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Big Nate

I would have never predicted I'd be writing this post today.

But, I'm concerned.  

No.  I'm worried.

But, before I go any further, a little background information and a disclaimer.

My 7-year-old son, soon to turn 8, is very adept at the computer.  He uses it primarily for entertainment and can spend hours checking out YouTube videos of his favorite singers and actors, as well as creating his own videos using iMovie.  he is up on the latest movies and watches trailers of potential favorites.  He reads anywhere from 1 - 2 hours a day, on his own or with me.  He has read all of the Diary of a Wimpy Kid books, many times over, and is now on his second and third reads of the Big Nate books.

"So," you are probably wondering, "what is the problem?"

Good question!

The problem is that my son has begun taking on the personna of the character Nate, in the big Nate books.  Nate, for those of you not familiar with this series, is a happy-go-lucky grade 6 kid who doesn't do well in school mostly because he's busy doing non-school things and blaming everybody else for his bad luck.

Now, I know Nate is a funny guy.  And, I know that Lincoln Peirce, the author of the Big Nate books, has written a tongue-in-cheek series.  Yet, it bothers me that my 8-year-old-son is talking about not liking math, for example, because Nate claims that 'math is insanity', ie. incomprehensible.  My son sees Nate as a funny guy who gets to go through his day in school as if he's on a hit comedy show.  And, the series IS a hit with many kids as young as my son.

So, is this a problem with the books?  This particular author's disregard for who his audience might be?  Or the ramblings of an overprotective parent?

Now, I'm not one to censor what my children read, unless, of course, the content is not age appropriate.  Until recently this wasn't a problem.  And, when my son started reading the Big Nate books, I didn't think it was a problem, either.  We devoured all of Mo Willem's Elephant and Piggy books.  But now, my son's reading tastes extend far beyond the typical grade 3 fare.

What do I do now that it's too late to retire these books to the shelf until he's older?

How do I counter some of the negative images he is internalizing from his favorite books?

Please know that I have tried reasoning with my son but that hasn't always worked.  He's curious and I'm not one to squelch his curiosity.  I worry that he's being exposed to content beyond his ability to understand an author's intention, including satire and sarcasm.  In an odd way, the book's reality has become my son's reality.

What do I do?  Am I worrying too much?  I would love to hear others' thoughts on this.


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I share some questions I'm grappling with in my classroom. 

No answers. 

Just questions.

(1) What purpose do math stations serve in my classroom?

(2) How can I continue to engage writers without overwhelming them or me?

(3) How can I determine if my tangled readers are learning to be better readers from the books they choose to read?

(4) How can I strike a balance between student choice and making sure my students learn what they need to learn at any given time?

(5) Am I demanding too much from my students?

As I find responses and solutions to these issues, I will post some ideas on my blog.

Any thoughts are more than welcomed!