Monday, July 29, 2013

It's Monday, What Are You Reading?

It's Monday, What Are You Reading?

I'm officially picking up this meme today and will be posting my reading each Monday hereafter.  I'm excited to take part in an iniative that encourages reading and sharing with others.  Thanks to Teach Mentor Texts and Book Journey who originally started the meme.  I'll be reviewing picture books, middle grade books, and adult books.  I'd love to hear what you're reading, too!

 Last week I finished a couple of fun books.  This is a bit of  repeat list from my last blog post, but I added a couple more things.


Another cute installment in the Otis collection. The farm animals are afraid of the bull on the farm because he is not kind to them. When a tornado strikes, however, the bull is scared and Otis comes to his rescue.  This was one my almost four-year-old daughter picked out at the library.  We have the original Otis at home and she was super excited to read another Otis book.  We also borrow Otis and the Puppy.  We haven't read it yet, but I have a feeling it will be read soon!

The Princess and the Potty by Wendy Cheyette Lewison

This book might be the turning point in our quest to potty train said daughter mentioned above.  She very much relates with the princess who does not want to use the potty in this book.  However, she ASKED for a pink potty and now has it in her room.  She is actually excited about the thought of using it.  It's been a very thrilling 24 hours in our household...

Odd Owls and Stout Pigs by Arnold Lobel

This is a fun collection of poetry written for young children about owls and pigs doing zany things and acting in nonsensical manners.  Natalie loved it!  It's got a nice lull to it and it's fun to read.


What I love about the Hattie books are the strength and determination of a young woman in the early 1900s. Hattie left Montana in the first book and ventured to San Francisco in the second book to follow her dream of being a reporter. She's a plucky, self-sufficient female that doesn't have to rely on the good graces of men to find her way in the world. Bravo Hattie and Kirby Larson!



I'd love to know what you're currently reading and or listening to!  Leave a comment below.  Happy reading!

Friday, July 26, 2013

Late Summer Reading Round-Up 2013

This has been a busy summer for me!  I took a four week course at Miami University through the Ohio Writing Project (which I blogged about previously), a did a day writing retreat in Hocking Hills, OH with Choice Literacy, I'm gearing up for a professional development presentation I'll be attending for two days next week presented by Laura Robb, and oh, yeah, school starts in about three weeks.  It's been a summer full of writing, reading, and thinking.  I thought it would be fun to take a look at what I've read so far this summer.  There is a mix of picture books, middle grade novels, young adult books, and adult literature.  Peruse at your leisure.  I would love to know what your favorite book or two have been this summer (so far--there are three weeks left, after all!).

1. Rump: The True Story of Rumpelstiltskin by Leisl Shirtliff

I loved this book about Rumplestiltskin's background! Rump is a poor boy living in the Mountain area of his kingdom. His mother died shortly after his birth and his father was already dead. His grandmother raised him until she died when Rump was 11 or 12. Right before his grandmother's death, Rump discovers his mother's old spinning wheel in the wood pile. He brings it in and his grandmother vehemently discourages him from using it. Not surprisingly he doesn't listen and he's soon spinning gold. Spinning gold gets him into some binds, but takes him on an adventure to find the rest of his name (which will reveal his destiny) and his lost family. I think I'm going to start the year with this. It's got everything a 5th grader will love: humor, solid theme, play-on-words, and symbolism, but it's done in a very age-appropriate manner. This is a great read!

2. The Colossus Rises by Peter Larangis

I give this one 3.5 stars. I think kids would give it 4 or 5 stars. The story is full of action, very similar to a Rick Riordan read. I liked the premise that it's based around the seven wonders of the world. There is so much fantastical action that I had trouble keeping up and I often found my mind wandering. The end of the book just cut off, without wrapping up loose ends. Obviously, the next book will pick up right where this one left off, but I'm not a fan of just cutting off a story. I think I could certainly recommend this to kids that love the fantasy/sci-fi genre and kids that love Percy Jackson or The Red Pyramid series.

3. Out of My Mind by Sharon Draper

Somehow, I'd never read this entire book! It was wonderful. Melody is stuck in a wheelchair and cannot talk, but she can think and yearns to speak. She convinces her parents to buy her a medi-board, which allows her to type (with one thumb only) words that the board can speak for her. Melody experiences a whole new world when she can use her talking board at school. She even makes the quiz team and they qualify for a trip to Nationals in Washington D.C. Then, tragedy strikes and Melody has to decide who her real friends are and what it means to be loved.

4. The Unwanteds by Lisa McMann

I enjoyed this first book in the Unwanteds series. In a nutshell, a group of children is selected every year as "unwanteds" because they've somehow demonstrated some form of creativity in an society that does not value creativity. Said children are sent to a "death camp", which proves to be a lovely world filled with creative artists. The book focuses on a group of kids fighting against their "home" country of Quill when the Quillians discover that the death camp isn't a death camp at all. Reminded my a lot of an updated version of Harry Potter.

5. Doll Bones by Holly Black

A story of three kids on the brink of adolescence who have a last adventure together and try to find their way in the ever-changing world of tweendom.

6. Matched by Ally Condie

Wow! This is one of the best young adult books I've read (listened to) in a long while! Cassia lives in the society and is matched at age 17 (through genetics) to her best friend Xander. However, when she consults her microchip to learn more about Xander, Ky Marcum's picture comes on the screen, leading Cassia to become curious about her match. Was she really supposed to be with Xander, or is she destined to be with Ky? More than a love story, this is an intriguing look at what the world has become and how controlled its citizens are. I would love to read this book with a group of middle school students and have a discussion about the society in which the characters live.

7. Hattie Ever After by Kirby Larson

What I love about the Hattie books are the strength and determination of a young woman in the early 1900s. Hattie left Montana in the first book and ventured to San Francisco in the second book to follow her dream of being a reporter. She's a plucky, self-sufficient female that doesn't have to rely on the good graces of men to find her way in the world. Bravo Hattie and Kirby Larson!

8. Otis and the Tornado by Loren Long

Another cute installment in the Otis collection. The farm animals are afraid of the bull on the farm because he is not kind to them. When a tornado strikes, however, the bull is scared and Otis comes to his rescue.

9. The Princess and the Potty by Wendy Cheyette Lewison

This is a great book about a princess that has no desire to use the potty (sound familiar?). She decides to go potty on her own terms. Gives me a speck of hope...
This will be especially meaningful for any of you that know me or my husband and our struggles with potty training our soon-to-be four year old (yes, you read that correctly).

10. And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini

I LOVED this book about a brother and sister separated at an early age and all of the people in their lives that intertwined bringing about their eventual reunion. One of the best books of 2013!

This list pales in comparison to other summers, when I was a reading machine.  However, I've devoted copious amounts of time this summer to writing.  Trade-offs, right?  I do plan on getting a few more books in before school starts.  And, of course, reading never stops.  I'll be reading right through the school year.  

Leave a comment and let me know what your favorite summer read has been, be it picture book, early readers, middle grade books, YA, or adult.  I'm always looking for books to add to my ever-growing "to-read" list.  Happy Reading!

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Top 10 Ways to Turn Your Classroom into a Hotbed of Enthusiastic Readers

On Sunday, Holly Mueller and I were guest bloggers on The Nerdy Book Club blog.  Holly blogs regularly at Reading, Teaching, Learning.  We co-wrote the following article about turning your classroom into a "hotbed" of reading enthusiasm.  It was so much fun to co-create the piece!  We're looking forward to writing more together.

If you've never checked out Nerdy Book Club, you need to scoot on over!  It's a great site that is full of enthusiastic teachers, librarians, and people interested in education.

Click Here!

We are intermediate grade teachers who have learned over the years that there are practices that get kids excited about reading.   We tried to rank them but decided they were all equally important.  We can’t imagine eliminating any of them, so these are not in any particular order.
1.  Know your kids.  Did Katie’s hamster die last night?  Is Michael upset because his parents are getting a divorce?  If you know your kids, you can connect readers with books.  LOVE THAT DOG may help Katie express her feelings about her beloved pet.  BIGGER THAN A BREAD BOX may help Michael see his parents as people and forgive them.  Books speak to our students.  Keep students in mind when you read books.
2.  Read aloud EVERY DAY. We know there is not enough time in the day for all you have to do.  But don’t give up reading aloud.  It builds a reading community (and vocabulary, fluency, and a sense of story) and provides touchstone texts.  Reading aloud creates a bonding experience and time to be together in another world.  It provides numerous opportunities to model good writing and teach reading strategies.   And it’s fun!
3.  Invite authors into your classroom and school.  If you can’t get them to come in person, Skype, Twitter, blog, and e-mail them in!  Treat authors like they’re rock stars!  Meeting authors gives students a glimpse into a writer’s world and just may inspire them to become writers themselves!  We have found children’s authors to be extremely kind, creative, and interesting people!  Use social media to connect to authors and educators.  It’s inspiring to be part of that positive online community.
4.  Be a wide and voracious reader yourself.  We couldn’t put this any better thanKatherine Sokolowski and her students did in her own Nerdy Top Ten.  We believe this is the number one reason why we are getting better as reading teachers.  We are more and more passionate and knowledgeable about children’s books at all levels, genres, and formats.  The kids see that and are moved to action by it.
5.  Give students choice with frameworks.  Students should be allowed to choose what they read as much as possible.  Eliminate or at least limit whole class book studies.  We find that read alouds substitute as whole class novels and can provide common mentor texts for all kinds of purposes.  Even when choosing books for small group studies, we give them choices.  A framework like reading contracts (contracts given every month, focusing on a theme topic or genre that incorporates choice reading and CCSS) gives students direction in their reading.  We feel uncomfortable when students are only reading what they want to read and there isn’t any direction.  When we job-shared, we chose to go without contracts for one year and found that student reading was difficult to track and connect to other reading.  Contracts frame their reading into genres, theme topics, and /or book formats so they are challenged to read widely and deeply as well as voraciously.  Keep in mind that the kids are also expected to read independent books that are COMPLETELY their choice along with their chosen required books.
6.  Institute Donalyn Miller’s 40 Book Challenge.  This is another idea we’ve incorporated into our classrooms that has made a huge difference.  THE BOOK WHISPERER is a must-read when teaching reading.  We were skeptical at first because 40 books sounded like a lot of books in our pre-reading-hotbed days.  However, it was successful the first year.  The 40 Book Challenge is a work in progress.  We are continually tweaking it to fit our readers and to reflect what we’re learning.  Make the 40 Book Challenge your own, but whatever you do, don’t overlook or underestimate its power to encourage students to read.
7.  Build a classroom library and bring books TO students.  Recently, a student was helping one of us pack up books to move to a new classroom.  She said, “You have OBBD.  Obsessive Book Buying Disorder.  But that’s not a bad thing!”  Kelly Gallagher tells a story in his book READICIDE about trying to book talk a memoir by Lois Duncan chronicling her daughter’s murder.  He knew it was high interest, and he knew a lot of students had seen I Know What You Did Last Summer.  The library had 3 copies; Gallaher had none.  The only way he could get kids to check out the books was to bring them into the classroom to the kids. Immediately providing books to students in the classroom is one of the cornerstones for happy readers. We’ve spent years building healthy-sized classroom libraries. When multiple copies or new titles are needed, and you don’t have them in your library, check them out yourself at a library and bring them into the classroom.  Do we lose a few?  Yes.  Is it worth it?  Yes.
8.   TALK about books as well as write about them.  Be as “real life” as possible.  When was the last time you made a diorama when you finished a book?  AtDublin Literacy Conference, Donalyn Miller said, “I’m not a language arts and crafts teacher.”  What DID you do the last time you finished a book?  You probably wrote or talked about it!  There is lots of material to cover with CCSS, but we can do it authentically.  Do we sometimes ask questions on a worksheet or do projects?  Yes, but there are many ways we assess.  Kids want to talk to each other and to YOU about what they’re reading!  Give them free writing and talking rein when possible.  We get more authentic responses to books when we give kids less parameters.  Do they need to practice writing from prompts?  Yes, but they also need to practice writing about what THEY want to say.
9.  Offer book clubs.  Kids don’t need rewards for reading like points, prizes, and parties.  However, they love book clubs.  We’ve run Mock Newbery and Caldecott clubs, parent/student book clubs (one even took place at the Cincinnati Zoo after reading THE ONE AND ONLY IVAN), and pledged to “Choose Kind” after reading WONDER.  Parents have eagerly snapped up multiple copies of our read alouds to read and discuss with us and commented on classroom blog conversation starters.  Students have told us they were proud they got their parents to read.  How many of you belong to book clubs?  Kids love them, too!
10.  Let kids read silently every day.  OH, this can be so hard!  We have so much to do!  However,  studies show that there is no greater way to increase stamina, fluency, vocabulary, writing skills, background knowledge, a sense of story, lifelong reading, and pure enjoyment.  Besides, how are you going to know your students’ reading habits, struggles, preferences, and successes if you don’t see them read??
Did we cover them all?  We doubt it.  We’d love to hear about any other practices that you think create classrooms of enthusiastic readers!