Session 3 Synthesis: The Promise and the Peril of Young Adult Literature

22 06 2011

David Small’s memoir, Stitches, inspired each member of the book club to relate some very personal, often sad, and bittersweet memories. Not surprising for a narrative that shares the story of this talented artist/illustrator’s tragic childhood that included being tormented by a mentally ill mother (and grandmother) and the loss of a vocal cord to cancer that was caused by his radiologist father.

Comics have come of age.

In her presentation to the Spring class of ECI 521, graphic novel aficionado, Lauren Nicholson proclaimed that “graphic novels are coming upon a new golden age.” Graphic novel, you say? What is a graphic novel and what is the difference between comics and graphic novels? Good questions, Amber. Blakely described the lines as “blurring” which is also what Lauren had to say about any distinction. At one point, a graphic novel was a bound series of comics but no more. We can’t even use the binding to distinguish now. Lauren suggests that we refer to this medium — not a genre — as “sequential art.” Meaning simply that there are images presented in a sequential fashion to share a narrative. Learn more about sequential art in Lauren’s presentation . . .

And see the Stitches Book Club’s responses and those of the Runaways and Ghostopolis . . .

Major Take-Aways

From Eliza Dresang’s theory of Radical Change, we feel some reassurance that books will do just fine in our ever-increasingly digital world. In fact, books and digital tools are forming a successful partnership where one supports the other. Particularly for young adult literature, this partnership seems to be leading to more interest in reading. Young adult literature has the strongest sales of any area of publishing today.

We also see a healthy partnership in the image and the word as graphic novels win their place in the English Language Arts curriculum just as they have in the minds and hearts of children of all ages — 2 to 92.

This image-word partnership is one that will require that we as English teachers learn to see and speak the language of visual elements just as we do literary elements. We are not only teach young adults to learn with graphic texts but to produce their own image-word creations.

An added benefit we discussed of this image-word partnership is that we can better reach all students via this dual coding processing. Ali refers to this theory when she informs us that we learn best with both – image and text –and that this is “the language of living” for young adults and should be “the language of learning.”

Frances could not resist sharing a terrific quote from Caldecott-winner, David Macaulay’s acceptance speech: It [the award[ tells readers, especially young ones, that it is essential to see, not merely to look; that words and pictures can support each other; that it isn’t necessary to think in a straight line to make sense; and finally, that risk can be rewarded.

The Moralist and the Artist

“They [young adults] must surpass us, go further in their questioning than we have. If we try to end their search just as they begin it, we deprive the world of their curiosity, their passion, their commitment. Just as the art crowd has to risk encouraging readers to like materials they themselves do not appreciate, the moral folks need to trust teenagers to be seekers.” — Marc Aronson, Beyond the Peril (2002, p. 96)

For all those who identified yourself on one side or the other or chose to straddle the fence, realize that we must go beyond and teach with literature that inspires our students to be seekers of knowledge and understanding and artists who seek to create new forms of art.

See areas of the “Learning Through Literature with Young Adults” that we’ve discussed so far:

"Learning Through Literature with Young Adults" Framework built so far . . .

See archived session . . .

Books Recommended:

David Macaulay’s Black and White — just a preview of this Caldecott-winning, Radical Change picture book

Leonard Shlain’s The Alphabet and the Goddess — Could literacy with its forced linearity have contributed to a shift to left-brain thinking? Is the Web returning us to a more holistic, creative approach to thinking?

New tools recommended:
CoSketch — create cool sketchbook-like online posters as well as collaborate artistically — See Stitches Book Club’s responses and those of the Runaways and Ghostopolis . . .




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