New York: Simon and Schuster, 2017.
Sadly, there is often an explicit student-centered division between accomplished and dedicated student sports team enthusiasts and dedicated student members of an ongoing reader’s circle. Yet several savvy Young adult student authors have realized that the fastest way to get dedicated student athletes into the parallel track of dedication to reading for life, is to focus on student athletes as protagonists. Currently in 2018, the YA best seller lists feature Patina, the second in acclaimed author Jason Reynolds’s middle school Track series. Educators on not only the physical education staff but ELA, social studies, and guidance staff, can easily use class Chromebook time to get reluctant readers and athletes on track. These readers can join the burgeoning reader fan club of Reynolds, a writer whose ability to authenticate the pathos, joy, and rite of passage of today’s adolescent reminds educators of deceased YA author Walter Dean Myers.
Although the second in acclaimed author Jason Reynolds middle school series – Track- this standalone book about very responsible 11 year old Patti Jones, the fastest girl runner on the Defender’s team, grabs the reader from the get go. Its colloquial subtitle “Pattie ain’t no junk” pretty much encapsulates the purpose and mission of this 11-year-old middle school powerful female whose powers of resilience, executive function, maturity and sense of responsibility eclipse her abilities as a runner. Educators might simply start students’ Chromebook response files for this title by having them each respond in a word doc or with a graphic illustration or with a hand drawn illustration (Chromebook allow for multisensory reader responses) to this subtitle and anticipate what the subtitle says about Patty. Of course, their word docs will be saved and dated so this response can be returned to at the end of the reading. In doing this using Chromebook as a recorder, the educators are inculcating students in the habits of all lifelong readers which include reflecting before they read on what the import of the titles are and on how they choose the titles.
For Patty, who at the age of 11 has already lost her dad, has a great mom rendered legless due to diabetes, and lives with her aunt and uncle and younger sister Maddie , running is more than an extracurricular sport . Running on a track team which includes other members who also have suffered tremendous tragedies in their lives and are like her not entirely accepted in their school or social communities, engages Patty in a metaphoric ongoing community team effort connected by common purpose, respect and caring. Patina Jones’s needs and challenges are sadly all too familiar to grow numbers of target readers. Educators can have students create private files labeled “how I get Patina’s life responsibilities and pain” which need not be shared with the teacher but which they can add to as the narrative continues. They can also create files for sharing with the teacher and their small Chromebook reading circle which detail their home and “family to do” list including caring and mentoring younger siblings, helping elderly relatives, serving as parent emotional supports, and household upkeep responsibilities- helping translates bills and legal paperwork or shopping and cleaning. Of course, in maintaining these explicit Chromebook word files, students are also concretizing the emotional and real connections all lifelong readers make to characters in books which are part of the rhythm and the reason lifelong readers read.
Even if some students cannot make multiple, real life connections to the immense responsibilities and ongoing challenges Patina and many others like her face, these “behind the school surface” home conditions need to be explicated to the target readers. They can write honest work doc files about how these issues do not relate to their lives but how they are learning about “home” situations other peers face and what that teaches them. Many middle school students feel overburdened by homework assignments and tests for high school!
Told conversationally with chapters headed: “TO DO . . . ,” this highly accessible book with it “runner on track team” perspective , beautifully models for its audience how to deal in a disciplined but end task completed and outcome driven way , with what life throws not only at adults, but increasingly on even middle school students. Patina manages to through the discipline of the track work and the exercises of trusts and passing the baton modeled by her track coaches to transfer these exercises of practicing, follow through, goal setting, and teamwork to her life and responsibilities as the older sister of a vulnerable 6-year-old. Students can get audio interviews with school track coaches and peers who are on teams to validate and enhance the team daily practice scenarios and challenges the book details. They can also use their Chromebook online to get images and even videos of the track exercises and terms used in the book.
The book emphasizes the ways in which the proud and self-reliant reflective Patina is not alone- she has a supportive family, coach and school network as well as how beyond those she ultimately has to take responsibility for her own success and perseverance. Students who are on sports, theater, dance, debate and production teams can comment or reflect on how beyond the team main project performance or league goals, they feel especially connected to the coach or leader and to their peer team mates. If not on a team, students can listen in class or film team members at their events and create an accompanying video for sharing as part of this reading experience.
Like many self-reliant individuals, Patina also has to learn how to share her fears, trust others and reach out for her own emotional wellbeing as well as the younger sister she so treasures. The work also empathizes that it is important to be true to one’s ethnic background, economic roots, and family. But because Patina has a mixed racial background, the work is not afraid to talk honestly about the tensions inherent on being part of two different cultures and income levels. The book underscores this reality but also the capacity needed to function and to flourish as oneself in all sectors. In this realm and if appropriate for the classroom community and the general school climate, teachers can get students to write as readers how Patina’s social and emotional conflicts about her mixed racial background and her mix of living in one neighborhood and attending a school in another economically upscale neighborhood reflect or resonate with their own lives. In addition, when students leave home for college, they often also feel the tension between the set of friends and values of their r home setting and those of their college setting. These reflections and conversations even if not immediately relevant to student lives in middle school often also anticipate high school which is in many communities a broader social and neighborhood mix than middle school. Students can include older siblings and college students in their interviews and audio or film files stored on their Chromebook.
The book is filled with the routines and special domain words particular to the runner and track team domain. Students will enjoy researching these terms and perhaps preparing track team special domain Power Point dictionary complete with public domain photos or videos of the terms in action. If their schools have a school or after school team, they can interview the coach and team members for personal explication of track team practice and terms. Even more important for the messages of resiliency, teamwork and teams as family support safe places, students can interview faculty members who also coach to get their perspectives on the values the coaches in the book explicitly impart to their team members. For a comparative author and topic study; students can compare and contrast the values of this story of a runner with Van Draanen’s (2011) Running Dream and /or Heminsley’s (2013) Running Like a Girl: Notes on Learning to Run. The book also offers insights into the dangers inherent in diabetes. Students can use the dire and authentic consequences and treatment for diabetes outlined in this work to research the disease. They can prepare a print/graphic brochure or a poster outlining the dietary recommendations for those with diabetes or be even more creative and identify family members or peers with this illness and have them detail how they deal with the disease. With the use of Chromebook as storage consoles, they will be able to upload these brochures to their school website or share them at community centers with adult members or at emergency med city health centers. They can also interview or have the school nurse; family doctors and nutrition teachers participate.
As part of the narrative, Patina and her class peers research Frida Kahlo. Students can research this artist as well and compare how she also modeled resiliency perseverance in her life despite many health challenges. Use of their Chromebook allows students to find and to view and to react to Kahlo’s works and lives along with Patina and her friends. Once again Chromebook tracking models how lifelong readers often take time to research other content referenced in books.
Ultimately this well-crafted literary work is a valentine to its 12-year runner Patina who has been at a very young age dealt a hand of challenges that might defeat mature adults. The author dedicates the book to “Those who have been passed the baton too young.” As such it already speaks to far too many target readers, but its message of hope, optimism, self-determination, self-empowerment and self-reliance inspire all readers. Focus on runners and athletes plus the Chromebook use multimedia deliberate and documenting modeling of real reader’s internal reflection, identifications, research and inner/external conversations make this way of tracking reader a great one for engaging more middle school students in lifelong reading. These qualities are increasingly essential to flourish in this instantly shifting society. Therefore, it is not soon for target readers to be enabled in learning how to hold the baton and run forward in life. With Chromebook, they can expand their understanding of this inspiring life lesson.
Dr. Rose Reissman,
Academic and Grant Funding Director for Sector 5
About Sector 5,
Sector 5, Inc. (OTCQB: SFIV), is a Proud American Corporation, that sells, manufactures and develops new innovative consumer electronics under Sector 5 and other brands. The Company markets its partnership with Google approved Chromebooks to educational organizations, other B2B and B2C sales channels, with retail sales on Amazon. It is in development of several new products to serve the educational, business and retail markets. Follow the company on http://www.twitter.com/sectorfiveinc and http://www.facebook.com/sect5 and find further information at http://www.sector-five.com. For Sector 5’s Forward Looking Statements, click here.