Was it the book or the approach we took? Lessons from the Young Readers' Club
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Garvey's Choice written by Nikki Grimes was unanimously chosen by one set of readers at the Young Readers' Club. Something changed after a couple of weeks...Garvey's Choice by Nikki Grimes is an emotion packed novel written in verse. Garvey is a young boy with interest in science fiction and music. However, his father encourages him to take to sports. Somehow Garvey finds it difficult to show interest in sports. His interests lie elsewhere. Centred around that conflict, the novel brings to life the story of Garvey who finds his own way to shine.
This book being written in verse was something that none of the young readers were familiar with. At first they were enthusiastic about reading in a new format. The theories board went up. Everyone had a theory about how Garvey would get past the conflict. We read on. The enthusiasm seemed to be dying down each week. So much so, that we had to take a pause and reconsider the book.
The discussion brought to light what was going on in their minds:
"Poetry must rhyme. Verse does not rhyme. It feels like the writing does not have rhyme or rhythm. Why don't we read poetry?"
"The pace is very slow."
"New characters generally help in the story moving forward. That doesn't seem to be happening here."
"The fact that Garvey doesn't like sports keeps getting repeated. I don't like that," said one of the readers who loves sports.
"I don't find Garvey as a character to be interesting."
"I find some parts difficult to interpret."
Any famous book that has been read widely and appreciated would have a percentage of readers who for some reason are unable to appreciate the book the way others did. This book clearly did not work for these readers.
Together, they asked if we could abandon the book for the reasons mentioned. When the decision was announced, there was massive sigh of relief. Clearly, this book wasn't meant for them. Or was it the approach we took, the problem?
In retrospect, did we over analyse the text?
The lines which were rich in imagery were subject to much discussion. There was an abstract element that some of the young readers needed help in interpreting and absorbing. Random connections emerged making time pass a little too quickly. We could read only a little each time we met. Every time we met, we had fun analysing and theorising but we did not realise then, that it would slow us down. It thereby made us feel like the story wasn't moving. The truth was that we weren't moving fast enough. We let our analysis take priority and in the process did little justice to book itself.
If you ever consider Garvey's Choice for reading either in your classroom or a book club, make sure to read on without too much scrutiny. Let the readers absorb what they can and let them ask for a pause when they find it difficult to grasp the abstract element. Try not make that decision for them. We hope this little diary entry from our Young Readers' Club helps you in some away. Feel free to share an experience you might have had while reading books written in verse. We could learn a thing or two from you. Thanks.
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Both weekday and weekend batches are available at the Young Readers' Club. While this program is for the 8-11 age group, the Young Writers' Club program for the 12-14 age group offers a weekly platform to read and discuss curated articles from the news, observe writing approaches and practise one's writing skills.
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