ALAN v22n1 - The Membership Connection

The Membership Connection

Kay Bushman, Editor
Ottawa High School, Ottawa, Kansas

News from ALAN

The 1995 annual ALAN Workshop will be held in November in conjunction with the NCTE Convention in San Diego, California. Those people interested in participating by introducing an author, chairing a session, or making a small-group presentation should send their requests to ALAN President Diana Mitchell, 264 Ruby Way, Williamston, Michigan 48895, by January 10. Proposals to present small-group sessions must include a brief description of the presentation. All requests must include home and work addresses and phone numbers.

A Report from the 1993 ALAN Workshop
The following summaries represent some of the small-group sessions at the 1993 ALAN Workshops in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania:

* What's New and Too Good To Miss in Nonfiction for Young Adults

The Orbis Pictus Award for Outstanding Nonfiction for Children was established in 1989 by NCTE. Using the lists of the outstanding choices for this prestigious award from the last three years, Judith W. Keck, Assistant Director of Staff Development, Licking County Schools, Newark, Ohio, discussed her eighteen favorites and suggested ideas for the classroom.

Variety earmarked the selections, which included such diverse choices as Pat Cummings' Talking with Authors, Rhoda Blumberg's The Remarkable Voyages of Captain Cook, Pam Conrad's Prairie Visions, Walter Dean Myers' Now Is Your Time! The African-American Struggle for Freedom, and Russell Freedman's Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

By reading aloud excerpts, Keck modeled effective booktalking and demonstrated ways these books -- many of them multicultural -- can be used in class and how several are natural companions for fictional works. For example, Jerry Stanley's Children of the Dustbowl was coupled with Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath, and Diane Stanley and Peter Vennema's Charles Dickens: The Man Who Had Great Expectations could introduce any Dickens novel.

As a result of Keck's presentation, participants became aware of the power and potential uses of the Orbis Pictus choices and of their prominent place in the elementary, middle school, and high school classrooms.

-- William R. Mollineaux

West Hartford Public Schools,   Connecticut

* Catch Them Where Their Interests Lie: The Uses of Nonfiction

Robert Small, Dean of the College of Education and Human Development of Radford University in Virginia, began his session on nonfiction for young adults with a few observations. First, he noted, nonfiction is the only genre to be defined by a negative: it is NOT fiction and alternative labels such as "faction" or "informational prose" do not improve how many of us react to the genre. Small also noted the absence of college courses in nonfiction as well as its infrequent appearance in textbooks. So -- what is the answer to this problem? Small suggested that we need further education in using nonfiction effectively with adolescents.

He recommended several resources for professionals. Chief among them were the following: Carter and Abrahamson's Nonfiction for Young Adults: From Delight to Wisdom (Oryx, 1990) and Stephanie Zvirin's The Best Years of Their Lives: A Guide to Teens in Crisis (ALA, 1993). By reading more nonfiction and including lots of it in our classrooms, Small believes we can better address the needs and interests of readers.

-- Teri S. Lesesne

Sam Houston State University

* The Coach in YA Literature: Mentor or Dementor

Chris Crowe of Brigham Young University says that coaches in YA novels tend to be narrowly-drawn, flat -- though not stock characters -- who were either villainous, demented sadists, or nurturing mentors. The nameless football coach in Robert Cormier's The Chocolate War is evil as he gives Jerry false hopes that he will make the team and allows other players to torment him. Coach Grupp in David Guy's Football Dreams belittles and discourages Dan and cheats him out of a starting position on the team. The basketball coach in Bruce Brooks' The Moves Make the Man is racist and continually stacks the cards against Jerome, a talented black player. Coach Lednecky in Chris Crutcher's Running Loose wants to win at any cost. In a crucial game he orders his players to injure the black star of an opposing team. The P.E. coach in Blaine and Breton Yorgasons's Chester, I Love You humiliates Travis Tilby in front of his classmates because he cannot complete the rope climb. It is because of such P.E. teachers as this that Marcy Lewis in Paula Danziger's The Cat Ate My Gymsuit spends so much of her time dreaming up excuses to avoid dressing out for P.E. In like manner, the protagonist in Brock Cole's Celine also avoids her P.E. coach and holds her breath and tightens her stomach muscles to appear ill.

Some coaches in the YA novel, however, provide positive role models. Coach Wiggins, Dan Keith's coach in David Guy's Football Dreams, is an understanding and wise junior varsity coach. Max Il Song, the P.E. teacher and swimming coach in Chris Crutcher's Stotan!, is a model mentor. (See Crowe's article in this issue of The Review.)

-- Don L. F. Nilsen

Arizona State University

* What Do You Mean We Have To Read a Book for Art Class?: YA Literature Across the Curriculum

Lois Stover, Department of Education at Towson State University, and Connie Zitlow, Director of Secondary Teacher Education at Ohio Wesleyan University, have used YA books in classes, such as secondary methods in which students are seeking certification in disciplines as diverse as art, science, and physical education. They provided the following rationale for using YA novels in interdisciplinary classes: students can enter the world of their discipline through the world of fiction; literature is a safe way to explore alternative realities; students who do not perceive themselves as readers are often more willing to read in classes other than English; fictional texts provide starting points for interdisciplinary planning; the approach is compatible with learning theories such as multiple intelligences.

The presenters provided the audience with numerous examples and annotated bibliographies of YA books in various disciplines, including such books as Scorpions by Walter Dean Myers (art), A Kindness by Cynthia Rylant (art), Midnight Hour Encores by Bruce Brooks (music), Fingers by William Sleator (music), The Bumblebee Flies Anyway by Robert Cormier (science), The Chemo Kid by Robert Lipsyte (science), Go Ask Alice (health), I Can't Hear You Listening by Hadley Irwin (health), and The Best Little Girl in the World by Steven Levenkron (health). The presenters also examined how single young adult titles can be used to develop thematic units. They cited as an example Night of the Whale by Jerry Spinelli, which can help students and instructors make connections between biology, mathematics, statistics, and physics.

-- Charlie Reed

University of North Carolina

at Asheville

* Heard Any Good Books Lately? Recorded Books of YA Literature

Karen H. Harris, Professor at the University of New Orleans, spoke about recorded books of young adult literature. Karen began with a brief history of the audiobook and then went on to define the intended audience for recorded books including low-vision children, those who are temporarily unable to read perhaps because of a physical condition, attention deficit disorder students, ESL youngsters, students with an aversion to books, poor readers, and avid readers who are looking for an added opportunity with books. In other words, all young adults can be the audience for audiobooks. Harris discussed the type of books that lend themselves well to tape: books set in a foreign locale, books written in dialect, poetry, and complex works at a cognitive level beyond their abilities. With a definite preference for unabridged versions, Harris talked about the strengths of recordings that use trained actors, whether as single readers or multiple voices. A handout was provided that included a bibliography of more than 20 outstanding young adult titles available as audiobooks. With an engaging sense of humor, Karen Harris convinced the audience that audiobooks are, indeed, "real" books and deserve acceptance in the field of young adult literature.

-- Mary Ann Cabin

Western Illinois University

* Developing and Presenting Readers Theatre Scripts

Kathy Latrobe, Associate Professor of Library and Information Studies at the University of Oklahoma and author of two books on readers theatre, provided a list of successful techniques for developing readers theatre scripts and then illustrated her main points by comparing original excerpts and scripts she had written. A few of the many issues discussed were selecting scenes that capture the spirit of an entire work, writing narrator speeches to help bridge gaps, providing directions about tone or gestures in parentheses in the script, and introducing characters at the beginning of a presentation.

Throughout the session, delightful and poignant performances of the scripts were given by groups from the audience. Scripts presented included a poem from Nye's Hugging the Jukebox, as well as scenes from Brooks' The Moves Make the Man, Wolff's Probably Still Nick Swanson, Wrede's Searching for Dragons, and Freedman's Indian Chiefs. A final group demonstrated the power of readers theatre with classic literature by performing a scene from Crane's The Red Badge of Courage while the rest of the audience followed along on scripts that had been distributed.

-- Bonnie Ericson

California State University --


* The Good, the Bad, and the Boring: A Review of Commercial Novel Guides

Suzanne Reid and Edgar H. Thompson reported on a survey they conducted of novel guides from commercial sources. Reid, of Radford University in Radford, Virginia, described the criteria she and Thompson set for evaluating the guides. They looked to see if each individual guide included activities that prepared students for reading, guided and supported comprehension during reading, and extended and applied learning after reading. Moreover, they examined the questions used in the guides and the thoroughness with which the strategies were explained.

Thompson, of Emory and Henry College in Virginia, began by cautioning the audience not to assume that the guides would be helpful. He then discussed the ways in which guides approached the writing process and the types of questions found in various guides.

After describing and analyzing several guides of the novels Dicey's Song, The Outsiders, and Bridge to Terabithia, the presenters advised the audience to investigate novel guides before making a purchase. They suggested that potential buyers of these guides be aware of the viewpoints they want to open up; know what they want students to do and what experiences they want students to have; and, finally, be aware of the manner in which students will express what they learn.

-- Ann Wilder

Southern High School

Durham, North Carolina

* Lyndhurst Literacy Project The Lyndhurst Literacy Project helps middle school students attain ownership of their reading and writing, developing them into live-long learners. The trio of presenters from the Chattanooga Public Schools were Jan Mickler, supervisor of Language Arts and Co-Director of the Lyndhurst Literacy Project, and Shannon Mowrer and Rose Mary Stalter, eighth grade teachers in the project at Orchard Knob Middle School. Since their students are from the inner-city, the teachers felt there was a need for more structure than Atwell wrote about in her book In the Middle. The class begins, for instance, with a quick mini-lesson in grammar and usage. "Duo-logues," a written conversation between two people, are expanded into a short story by adding a lead and a conclusion.

The reading workshop uses common reading, independent reading, and "lit sets" as a way of promoting choice in student reading. The common reading is the book that sets up the theme or topic for the unit, followed by the student's choice from five or six books that develop the theme. Options in written or oral projects, collaborative or individual activities provide the student with opportunities to make the story more real for them and their classmates.

-- Ruth K. J. Cline

University of Colorado

News of Publications

The Connecticut Council of Teachers of English announces the publication of Literature for Teenagers: New Books, New Approaches, compiled by Donald R. Gallo, former ALAN president. This work includes 37 articles by teachers of reading, library media, English, English education, and young adult authors. The articles provide a wide variety of information about young adult literature, including classroom applications. Copies may be ordered for $12.95 by writing to Connecticut Council of Teachers of English, Box 37, Bozrah, CT 06334.

The American Library Association announces a first-time-ever publication, Best Books for Young Adults: The Selection, the History, the Romance, by former ALAN president Betty Carter, which contains all the Best selections from the founding of the list in 1966. Also included is an essay discussing the significance of the list and the reading trends of young adults over the years and biographical essays and selected letters from authors. Also from The American Library Association comes The Newbery and Caldecott Awards: A Guide to the Medal and Honor Books, 1994 Edition. This work provides an annotated listing of winning titles since the inception of the awards through the 1994 selection. At $25.00 and $14.00 respectively, these books can be ordered by contacting Order Department, American Library Association, 50 East Huron Street, Chicago, IL 60611; phone 1-800-545-2433 or fax 312-944-2641.

Spiritseeker Publishing, Inc. has published Just for Me: The Self-Esteem and Wellness Guide for Girls Age 10-15 by Donna Ternes Wanner. This book addresses such issues as how to improve self-confidence in dealing with parents, older relatives, and schoolmates; and how good manners and etiquette help build self-confidence; and how to begin understanding your needs for the future through jobs, hobbies, and volunteer work. If interested in ordering, contact Claudia A. Noble, Publicity Agent, Spiritseeker Publishing, Inc., 124 8th St. North, Fargo, ND 58102.

Losers and Winners by Frances Miller is now back in print, along with a teachers' guide also written by Miller. Both are available from Baker and Taylor or Crystal River Press.

News of Awards

Beardance by Will Hobbs (Atheneum) has won both the Western Writers of America's Spur Award and the Colorado Book Award.

News of Conferences

The NCTE International Conference, co-sponsored by the International Federation for the teaching of English and in cooperation with the International Consortium and International Assembly of NCTE, will be titled "Reconstructing Language and Learning for the 21st Century: Connecting with Our Classrooms" and will take place July 7-9, 1995, at New York University. Featured speakers will include Peter Elbow, Janet Emig, Arthur Applebee, James Moffett, and authors from around the world. All teachers of English (Pre-K through University) throughout the world are invited to attend. Inquiries should be addressed to 1995 International Conference, Attn: Linda Oldham, National Council of Teachers of English, 1111 West Kenyon Road, Urbana, IL 61801-1096, or faxed to 217-328-0977.