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California Core

Contemplating the Common Core State Standards, California-style

I had a great time at the Children’s Literature Council of Southern California Spring Workshop last Saturday in South Pasadena. Kristin Fontichiaro and I each spoke about the Common Core State Standards, she offering a great perspective on the ways school and public librarians can support CCSS curriculums while I pondered what effects and implications the Core might have for trade publishing. Many thanks to the Council and conference organizer Laurie Reese for such a terrific morning.

My old friend Marc Aronson will disagree with me, but, I gotta say, every time I read the CCSS standards I like them less. As I said in my talk on Saturday, I approach any new twist or trend in educational thinking with one question–and my self-interested bias–foremost: does this mean more books in the classroom? While you might think the CCSS, with their emphasis on close reading and multiple sources, would mean that yes, classrooms will be clamoring for trade books, I see more of a market for curricular packagers: why buy five different books about Abe Lincoln when WeSlapItTogether Publishers will extract meaty (or not) passages (or “texts,” as the CCSS prefer) from those same books and razzle-dazzle ’em with hyperlinks to even more sources, reading-level calculators, quizzes, and other tools? Make no mistake, the CCSS are big on reading, but books? Not so much. I hope to God to be proven wrong.

My other old friend Ron Koertge joined us for lunch and chat about horseracing and poets (apparently they can be a nasty bunch) and then LAPL librarian Barbara Metzenbaum graciously drove me to Eugene Yelchin‘s house, which was so far back in Topanga Canyon I thought I was in Nevada. Coyotes AND rattlesnakes, but the gracious Eugene showed me his studio and lovely family before Richard picked me up to drive to Santa Barbara, where we talked books and movies with Andy and Adrianne Davis who practically forced me into the contraption pictured above. Then back to LA and a quick visit with the kids and the red-eye home to Brownie (and thank you, Katrina Hedeen, for your loving and expert care of the strange little beast).

And we just stay busy here–the Boston Globe-Horn Book judges will be meeting this weekend; I’ll be announcing the winners at BEA in New York at 1:00PM on June 1st. Stay tuned . . . .

Roger Sutton About Roger Sutton

Roger Sutton has been the editor in chief of The Horn Book, Inc, since 1996. He was previously editor of The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books and a children's and young adult librarian. He received his M.A. in library science from the University of Chicago in 1982 and a B.A. from Pitzer College in 1978. Follow him on Twitter: @RogerReads.



  1. Most importantly, were you able to get to In & Out?

  2. Roger Sutton Roger Sutton says:

    NOOOOOOOO. But Richard’s son Ethan makes a mean hamburger, too. I get another chance at the old In n Out (shades of Clockwork Orange) next week.

  3. Roger — Yes, textbook companies and packagers are scurrying to put together CCSS friendly bundles (and some of these products might even be thoughtful and worth having. Stranger things have happened.). But these companies have always published to the curriculum, no matter how it was configured, right? It’s a logical business step for them and shouldn’t be a surprise at all to people in the field. Just as I’ve spoken to several writers who have written manuscripts and are now feverishly revising them to be absolutely certain they and their publishers can say proudly that the book fits the Core. I’m also reasonably sure that there will be many folk/groups who will assemble their own lists of ‘must have’ Core books. In the end, I don’t think it’s logical to blame the changes in the CCSS for these developments. It’s human nature and finances at work (after all, no one wants to be left behind. Now where did I hear that phrase before?). Seems to me that it will be the thousands of schools out there that will decide if they’ll buy more trade books or go with an easier approach. I’m willing to hope for the best.

  4. Roger Sutton Roger Sutton says:

    But you know what, Jim? I could set up a little cottage industry affixing CCSS rubrics to any book published, because the Standards are so oddly specific and generalized at the same time. They are meant to be applied to teaching practices, not to curricular resources, whether trade books, textbooks, or digital packages. One thing we do know is that the CCSS requires students to read more informational text, so the Horn Book is creating such resources as “Nonfiction Notes from the Horn Book,” lists of good NF books that we think teachers would find useful. But publishers can without shame affix “Common-Core ready!” stickers to anything they publish (and I’m sure they will!).

  5. Roger — the changes to the CCSS have already created any number of cottage industries (people explaining the changes to teachers and administrations, people criticizing the changes, people writing to them, etc., etc.). And I’m sure that some publishers and writers will hire (or already have) consultants to do just what you suggested in your second sentence. Any change to the curriculum this big is going to get a lot of scrambling around by groups and individuals, but maybe, with the thoughtful guidance of folk like you, the net result will be more positive than not. By the way, I like the fact that the Standards are “oddly specific and generalized.” Leaves room for imaginative interpretation to suit various school populations.

  6. Roger, you are exactly right when you say that the publishers and others will pop-up CCSS ready texts and services of various quality. It’s a necessity if they want to stay in business. Widespread adoption of common core standards will leave them in the dust if they are not already working on updated books and materials. They will have to adapt or be left behind. I agree that a lot of them will just repackage their current offerings with little changes and slap a CCSS Ready sticker on the front but if it meets the requirements I guess they are entitled to do so.

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