NCTE 2009 – Back from Philly (Part 1)

The National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE’s) annual convention is over! I got back from Philly last Sunday with a lot of work and a turkey waiting for me. Now that I have made a dent in the work, carved up the turkey and braved Black Friday for a little holiday shopping, here are some of the presentations I went to and some of the things I learned. I’ll start with Thursday’s sessions and write another post later about the rest of the weekend.

Books and Readers: And Ladders? by Teri Lesesne: This was a great presentation where Mrs. Lesesne, (the goddess of YA literature), discussed how kids make meaning from text and begin to enjoy reading. The process should be like climbing a ladder, where one book leads to another world of discovery. Twenty-first century skills include: meaning, play, empathy, symphony, story and design. It is only when all of these are present that kids will truly engage with literature. She then recommended some great YA titles; you can access her ppt. presentation here.

Secondary Section Meeting: Nancy Pearl: Yes, THE Nancy Pearl, the notorious “lusty librarian” who has her own action figure and has written a few books recommending her favorite titles, one of which is Book Lust . Her presentation was witty, enlightening, funny, and honest. Best of all, she believes reading should first be fun before it can be anything else. Everyone should read what they want to read instead of feeling that literature is imposed on them. She also said: “we have one life to live; it’s through books and reading we can have any number of lives”. When asked what she thought about e-books and e-readers like the Kindle, she said she honestly does not care about the delivery; she is more interested in what is inside the book. She would love for to send a Kindle her way and a book allowance! However, she enjoys chatting with the delivery man and would miss the books sent by publishers for her to review. By the way, her favorite vampire book? —-> It’s Sunshine by Robin McKinley.

General Session – Junot Diaz: He is the winner of the 2008 Pulitzer prize for fiction for his novel The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. You can learn more about him here. Ah, how to describe this session…There is an expression in Spanish that describes him well: “No tiene pelos en la lengua”. Translated literally, it says “he has no hairs in his tongue”, which makes no sense in English, but it basically means that Mr. Diaz says what’s on his mind without editing. Someone commented he cursed at least three times in as many minutes. I wasn’t counting. There were shocked stares, murmurs, titters, applause and laughter throughout his talk. That aside, he made some good points about education today and the importance of reading. Mr. Diaz argued that literacy kills reading. The current educational climate encourages a journey of approval instead of a journey of discovery, which makes kids see reading as a necessary evil instead as part of their lives. Also, instead of education, universities are now focused on accreditation.

He argued that reading has to be part of our lives because it is where we practice deep compassion. In a society that pedals myths, reading puts you in contact with the human being instead of these myths. However, there are still many people in society that remain invisible. It is important for all youth from all backgrounds to find a reflection of themselves in literature; otherwise we continue to create monsters.


Last Thursday was quite an enlightening and entertaining day! More on NCTE 2009 in another post. Stay tuned!


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One Response to NCTE 2009 – Back from Philly (Part 1)

  1. meistervondraught says:

    I must say that Nancy Pearl surprised me. I didn’t think she was so down to earth and shy. The library community makes her out to be a goddess, and really, she is quite nice.

    Junot Diaz had a lot of good points, I must agree with you there. What I didn’t like was the cursing, once more here is a Latino that has won awards and out of his mouth come curses and foul language

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