Archive for the ‘National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature’ Category

As you probably know, Walter Dean Myers has been named National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature. I have been STEAMING all morning, since I opened Facebook and found someone’s link to an article by Alexander Nazaryan in the NY Daily News (take the import of the article from whence it comes, Ed) entitled Against Walter Dean Myers and the Dumbing Down of Literature: “Those Kids” Can Read Homer. Hey, Alex, no one said they couldn’t, but if you’re trying to get a kid to read, Homer is probably not the place to start.

Here’s a link to the article.http://nydn.us/yMqker.

In a New York Times article (http://nyti.ms/z4hN7R), Myers states “I think that what we need to do is say reading is going to really affect your life…Look, you can make a difference in your child’s life, just by reading to him for 30 minutes a day.” Who better to say this than an author of poetry, fiction, non-fiction and children’s books, a man who didn’t grow up with parents reading to him, but taught himself to read? Myers has won award on top of award, so when Alex says that Myers’ books are ‘insipid’, my comment is “Hey, Alex, continue reading the New York Daily News, which has a reading level, of what, 2nd grade?”

I’d hate to hear what Alex has to say about the two previous Ambassadors, Katherine Paterson of Bridge to Terabithia fame and Jon Scieszka, author of one of my favorites, The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales. I guess Alex would say the later lives up to its name, stinky and stupid. Boy, it is a great book, though, isn’t it?

Getting back to Alex’s article, he says kids loved Myers’ books because they are reading about themselves. (We love reading about ourselves.) But then he says, “….the purpose of literature is to elevate. Not to enterain, to problematize or to instruct…” (Guess I’ve been wasting a lot of my time reading for my enjoyment.) He goes on “Not to make the world pretty, but to make it true, and by making it true, make it beautiful.” Well, Alex, the world isn’t always beautiful and if you’re making your literature ‘true’, it may not be beautiful. The writing may be beautiful, but the subject, not so much.

Alex further states, “We need less Myers and more Homer…” Whatever happened to having room for everything. That’s like saying we need more White Anglo Saxons and less Russians in America (Alex is Russian.). It’s just not true. We ned more diversity, not less. We can accommodate all types of people and all types of literature, the classics of the past and the classics yet to be.

Mr. Nazaryan congratulates himself for getting middle school classes in Flatbush, Brooklyn to read Homer. And I do as well. But I also congratulate him on being a literary snob who doesn’t know good literature when he reads it.

Funny, I’m just as steamed now as I was this morning, even though I got this off my chest. Guess I’ll just have to go and read Monster and Bad Boy and Fallen Angels and Autobiography of My Dead Brother. Boy, does that suck! NOT!

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