Romeo and Juliet versus Edward and Bella: Where is adolescent literature heading?

This semester, students in READ 6310 Children’s and Adolescent Literature were asked to contribute a post to this blog.

By Maritza A. Ramos

In the past few years, I have noticed a steady decline in a past time that I enjoyed greatly as a young adult – reading. Additionally, I have observed the growing trend of a particular type of reading material that has made its way to bookstores and libraries across the nation (and the world). These new books are fairly similar, containing a powerful female character that is singularly different and being sought after by a brooding captivating male presence. The pair is usually surrounded by mutual acquaintances or family in hopes of either uniting or separating the star-crossed lovers.

As an educator, I am pleased that young readers are choosing to read a chapter book over a magazine or picture book provided that the literature selection provides some room for discussion. Is there a preceding storyline that breathed life to this tale? Are the characters in this story line comparable to characters of classical literature past? Ultimately, some form of a connection is made from text to reader and vice versa be it negative or positive, but most recent modern story lines have been influenced by cinematic interpretation.

twilight-booksThe term ‘star-crossed’ has been applied to describe couples in recent literature which always seems to provoke the sudden urge to smirk or laugh outright in certain company.   Most recently there has been the uproar sensation Twilight series by Stephanie Meyers, which tells the tale of the outsider Bella Swan who captures the attention of the mysterious Edward Cullen. By modern standards and as a female, I can see how this story plays out as enticing and romantic, but I prefer to remember classical romances, written in times when wording was important and not rants narrated by an emotional teenager. What is the underlying draw to this book series? To be quite honest, I had not heard about the book series or the author until I was made aware of a movie to be starring a popular young man and woman. The cinematic counterparts increased the interest in this series now that Edward and Bella had faces that were appealing by Hollywood conventional standards.

2936William Shakespeare’s, Romeo and Juliet is what I associate with the term star-crossed lovers. While the masses prefer Twilight, I have to admit I prefer the effort that is made to read this work and see a different face put to the characters. Romeo and Juliet was a tragic love story and told the tale of two young lovers who were forbidden to mingle due to a deep family feud resulting in a secret marriage and tragic deaths. The youth of today might prefer happy endings to tragic ones, but Shakespeare’s words have withstood the test of time and continue to be studied, dissected, and analyzed. Where will the Twilight series be in a few centuries?

The Visual Appeal of Multicultural Books

This semester, students in READ 6310 Children’s and Adolescent Literature were asked to contribute a post to this blog.

By M. Salinas

As a little girl I was raised in the Rio Grande Valley, in the city of Edinburg. When I was in preschool I was taught how to read and from then I was able to advance into my second language, English. At the beginning of my elementary years, even with trouble speaking fluent English, I would pick up English books with interesting front covers. I know everyone says don’t judge a book by its cover, yet I did that throughout my school years. I’m a visual person and always have been. Even though some the books weren’t as good as I expected them to be and didn’t relate to me; I read through them. This helped me eventually gain general knowledge through literacy. The problem about it is that the books I would pick up were books about the life I wished I had and not relevant to my own. This could cause a lot of disappointment in a child’s life as they grow older and limit their understanding of self-identity, especially if they are from different cultures. Books about different cultures can influence students to be able to really understand who they are and the diversity the world is made up of.

The necessity of multicultural books being present in the classroom should be a teacher’s obligation. Everyone is different, no two people think alike, even if raised in the same environment. Having a multicultural library can help motivate children to read about their own culture or simply another one that they are interested about.

These books should be presented to children starting in an early childhood education program. The problem is that most of these books don’t have interesting or captivating front covers or illustrations for young children. Coming back to the visual stimulating book covers I chose when I was younger, even though they had no relation to me or my life, the colors in the books intrigued me enough to want to pick them up and finish them. I strongly believe if a book isn’t being read a lot, it’s more than likely the cover and illustrations that need some kind of update. Instead of picking up books that could be able to be meaningful to a Latino student, the student more than likely is picking up a book with some stereotypical superhero that only speaks English. Adding more color, bolder objects, or simply something that brings curiosity to the child’s mind would be a great way to update these books. I believe many multicultural books stereotypes could be destroyed, and like this everyone will eventually be treated equally and children will be able to gain perspectives of scenarios they’ve never encountered.

Learning to Read with Authentic Books…I Wish!

This semester, students in READ 6310 Children’s and Adolescent Literature were asked to contribute a post to this blog.

By Ana Rodriguez

My mother taught me how to read in Spanish before I went into kindergarten. I felt so accomplished that I was one of a few students that already knew how to read. But my bubble was quickly busted when I was bombarded with learning the English language with nursery rhymes and the traditional folktales in the classroom. When I would hear the nursery rhymes, all I would hear were words; they had no meaning to me. I remember thinking, “Quién es la ‘little red hen?” “Quién es ‘Goldilocks?” The fact that I could already read in Spanish helped me understand and transfer my knowledge quickly to the learning of English. My mother would tell me all those folktales in Spanish, so the transferring process was easy for me.

El libro magicoI learned to read in Spanish with the book, ‘El libro mágico’ that is still in circulation today. I was privileged to be read to as a child. My mother was always pushing me to learn to read because she wanted me to be prepared before I went in to school. I felt great until I started school. There I was read to in a language I did not understand with books I could not relate to. I remember being lost until I started making the connections between my language (Spanish) and the language of school (English). Even then, they were still just words to me. When I would listen to my teacher reading nursery rhymes or the folktales in English, it was as if I would go into a fantasy world; not the real world I lived in. I remember going through kindergarten and not practicing my Spanish at all.


garza book 1In first grade I was given a Spanish book to take home to read and do homework from. I was really excited because I was doing something I was good at and it was relevant to me. That excitement was short-lived because a few weeks into school my teacher took me out of the bilingual group and put me with the all-English group. I was devastated because they had taken something that was dear to my heart; they had taken away my language! I was now in silent mode. I understood what the teacher was saying when she read to us or when she gave instructions, but I could not read or speak in English at all. I remember being in a small group where a teacher aide focused on teaching us sight words and decoding with short phonic stories. I caught on pretty quickly because I remember learning to read in English before I went into second grade. But again, I could only read the words in English, but I made no connection to the stories in my reading book. By second grade I was a fluent reader, but I still did not speak to my friends or teacher in English, I spoke to everyone only in Spanish. When I was asked to read by my teacher I would, but if I was asked to speak in front of class or answer a question I would stay silent. I was not confident enough to speak in English in front of others. I was afraid of saying things wrong. Needless to say I eventually got over my fear and spoke and read in English fluently before leaving the second grade.


anzaldua book 2As an educator I was introduced to culturally relevant literature that would have made a great difference in my experience learning the English language. Authors like Xavier Garza and Gloria Anzaldúa have written great bilingual books that would have made reading real for me as a child. I am trying to make reading real to my students by integrating authentic literature like this in during our reading time.

I urge and recommend to parents that want their children learning only in English when their child’s first language is Spanish, to think about it twice. Please do not take away a part of your child’s identity. You want to give your child another resource (the English language) to succeed, not take one away. Needless to say, I thank my mother for teaching me to read in my native language and setting a very good foundation that eventually helped me learn a second language. ¡Gracias Mamá, Te Amo!

This semester, students in READ 6310 were asked to contribute a post to this blog.

By Dalia Gutierrez

Read aloud helps promote literacy and learning for young children. Many Read Alouds are important because it helps them acquire the information and skills they need to succeed in school. This helps children realize certain things in literature such as the meaning of words, and being able to enjoy reading in general.

When reading to children the teacher must make sure that the children feel safe and secure. The teacher must read with enthusiasm so the children can enjoy being read to; this promotes children to be more interested in reading.

The Read Aloud offers the students explanations to their questions, and also helps them make observations. Teachers often talk about the background of the story to inform the children and to discuss the character’s actions in relation to what they are doing in class.

It seems though that parents who Read Aloud to their children are able to quickly and more effectively asses their children’s ability to comprehend words, and while doing this the parent and the child are able to bond more. Children like to hear exciting books to enhance their imagination and as well as their vocabulary. Young children thrive on repetition, so he may want to hear the same book numerous times. This will help build vocabulary and reading skills. Involving a child in the selection process also helps him build confidence and self-esteem.

An effective way of helping the child understand words and looking at the words is for the parent to guide with their finger under the word so that the child could get a better understanding of what the word means. The parent could use sound effects to set the mood for the story, and different sound effects to describe the characters’ way of behaving such as making a deeper voice for someone who’s angry or a soft voice for caring person. All of these contribute to the children’s understanding of emotions within the book in relation to life.

A picture book is very helpful when conducting a Read Aloud. The parent can then have the child participate, for example, hearing what the child has to say about the picture or give a prediction to what may happen next. Finally, parents should come up with their own stories to set a positive influence in the child. With the parent telling their own story this lets the child learn new vocabulary. In turn the child should be allowed to tell their own story using the new vocabulary they were taught. This makes Reading Aloud exhilarating for them.

Both educators and parents play a strong role in ensuring that young readers are engaged during read aloud time.

Think about your style of speaking. If you know you speak quickly, try to make an effort to slow down when you read. Conversely, speeding up a little if you tend to speak and read slowly can help keep a child engaged. Read with expression, but stay within your comfort zone. If you are uncomfortable trying something new, your child will be too.

( How Educators and Parents Can Sustain Interest by Dorit Sasson)

As a Center Manager of Head Start it is very important to get our three and four years old children engage in reading. Each classroom is set up with a Library and the teachers have trained our parents how to check books out on weekly basis so they can read to their children for fifteen minutes every day. Implementing the read aloud at a very young age will give the child the learning foundation needed to do well in the public school.


Tools to Support Students with Their Online Research Assignments

This semester, students in READ 6310 were asked to contribute a post to this blog.

By Lizeth Rodriguez

With the advent of technology, digital literacies have facilitated a wider range of possibilities for research papers done by students. With great power, such as the one generated by search engines, comes great responsibility for the students to filter accurate information. When a student is given a topic on a assignment and they decide to search for related material, as soon as they type any keyword in the search engines they may get millions of related websites. For example, I searched for the water cycle on Google, and this generated about 146,000,000 results in 0.22 seconds according to their statistics feedback. Now out of all of these websites that google provided for me, some maybe accurate, but, surprisingly, the first website on the list is from Wikipedia. Although some information on Wikipedia may be correct, for the most part it is not reliable since any one can modify the information independent of their expertise. Teachers can guide the students by providing some guidelines when they search information online.

First, we will look into what is a typical research sequence for many students (Ippolito, Lawrence & Zaller, 2013, p. 119):

Searching in Wikipedia or Google

  • Browsing quickly through websites for ideas and quotes
  • Cutting and pasting information from the Web into one’s own writing without providing proper attribution for it
  • Viewing information as free, accurate, and trustworthy
  • Treating online information as equal to print information

Clines and Cobb suggest the following strategies for students when they research online (Ippolito, Lawrence & Zaller, 2013, p. 119):

  • Checking the purpose of the Web site (for example, the extensions .edu, .org, .gov, .com can often indicate the orientation or purpose of the site)
  • Locating and considering the author’s credentials to establish credibility
  • Looking for recent updates to establish currency or relevancy
  • Examining the visual elements of the site such as links to establish relationships with other sources of information

One approach to website evaluation that has been developed by researchers at Michigan State University is the WWWDOT framework. This framework asks the students to consider a set of six dimensions (Ippolito, Lawrence & Zaller, 2013, p. 119):

  1. Who wrote this, and what credentials do they have?
  2. Why is it written?
  3. When was it written and updated?
  4. Does this help meet my needs?
  5. Organization of website?
  6. To do list for the future.

The teachers can direct the students by providing guidelines when they are searching material online utilizing the above strategies and others they can formulate. For example they can ask them to make sure that the material is dated from five years to present year, a minimum of three professional websites. Teachers can also ask the students to research in their school’s library search engine, and to reference all their material. With practice and dedication, the students will understand the importance of legitimate and accurate research.

Reference: Ippolito, J., Lawrence, J. F. & Zaller, C. (2013). Adolescent literacy in the era of the common core.(pp. 1-285). Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard Educational Press.


This semester, students in READ 6310 Children’s and Adolescent Literature were asked to contribute a post to this blog.

By Jennifer Farias

Reading to young children provides the foundation to create a love for reading.   I strongly agree that children that are read to by their parents have a higher reading performance as opposed to those parents who don’t read to them. Children need to be exposed to a rich filled literacy environment in order to be successful readers. It is crucial that we emerge our students into literacy at a young age if we want them to be successful and productive. Literacy helps children expand their vocabulary and acquire new terminology. Children that are exposed to reading at a young age should obtain a desire to read later in life.

I believe reading books to children during read alouds is a wonderful experience that nourishes literacy development. Parents and educators can help facilitate the child and relate the events in the story to real life situations in their lives. This makes the child to make a connection to the text and it is easier for the child to comprehend the material.

Creating a full, rich literacy environment stimulates children’s imagination. Read alouds promote children to learn to visualize the stories. I also believe that allotting from twenty to thirty minutes daily will result in gains in both reading comprehension and oral language. Exposure to storybooks has proven that it develops children’s knowledge and ability to comprehend.

As a classroom teacher I encourage and promote literacy in my classroom daily. As a thinking map trainer, I make every effort to motivate and simplify the use of graphic organizers daily. This past week my students read the story Seven Spools of Thread: A Kwanzaa Story by Angela Shelf Medearis, which allowed them to use the opportunity to utilize graphic organizers in conjunction with thinking maps. Thinking maps provide that   visual tool which students can use to simplify and organize the ideas to enhance learning.

???????????????????????????????I have some examples of student work that I would like to share. The first example is the Flow Map which students are able to organize the story in sequence: beginning, middle, and end. They are required to write and illustrate their thoughts at this time.



???????????????????????????????Another example that was created by my students was the Multi-Flow Map. The Multi-Flow Map helps the students identify thecauses and effects in a particular story.




???????????????????????????????My final example is the Bubble Map in which students describe a main character using adjectives.At this pointstudents will require to add textual evidence and justification as to why they used those particular adjectives.



I have seen firsthand that graphic organizers can help students better comprehend their reading assessments. The goal is to have students attain a love for reading and read for pleasure.

I am a firm believer that students who are exposed to literature are likely to supersede than those with a limited exposure to reading material.