Reading Roundup: Early Reading, Balanced Literacy, and Trigger Warnings

By Mary Hendrie — June 27, 2014 2 min read
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As the week winds down, dive into some of the recent literary discussions you might have missed.

Books for Babies

This Tuesday, the American Academy of Pediatrics released the recommendation that parents begin reading aloud to their children at birth. To effect this recommendation, the AAP has partnered with publishing giant Scholastic, which has pledged to donate 500,000 books to medical providers working with low-income families. This recommended reading is intended to combat the well-documented word gap between young children of disparate socioeconomic backgrounds.

For a look at the discussion that followed this new policy recommendation, you can read the recap of an interesting PBS News Hour Twitter chat centered on the importance of early reading. The chat included an AAP pediatrician, the vice president of Scholastic’s Kids and Parents channels, and representatives from the organizations Reach Out and Read, Too Small to Fail, and the Clinton Foundation.

New Approach for New Yorkers

Literacy education may be changing for older children as well, if New York City schools chancellor, Carmen Fariña has her way. According to an article in The New York Times, Ms. Fariña is advocating a return to balanced literacy education, a progressive instructional approach that encourages greater student self-direction in reading material and writing instruction. Some critics characterize it as at odds with the Common Core State Standards and as being an impediment to building a common knowledge base for students.

Disclaimers for the Distressed

In an essay this week in online literary magazine The New Inquiry, Phoebe Maltz Bovy continues the fraught debate over trigger warnings-disclaimers on material potentially upsetting to traumatized students-on school syllabi. Maltz Bovy argues that while such warnings may be overkill, the desire for them reflects the deep frustration of students whose perspectives are underrepresented in the Western canon.

The inclusion of trigger warnings on college syllabi has been hotly contested over the past few months. As students at the University of California, Santa Barbara; Oberlin College; Rutgers University; the University of Michigan; George Washington University; and other colleges have recently called for trigger warnings, critics across the political spectrum have decried the warnings as destructive to public discourse, artistically degrading to great works of literature, and even tantamount to book-burning.

A version of this news article first appeared in the BookMarks blog.