Urban Academy, an “alternative” public high school in Manhattan requires that students must complete projects in six different areas–creative arts, criticism, literature, math, social studies, and science. As part of the literature competency, students are required to read a novel and discuss it with an adult reader. I have been a volunteer reader for a few years now and the students choose great books. With them, I’ve read: Going After Cacciato, A Clockwork Orange, Do Androids Dream of Electronic Sheep, Waiting, and now, A Lesson Before Dying by Earnest Gaines.
In addition to choosing great books, these students are amazing readers–the books are read, and re-read, highlighted, dog-eared, post-it noted and underlined. They’re able to identify themes, relate them back to their lives and always come up with new insights into the work. Almost every day I read a blog post or news story about how New York City public schools could be doing better by our students. These experiences with the students and the committed teachers from Urban Academy is just one example of the good work that’s going on in New York City Schools. These kids are able to read, critique, discuss and express themselves; they also are passionate about what they’ve read. I always learn a great deal from them which is why I never pass up the opportunity to read with them. Lately, I’ve found myself putting my “Urban” hat on when I’m reading for myself–reading a bit more closely, marking pages, and taking notes in the margin. It just makes reading more fun. And if you happen to be looking for a good book, you might check out my Urban Academy Reading list.