Summer Reading: Challenges, Choices & Censorship
By KRISTEN STERNBERG | NIE Educational Consultant
Summer can be an excellent time to visit your local library and catch up on your reading. There are endless reasons to read, because reading no doubt affects you in areas ranging from improving your academic skills to bettering your self-image, but one of the best reasons to read is because it's fun! It's fun to learn new things, be transported into another place or time or just let your imagination soar. All these things happen when you are reading.
Library assistant Lisa Doig helps 2nd-grader Pattey Orellana to read
"The Lion King" at Pierson public library. (Photo: News-Journal/German Garcia)
What reading choices will you make? You probably have favorite authors, or perhaps favorite book genres (types, such as science fiction, adventure and biography). Although about 4,000 new children's books are published every year, only around 10% of those will make their way to library and bookstore shelves.
What factors determine whether or not certain books are available? One topic that is constantly a subject of controversy is censorship. While our Constitution's First Amendment guarantees freedom of speech, which is interpreted to include freedom to write and publish, many feel that some books are not appropriate in language or subject matter, or for certain age groups. They want these books banned from schools, libraries and other public forums. Over the years, many books have been declared inappropriate and pulled from library and bookstore shelves.
People in favor of censorship generally feel they are protecting the public through advocating the banning of certain books. Are any of the books you enjoy "under fire" in this controversy? You might be surprised to know that two popular authors, J.K. Rowling and Judy Blume, are frequently under fire. Some people don't think kids should read books about magic or sorcerers, for example, or books that might contain name-calling or other sensitive issues. To learn more about J.K. Rowling, book banning and the Harry Potter series, check out this article found at the Education World Web page. Do you agree or disagree with the information presented?
Whatever you read, challenge yourself to do it often. Aspiring authors know that good writers are also good readers. While reading, they encounter tools and techniques other authors have employed, and they learn new words to use in their own writing. Even if you don't plan to become a famous author, you will probably benefit by increasing the amount of time you spend reading.
Before you go on, be sure to look at this News-Journal article about a local author who is enjoying well-deserved fame not only for her nine children's books, but also for a new film based on one of them. Try to imagine how you would feel if you achieved a similar success through your hard work.
Try these interesting activities using The News-Journal!
- Here's an activity to help all of you budding authors increase your word power: Turn to the movie listings in your newspaper. Choose five films and then rewrite the title of each, using synonyms in place of as many words as you can. For instance, for the title "Along Came a Spider" you might substitute "An Arachnid Approached." Have fun by showing your creations to a friend, asking him or her to guess the original movie titles. (Sunshine State Standards: LA.A.1.2.3, LA.B.2.2.6, LA.D.1.2.1)
Basketball and books
Basketball players from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University read to Pathways pupils as part of the school's goal to read 6,000 books before the Winter Olympic games. The reading promotion was called "Reading, the Choice of Champions." Here, Embry-Riddle junior Dennis Carr, of Louisiana, reads "Daddy Doesn't Live Here Anymore" to a group of pupils in a guidance counselor's room. (Photo: News-Journal/Joanna Kaney)
- Check your newspaper regularly to find and read articles about local authors, clipping any you come across. Post the news stories on a wall or bulletin board, and try to read one of the interesting books mentioned. (Sunshine State Standards: LA.A.2.2.5)
- Where do writers get their inspiration? One possible source is the newspaper. Jules Verne author of "Around the World in Eighty Days" told pioneering female journalist Nellie Bly that he got the idea for that book from a story in the French newspaper, "Le Siecle." Newspapers are full of information: Happenings, current events and issues that affect our lives are just a few kinds of items your newspaper contains. Use your newspaper to find an article you think would make an interesting children's story. Sketch an outline and some illustration ideas for your story. Be sure to write a conclusion for your story if it was not resolved in the article. (Sunshine State Standards: LA.A.2.2.5, LA.B.1.2.1, LA.B.1.2.2, LA.B.2.2.6, LA.E.1.2.2)
- Find and clip six photographs from your newspaper. In random order, label each photo with a different number from 1 to 6. Glue or paste your photos in a circle, in numerical order, on a piece of paper. Now, make up a few sentences to establish an imaginary link between photos 1 and 2. Add your words to your poster. Continue this creative writing exercise for each set of two photos (from 2 to 3, then 3 to 4, and so on) until you finish with a link from photo number 6 back to photo 1. How did you do? (Sunshine State Standards: LA.B.2.2.2, LA.B.2.2.3, LA.B.2.2.6, LA.D.2.2.1)
- Think about various literary figures you admire. List some of the qualities they possess that you value. Then, use your newspaper to find and read articles about real-life heroes. As you compare them to the book characters you chose, identify the similarities and differences you find. (Sunshine State Standards: LA.E.1.2.3)
A copy of Florida's Sunshine State Standards can be found at intech2000.miamisci.org.
Check out these links to learn more:
The Internet Public Library's Reading Zone is one place to find on-line stories, including some in Spanish and French. You can also follow links to learn more about your favorite books and authors. You can even check out some scary stories by clicking on Advanced Reading at that site.
Valerie checks a book cover at the DeLand Regional Library on Saturday morning. (Photo: News-Journal/Peter Bauer)
Here's a chance to solve an on-line mystery while you learn how to be a better story writer! Take this journey to read "A Jury of Her Peers."
Storytelling is literature using the oral (by mouth) tradition. Instead of painting stories with words, as a writer does, storytellers perform their stories. Audiences, rather than reading the stories, watch and listen-and sometimes participate. Stories might be legends that have been handed down over centuries, or a storyteller may make up his or her tales. This art form is popular among people of all ages. You might also enjoy a Web site with resources for storytellers.
The Newspaper Association of America's web site contains links to many newspapers in the U.S. and around the world. Visit the site and check some of them out, to see if they have recently published any articles about young adult books and their authors. To access the newspapers at the site, select a state. Click on the "Internationals" button to view choices from other countries.
Below is a selected list of some interesting summer reading choices:
BOOKS FOR BOYS GRADES 3-5
"The Boy of a Thousand Faces" by Brian Selznick
Obsessed with horror films, ten-year-old Alonzo dreams of transforming himself into "The Boy of a Thousand Faces" and gets his wish in an unexpected way.
"Henry Huggins" by Beverly Cleary
When Henry adopts Ribsy, a dog of no particular breed, humorous
"Jack on the Tracks: Four Seasons of Fifth Grade" by Jack Gantos
Moving with his unbearable sister to Miami, Florida, Jack tries to break some of his bad habits but finds himself irresistibly drawn to things disgusting, gross, and weird.
"Kneeknock Rise" by Natalie Babbit
Everyone else in the village is afraid of the creature who supposedly dwells at the top of Kneeknock Rise but young Egan investigates for himself.
"The Landry News" by Andrew Clements
A fifth-grader starts a newspaper with an editorial that prompts her burnt-out classroom teacher to really begin teaching again, but he is later threatened with disciplinary action as a result.
"Day of the Dragon King" by Mary Pope Osborne
The magic treehouse takes Jack and Annie back two thousand years to ancient China where they must find the original copy of an old legend before the Imperial Library is burned down by the evil Dragon King.
"Marvin Redpost, Class President" by Louis Sachar
Even though they have all come to school in holey clothes, Marvin and his third grade class manage to impress their surprise visitor--the President of the United States.
"Redwall" by Brian Jacques
When the peaceful life of ancient Redwall Abbey is shattered by the arrival of the evil rat Cluny and his villainous hordes, Matthias, a young mouse, determines to find the legendary sword of Martin the Warrior which, he is convinced, will help Redwall.
"Shiloh" by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
When he finds a lost beagle in the hills behind his West Virginia home, Marty tries to hide it from his family and the dog's real owner, a mean-spirited man known to shoot deer out of season and to mistreat his dogs.
"The Time Warp Trio" by Jon Scieszka
While on a field trip to New York's Museum of Natural History, Joe, Sam, and Fred travel one hundred years into the future, where they encounter robots, anti-gravity disks, and their own grandchildren.
BOOKS FOR GIRLS GRADES 3-5
"Amber Brown is Not a Crayon" by Paula Danziger
The year she is in the third grade is a sad time for Amber because her best friend Justin is getting ready to move to a distant state.
"Anastasia on Her Own" by Lois Lowry
Her family's new organized schedule for easy housekeeping makes thirteen-year-old Anastasia confident that she can run the household while her mother is out of town, until she hits unexpected complications.
"The Ballad of Lucy Whipple" by Karen Cushman
In 1849, twelve-year-old California Morning Whipple, who renames herself Lucy, is distraught when her mother moves the family from Massachusetts to a rough California mining town.
"Beezus and Ramona" by Beverly Cleary
Beezus' biggest problem is her 4-year-old sister Ramona. Even though Beezus knows sisters are supposed to love each other, with a sister like Ramona, it seems impossible.
"Cousins" by Virginia Hamilton
Concerned that her grandmother may die, Cammy is unprepared for the accidental death of another relative.
"The Doll People" by Ann M. Martin and Laura Godwin
A family of porcelain dolls that has lived in the same house for one hundred years is taken aback when a new family of plastic dolls arrives and doesn't follow The Doll Code of Honor.
"Esperanza Rising" by Pam Munoz Ryan
Esperanza and her mother are forced to leave their life of wealth and privilege in Mexico to go work in the labor camps of Southern California, where they must adapt to the harsh circumstances facing Mexican farm workers on the eve of the Great Depression.
"Gus and Gertie and the Missing Pearl" by Joan Lowery Nixon
Arriving for a vacation on Holiday Island, penguins Gus and Gertie stumble into a hotel full of Bad Guys and have a beautiful, valuable deep-sea pearl stolen from them.
"Junie B. Jones is a Party Animal" by Barbara Parks
Lucille invites Junie B. and her friend Grace to sleep over at her very rich nanna's house, where everything is beautiful, expensive, and breakable.
"Mary on Horseback: Three Mountain Stories" by Rosemary Wells
The stories of three families who were helped by the work of Mary Breckinridge, the first nurse to go into the Appalachian Mountains and give medical care to the isolated inhabitants.
Published May 28, 2001
Updated May 26, 2004