I (Cathy) was touched by the following tale shared by guest bloggers Burkins and Yaris (Think Tank for 21st Century Literacy) on Brenda Power’s Choice Literacy blog site. The post is titled, The Tyranny of Levels. It reminded me of the time I was visiting a classroom to observe my student teacher and saw two bins labelled Boy’s Books and Girl’s Books. When I inquired about the bins, my student teacher assured me the children never dared choose from “the wrong bin.” I was mortified. Thankfully my student teacher also was mortified. After that experience, the tale below did not seem very far fetched…
Daisy: A Cautionary Tale
Once upon a time, there was a third-grade girl, Daisy, who loved to read. She read all the time. While she liked to read about horses and outer space, she especially loved to read stories. She had read every single Magic Tree House, Junie B. Jones, and Amber Brown book ever written. Recently, she had been into reading books about animals, and had devoured Shiloh and Charlotte’s Web.
One day, as she browsed through books at the school library, she found a book with a beautiful cover of a girl wearing glasses and holding a comic book. When she saw it, she thought, “That girl looks like me!” She ran her fingers over the letters scrawled grandly across the cover and read the title aloud: Flora and Ulysses.
It was then that she noticed a small animal tucked up in the corner, which compelled her to read the back cover. As her eyes skimmed over the words describing a story about a squirrel who gets run over by a vacuum cleaner and strangely develops superpowers, she opened the book and began to read.
Before she knew it, the librarian was shouting a last call to check out books. Daisy hurried to have her book scanned and joined the rest of the children lined up at the door to return to class. Ms. Wright, her teacher, walked up and down the line surveying the children’s choices. Every now and then she’d murmur things like, “Oh! Great author!” and “You’ll love this one.” By the time Ms. Wright arrived at Daisy, she was nearly bursting with excitement. Daisy couldn’t wait to tell her how she loved what she had read so far, and she longed to hear Ms. Wright say what a great choice she had made, choosing a book with a medal on the cover.
However, when Ms. Wright glanced at the book in Daisy’s hand, she looked between the book and Daisy and said, “Oh sweetheart, you’re going to need to return this book.”
Return this book? Did she hear correctly? Confused, Daisy looked at her teacher who kneeled beside her, looked her eyes, and said, “You’re a level R. This book is much harder than that. Run and put this back. You can choose something from the R bin when we get to the classroom.”
Crestfallen, Daisy handed the book back to the librarian. In her head, she kept hearing the echo of Flora’s voice speaking the same words she said when she witnessed Mrs. Tickham vacuum up the squirrel: Holy bagumba.
What was she going to read now?
Back in the classroom, Daisy dragged herself to the R bin and without even looking, grabbed the book that was on top. She returned to her seat and muttered the title: Captain Underpants and the Attack of the Talking Toilets. Grudgingly, she began to read.
Fellow teacher educators, I guess we still have much work to do… Be diligent. Our furture generations need you.