ADLC teachers’ stories provide a great window to all the experience and collective skills that ADLC has to offer its students. Read more from Shelley Grey-Sortland.


I have a poster on the wall by my desk.

It reads, “There’s no such thing as a kid who hates reading. There are kids who love reading, and kids who are reading the wrong books” (James Patterson). I picked the poster up at the National Council of Teachers of English Annual Convention, which I attended last year (a bibliophile’s heaven, let me tell you). I carefully packed that poster for the flight home and then hung it by my desk because I believe it’s true. When students (or adults) tell me that they don’t like to read, there’s a part of me that takes it as a personal challenge: Give me some time, and I’ll find just the right text for you!

You may have noticed that I used the word text rather than book. That’s because there is a world beyond books. Gasp! I know—it’s shocking. And, while I personally love to read literature, what kind of an English teacher would I be if I didn’t embrace the variety of texts that are available? In the Program of Studies, the definition of text includes “works of literature and other texts in oral, print, visual and multimedia forms” (Alberta Learning). As you can see, this is a broad definition. Here are just a few examples of text mentioned in the Program of Studies, plus some I’ve added:

  • Books, journals, magazines, news articles
  • Oral storytelling, speeches, discussions, podcasts, audiobooks
  • Visual images, diagrams, collages
  • Videos, films, graphic novels, plays, blogs, infographics

Looking at this list, it seems impossible for students to not find even just one form of text they can enjoy interacting with. Part of that enjoyment will also come from exploring the role of a text creator, I hope. Engaging and experimenting with a variety of texts leads to a deeper understanding of the craft of writing in general.

When we think of a “good reader,” we typically picture a student with her(his) nose buried in a novel.  My son, for instance, is a bookworm in the typical sense. He reads constantly, and keeping him supplied with novels can be a full-time job. I asked one of his friends what he (the friend) was reading, and he sheepishly showed me a copy of a graphic novel, mumbling something about “I don’t really like reading.” The stigma often associated with graphic novels and other non-traditional texts, undermines students’ confidence and perception of themselves as readers. Why should this boy be embarrassed to admit that what he’s reading is “just” a graphic novel? Many graphic novels tackle complex literary themes and elements (think Secret Path by Jeff Lemire or The Complete Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi), and are studied in English classrooms. Most ADLC English courses include a unit on a graphic novel, in fact.

We need to rethink not only what we consider as text but also the ways in which we can interact with text. Reading needs to happen, but so does viewing, speaking, listening, representing—and reflecting.  So don’t despair that your child won’t trade that podcast for Anne of Green Gables. There’s learning happening!

P.S.  Here’s a snapshot of the ways in which my family has engaged with text recently. As you can see, we have a wide range of interests in the family!

Reading:

  • Daughter (seven-year-old) – Why Soccer Matters: A Look at More Than Sixty Years of International Soccer, by Pele. (Clearly, my daughter is a soccer fan.)
  • Son (eleven-year-old) – a Manga version of Les Miserable that I picked up at the NCTE convention; currently reading Goldilocks and the Water Bears: The Search for Life in the Universeby Louisa Preston (I fell asleep typing this title, but he seems to like it.)
  • Hubby – Spooky Action at a Distance: The Phenomenon That Reimagines Space and Time, and What It Means for Black Holes, the Big Bang, and Theories of Everything by George Musser.
  • Me – The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery and Love, Ishby Karen Rivers by Muriel Barbery. (I read everything from the classics to YA!)

Viewing:

  • Son and I went to a play of The Bridge to Terebithia as part of his birthday present. Haven’t read the novel? You should, but be prepared to cry!
  • Son, daughter, and hubby are addicted to a YouTube channel called “It’s Okay to Be Smart,” which is about science and includes episodes such as “How an Igloo Keeps You Warm” and “5 Weird Involuntary Behaviours Explained.”

Listening:

  • Me: My Heart and Other Black Holes by Jasmine Warga and Me and Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews. I listen to a lot of audiobooks while I commute to work. Think listening to audiobooks is “cheating”? Think again!
  • Son and hubby: Star Talk and Past Time (podcasts on astronomy and paleontology, respectively).

Works Cited

Alberta Learning. “Program of Studies ( English Language Arts).” Alberta, 2003.

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