Academic journal article Middle School Journal

A Tale of Two Readings

Academic journal article Middle School Journal

A Tale of Two Readings

Article excerpt

The two of us recently watched the Golden Globewinning film Boyhood with great anticipation of its extended twelve-year composition, thereby giving us a rare, uninterrupted view of adolescence and a keen relevance to our work as educators and advocates for middle level youth. Surprisingly, we had opposite reactions. One of us found the film quite ordinary or even tiring while the other perceived the film as captivating and intriguing.

But the more we talked, read reviews, and challenged each other's thinking, we found that multiple, diverse perspectives transformed our opinions. We found a new, fresh middle ground that seems integral for this issue's discussion of reading, writing, and thinking.

Developmentally, reading and writing and thinking converge as the essential expression of the middle school ideal (in sharp contrast to the old junior high model characterized by subject isolation, preparation for high school, and little attention to the social, emotional, and physical needs of young adolescents). Reading, writing, and thinking offer crucial spaces for young adolescents to explore angst, construct fantasy, consider multiple identities, witness countless character interactions, develop relationships with others, discover role models, heroes, or even foils as readers are exposed to a wide plethora of ideas, cultures, and possible norms.

A rogerebert.com analysis of the film Boyhood asks an essential question that such works of art should offer to young adolescents in the throes of the physical, social, emotional, ethical, intellectual, and developmental times of their lives: "Do we really change over time? Can we decide to change ourselves? Or is free will an illusion? Do we seize moments or do moments seize us?" In "the best of times," the space and time to ask and explore these haunting questions invite youth into school settings as relevant, healthy, responsive places of substance, empathy, and possibility. But in the "worst of times," these questions evaporate when school cultures see reading and writing as a singular, flat, drudgerous prelude to testing or assignments disconnected from the diverse interests of 10-15 year olds. …

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