By Carina Traub, SED 2016
At Boston University, we like to say that Boston is our campus. This felt especially true the weekend of the Boston Book Festival in October. English Educators, the club for English education majors and other students interested in the teaching of English, explored the festival together, and attended two talks, one about education and another about young adult literature.
The first talk we attended was Finnish Lessons, featuring Pasi Sahlberg, an education expert from Finland. I had written a final paper using his book Finnish Lessons and even blogged about my excitement over the Finnish education system last year. Listening to him speak was so fantastic, and it was so gratifying to introduce my fellow club members to the magic of Finnish education.
Between talks, we wandered through the various booths. The community value of literacy was palpable, and affirming as an English Educator. We stopped by the booth for 826 Boston, a creative writing and homework center for underserved students in the Boston Public Schools. Our club raised over $500 for the organization last year during the Write-a-Thon, so it was rewarding to see all the students they were engaging at the festival.
After collecting a plethora of free bookmarks and perusing the $3 book sales, we headed to our second talk: Young Adult (YA) Literature- Tackling Tough Topics. As English teachers, we seek to help our students learn from other perspectives and process important topics. However, it can be quite the balancing act to raise such meaningful issues and then break them down effectively. The panel, featuring four YA authors and moderated by the Boston Public Library children’s librarian, discussed issues such as sexuality, abuse, sexual assault and rape.
As a student organization of future educators, we greatly benefitted from the discussion. One of the English Educators club members, an exchange student from France, could not believe that talking about sex was so taboo in American schools. I personally was interested in how books that tackle tough topics could avoid being classified as “problem novels,” a YA literature term about books that are reductive in their treatment of a particular issue. Problem novels cease to exist outside their issues, while the books of our panelists and many reputable YA authors take a more whole-book approach, where the emphasis is on characters and plot as opposed to a single issue consuming everything.
During the Boston Book Festival, I was especially grateful to have Boston as my campus. My professors were authors and experts, and I was immersed in a world passionate about literacy. Thank you, Boston, for a wonderful weekend.
Carina Traub is a junior in the School of Education, majoring in English Education.