Showing posts with label Discussion Post. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Discussion Post. Show all posts
Rummanah Aasi
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 I find myself in a pensive mood as the Chicagoland area is expected to get hit with another 4 to 9 inches of snow later today. It's also Friday and I've had a very busy week at work. I was looking over my very large reading stack and got to wondering about the holes in YA literature. As you may have noticed, I tend to ask this question from some of my authors in my interviews because I do think there are some glaring holes that need to be filled. So, I started to ask myself "I wish there were more books about..." Below are some of my wishes and I love to know what yours are too.

I Wish There Were More Books About..

  • GLBT teens who are main characters and just are
  • Multicultural fiction that feature young adults from other continents beside North America and Europe. 
  • Male protagonists that are featured in books other than sports, science fiction, or fantasy
  • Ethnic minority kids who don't fall under their stereotypes and are the main characters
  • Strong female characters in realistic/contemporary fiction who aren't boy crazed and or desperately seeking to become popular. 
  • A paranormal romance without a love triangle and/or a creepy, stalker-like love interest. 
  • A paranormal romance where the heroine doesn't give up her own identity and interests for the sake of her love interest. Actually, this could go for realistic fiction too.
  • Smart romance books that have depth and appeal to both male and female readers.
  • Dystopian novels that doesn't regurgitate the same themes from Brave New World or 1984
  • Retellings of other popular classics that are not from Jane Austen's works or Pride and Prejudice in particular. I think Jane would be with me on this one.
  • Retelling of other myths besides the Greek and Roman
  • High fantasy books that are YA appropriate so I can offer them to teens at my public library
  • Interracial romances that don't end up in tragedy and/or constantly trying to defend themselves to others in their community.

 What about you? What would you like to see differently in YA? What are you tired of? Let's discuss!
Rummanah Aasi
 After receiving lots of great feedback from my post regarding reluctant readers, I wanted to do a follow-up post. The one concept that was reiterated again and again is how important it is for a reader to choose what he/she wants to read. Now I'm curious as to how do you decide which book to read?
   At first I thought this was a really dumb question because I obviously pick what interests me, but once I started to break down my answer things got slightly more complicated.  As I scan my bookshelves, I noticed that I choose a book based on one or more of the following: book cover, description, author's reputation, reviews, recommendation from a friend, and/or if the book is going to be a movie soon.

Image from Great Inspirational Quotes

  • Book Covers
 Normally, the book cover is the last thing I look at when it comes to choosing a book, however, I can't deny how important it is for some readers and even the book market. The book cover is generally people's first impression. If it is eye appealing, then more often than not people will pick it up from the shelves. Even I'm not immune to reading a book because of its beautiful cover. I've actually picked up a few books (Halo, Torment) because of their gorgeous cover and unfortunately, I was disappointed with both. 

  •  Book Title & Description
    I don't know about you, but when a book title catches my eye I immediately flip to the back of the book or read the inside panel to find out what the book is about. Generally, the book's blurb will highlight themes or concepts that will capture the reader's attention. There are even some horrible ones that basically tell you the entire plot *coughTwilightcough*. If the book blurb sounds interesting, I may pick it up. There are some key descriptions such as "__ will change his/her life forever", "his/her life will never be the same again", "tale of forbidden love", "__will need to make the ultimate sacrifice" that make me roll my eyes and simply say, "No thank you". It's funny how I tend to scoff the descriptions for contemporary fiction for adults more than teens.
 
  • Author's Reputation
 I have authors who I auto-read particularly when it comes to YA such as John Green, Sarah Dessen, David Levithan, Libba Bray, etc. I enjoyed their writing style and the types of books they write. I can almost always count on them for a good read and have yet to be disappointed. At times I'll even pick a book up by a renown author just to see why people are captivated by them and whether or not, in my opinion, live up to their hype. 

  • Book Reviews
  By far, the most influential and deciding factor of picking up a book for me is how well the book is reviewed. I may be considered a book snob, but I look to see how many good reviews a book gets. The larger the number, the higher the chances that I'll add it to my to be read pile. I know there has been a lot of debate throughout the blogosphere about rating systems and their accuracy, but I do think they are important. I know that the reviews are subjective and I take that into consideration when I read. I primarily use the review and the book's rating as a way to determine whether or not the book is worth my time. Now, will I like the book as much as others? It depends. There are several books such as The Help or The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society where I thought the book was just okay while some of my colleagues absolutely adored. There is no rule that states you have to like books that other people read. Frankly, disagreements about book is what makes book discussion and blogging fun. We all have our distinct tastes and feelings toward a book which is why we write/argue/talk about them.


  • Recommendations from a friend
  Have you ever notice how sometimes people cringe when you ask them for a book recommendation? Books, like music and movies, are very personal. Some may argue that the books we choose is a reflection of our own identity. If I'm stuck as to what to read or have really bad book aftertaste, I'll ask a friend. I've read a lot of books that have been recommended, but again, I'm not guaranteed I'll like the book as much them.

  • Coming soon to a theater near you 
   I'm not going to lie. I've picked up books because I either discovered the movie's trailer and found out it was originally a book. There some cases like the Lord of the Rings trilogy where I picked up the books after watching the movie because the world was so expansive and intricate that I was afraid of getting lost. In this case, I found it much helpful to see the movie first and then read the book. I've also had the opposite happen. For instance, I hated the film adaptation of The English Patient though the movie had a great cast. On a whim I picked it up and realized it was nothing like the movie at all and actually loved it.

 These are some of my determining factors on choosing which books to read. How about you? Which of these criteria, if any, prompts you to put a book in your reading pile?
Rummanah Aasi
  I wanted to write a post about reading for quite some time, but I wasn't completely sure where to start. I began to reflect on my own literacy autobiography, wondering how I transformed from someone who wouldn't give a book a second thought to someone who is constantly reading. Looking back on my childhood, I would definitely label myself as a reluctant reader. In fact I didn't really develop a love for reading until about fourth or fifth grade. Believe it or not, I would actually get reprimanded for not reading. My journey from a reluctant reader to an avid reader is not very different from other stories I've heard or witnessed while working at a library. I'm dedicating this post on the Top 5 things I've learned about my own journey and including some tips to help out struggling parents or readers themselves.


Top 5 Things I've Learned about My Own Journey

 1. Allow the reader the freedom to choose his/her own books to read instead of being forced to read it. I can't tell you how many times I've heard the following: "If I hadn't been forced to read it in school, I probably would've liked it". Like many, I too, once believed that reading was just like any other homework assignment: frustrating, boring, and painful. I actually spent more time as a child sitting in front of the TV more than reading because it was more active with lively characters, crafty plots, and virtually effortless on my end. It's not until someone asked me what I liked and gave me a choice to read book with appealing stories that my mindset about reading changed.  


2. Finding the right book for the right reader can make all the difference. I believe everyone is a reader. My definition of a reluctant reader is someone who hasn't found the right book for them to read. I went through a series of hit or misses with books when I was a kid. The Boxcar Children and Pollyana were a definite no while the Ramona books and Encyclopedia Brown books clicked. Why? That leads me to #3 and #4.

3. Knowing the readers likes and dislikes is very important. Narrow down what the reader wants from a book early on. Does he/she like character or plot driven novels? A fast paced book that will keep them on the edge of their seat or a book that will slowly grow on them? Books that introduce them to new worlds and creatures or a setting that mirrors their own lives? For example, I didn't like The Boxcar Children or Pollyanna because the stories were sad, unrealistic, and repetitive. How could these children survive, practically unscathed, and overcome all obstacles by just being good?

4. Reading is a personal experience. Most of the time you have to be vested into the characters, the plot, or even the themes of the book. Therefore, its essential that I like books that contain believable and relatable characters without the author's condescending tone. For me, there is nothing worst than reading about a perfect character who never gets into trouble, because frankly that person doesn't exist. When I read, I want to be able to picture myself in the book, wonder if I would make the same decisions as the characters that I'm reading about. I didn't see any part of myself in Pollyana, but the rumbustious, lively Ramona Quimby? Heck, yeah. I got in trouble for snooping around, breaking things, doing things that I was told not to do. Who didn't do those things when they were little?

5. It's okay not to love books that other people like. My reading tastes are very different than my siblings and even from my own coworkers. I don't know why, but it took me a long time to realize that I don't have to like everything that everybody else does. Having a community of eclectic readers allows discussion and insight. I can't tell you how thrilling it is to see that spark of excitement when a fellow reader tells me about a book that I have to read or better yet rant why I recommended this book to them because it was "awful". Once a reader has a positive experience about reading, they are more likely to want to have that experience again.

6. Reading should not be limited to just books only. The way we define literacy is much more complicated that the simple "read and write definition". Some people are visual learners while others are auditory. If you find reading books boring, try reading a magazine, an online webcomic, graphic novels, newspaper, reading blogs, checking out audiobooks from your library, etc.The bottom line is: find a format that works best for you. 

"Shameless!: the true story of how I won over a reluctant reader, in graphic form, by LaDuska Adriance and Ellen Lindner. Found on School Library Journal (9/26/2008)

Tips to Help Reluctant Readers
1. Learn why he/she is a reluctant reader. There are a wide variety of reasons why people don't like to read. Some claim that they don't have time, others find it simply boring, or they are just unmotivated, or unskilled at reading. The more you know about the person you are helping, the more prepared you will be.

2. Find out what the reader likes and doesn't like to do when or after they read. Some readers are very specific of their likes and dislikes. Some may like to have their teacher read-aloud a book, compare the movie to the book, or even do activities based upon a book which isn't necessarily a book report, but the single most important thing to keep in mind is let them choose a book of their own choice from a narrow list. Giving the reader an option allows him/her to take an active role and shows them that their interests matter.

3. Find books that are appealing to them, particularly in the book's description, cover appeal, and writing style. First impressions are very important to reluctant readers. If you give them a book that has a catchy, action-oriented, attractive, appealing, a good "blurb", chances are they are going to pick it up. Other things to keep in mind are: print style (i.e. is the book easy to read without squinting or using a magnifying glass?), format (i.e. is it consistent?, is there enough balance between text and white space in the book?), artwork/illustrations (is it appealing, does it add to the story?) As for writing style, you should think about the sentence structure and use of sophisticated vocabulary. The last thing you want to do is to make the reader feel dumb. Of course, you also need to keep the structure of the book in mind as well: does it hook the reader in the first 10 pages?, are the characters well defined, distinguishable and easy to relate to?, is the plot believable?, are the plot lines developed through dialog and action instead of paragraphs filled with descriptive text?

4. Know which book list to look for titles. Don't just choose books that are popular and expect reluctant readers to like them, but provide them a list of books that is suitable for their maturity and reading level. Some books that worked really well for reluctant readers in my experience are: Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowlings, The Twilight Saga by Stephenie Meyer, Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan, The Hunger Games series by Suzanne Collins, The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton, and Monster by Dean Walter Myers but by no means are these the only books. If you are looking for more titles, be sure to check out Marilyn Reynolds's  I Won’t Read and You Can’t Make Me: Reaching Reluctant Teen Readers in which Renyolds, a current author for teens and a former teacher, shares her motivation and strategies for reaching reluctant teen readers, including success stories from her past students and questions from readers, Edward T. Sullivan's Reaching Reluctant Young Adult Readers: A Handbook for Librarians and Teachers which not only identifies additional titles but also gives new strategies to reach reluctant teen readers, and you can always find helpful titles and a wide variety of book suggestions from the ALA's Quick Picks for Reluctant Readers which comes out annually.

5. If you don't succeed, try and try again! Working with reluctant readers can be frustrating experience for both, but use this opportunity to get to know your reader better and keep pitching them books that you think will catch their interest. Seek help from your school librarian, public librarian, your reader's peers, and even your trusted bookseller. You never know what will catch their eye.

I would like to hear from you. Were you once a reluctant now turned avid reader like me? What was your experience like? Any there any essential tips in helping reluctant readers that I missed? Please include them in the comments!
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