Wednesday, December 31, 2008

I Am Finally Matched With My Reading ePal!

I was matched today with my ePal after about two months of waiting. I am very excited to be matched with a second grader, Juliana, who is very interested in many activities. We will be reading and writing to each other about the book Jake Drake: Bully Buster by Andrew Clements.

During this cycle with Juliana, I will:

~Get and read Jake Drake: Bully Buster, the book Juliana selected.
~Learn more about Jake Drake: Bully Buster, the genre and topic, Bullies, by exploring the In 2 Books resources.
~Receive a response to my “Getting to Know You” letter from Juliana.
~Write a letter that demonstrates my interest in Juliana and inspires Juliana to think more deeply.
~Write back to Juliana (responding to Juliana’s comments and questions, discussing important issues about the book and posing thought-provoking questions that require Juliana to return to the book to respond).

As a Baltimore City English teacher, I have maintained an interest in the reading skills of children. You would not believe how low the reading level could be of a high school student that I have to teach grade-level work to. It is even more disheartening to see students who have low reading levels not caring about whether or not their reading level improves. This can make teaching very hard.

I do not blame the low-level reading students for their lack of confidence. If a teacher gave up on them in the earlier part of their education, why would they think I would be any different eight or nine years later? This is why we (adults) have to show children that we believe in them; they will in turn believe in themselves.

I will say that I do love to see my students reading! However, this new epidemic of my African American teenage females reading Urban Fiction upsets me. Urban Fiction is a popular yet controversial genre especially among young African-American and Hispanic library patrons. The genre is characterized mainly by sex, drugs, violence and features characters living in large urban cities. Some say as long as the child is reading let them read. However, if they are reading explicit sexual scenes, couldn't this lead to a dangerous curiosity?

After writing a journal article on Urban Fiction for Associated Content, the Chicago Public School System included my journal in an online database of reference material for librarians. The idea is for Chicago librarians to read about Urban Fiction before ordering it. If you are interested in reading the article, it is called “Is Urban Fiction Appropriate for African-American Teenagers” and can be found at:

So, back to my main point, I am excited about the idea of helping to encourage younger children to read. I will post updates about our book and Juliana.

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