspectives and brings something unique to the discussion. I think that classroom discussions are the most important part of English classes. Discussions are usually much more beneficial and informative for me than writing papers or listening to lectures. Students listen and learn from each other when discussing books. Even if they cannot relate directly to a book, classmates CAN relate to their classmates; hence, if a classmate can relate to a novel, so can they.
The section where SM, KK, and MM are arguing reminds me of Copper Sun. Amari is repeatedly raped by her master because to him she is simply a piece of property. Throughout the novel, however, it does seem that he begins to develop tender feelings towards her. Although he does seem to begin to like her, I believe that it is strictly sexual. Even if he did begin to love her, he never would respect her or treat her the way he would treat a white woman. His affection is worthless because it could never develop into anything because of their race (and the fact that he is evil). Sure enough, in the end, he chases her as she runs for her freedom. Ultimately, he views her as his property, not as a human with real thoughts and feelings who has reasons to desire her freedom.