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!

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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
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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!

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!

Real Examples, Real Book Love

As I stated briefly in my tweets, my favorite takeaway from Penny Kittle’s chapters 3 & 4 in Book Love were the concrete examples she gave on actually teaching the practices. These are things we can put into effect immediately, because we know they’ve been tried and true in Kittle’s expertly-run classroom.

book love

First, one major worry of mine was dealing with the issue of judgement on our newly-learned “no censorship” policy? I thought, “What would parents say? Could I ever be under fire from administration because of books that I have in the classroom?”  Penny Kittle tells us that she has a letter to parents that they read at the beginning of every semester, explaining the details of her stance on censorship. She encourages open conversation on the subject and for parents to draw their own lines on student’s limits. However, she does not obtain every risky book that students put on the classroom “want” list. She takes into consideration the appropriateness of every book in terms of her donors, the community, and parents. She still encourages students to read books of their choice, even if she doesn’t agree to buy them.

In terms of library management, there were several practical applications that Kittle mentioned. First, she mentioned that she gave up on organizing titles alphabetically. Students found it more useful to find titles by subject that they’d chosen. Secondly, she said that any kind of checkout system she’d tried, failed. Unfortunately, she’s sacrificed a lot of books for the greater good when students fail to return them, but it’s a very real part of having a free choice classroom library. She’s prepared us for this.

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Kittle emphasizes that we must meet students where they’re at – find their interests and their abilities to sustained read and work from there. Sometimes, it may involve students reading graphic novels, verse novels, lower-level books, etc. to get a good start. However, we must pay careful attention that students are not getting stuck where they are. We have to encourage students to explore different authors and subjects and levels of reading in order to grow. This can be done with various charts, keeping track of books read, and having students fill out surveys, such as a difficulty survey that she shows in the book.

Finally, I want to end with a great quote from a student on the amazing impact of free-choice reading. I have found this to be true for myself – we cannot rely on social studies, science, etc. textbooks to educate us alone. It is only by learning the stories of fictional and real people do we learn to empathize and grow as humans. This student says, “I never would have guessed that I could learn so much just by reading novels, but I have really learned a lot.” 

blur book stack books bookshelves
Photo by Janko Ferlic on Pexels.com

It’s Monday! What are YOU Reading?

I have a load of great literature to share with everyone this chilly Monday. Variety was no issue within my reading last week, and all the completed works gave me a real sense of accomplishment, as well as an excitement for future reads!

First, I’d like to share three picture books that I read with the high school class I was observing. As an added bonus for myself in this class, I’m taking the time to familiarize myself with Junior and Children’s literature for future shared reading/read aloud experiences in my class. For more information on this practice in secondary classrooms, see this article.

First, The Great Monster Hunt was a thrilling tale that involved all species of barnyard and wild animals to solve a mystery. It was wonderfully light animal literature with humorous suspense! Next, The Pout-Pout Fish was an incredibly funny tale of a grumpy fish with a pouty face. He remains pouty until he is shocked with one huge act of kindness. I was so impressed with the clever writing in this book – it’s a great opportunity to teach alliteration, rhyme, and friendship. Last, Giraffes Can’t Dance was a beautifully illustrated book with all animal characters (once again). Giraffe discovers that he cannot dance like all the other animals at the dance party. He is discouraged, but finds his own unique way of dancing. The story promotes inclusion and strength in uniqueness, making it great for any classroom!

For my Young Adult reading, I finally finished the collection of YA short stories, Fresh Ink. Holy cow was I impressed by the diversity within this little book! It included everything from black superheroes to transgender Olympic hopefuls to a mute teenager responsible for saving a fantastical world to a couple of high school sweethearts struggling with a big move. There is something in here for everyone. In my opinion, some of the authors were weaker than others, but that’s easy to judge when each are being put on the same pedestal with writers such as Walter Dean Myers and Jason Reynolds.

fresh ink

Another fascinatingly diverse book that I finished is called Dreaming in Indian. There were hundreds of writers and artists that shared their story within the hauntingly designed pages of this book. I learned so much about a vast number of indigenous people, their struggles, and how they live. I’ll add this to the “Native Author” slot on our bingo sheet, next to the book Trickster that I’ve already read. Both of these books feature many voices from Native Americans. Trickster is a collection of Native American tall tales in a graphic novel format.

I hope everyone is reaching goals, learning new things, and above all, enjoying their reading as much as possible. Have a GREAT Monday!

Banned/Challenged Books

This week in our Adolescent Literature class, we came face-to-face with the wonders and difficulties that students and librarians encounter with “challenged” literature. Challenged books are books that people have attempted to remove from library and classroom shelves. Banned books are those who have been removed altogether.

This unit of study has reminded me of the dramatic scene in the movie Footloose, where angry adults burn hundreds of books to “protect” their children and community from “harmful” ideas. It’s easy to pick up on the slippery slope that is censorship: if one person finds a single idea offensive and has it banned, where does the offensiveness and banning end?

bookburning.png

One thing that is most crucial to our successful teaching is the incorporation of CHOICE. This means a full choice, not a cherry-picked, influenced, hidden-away, not-available choice, but a vast array of books that inform and challenge students.

Some shocking comments on books that have been challenged or banned in America is that they are “un-American.” However, the NCTE Student’s Right to Read says, “One of the foundations of a democratic society is the individual’s right to read, and also the individual’s right to freely choose what they would like to read.” Freedom is an American value.

first amend

Undoubtedly, some books that are out of my comfort zone fall under the LBTQ+ category. To a lesser degree (only due to unfamiliarity), I am not as comfortable reading books that concern different religions, though reading books like Persepolis are extremely fascinating to me. These feelings are mostly due to my own personal and religious beliefs, but for the sake of my future students, I am expanding my own reading and future classroom library so that all will have relatable reading materials.

As far as sharing challenged books in school, I think it’s the teacher’s responsibility to first create a caring, understanding learning environment in which to share these books. Challenged books have been a part of public school curriculum for a long time (To Kill a Mockingbird, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, etc.). I think the sharing of challenged can be expanded to suit our times and students with no problem.

 

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading?

As the rodeo season winds up and practice has begun for my horses and I, my reading has slowed significantly. While I enjoyed being able to read much more than the required 4 hours per week for our Adolescent Literature class during the winter months, I’m also ready to be active and competitive again. Nevertheless, I never take for granted the allotted time I take out of my week for adolescent reading. Let me share what I am currently reading!

I actually strayed off of my reading plan for last week a little bit, because I was pretty excited to start my first YA collection of short stories. This particular book, Fresh Ink, “has made a donation to We Need Diverse Books,” according to the back cover. So far, I am about 75 pages in and I’ve already read thrilling and eye-opening stories about protagonists who are, respectively, Native American, openly gay, moving away from their boyfriend, desperately crushing on the cutest athlete in school, Asian, and a superhero. Each character has their own internal struggles, along with the desire to fit into a society that may exclude them. Each short story is authored by a person as unique as their characters, and we see appearances of some our favorite authors, including Walter Dean Myers, Jason Reynolds, and Aaron G. Flak.

fresh ink

Next, my book club will be discussing our reading of the graphic novel, Persepolis. I am excited to read this one, as it satisfies our requirement for reading work from a Muslim author. I have never read anything from a Muslim author to my knowledge, so I’m thrilled to be expanding my knowledge and empathy for other cultures. The black and white illustrations look compelling, as they tell the autobiographical story of Marjane Satrapi as she grew up in Iran during the Islamic Revolution. I’ll be sure to share the results with all of my followers! To close, I have already found another selling point to this graphic novel (on top of everything mentioned above). There is a Persepolis 2! Have a great week everyone.