It’s Monday! What are YOU Reading?

My reading list in the past week was pretty short, but I spent some time with some great literature. I only have a couple of books left on my bingo sheet, so we’ll see if I can finish those before the end of the semester!

First up, Anya’s Ghost. I had heard about this book through a few of my peers, so I thought I’d give it a try. It was definitely not what I was expecting. It had quite the plot twist in there! I’m not usually a fan of horror/ghost stories, but this one was a good way for me to step outside my comfort zone.

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Second, this book had caught my attention for weeks in the college library, so I decided to give it a try. We obviously have mixed opinions in this class about classic rewrites, but I thought Romeo and/or Juliet was excellent and hilarious. Students could spend anywhere from five minutes up to a few weeks reading and re-reading this book. I really thought the format of the book would bother me. I’ve never read a choose-able book, and this one was actually really fun. The blurbs were all very short and it felt like I wasn’t reading at all, even thought I did get a lot of words in. It’s kind of different know that you can’t ever really “finish” a book like that. It was a refreshingly different way to read. Highly recommend!

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It’s Monday! What are YOU Reading?

Despite the yucky snow days that we had, I took advantage of the time cooped up in the house by attacking my stack of books to be read. It was absolutely delightful and I was so thankful for the chance to relax with some great reads. I read a few very culturally diverse picture books, a fantasy, a historical fiction novel, and a graphic novel.

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One Green Apple by Eve Bunting is the simple and powerful story about a Muslim-American girl on her first day of school. She cannot communicate with her classmates except through smiles and a mutual love of apple orchards. It’s very thought-provoking and beautifully illustrated. Great to share with any age level!

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La Princesa and the Pea was an adorable twist on a classic tale. If you love happy endings and romance, this is the story for you! The little book won the Pura Belpre Award for the illustrator’s incorporation of authentic-looking native Peruvian textiles throughout the story.

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Nasreen’s Secret School is a more somber story about a young girl whose parents disappear during the Taliban’s rule in Afghanistan. It brings great insight to the injustices around the world. Girls in Afghanistan are still persecuted for wanting an education. The story is accompanied by an Author’s Note which explains the context of the small snippet of one girl’s life. Very powerful read.

smile

Smile was my first Raina Telgemeier book, and I daresay that I will read more! I was very impressed with her art in the book. The story itself was nothing like what I was expecting. Honestly, it brought back painful memories of my experience with braces. However, it also brought up very valid points for teenagers trying to find their “look” and themselves, as well as their “crowd.”

magnusc

Phew! This baby took me a minute to get through. It was the longest book I’d read in a while, and that would be my biggest complaint with it. I feel that Riordan needed every one of those pages to cram in that much Norse mythology, so I blame it on my own impatience to finish it quickly. Like I said in my tweet, the Norse mythology was just as easy to get into as the Greek! Again, i love how Riordan incorporates “marginalized” characters in these fantasy books and flips them around as heroes. For example, in the Percy Jackson series, most heroes were diagnosed with ADD and dyslexia when they were really hardwired to read Greek and fight in battle. Grover needed crutches in the human world, but that was only because he was a satyr. In this series, the main character was homeless, and one of his two friends was deaf–which actually gave him more power performing magic–and one man had “feminine” interests, which led him to win a contest to help Magnus on his quest. Anyway, I simply love how Riordan incorporates diversity in his fantasy writing.

the war

The War that Saved my Life was hands-down my favorite read of the week. I’m still rolling this story over in my head. The novel has won so many awards: Newberry Honor, Schneider Award, Golden Sower Award and more. Firstly, I love the incorporation of a horse as a symbol of freedom (of course). And secondly, the historical fiction was absolutely marvelous, as the book takes place in England before the German bombings began. Ada, a poor girl growing up in the slums of London, has been shamed and hidden away by her abusive mother for being born with a club foot. Her little brother, Jamie, is to be evacuated without his sister, but Ada stows away with him, anyhow. The two find a new home and a new beginning, but not without struggles. This book is very revealing in the way of child psychology, child abuse, good will, and wartime efforts. It was a fascinating read, all the way around.

 

 

It’s Monday! What are YOU Reading?

I had a lighter week of reading due to our college rodeo in Fort Collins this weekend. However, I still got my hands on lots of literature. See below to learn more!

Shared Reading Opportunities:

I read a couple of picture books this week, including the New York Times Bestseller, Interrupting Chicken, by David Ezra Stein and All Around Us, by Xelena Gonzalez. Interrupting Chicken would surely set a class of Kindergarteners to giggling for its silliness and predictable storyline. It was a great brain break for me, as well. All Around Us really impressed me. The illustrations blew me away while the story was profound for even an adult to consider, yet simple enough to share with even the youngest of students. It also covers some cultural themes within its covers, as the author explores her heritage being a mestizo (of Native and Mexican descent).

Walking is a Way of Knowing was in the YA Lit section of the library, but had a lot of traits of a picture book, minus the extended text. It was a culturally fascinating read. The illustrations were very striking and detailed, which added to the overall experience of the book.

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Independent Reading:

I chose to pick up I am not your Perfect Mexican Daughter to cover my We Need Diverse Books bingo slot. Unfortunately, I have since abandoned the book. The culturally-driven and contemporary novel seemed interesting to me at first, but I could not get past the voice. It felt like I was reading a text message in which the sender was smack-talking somebody constantly. It could possibly relate more to teenagers, but I got such negative energy from the beginning of the book. Additionally, I felt like the author gave everything away in the first twenty pages and I didn’t need to continue reading to get the gist of it. Sadly, I might miss out on the better parts of the book, but I wasn’t going to stick with it just in case it “picked up later.”

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Instead, I picked up an author I know and love, Rick Riordan, bringing me his Norse mythological fantasy story, Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard to fulfill my fantasy bingo square. I really loved the Greek mythological tales of Percy Jackson, so I’m interested to see if I can be equally as intrigued by this series. Stay tuned! magnus.jpg

Getting Students to Read

This week’s reading included some of the greatest professional reading we’ve had in a while. I’ll share my favorite takeaways from each of the four articles we read.

Aim Higher: A Case for Choice Reading and a Whole Lot More in AP English:

One parent talked to this particular teacher saying, “I wish my daughter was in your AP Lit class. She has to decorate shoe boxes in her class,” to prove that she was “reading.” I’m sure the teacher of this student had a plan that was probably elaborate and meaningful to her. However, when you take a step back, you notice that she may have lost sight of the purpose behind reading.

This was a quote from a student: “I was an AP Lit kid, and an Honors English kid.  I SparkNoted The Scarlet Letter, Beowulf, Iliad, Catcher in the Rye, and the rest.  I never read a bit of it.” This was absolutely my experience as a high school student. That was all English class ever meant to me – SparkNotes and last minute skimming of the text. I was never learning and never reading, only striving for the grade. I could do this by memorizing study guides and gleaning big ‘themes’ from SparkNotes without ever having to do much work.

It was also mentioned that many people’s experiences after high school was to revisit the classics. It turns out that many actually enjoy them when they can choose to be reading them. This was my experience exactly! When I didn’t have to butcher The Great Gatsby for meaning and could just enjoy Fitzgerald’s wonderful language and writing, it was a magical experience for me.

My biggest takeaway from this article was this: You can’t put a price on reading, or it’s immediately devalued.

photo of person reading book on beach
Photo by anouar olh on Pexels.com

CURING THE READING GERM BY JIM BAILEY

“Anyone can fake it on a book report but it’s hard to fake a reading conference,” the article said. Mr. Bailey’s school had caught the Accelerated Reader bug, which was something I also went through in elementary school. It was quite easy to simply take the AR tests without having read the book and teachers were taxed with the responsibility of ensuring that we were being honest about it – an impossible job on top of all their other responsibilities. Reading conferences provide the social aspect to reading and naturally bring about an intrinsic motivation to read and share what you read.

Bailey also said, “I am convinced there is no better way to motivate students to read and write than to have authors visit your school.  We celebrate them like the rock stars they are.” What a great observation! I had never thought of this. It is worth remembering as a future teacher to help administration organize these events.

These were all great ideas!

Restrict screen time: It’s actually the most merciful thing one could do for children. I’ve limited my own screen time since the start of the year and my life has been more rich and enjoyable ever since.

Put books in the bathroom: This was hilarious! As long as they don’t have their phones with them, I could definitely see this working well.

woman wearing green top reading book
Photo by Artem Bali on Pexels.com

6 Simple Ideas to Get Kids to Read

Classroom libraries in every classroom. I have definitely heard the concept of having an English Language Arts classroom that has books spilling over students, but never made the connection that they should be in ALL classrooms. I’m very intrigued. I could see students interested in history class being more inclined to pick up books from the classroom library in a social studies classroom! This could have many positive effects.

Pushing books into hands. I think I am guilty of this already, but could always be more pushy 😉 I have to remember that it’s not a bad thing to be a great example of a reader for my students. Being slightly obsessed is part of this.

Let students shop for books. There is nothing I love more than ordering new books and getting that package in the mail. What a genius idea to have students be a part of this process – especially the hesitant readers!

Penny Kittle’s Book Love, Chs. 5 & 6

There was so much information packed into these last two chapters. Fortunately, I’d been exposed to a lot of the practices (thanks to Dr. Ellington’s Theory of Teaching Reading class) beforehand, but now I can have the chance to reflect on the actual theories behind the practice.

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Photo by Lina Kivaka on Pexels.com

Book talks finally made their appearance in this book! I had been waiting on this 🙂 Dr. Ellington used this every single day, book talking anywhere from two to eight books. Additionally, she gave us the chance to share our books impromptu-style if we chose, which exposed us to loads of literature in the first five minutes of class. The book talk essentials were very important takeaways:

  1. Hold the book – bringing it to class is the surest way to entice students
  2. Know the book – even if Dr. Ellington hadn’t read the book (which happened more than a person thinks) she had a pretty good idea, based on her own research or a recommendation from someone else
  3. Read a passage – Dr. Ellington often gave a synopsis, read the blurb, or a short passage, enticing us further.
  4. Remember how important you are – I think it’s crucial to remember how influential a teacher’s recommendation can be.
woman writing on a notebook beside teacup and tablet computer
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Penny Kittle also lets us know that we can incorporate book talks into other areas of English class, such as using a passage for text analysis, noticing author’s style, or viewing it from a writing standpoint. One very important effect of sharing books is creating classroom community (Clock Watchers, Stevi Quate & John McDermott). I actually think they go hand-in-hand, with one not really coming before the other, but both coexisting to create something beautiful.

Conferencing is something that I hadn’t experienced since the fourth grade. This was probably the last time that I read more than book at once until I got to college. From fourth grade to college, I had a huge gap in my reading life. This particular teacher encouraged me to challenge myself, read as many books as I wanted at one time, and met with each student weekly to see how things were going. It was very effective, speaking as the subject of this practice. The three main conferences for reading that she conducts include: Monitoring the student’s reading life, teaching strategic reading, and helping the student plan for challenge. She usually tries to let the student do most of the talking while she uses guiding questions, based on Don Graves’ theories. “Tell me more,” is a staple question for her.

people coffee meeting team
Photo by Startup Stock Photos on Pexels.com

Of course, her conferences could be any blend of those three, or spend the entire conference on something very specific. Some conferences may not even be scheduled or recorded, like an impromptu conversation in the hallway about a book that a student just finished. What matters is the constant conversation, observing, and listening to students and how they’re growing as readers.

 

 

It’s Monday! What are YOU Reading?

Welcome back! I hope all my peers had a fantastic spring break. I took a wonderful, religious trip to Indiana and lots of places in between Nebraska and there, learning loads of history and literature my my personal interests. Luckily, I had the opportunity for lots of reading in the car, as well. See below for all the wonderful books I had the pleasure of reading.

In the spirit of our theme this week, Shared Reading, I’ll first start with a few picture books that I read.

The Watermelon Seed by Greg Pizzoli (picture book)

watermelon

This adorable, easy level reading was a joy for me and those I shared it with. I was actually thrilled that I had this book with me (along with a couple others) for working the state high school basketball tournaments in Casper, Wyoming last week. A couple of toddlers were unsupervised and in danger of disrupting the live feed because of their climbing on the railings and around the cords. I pulled out this bright colored book and their attention was immediately on looking at the pictures and “reading” to themselves (making up their own, cute stories to go along with the illustrations). It was a fun experience for me and them, and it was a wonderful lesson for me to always carry books 🙂 DC2C72ED-2E46-4E61-954D-BAB861B1B6DD

Levi Strauss Gets a Bright Idea, by Tony Johnston (picture book)

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This book reminded me of Mac Barnett’s theory about fiction (see the TED Talk here). The main story of Levi Strauss was generally correct, but the author and illustrator worked together to really “stretch” the truth and make for an entertaining and whimsical picture book.

Niño Wrestles the World, by Yuyi Morales (picture book)

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This book was definitely one of a kind! It is a Pura Belpré Award winning book, and features a fearless big brother who defends the world against Latin America’s most terrifying ghosts and creatures. The Spanish language and inclusion of legends/families makes this book great for exposing students to cultures other than their own. It was very fun and provides an opportunity for teaching moments within the book.

Ghost, by Jason Reynolds (chapter book – middle grades)

ghost

I finished Ghost, and much to a few of my peers’ dismay, I was a little disappointed in it. I do plan to give Jason Reynolds another try, but this book did not impress me. As I said in my review and on Twitter, I do think this book has value in a junior high/high school classroom. The reading level and subject would be appealing to hesitant readers, and the fact that it’s the first in a series would entice those hesitant readers to read further. Additionally, the author makes a contribution to We Need Diverse Books with his incorporation of “bad neighborhoods,” a single parent, mixed races, and at-risk youth, albeit a poor one. Truthfully, I thought that the storyline was far-fetched, as if I were watching a corny, “inspirational” movie. I’m not convinced it should have been up for any awards, that’s for certain.

What to do when I’m Gone, by Suzy Hopkins and Hallie Bateman (YA and beyond graphic novel)

what

Dr. Ellington and a few peers had recommended this book to me, so I thought I’d give it a try. The graphic novel format made it pretty interesting, and perhaps lightened a heavy subject. It’s not easy to talk about death or what to do after the death of one’s mother, but this book gives us some ideas. I kind of like the fact that it doesn’t give specific instructions; it’s vague in the right places and specific in the others. It did a marvelous job of showcasing the rawness of loss and humanity, but I truthfully won’t visit this book again.

Don’t Get Caught, by Kurt Dinan (humorous, chapter book, YA level)

dont

My absolute favorite book from this week’s reading was this clever novel in a red package. There were so many pranks, clues, mysteries, and pranksters in this novel that I was completely intrigued throughout. As I said on Twitter, this novel has quite a bit of teenaged sexual humor (nothing too raunchy, but enough to entertain the reader with a bit of immaturity). I honestly laughed out loud reading this book. The characters, especially the main character, Max, were very relatable. Of course, the heists involved were a bit far-fetched, but that only added to the excitement of the novel. I was very inspired to pull off a prank after reading this novel. I think it’d be a great pick for teenage boys, but anyone could enjoy it. I think it was the mystery aspect I enjoyed so much, but it was a novel unlike one I’d ever read before. I highly encourage future high school teachers to include it in their classrooms.

Diversity in Reading YA Literature

One of the websites that most interested me was Disability in KidLit, as I think this is the one I’ve been the least exposed to and wanted to know more about.

I loved the blog post/book review about Handbook for Dragon Slayers. At a surface level, I’d choose fantasy over realistic fiction (usually), so for my first experience in this tenet of diverse reading, I think this book would be a great start. The book reviewer appreciated the fact that the book wasn’t written to just revolve around the main character’s diversity. This is a sentiment that I can get on board with.

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I wholeheartedly support the push for more diverse reading in our world. There are many voices that need to be heard. However, I don’t think that authors should just write a story about an Asian girl/disabled child/African American superhero/*insert other “oppressed” group here* just for the sake of throwing it out there to increase the quantity of diverse literature. I still hope for quality literature, and if the Diverse Reading movement wants diverse reading to be normal, then I feel that authors should simply write like it’s normal. I hope that diverse books will always be a part of our literary experiences in school, and I feel that them writing in their own voices and us rising to meet their vernacular will help this cause.

Another blog I found interesting was Rich in Color. The discussions about books make it feel like a real community and I love hearing different voices and opinions about books. One that stood out to me was A Thousand Beginnings and Endings. Since I’ve read my first YA Collection of Short Stories (Fresh Ink), I kind of want more. This book sounds like a very interesting collection with an overarching theme of mythology and fantasy, which I seem to be in the mood for. It also features Asian culture, which I am also lacking in my diverse reading. I’ll have to be on the lookout for this one!

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It’s Monday! What Are YOU Reading?

Happy Monday! I hope everyone survived the chilly weekend with nothing more than pink cheeks and some productive (or relaxing) downtime inside. I’d like to share a few books that I finished and which I am working my way through currently.

Mary’s Monster by Lita Judge (verse/graphic novel)

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This was one of the most thrilling and interesting books I’ve picked up so far this semester. It was recommended by at least three of my classmates. I think it’d be great to have in a classroom library for its ease in reading, wonderful illustrations, and for its teaching value. The historical aspects of the novel will pique student interest in Romantic literature, Victorian lifestyles, and the creation of the horror genre.

We Will Not Be Silent by Russell Freedman (Nonfiction/Picture/Chapter Book – Sibert Award)

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This true story about teenagers and young adults resisting the Nazi regime through words and writing is informative and inspiring. I learned a lot throughout this book, and I believe that even the harshest truths about our world history should be taught, so as not to be doomed to repeat the atrocities in Nazi Germany. The book follows two daring siblings who risked their lives for truth and freedom, no matter the outcome. Personally, I think it would be a great book for shared reading experiences in the classroom, as it would take only about a week to finish as a class.

Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli (LBGTQ+ literature/ National Book Award)

simon As I wrote in my tweets, this book was a jump out of my comfort zone, but I enjoyed it immensely. Albertalli has a humorous and contemporary voice that is both very real and very light at various points throughout her writing. There are moments of profanity and sexual innuendo, but I do believe this book still belongs in a classroom library. There are too many social/personal/emotional/etc. benefits to be received from reading this book for it to be banned from classrooms. It’s a feel-good kind of read that ends happily, though there are some major struggles throughout the novel. I highly recommend it, and now I kind of want to see the movie!

Teaching Lessons From a Fourth Grader

As a bonus blog post this week, I’d like to share a lesson that I learned from a 4th grader. It helped to solidify everything that we’ve covered in the first two chapters of Book Love, as well as all the principles taught in Dr. Ellington’s class, Theory of Teaching Writing.

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

 

At least once a week, I coach two girls: one in sixth and her younger sister in fourth grade. Both girls are voracious readers. They love it! And learning this gave me so much hope for their future. I was reminded of how much joy I found in reading at their age, before the fun was sucked out of it around eighth grade.

However, I think that the processes introduced by Penny Kittle in the first couple chapters of her book are going to allow these girls to be confident enough in their reading to actually learn from the classics when they get to that age. Let me explain.

The fourth grader, a very spunky and hilarious girl, struck up a conversation with me about a book that she had just read. She described Night Horse to me in detail. Some of those details were out of order, as is natural for an excited child, but I got a pretty good synopsis of the story. It included some heavy themes like alcoholism, separated families, and animal abuse.

I learned two things in this moment: (1) I had just gotten a “book talk” from a nine-year-old, and (2) students are far more capable of learning on their own terms than we give them credit for. If a fourth grader can handle learning about the dark themes in this book, why don’t we trust high schoolers with the same freedom? And I am guilty of thinking this way, too. We underplay students’ intelligence and responsibility, when we should be setting the bar higher for them. Students will rise to our expectations. This was such an excellent reminder for me in terms of the power of book talks and the power of our own students.

And my lesson didn’t end there! The fourth grader, now passionately talking about her reading hobby, told me that she was reading Dickinson with her tutor. I made her repeat that statement. She said, “I am reading Emily Dickinson poems with my tutor.”

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If this doesn’t serve as an example of Penny Kittle’s process of scaffolding students into reading more difficult materials, I don’t know what is. By giving this student choice in reading, allowing her time to read (her parents encourage all the kids to read in the car vs. having an iPad), and guiding her to more difficult texts, the people surrounding this intelligent young lady have created the confidence she needs to move forward with the classics. And she enjoys them!

As a final, personal lesson for me, I must always remember that I can learn just as much from my students as they do from me. I hope I’ll never forget this piece of wisdom. The conversation I just described totally blew me away, and gave me more faith in the processes that we are learning in this class.