Monday, November 17, 2014

The Teen Lit Review - Finding Our Voice

As part of our English class, we run the Teen Lit Review (@TeenLitReview), a blog on which the kiddos post some of their YA Lit reviews. We created this blog three years ago and have posted hundreds of reviews. All of the reviews are written by kids, for kids. Over the last few years, the TLR has built quite a nice following. Teachers, public librarians, school librarians, college professors, parents and other students often tweet us about how they use the TLR for book recommendations and insights.

One thing that I stress to the kids is that so many of the YA Lit reviews are written by adults and are done so from an adult perspective. Many of the best reviewed books are ones that the kids will not touch. I sometimes joke that the Newbery Medal is put on books to show the kids which books to avoid. Now, there are some excellent Newbery Medal winning books, but too often, the kids do not share the reviewers' enthusiasm for those books. That is why, I tell the kids, it is so important to get THEIR voices out there. The audience for the review, especially other students, really does want to know what actual teens are reading and liking. There is no more powerful voice than a peer when it comes to good reading material.

Last year, we had a couple authors contact us about reviewing their novels. In one case, the author sent us a link to the publisher's website and an access code so that we could access the novel. One of the kiddos volunteered to read the novel after reading the blurb. She liked it pretty well, reviewed it, and we sent the review link to the author. Pretty cool stuff for seventh graders. This year, while on Twitter, an author asked if the kids would review her companion books to the Divergent Series and Hunger Games series. After sending her the school address, we got a package today.

In fifth hour, I reminded the kids about the conversation we had last week when I told them of the request. When I showed them the books, I had several volunteers to review each book. They are all checked out and we hope to have reviews up by the middle of next week. We should have multiple reviews for each book. I feel that it is imperative that these kids know that others WANT to know what they think, that they have a voice, and that when they create something, others are paying attention. Their work is out there for the world to see, critique and use. I want them to get a sense that their contributions go way beyond the walls of the classroom. When they talk, people really do listen.

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