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Featured Author: Patricia McCormick – Three Time Literary Award Winner

Patricia McCormickIn addition to being a journalist, Patricia McCormick is also a writer. Until 1999, when her first novel Cut debuted, she was a journalist. She has written for numerous periodical publications including The New York Times, Parents Magazine, and The New York Times Book Review. Her first novel, which was reviewed in my previous blog, is about a 13 year old girl who self-harms. She has written three other novels since then: My Brother’s Keeper, about a boy struggling with his brother’s drug addiction, published in 2005; Sold, about a 13 year old Nepalian girl who becomes a victim of human trafficking—being sold into prostitution, published in 2006; and Purple Heart, about a man who is honoured with a Purple Heart but  does not feel that he deserves it, published in 2010. All her novels are realistic fiction, and her stories bring these very real-life issues to the forefront.

The topics McCormick addresses through her novels allow teachers to make connections with real-life events and news in addition to further developing reading and writing skills. Although the reading level of these novels is most appropriate for grades 7 or 8, I would also ask myself if the material is age appropriate. I believe that Sold would be more appropriate as a grade 9 or 10 novel at the college (applied) level even though they would be readable to students in intermediate school. Using these novels in essential (remedial) high school classes would be high interest to the students; however, it would require more teacher direction since their reading ability is weaker.

Even though you or I as the teacher may not think the novel is inappropriate, there will be parents with different values and beliefs concerning when such controversial or serious issues should be presented to their children. If you are doing a choice novel study, I highly advocate using a parent permission form to ensure that the parent is okay with the selection their child has made. Here is one of the forms (novelpermission) that I use in my grade 11 English class since several of the novels have controversial content or profanity. I have not ever had a parent complain about one of these novels while using this form. When they receive this communication, they get an idea of what the novel is about and how it has educational merit; thus, instead of objecting to the content that their child talks about at the dinner table, they already know that what is being read has an educational purpose. If you are doing a group novel study, where the whole class is studying the same novel, it could be problematic to chose a novel with possibly objectionable material; if you have a parent who objects, you may be required to provide an alternate novel study for that student. I have seen this happen several times so far in my teaching career.

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7 comments to Featured Author: Patricia McCormick – Three Time Literary Award Winner

  • What a challenge it must be to find great books that satisfy all of the parents as well as the learning objective. I would think that diversity of values and disparate beliefs would make that almost an impossibility shy of completely diluting the educational value of the novel.
    My hat’s off to English teachers who succeed!
    .-= Linnea´s last blog ..Creating Compelling Content =-.

  • CheekyLitTeach

    It’s difficult to find one novel for a class of individuals; however, even if there are a number of value and religious systems represented in the class, it is possible to have a discussion about the content. Tolerance of others’ beliefs is a main premise of the public education system in Canada, so no topic should be off-limits. What’s paramount though in the discussion is for everyone to remain respectful to each other even if they disagree. I believe a great teacher is one who is able to conceal his or her value system from the students because educating is not about purporting your own beliefs just because you are the teacher.

    Thanks for your inspiring comment.

  • Interested perspective of How to select books for young reading, My son is going into 9th grade and will have to have him look at the books you have listed.
    .-= Chris Bernardo´s last blog ..How to have a Successful 30 Day Challenge – From Day 1 =-.

  • Hi Chris,

    These are great novels for grades seven to ten (depending on reading ability). I would recommend he start with My Brother’s Keeper.

  • Kimberly,
    My hat goes off to teachers, They have to find the right books that will agree with everyone. I think what you are doing is great. I bet you have to get all of your teaching materials approved first by the school. This is really of value.

  • CheekyLitTeach

    Thanks for the encouragement! Most school boards have guidelines for choosing books; however, in my school we have a head of English who must place the order for any books, so that person will veto a decision if it’s deemed inappropriate. Usually though, our discussion center around whether the novel is of appropriate challenge for the course in question. At our school, we are generally permitted to study any novel, and if a parent is against the choice an alternate novel study is provided for the student. In my 14 years of teaching, the novel substitution has actually only occurred a few times in our whole language department.

    I appreciate the encouraging comments. :-D

  • As I read this post, many thoughts were flowing through my mind. First, my daughter will be in the 7th grade in the fall and I’m glad there is a process around book selection. Second, parents (especially this one) may not want their children to read certain books and alternatives should be presented before it’s time to read the book for class. Third, k-12 educators have to balance the needs of the students, the guidelines of school administration and the wrath of mommy and daddyzilla!

    I have nothing but the highest admiration and appreciation for education and educators. As an educator (and daddyzilla), I will take a look at these books.

    BTW: I selected “My Brother’s Keeper”.

    Thanks for sharing this information Kimberly!

    .-= James Hampton´s last blog ..Thinking About Getting Into Network Marketing? – Part Two =-.

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