Summer Reading (Tentative) Plans

It’s so difficult to choose what I want to read over the summer, because I’ve accumulated a fantastic little library of my own this year, thanks to Thriftbooks. To be honest, this semester has been absolutely brutal for me, dealing with loss, difficult people, and other personal issues. I’m looking forward to my summer reading as a sort of therapy for me, which is why I don’t want to plague myself with rules and schedules for now. I can worry about challenging myself at a later time. Furthermore, I want to really feed my writer’s mind with excellent reading. Another focus for my summer is going to be blogging daily in order to grow as a writer. It is my hope to be inspired, to learn, and to grow with amazing authors.

Because of all my different interests – each so important to me – I have divided my summer reading into three categories: Young Adult, Spiritual, and Cowboy.

Young Adult Reading:

First and foremost, I plan to read three amazing gentlemen, whom I am inspired by already, yet I have not read a single novel that they have written. I suppose this reading is somewhat inspired by my spirituality (all three are Catholic apologists), but I look forward to diving into their wonderful fantasy worlds. Additionally, I hope to be inspired by their lives and their writing techniques. Chesterton’s Father Brown mysteries, Tolkien’s The Hobbit, and Lewis’s first book in the series The Chronicles of Narnia will be up first.

Spiritual Reading:

I am very close to finishing a really refreshing book that takes the reader through notable locations of Catholicism/Christianity throughout the world. I feel that I have experienced the Holy Land, Rio, Chesterton’s pub, the Holocaust (where many Catholics were martyred), JPII’s home in Poland, and many more locations without ever leaving my room. I’ll be sad when this book ends, but I have been reading it for a long time. Such is the curse of a reader!

letters

Kathleen Norris is an author I encountered in Dr. Coughlin’s Nonfiction Creative Writing class. I absolutely adored her style of writing and related to her sentiments about Catholicism and living in the West. I currently have two of her books in my possession and intend to soak up each word she has written for my own spiritual journey and to grow as a writer.

Finally, one book that I have found highly recommended online is Cardinal Sarah‘s The Power of Silence: Against the Dictatorship of Noise. To paraphrase a review that I read, “Every paragraph is food for the soul.” I have no idea what to expect with this book, but I believe that it is going to be very enlightening for me!

power

Cowboy Reading:

Now for the fun section. In reading more cowboy literature, I hope to familiarize myself with the wildness, humor, and seriousness involved in writing about my culture. It is my ultimate hope to publish nonfiction writing that illustrates the lifestyle that I am surrounded by, as I feel that it is a way of life that needs to be more represented in literature.

One author that I would like to be more familiar with, due to his fame among cowboys, is the legendary author and illustrator, Will James. His books are pretty easy to move through, so none of them should take me very long to read.

Finally, another great cowboy writer is Ben Green. I have his book, Horse Tradin’ and the sequel, Some More Horse Tradin’, which are true stories from his life making a living buying and selling horses. From these books, I hope to learn about the art of storytelling. Most of his stories are from real life, and many people think their stories are not worth sharing. I hope to fight this notion with my work down the road.

 

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.

anya

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!

romeo

 

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!

It’s Monday! What are YOU Reading?

I had a little celebration for myself last week, as I reached the 50 Book mark! I’ve read 50 titles since January 1st, which includes the reading for this class, required reading for other classes, professional reading, and picture books (shared reading experiences). I finished quite a few titles last week and I’m so excited to share them with you!

longway.jpg Long Way Down, by Jason Reynolds

I had heard so much about this verse novel and so was excited to dive into it for our book club meeting last week. My first Jason Reynolds experience (Ghost) was not very good. I gave him another try and was surprised to find that his verse is much better than his fiction writing. Long Way Down was reflective of the gang issues in our country and had really impactful themes of family and death. The idea behind this book was fresh and unique.

maus  Maus, by Art Spiegelman

Again, I had heard much about this book, especially from a peer that really enjoys Holocaust literature. The author told two narratives throughout the book – the one of him interviewing his father and the actual narrative of his father being pursued and incarcerated alongside his wife. At first, I really didn’t understand what Spiegelman was doing while telling both stories (I was confused at times) but I eventually understood him to be reflecting on the lasting effects of what his father went through. It was fascinating how he made Jews mice, Germans cats, the Polish pigs, and another nationality dogs. It makes one really reflect on what he was trying to do there. I’ve heard that the second book is better than the first, so I look forward to reading it!

Shared Reading Books: 

I read three picture books and listed them in order of least favorite to favorite, in my opinion. I do have to say that the art in all of these books was absolutely fantastic and worth looking at, no matter the story.

Brownie Groundhog and the February Fox was a cute little story for those days that you may not want to think about story very much. It would be great for wintertime!

The Emperor and the Nightingale is an ancient Chinese tale. This adaptation was my first time reading about it, and the historical value of the story would be wonderful to share with any classrooms. The art is absolutely fabulous!

Finally, Dazzle Ships was my gem for the week. I actually had a bookmark with this book featured on it. I was so happy to have found it in our library. I love strange bits of history, like this book features. During WWI, British ships were painted with outrageous patterns to throw off the enemy and prevent attacks. How cool is that! What’s more, the story is only half the fun – the illustrations were, well… dazzling!

Using YALSA

Besides Goodreads, the YALSA website has been my best source for finding new reads. Admittedly, I don’t use it as much as I’d like to because my peers are also wonderful sources for finding new books, but I am pleasantly overwhelmed with new books ideas every time I peruse the site.

For my exploration today, I visited two sections of the site: The “Awards and Selected Lists” and “By Teens.”

Awards and Selected Lists

To my surprise, YALSA is already garnering nominations for the Quick Picks for Reluctant Readers and updates the list weekly. After only a few minutes on the site, I had added a pile of books to my TBR List. I also like how YALSA includes hashtags for their featured books. In this instance, it’s #qp2020. An incredible list of five books that have been nominated can be found here. Check them out!

Another section I really loved was the Great Graphic Novels Roundup, found in the same feed. Again, their hashtag for this section on Twitter is #ggn2020. A couple of real gems I found in the graphic novel sections can be found at the links I have attached to each title.

The Faithful Spy: Dietrich Bonhoeffer and the Plot to Kill Hitler by John Hendrix;

Woman World by Aminder Dhaliwal

Pilu of the Woods written and illustrated by Mai K. Nguyen
Oni Press

By Teens

I was intrigued by this section because it shows us what teens are actually reading and thinking about. I even found some great ideas for fun mini-lessons in here, too! In this section, teenagers write about books they have recently read. One of the most recent posts was on one student’s fantasy casting for a book they had read, All Better Now by Emily Wing Smith. This not only exposes more people to the books that this young adult is interested in, it provides us with something more to consider while reading it. All-Better-Now.jpg

Another intriguing post included one teen’s projections for what they think the main character’s playlist would have sounded like, based on the book Goodbye, Rebel Blue by Shelley Coriell. Again, what an amazing book talk and even more interesting way to talk about it. I really loved the “By Teens” section.

Goodbye-Rebel-Blue

 

It’s Monday! What are you reading?

monday

With all the snow and the little break last week, I got the chance to spend some time with some wonderful books. My heart was so full for the two days I got to sit down and read, and I wish those opportunities would come around more often. This time of year, my life picks up rapidly and my reading is limited to spare moments before class, before bed, and the quiet minutes of the morning with my coffee. I have three very different books to share with you all.

A Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee

This book was long-awaited for me. I had read so many great reviews about the uniqueness of this LGBTQ+ novel that I couldn’t wait to start it. It’s a little lengthy (about 500 pages), so our little break was the perfect time to sit down and finish it. I was not disappointed after all the hype. It’s amazingly adventurous, as the main character, Monty, finds himself in quite a few pickles. Some of them involve his own promiscuity, but some involve holdups by highwaymen and kidnapping by pirates. Monty is constantly being accused of being a “rake,” though the only one that truly has his heart is his best friend, Percy. The character arc is beautiful, the setting is fascinating, and the old British language held my heart throughout the novel. It was truly one of a kind. The novel is the 2018 Stonewall Book Award winner for its merit in the LBGTQ+ community. A third main character, Monty’s sister, Felicity, is the star of Lee’s sequel novel, A Lady’s Guide to Petticoats and Piracy. I can’t wait to give that one a try.

A Coyote Solstice Tale, by Thomas King

solstice

This was my pick for a shared reading book this week. Coyote hosts a Christmas party where his friends all bring something to eat and to share. A poorly disguised little girl also comes to the party. The gathering decides to see what a Christmas looks like in a human’s world, so they go to the mall on Christmas Eve, where people act like animals and spend exorbitant amounts of money on gifts for one another. The animals don’t quite understand the culture of the little girl and then see why she chose to join them at their humble little cabin in the woods with small gifts and big hearts. It’s an adorable picture book with an important message for all. This would be especially enjoyable around Christmastime.

Macy McMillan and the Rainbow Goddess, by Shari Green

macy

First off, I just want to say that this book is an absolute 10/10 in my opinion and should be in every classroom library out there. It’s a Schneider Family Award winner for its focus on the life of a deaf girl who is about to enter into middle school. She is struggling with her mom’s new marriage, her moving away from her house, and that her best friend won’t talk to her. Macy makes an unexpected friend and learns a lot about life and friendship in the process. Macy McMillan and the Rainbow Goddess is a beautifully written verse novel that I finished in about an hour. The messages in this book are priceless and it’s an absolute gem of a book. Plus, who doesn’t love the gorgeous colors on the cover?

It’s Monday! What Are YOU Reading?

The final rush before spring break is in full swing for me. I am reeling and stressing for all the homework I need to get done in a short amount of time, so I’m thankful for my coffee pot and oddly enough, the cold weather. When it’s brutally cold like it is, at least I won’t feel as guilty for not spending time outside 🙂

Last week was pretty slow for my Adolescent Lit. reading, as I didn’t finish as many books as I’d hoped. However, the quality of books I read make them worth sharing with all of you!

What the Night Sings, by Vesper Stamper (illustrated novel)

nightFirst, our book club read a phenomenal novel by Vesper Stamper. This up-and-coming author hit it out of the park with this book, in my opinion. She has such an inspirational story of her own, overcoming a paralysis in one of her arms as an artist. Stamper re-learned how to create art and illustrates her own books. Furthermore, the story in this novel is incredible. It’s unique in Holocaust literature, as the timeline begins with the liberation of a death camp, which is much different than most Holocaust stories we are used to reading. It brings many new aspects of the Holocaust to light, such as those who were Jewish by heritage, but not religiously; the role of music as a saving grace; the twisted psychology used by Nazis, the politics existing in Germany after liberation; immigration to other countries after the war; and even harsh physical truths as a result of severe starvation, such as the question of being able to give birth or the loss of one’s voice. The experience of this book is indescribable, and I’d recommend it to anyone.

Peace, Locomotion, by Jacqueline Woodson (verse novel, written in letters; sequel to Locomotion)

peace

I am currently reading Peace, Locomotion, as well. This book will cross off my “verse novel” slot on my bingo sheet. I had a hard time deciding what kind of book this was, as every page is written as a letter, but I decided that classifying it as a verse novel would be acceptable. It’s the “companion” to the book Locomotion, which was a National Book Award finalist and Coretta Scott King Honor book. It’s a very quick read (I should have it done in an hour, once I get to sit down and read for pleasure) and the format is very interesting. Woodson has done some amazing things in the way of Language Arts and creating diverse literature for students to read. The narrator, Lonnie, is relatable and a great writer, even in his letters. This pair of books has great value in our future classrooms, as students can have something to look forward to reading after finishing the first book. Woodson is a must-read author this semester!

What do cows have to do with diversity?

I’ve been fortunate enough to be exposed to loads of diverse literature in my experience so far at Chadron State. I now realize the importance of reading and spreading the knowledge of its importance to others. I was ignorant to the big piece of my reading life that I was missing so I hope that through the We Need Diverse Books movement, other teachers may find value in the voices of the voiceless in our culturally unique country.

I have a hard time remembering everything that I read in high school, but after reflecting on the racial diversity of the books I read (as these articles prompted), I can see that pretty much everyone would look like me.

girl reading book while sitting beside desk globe
Photo by Frans Van Heerden on Pexels.com

However, I don’t remember finding very many books that reflected my own culture and background. When I first read the readings about the missing literature from our classrooms, my first though was, “So what? None of the books I read were about kids from rural areas, and I survived.” Then I came to the realization the consequences of this. To prove the importance of diverse reading, I’ll explore my own view of the world with my rural/agricultural lens and how it’s been affected by our lack of diverse literature. This is only one, small example of an unrepresented culture in literature to help me express my belief in the cause of We Need Diverse Books.

Version 2

I’ll lay out a few quick facts to put the efficiency of American agriculture in perspective: 2% of Americans are responsible for all of the textiles, food, and other agricultural production used by Americans and the world. Another fact is that Americans produce enough food to feed the entire world (distributing restraints prevent these goods from reaching the starving populations of the earth). In this respect, ag. producers are the “minority” of Americans. Here’s why this is important and applies to this lesson on representing all cultures and demographics in literature:

We live in a country that produces an incredible amount food/textiles so efficiently that the majority of Americans have been able to distance themselves from ag. production. This is both good and bad. The efficiency achieved is astounding, but the separation between rural and urban lifestyles have made room for loads of misconceptions and misunderstanding.

For example, many Americans hardly know where their food comes from. This study shows that almost half of Americans don’t know the origin of flavored (chocolate) milk. Many consumers also live in fear of farming practices they don’t understand, such as the use of GMO’s, the purpose of pesticides, or the need for antibiotics. They fear the consumption of hormones in beef (1.9 nanograms per serving) while often ingesting 2,000 nanograms in cabbage, 51 million in tofu, and 35, and 35,000 in one single birth control pill (see more). Farmers and ranchers are continually accused of mistreating land and animals, which couldn’t be further from the truth. All of the misinformation and anxiety has many negative consequences, including unjust, restrictive laws, the spread of false information, and unnecessarily tarnished reputations.

I use my view of the world to reiterate that literature representative of all demographics is so crucial to understanding someone different than yourself. If there is this much misinformation about agriculture due to a lack of familiarity, think of the vast number of cultures that aren’t represented in our mainstream literature in classrooms in America. This unit has really opened my eyes, and I do hope that my peers will not forget agricultural literature in their future classrooms, in addition to their plethora of other diverse reading 🙂

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