One of the more promising things I heard at the conference was how English classes are working to give students the tools they need to pick books, along with tools to critically analyze the many messages they are bombarded with. This includes:
- Understanding and dissecting the messages in covers. Learning to understand how covers hook and why they sometimes have little to do with the story. This includes a school reading group that do not look at covers when choosing their next book to read. The selection is based on book front matter and reading the first few pages. Some of the books they have chosen by not letting the cover speak to them has been eye-opening.
- Reading between the lines of information found in the front and back matter
- Understanding the Creative Commons license, copyright issues, and plagiarism in music, art, and writing.
- Understanding reviews. This includes everything from a critique, to a professional review, to the amateur review. They learn to differentiate between the professional and the amateur reviewers and how to evaluate reviews and use the information when selecting a book. This includes understanding the “code words” used by professional reviews in their quest to meet their editors’ word limits.
- Understanding and reading between the lines of reader comments in places like Amazon and Goodreads, or in blogs. What both the positive, and negative, may mean; and that the volume of reader comments represent popularity, but not necessarily literary quality. And that some of these reviews and blog posts, places without the hard word limits, might provide insight into the meaning behind the Codes of the pros.
Basically, kids are learning things I wish I had known when I was younger. A lot more insight, and maybe a little less plagiarism as kids understand better the work involved in creation and that reviewers should be listened to, but they still need to apply their own evaluation and brainpower to others’ opinions.