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.
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!
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.
“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.
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.
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!
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!
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, 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!
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
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
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?