Sunday, November 29, 2015

YA Favorites: Fall Term 2015

From my reading this summer & fall -- here are my 16 favorites (fiction and non-fiction) for the classroom (otherwise known as the ones that never stay long on the shelves in our classroom library!)!!


FICTION

Another Kind of Hurricane
by Tamara Ellis Smith
Another Kind of Hurricane tells the story of ten year old Zavion, a black boy who loses his home in Hurricane Katrina, and Henry, a ten year old white boy from Vermont whose best friend Wayne just died. A marble connects these two boys from opposite sides of the East Coast as they each are on their own journey of healing. Inspired by Hurricane Irene and the wreckage of that hurricane along with Katrina, this beautifully braided narrative inspires reflection, hope and courage in the reader.



Auggie & Me: Three Wonder Stories
by R.J. Palacio
Auggie & Me was a beautiful, beautiful continuation of the story so many of us know and love, Wonder. The way he pulls out characters, especially, Julian, who we think is so terrible makes you think more not just about the story, but about how the characters are so much deeper than we may ever see! Absolutely so many good lessons and themes in this story - plan on reading aloud and using in my classroom! Fabulous, once again from R.J. Palacio.



Blue Gold
by Elizabeth Stewart
A stunningly written braided narrative from three teenage girl's perspective, Blue Gold, while a fictional story will leave the reader questioning the daily devices they use, and if they are part of this disgusting cycle of exploitation, hate, and cruelty. Sylvie is a refugee from the Congo in a Tanzanian refugee camp who is faced with pursuing her dreams or giving into cyclical intimidation by the local warlord. Laiping is a young Chinese teen who lies about her age to work in the city's factories to earn money for her rural family. And Fiona is a Canadian teen who finds herself in the middle of both stories, as she tries to write her own. Cannot say enough about how great this text is! For teachers -- upper middle/high school -- recommend with caution -- detailed description of drinking/sex/sexual assault.




Fish in a Tree 
by Lynda Mullaly Hunt
Fish In a Tree delicately addresses the common fear of any child who has ever felt out of place in school through the incredibly courageous sixth grader, Ally. Ally describes having been at seven different schools and takes you through her routine of just trying to make it through her school day without being picked on by teachers and her classmates. With an older brother she idolizes, and a hard-working mom trying to keep things afloat while her dad is deployed, Ally wins the heart of the reader fast. She's a creative, spirited, spunky girl, who with the help of a new teacher, Mr. Daniels, and her new trio of friends, is getting ready to conquer her previously undiagnosed dyslexia and social fears. Charming and uplifting!

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Reading in the Wild: The Book Whisperer's Keys to Cultivating Lifelong Reading Habits by Donalyn Miller


Donalyn Miller! Everyone has told me constantly how much this book was a must-read, and I am SO glad I finally sat down to read it. It's a very easy read, it feels conversational, but make no mistake, it's power packed with research and great stats to back up her beautifully authentic teacher wisdom.

Here's the basics: the "counterfeit activities" of schools prevent and often negate the real, "wild" reader each child is as a part of their natural, normal lives. This fosters a hate, instead of love of reading, as kids spend longer in the school system (aka... READICIDE). Or in Miller's own words: "In fact, the practices of many schools reading programs diminish and disregard the development of personal reading habits... Our children shouldn't have to wait for adulthood to become wild readers. For many it will be too late." (4)

In addition to her great wisdom and sharp anecdotes from her own classroom and surveys of "wild readers," she has great resource templates attached for everything you could desire, creating a workshop schedule, curating the library, etc.!

Chpt. 1: Wild Readers Dedicate Time to Read

"...the more they enjoy and develop confidence in reading and the more likely they are to read in their free time. We cannot tell children they need to read more and refuse to offer any time for them to read during the school day. Imagine schools where band, choir, debate, and athletics participants were not given practice time during the school day yet were still expected to perform. If we expect students to perform well as readers, they need time to practice reading at school, too." (9)

Chpt. 2: Wild Readers Self-Select Reading Material

"Read. Read anything. Read the things the say are good for you, and the things they claim are junk. You'll find what you need to find. Just read." -Neil Gaiman

Points for Gaiman, and points to Miller for choosing this to begin her chapter. She describes the pain of selecting, but also emphasizes just how important it is to be self-selecting!

Chpt. 3: Wild Readers Share Books and Reading With Other Readers

Benefits include: Foster connections with other readers, increase how much students read, challenge readers to stretch, improve reader's enjoyment and appreciation of what they read, suggest titles for additional reading, encourage mindfulness about what you read and share (98-99)

Includes some of my favorite digital tools: @nerdybookcl (website here), @goodreads (website here), #titletalk (monthy twitter chat last Sunday of each month at 8pm)

And my favorite definition of being a reading teacher, "A teacher who reads and a reader who teaches." (qtd from Teachers As Readers, 104). I feel my best always when I don't loose sight of this!

Chpt. 4: Wild Readers Have Reading Plans

Whether it's a challenge like #bookaday, a resolution, make sure to help readers keep track of plans, and model those for your students! Always keep a to-read list at the ready so there's never a "without a book" feeling.

Chpt. 5: Wild Readers Show Preferences

"Sometimes, you read a book so special that you want to carry it around for months after you've finished just to stay near it." - Markus Zusak, The Book Thief 

Again, she opens the chapter with a quote that couldn't be more perfect! From one genre, series, or author, reading widely to then help us read deeper into our preferences is a fabulous "wild" habit to cultivate.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Readicide: How Schools Are Killing Reading and What You Can Do About It by Kelly Gallagher


We all know and love Kelly Gallagher (if you don't you soon will!), but this book make be my favorite of all. Instead of Readicide: How Schools Are Killing Reading and What You Can Do About It, I'd name it Readicide: How Schools Kill Reading and Teachers' Hearts, but I'll Gain Them Back!

While the organization is a bit confusing, I do adore every single word of this book. And the appendix of "101 Books My Reluctant Readers Love to Read," (definitely a must-see). But my other favorites:

1. The dedication: 
"For those educators who resist the policitical in favor of the authentic." OK, swooning a little already.

2. New Word Dictionary Style:
"Read-i-cide: noun, the systematic killing of the love of reading, often exacerbated by the inane, mind-numbing practices found in schools." (2) Ummm, yes! No word is more worthy of American Heritage entrance.

3. The Elephant in The Room
"We are developing test-takers at the expense of readers." (7)

4. Paige Paradox (a.ka., cycles of failure and low expectations)
He asks the must needed question, "Which of our students are paying the steepest price?" (14), and addresses what he calls the "Paige Paradox." This paradox is essentially how in order to help struggling readers, Rod Paige, secretary of education in the George W. Bush administration began an increase in testing readers more to see their progress level. Then, because schools feel pressure to drown readers in test prep and real reading disappears, scores on the tests end up being OK for those who already read, but for those who struggle, scores are poor since real curriculum has been sacrificed already. Lower scoring schools then have to increase test focus to increase scores, which drives deeper and deeper into the readicide cycle. As Gallagher explains: "Because the approach did not work the first time, the approach the second time around is to take the ineffective approach and intensify it. Return to step one... continue to the cycle until all reluctant readers are dead and all teachers are demoralized" (17).



Thrive: 5 Ways to (Re)Invigorate Your Teaching by Meenoo Rami



THIS BOOK!

Disclaimer: I am not being paid by Rami or Heinemann in any way shape or form (but they should definitely feel free to be in touch :P). This book just really was so fabulous, I have to share. If there was ever someone who matched my teacher soul, Rami is it!

I read it over the course of an afternoon, night where I stayed up a bit too late because I couldn't put it down, before the starting school bell the next day, at lunch, during my planning, and that evening. While I read it last year, I find myself returning to this reflection I'd written for its wisdom.

I was hooked from the opening quote (in top of picture collage to the left): "Let the beauty we love be what we do. There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground." - Jalaluddin Rumi

And it just got better from there! Rami, teacher and founder of #engchat humbly puts her highs and lows on public display, and also has the dream-team of mentors and supporters backing her (Chris Lehmann, Jim Burke, Ann Leaness, etc.). Her simple advice isn't anything we haven't heard before, but there's something about the way she presents it, you feel like your best friend teacher soul has risen and come before you in print.

So the down & dirty of her tips:

1. Turn To Mentors
"If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants." -Isaac Newton (1)

She offers the sad truth that only 5% of teachers get support and comprehensive leadership as we should (2)... so for the rest of us? What to do? Build it yourself! "I am aware that I am a sum of all of my mentors" (7). Have many mentors, across many disciplines and networks, there is strength in diversity of disciplines and perspectives!