Guest Post on Kirby Larson’s Blog

Be sure to check out my guest post on author Kirby Larson’s blog. I share some of the ways I encourage my high schoolers and my colleagues to be lifelong readers.

A #coverflip Experiment with High School Freshmen

Today in class the freshmen read Maureen Johnson’s awesome essay, “The Gender Coverup“, wherein she takes a look at gendered book covers and calls to task those who think there are  “boy” books and “girl” books.

“I don’t care,” say some other people. Probably most of the people. Because a lot of people don’t read much or see why any of this affects their lives. But I believe it does affect us all, very much so, because these are all subtle (and sometimes not so subtle) value judgments on what kind of narratives matter.

“But!” some of those people who are still paying attention cry. “Boys don’t like to/can’t read about girls!”

“&^%$@,” say I.

Of course they can, and stop making their choices for them or telling them what they do or don’t want to do. This may be a big part of the problem.

I see this issue every day as a teacher.  I saw it in 6th grade and I see it with my high schoolers.  I’ll booktalk a fabulous book and the cover will influence students to read it or not read it.  I have plenty of male students who, as avid booktalkers of Thirteen Reasons Why  would love Before I Fall, but avoid it because of the cover. They deem it “feminine” and say that they will be made fun of.  A problem in and of itself, obviously, but we need to stop placing gender labels on books, too.

The conversations that stemmed from the article were fabulous.  I eavesdropped as students argued over whether girls are more willing to read broadly while boys stick to certain topics.  I watched as they analyzed the covers of the books on their desks.  And I hid a smile as they vehemently argued over whether the covers of YA novels fit gender stereotypes.  Plus, it led to a great analysis of the many editions of our current class novel, Things Fall Apart.  The students noted similarities between how Achebe’s characters were presented on some covers and how those in the Western world view(ed) Nigeria (and Africa as a whole).   Could this English teacher be any happier?

After reading the article and viewing the slideshow, I challenged my students to try #coverflip.  In groups, they decided on a book that they felt had a cover that appealed more to one gender than necessary.  Then, they searched for Creative Commons images that they could use to create a new cover.  In photoshop, they designed their new book cover with either a more neutral cover or one that appealed to gender stereotypes.  Take a look at what they came up with!

Holes

 

 

a wrinkle in time

 

 

WAR HORSE

 

 

eragon

 

 

 

Twilight Flipped Cover

 

 

 

????????????????????

 

 

 

400_F_13225159_5BT7QKgJEodkZX5q2k5uB9MUcTJjIxND

 

 

Screen Shot 2013-05-09 at 9.53.46 AM

 

 

Screen Shot 2013-05-09 at 9.55.38 AM

 

 

Screen Shot 2013-05-09 at 9.53.28 AM

 

Screen Shot 2013-05-09 at 9.58.59 AM

 

 

 

 

trafficked

 

 

 

CoverFlip_Patel_Donahue

 

fahrenheit 451

 

 

 

Screen shot 5773-09-29 at 10.38.41 AM

 

 

 

 

coverflipet

 

uglies

 

 

 

Screen Shot 2013-05-09 at 10.46.12 AM

 

 

 

PJ Book Cover

 

 

 

the hunger games

 

 

1984

 

 

 

The Fault in Our Stars

 

 

 

Screen Shot 2013-05-09 at 10.55.21 AM

 

 

 

Screen Shot 2013-05-09 at 10.56.57 AM

 

 

 

Screen Shot 2013-05-09 at 10.57.55 AM

 

 

 

Screen Shot 2013-05-09 at 10.58.36 AM

 

 

 

 

 

So impressed with what these students came up with in only 40 minutes!  And I have to admit, some of these #coverflip books really make me think.  What about you?

As a lover of books, I dream of a day when there are no “boy” or “girl” assumptions when it comes to audience.  After discussing it with my students, I think they will be the ones to make it happen.  For the most part, they see no reason why the narrator or characters should influence  the gender of a perceived audience.  You hate romance and love action?  Great!  Doesn’t matter if you are male or female.  You love character-driven stories with romance and can’t deal with gore?  Awesome!  Who cares if you are a girl or a guy?  An appealing cover should show some aspect of the story and the audience will find it, as my students said.  Marketers can’t always predict who will buy a book (data isn’t perfect, they pointed out!) so why not appeal to the broadest audience possible?

I love my students. :)

 

 

*students- if you don’t see your cover here, it’s because I didn’t get it!  Tweet or email it to me and I”ll update this post!

 

 

Slice of Life March 13th, 2013 #slice2013

Tonight I took the dogs to my friend’s grooming shop and they received baths and haircuts. Four hours later, they looked much better. Ok, one hour of that time was a training class, but the rest was spent bathing, brushing, and cutting hair.

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Dublin is ok with the bath and even the blow dryer. But he is a drama queen when it comes to cutting his hair.

20130313-231916.jpg

Bailey is taking applications for a new family. Preferably one that doesn’t believe in baths and definitely doesn’t use blow dryers.

But everyone looks beautiful. I’m just stuck with a lot of dog hair coveting me!

Slice of Life- March 4, 2013 #slice2013

For the past five weeks I have been taking Dublin to meet with a little girl on the autism spectrum.  She and Dublin are participating in a study, Animals Assisting Autism, which is examining whether therapy dogs are beneficial to individuals with autism spectrum disorder.

We only have a week left, and the entire experience has been beautiful to watch.  Dublin and his new friend have become partners in crime, and he doesn’t even react when she is having a bad day. He cuddles with her on her bed, plays games with her, and lets her lead him around the house and yard. She started out a little tentative around Dublin but now she is comfortable petting his back and head and even feeding him treats from her hand.

Last night we arrived and Dublin walked right in, leading the way up the steps to the family room.  He knows the routine!  He and Jamie (name changed) got right to work, playing with his toys.  She took out his squeaky toy and waved it in front of him before throwing it and asking Dublin to fetch.  Then she asked him for his paw and gave him a treat when he performed his trick.

Then we had a special surprise for Jamie.  Dublin had learned a new trick for her!  I wasn’t sure if he would perform it in a place full of distractions as it’s a brand new trick, but he performed very well.  When he rolled over and played dead, Jamie burst into giggles and it was glorious.  I’ve never been so proud of Dublin!

Handling a therapy dog really is a life-changing experience and I am so glad we are involved in this study.  Sometimes I groan because the appointment is in the middle of the day (especially when I have a busy weekend), but as soon we get there and Dublin gets to work I forget about any stress.

sols_6

What Will You Do with an English Degree?

  1. Michael Berube asks: ”what will you do with an English degree?” and concludes- a lot. bit.ly/X7lSqB
  2. RT @samplereality: Another way of interpreting the data @MichaelBerube1 uses ( bit.ly/Wkefuj) is that STEM degrees need more reading and writing. #MLA13
  3. “The more reading and writing they did – serious reading, analytical writing – the more they learned. ” bit.ly/Wkefuj > STEM please
  4. A very interesting article that makes a great argument for some majors that you may have never considered! fb.me/16PVsWNd7
  5. Great post! Developing critical media literacy across texts and kinds of media (including film) is absolutely an asset. buff.ly/S9IMQk
  6. That Humanities Degree you’re pursuing will suit you quite nicely career-wise… tinyurl.com/afgqyzt
  7. To anyone who’s ever been asked, “What do you do with an English (insert other creative) degree?” bit.ly/WbYzJa @CNN
  8. Wondering about the value of a liberal arts degree? One of our #pennstate profs breaks it down for @CNN ow.ly/gEaK6
  9. Great article by Michael Bérubé on the value of a Humanities degree schoolsofthought.blogs.cnn….
  10. RT @KenSmith: “Humanities majors .. are employable anywhere in the economy where there is thinking to be done”–Michael Bérubé. schoolsofthought.blogs.cnn….

2012 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

19,000 people fit into the new Barclays Center to see Jay-Z perform. This blog was viewed about 160,000 times in 2012. If it were a concert at the Barclays Center, it would take about 8 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

Welcome!

Just a quick hello to those of you who have found your way here from The Learning Network Blog at The New York Times.  I blog about literacy for the most part, with some focus on STEM-related issues.  I’m a passionate reader of YA books and post a lot of reviews here on the blog.  For more information on me, check out the About tab up top.

 

 

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