#PB10For10: August 10th is Picture Book 10 For 10 Day

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Picture Book 10 for 10: Ten Picture Books to Read the First 10 Days of Middle School

Middle schoolers love picture books. Picture books are filled with lessons, promise, and fun. Start your school year with these ten picture books for your middle school classroom:

School’s First Day of School by Adam Rex — The first day of school, told from the school’s point of view. First Day read. Open the year with some thinking, conversation, and fun.

One Day, The End by Rebecca Kai Dotlich — Short, Very Short, Shorter-Than-Ever Stories. What happens in the middle? Students love the book that teaches how to offer a good story.

Nothing Ever Happens On 90th Street by Roni Schotter. A young writer tries to find inspiration from her neighborhood stoop, but nothing ever happens on her street. Or is she missing something? Each neighbor teaches the girl to “look closely” and “use her imagination” as a writer.

The Book With No Pictures by B.J. Novak — I dare you to read this to middle schoolers. Just do it! LOL!

Big Plans by Bob Shea and Lane Smith — “A Little Boy sits in the corner of a classroom, plotting his future. He’s got plans…Big Plans!” Make sure you take the time to look at all the pictures closely in this one.

The Most Magnificent Thing by Ashley Spires — Mistakes can lead to genius inventions. Watch this girl and her dog try and try again to invent the “most magnificent thing.”

Ish by Peter H. Reynolds — A beautiful look at what makes a person happy instead of “getting it right.”

Du Iz Tak? by Carson Ellis — A hilarious story about animals creating and building, in their own language. Read this aloud several times during the year for a good stress reliever and some laughs.

What Do You Do With An Idea? by Kobi Yamada — “A single idea can change everything.” This story inspires learners to welcome their ideas and give them space to grow.

More Than Anything Else by Marie Bradby — More than anything else, Booker wants to learn to read. Many students are like Booker T. Washington. An inspirational story to begin the school year.

Have a great start to your school year! Read a lot, think carefully, and have fun along the way!

 

 

 

IMWAYR: Wishtree by Katherine Applegate

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I finally got a chance to read Wishtree by Katherine Applegate. I loved all of her past stories, and this new title did not disappoint. I highly recommend you gather a copy with your fall leaf collection (the book comes out on September 26), sit under a nice warm blanket — under a favorite tree — and read all night long.  I read this book in one sitting, and I think you will, too.

Wishtree has been around for over 200 years, and in that time she has seen many changes in the lives of the animals and the humans who surround her. Every May Day (May 1st) people come from all around to tie pieces of cloth with written wishes on the tree. It’s a tradition that Wishtree enjoys, until one day, a young male comes and changes the tree’s life, and the lives of all who live nearby. Wishtree decides that maybe wishes should come true — she’s an optimist, you see; but the animals who live in her hollows disagree. With the help of her best friend, a crow named Bongo, and 2 school children, Wishtree provides more to the neighborhood than even she realized she could. This is a beautiful story of hope, friendship, and acceptance, told by a tree. And what a story it is!

 

Add this title to your TBR list now, so you don’t forget. Enjoy your back-to-school reading!

Wishtree book cover picture by Goodreads.

Happy Book Birthday, SOLO!

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For this book birthday, I wrote a review of SOLO, by Kwame Alexander, with Mary Rand Hess. It comes to us from Blink YA Books and is in stores today! This is one of my rare, 5-Star reads.

Solo is Kwame Alexander’s latest release (from Blink YA Books) and features Mary Rand Hess. These amazing authors expertly weave the story of Blade, a teen who would rather not be associated with his famous father, Rutherford Morrison, a washed-up rock star. Blade’s girlfriend, Chapel, is the light in his life of darkness, but her parents forbid her to see Blade amid continued family drama. Blade finds that his life is not as it seems – is it worse? The one connection that the family shares is music – much music. “But not even the songs that flow through Blade’s soul are enough when he’s faced with two unimaginable realities…”

The music that connects Blade, his father, and the other intriguing characters in the book are the web that Alexander and Hess create to lead the reader (and Blade) from Hollywood to West Africa in search of life’s answers. Tracks from Lenny Kravitz, Metallica, U2 ,Van Halen, Aretha Franklin, and more all bring memories to carry the reader (and Blade) into the future. The story is a true hero’s journey through music and time. (Suggestion: Get the audio version!)

What I loved most about Solo is that it is written in Kwame’s famous novel-in-verse style, and adding Mary’s poetic contributions made my heart sing. The book features nostalgic hits and original music by Randy Preston, Alexander’s talented musical friend. The twists, turns, and surprises throughout the book made this a quick read, yet I revisited pages again and again. I downloaded the music to listen to as I traveled with Blade through my third read! I highly recommend Solo for any teen trying to find him/herself in the world, anyone who loves music, or anyone who loves a fantastic story line. (That means “Go Get This Title Now!”) “When the heart gets lost, let the music find you.”

Thinking About “The 5 Truths of Reading” by Pernille Ripp

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I’m stealing today — stealing great words, great thinking, great learning. Pernille Ripp first wrote “The 5 Truths of Reading” on her blog in 2015, and as she says, the post is “old, but still relevant.” I agree. I’m thinking about how I can be more of an advocate for authentic reading and teaching practices as I start my new position as school librarian this fall. Here are my thoughts about the 5 truths: (See Pernille’s original post here.)

  1. Give students choice in what they read. Assigned reading is not the way to get kids to read. Usually the word “assignment” is followed by a collective “Ugh./Aww, Man!/That’s stupid!” from students in the classroom. I’ve heard it; I know. The love of reading for reading’s sake is gone immediately, and that’s not what we want. Our intentions are good — we want students to read good books, to be exposed to meaningful literature, to become more intelligent human beings. But when we assign reading that we choose, we are pushing our lives, our values, our choices into the faces of our children. Instead of assigned readings, give students choice. Talk about books that they might love, build a classroom library where students can find themselves, and create a classroom based on sharing those wonderful titles and the lessons they bring.
  2. Don’t judge the books – or the students. Pernille stated, “Our glances, our purchases, our book conversations all shape the identities that our readers are creating.” I’m guilty here, for sure. Not so much in glances or conversations, as I love to hear what my students are reading (and why they chose a particular book). My purchases have been my decision, though, and mostly reflected what I would like to have in my classroom library. No more! I have followed #WNDB (We Need Diverse Books) for over a year now, and I have consciously built a better library. Instead of deciding what you want, ask your students what should be in the library, and heed the call from recommendations given to you. Once I had a student tell me, “Mrs. S! I know this isn’t your genre, but you HAVE to read this!” One of the best things I ever did. I loved Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs! Listen to your kids. They know. Give them a chance. (Image courtesy of books.google.com)
  3. Be a reader. This is a big one! I cannot imagine being a reading teacher or a librarian without being a reader first. Shouldn’t reading be a pre-requisite for becoming a reading teacher? I think so, and recently I’ve said that out loud more often. Each time I finish a book, I’m more intelligent than I was before, and that is what I want for my students, as well.
  4. Read because it’s reading time. My motto in my reading class was “Read During Reading Time.” I still find it disheartening to hear that people who observe teachers find that there’s “just reading” going on in the classroom. Excuse me, it’s READING class! We have to get rid of rewards, points, and prizes for reading. We have to find that JOY of reading is its own reward, and we have to do that at school.
  5. Label books, not readers. This is so important. Pernille mentioned that Fountas & Pinnell (speaking at the ILA annual conference) stressed that levels are for books. Pernille also said that labeling books meant placing a sticker or stamp on them to show what bin they belong in. Kylene Beers and Bob Probst have done extensive reading research, and I remembered that Kylene said, “This is a child, not an H.” I remembered that when a student asked me once after a formative assessment, “Am I a red?” (as in, “Did I fail the test?”) I have the shivers now, just thinking about it again.

These 5 truths have been on my mind. Hopefully sharing my stolen thinking (thank you, Pernille!) will deeper our conversations about reading and teaching reading in the classroom.

 

TOP TEN Ways NerdCampMI Saved Our Professional Careers by Jennifer Sniadecki, Melanie Roy, and Kelly Vorhis

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Nerdy Book Club

NerdCampMI is an “ed camp” annual event where teachers from all over the country (and the world!) meet in Parma, Michigan to learn together with authors, illustrators, and other fabulous educators. We feel that the event is hands-down the best summer professional development out there. Nerd Camp Michigan started 5 years ago and has grown – hosting 1600 teachers, librarians, authors, illustrators, and creators of books this summer! Melanie Roy, a library teacher in Rhode Island, Kelly Vorhis, a high school English teacher in Indiana, and Jennifer Sniadecki, a middle school teacher/librarian in Indiana talked about how NerdCampMI saved their professional careers over a hotel breakfast, anxiously and excitedly preparing for the two-day event.

Jennifer’s Learning:

  1. NerdCampMI made me a better reader.

I registered for this year’s Nerd Camp in February. I knew it was going to be THE way to meet authors and illustrators of my favorite books. I…

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IMWAYR: May I Please Read Blog Posts?

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I’m giggling silently because I remember the last conversation I had with a student (fall of 2016) about the sentence, “I don’t like to read.”

“I don’t like to read.”

“Sure you do!” I responded.

“Nope.”

I said, “You like to read Facebook posts from your friends, right?”

She giggled, as I am now.

I am reading blog posts today from my new personal writing adventure, “Teachers Write!” Hosted by Kate Messner, Jo Knowles, Jen Vincent, Gae Polisner, teachers can sign up on Kate’s blog (www.katemessner.com) and spend a few weeks writing with other teachers from all over the country. You can choose to participate in each day’s prompts, work on your own project and get feedback from experts, and read guest authors’ advice. It’s a great way to be more active in a safe, friendly writing community.

I’m trying it out. Back to reading, now!

 

Slice of Life Tuesdays: July 4th and Freedom, and Hope

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For me, July 4th brings complicated feelings this year. I’ve been out of sorts all day. Although it’s a day of celebration, it’s also a day of remembrance, thankfulness, and prayer. Watching current national news makes me feel ill, and yet when I read tweets and posts of my friends and family working hard to resist the gloom-and-doom, I have hope.

I am celebrating my freedom to speak and write.

I ran across several tweets today from Laura Ruby, author of York: The Shadow Cipher, a book I just finished reading (and loved). Her words brought to mind my own mouthiness (is that a word?) — speaking up against the cruel and insane people who think our country is now a better place than it was last year. I have friends and family who are gay, poor, and disabled. My own daughters and I have medical issues that need constant monitoring. I fear for the future, for my family’s future. I have no right to feel this way, while many people still do not enjoy these freedoms. It burns me up when I see and hear inequalities in life. As a white woman with a traditional family, I have no right to enjoy all this freedom while others don’t. But I have the freedom to speak and write. I need to use it more. I will; I promise. I feel blessed to have so many friends and family who support me, who read with me, and who write with me. I am able to say and do what I need to do without much backlash or fear. I feel lucky. 

Laura Ruby wrote about her own medical diagnosis and struggles with a person at a hotel who asked her questions about why she was upset and afraid after the last election. She was able to speak, and later write, about this incident. I am inspired by her spirited tweets. I don’t feel alone in the world — I know people like Laura are out there with me, being mouthy and telling their stories. She mentioned how she felt moved, hearing John Lewis’s acceptance speech for winning the National Book Award (for March: Book Three – part of a wonderful trilogy about his own experiences with civil rights issues), and how his words put so much into perspective for her. John Lewis couldn’t get a library card because of the color of his skin. He dreamed, and fought, and wrote his story to share with us. As I re-read his words today, I feel lucky.

I am celebrating my freedom to read and to learn.

As a teacher, it is my job to use my mouthiness to inspire a new generation of thinkers and learners who will carry on this struggle for independence. It’s not easy — it’s really hard. I appreciate my students’ needs, hopes, and dreams, and I want to hear what they have to say. It’s my job to introduce them to books — reading — that will expand their minds and hearts. It’s my job to teach them to write their stories, so that others can be inspired by them as much as I have been inspired. I am lucky. 

I am celebrating my freedom to teach.

July 4th is Independence Day. I don’t have to worry about looking different (as in un-American), buying what I need (and want), or living with people I love. I have excellent healthcare coverage (for now) and a wonderful job. I don’t fear leaving my neighborhood to do the daily tasks I need to do. It’s not fair. July 4th means freedom for me, and I am celebrating my hope for the future, just as others are still being oppressed. I wonder what I can do. I hope future citizens of America will be as lucky as I am.

Laura Ruby wrote, “Protest. Run for office. Create art.” I love that! Those freedoms exist, although many still have to struggle and fight for those freedoms. I want to help. Today, I’m not sure what good I’ll do. For me, this July 4th brings complicated feelings. Ms. Ruby inspires me, saying, “Make all the noise you can. We are our own best hope.” I am lucky. 

 

 

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