Reading Teacher Writes

Sharing a love of literacy with fellow readers and writers


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IMWAYR: In the Wild Light PREview

Cash Pruitt is a hard-working 17-year-old from Sawyer, Tennessee, who has a hard past. Now living with his grandparents, Cash mows lawns, attends Sawyer High School, and hangs out with his best friend, Delaney Doyle. The two share heartbreaks (Cash’s mom died of an opioid addiction and Delaney’s mom is headed down the same path) and adventures (traveling on the river and digging in caves). Delaney’s adventures include discovering a new medicine in those caves, a medical science breakthrough that leads to an invitation. Middleford Academy in Connecticut offers Delaney a scholarship to the prestigious private high school, but she says she won’t go unless Cash joins her.


How does a teenager just pick up and leave the only home he’s ever known? What will happen to Papaw if he isn’t home to take care of him? Papaw will surely die from emphysema if Cash leaves. Mamaw cannot handle working night shifts and taking care of her husband all by herself. Cash’s decision to stay might just mean he’s stuck in the little Appalachian town forever, with little hope of a better future. Delaney’s decision to leave might just mean Cash loses his best friend…forever. 


Packed with references to commonly recognized settings (Dairy Queen, Little Ceasar’s Pizza, the Greyhound Bus Station, New York City…), readers will relate to Cash and Delaney and their story, eagerly following the two friends to their new home at Middleford Academy. The gorgeous language of Zentner’s storytelling, especially the details of scenes and scents, make the reader stop and appreciate nature, especially the river and how it nourishes the soul. Readers will also cheer for minor characters, other students who ascend on the school from everywhere in the world, who connect with Cash and Delaney and provide a family away from home.


In a welcome surprise, references to another Zentner title will help readers reminisce — a throwback that brings one forward to hope and renewed love of story.  Follow Cash Pruitt’s path from small town boy to boarding school  poet, living his dreams with him. Appreciate the intelligence of a strong female character with attitude, who can kick your butt, then give you a hug in the same scene, while all along working in the science lab to save the future. Grieve your losses alongside each of the characters, and lift your head back up to see the “wild light” that is waiting for you at the end.

Thank you to Net Galley for providing this digital ARC, and to Jeff Zentner for writing yet another wonderful book that celebrates nature, family, and friendships. In the Wild Light has an expected publishing date of August 10, 2021.


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NerdCampMI – another year of fabulous fun!

“What is Nerd Camp?” Wow! Fun-filled, exhausting days of learning, reading books, writing, meeting #kidlit authors in real life, reuniting with like-minded people, and visiting with fellow campers until the wee hours of the morning. #NerdCampJr was awesome this year, and those 3rd graders were amazing! THANK YOU to Alaina Sharp, Colby Sharp and family for hosting (again) the BEST summer PD EVER! Don’t forget, if you need books, order from Kathy at The Brain Lair Bookstore. One year with dreams of many more to come! I can’t tag everyone, or this post would be pages long, but please know that it was nice to see each and every one of you and I can’t wait until next year! ❤️


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Sunday Snippet – A Bit Of Thinking

Maintaining the Motivation – 

     Last week students at my middle school were lucky to hear author Sarah Aronson talk about her writing process and share information about her upcoming picture book biography, Just Like Rube Goldberg. I went home that night with renewed interest in researching and reading…and writing. 

     Four days later, I struggled to sit my “butt in the chair” today and write anything of substance. Why is that? How can we maintain the motivation for reading and writing after a big literacy event?


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#MustReadin2019 — Books I Didn’t Read From 2018

Carrie Gelson of “There’s a Book For That”(https://thereisabookforthat.com/) hosts a hashtag for all the readers who didn’t get to finish their TBR lists in 2018 – #MustReadin2019. (Thank you, Carrie! I see I’m not alone.) I read over 140 books in 2018 (I’m terrible at posting on goodreads.com), but these are the titles I didn’t get to yet. As I head back to work tomorrow, my 2018—>2019 list of “Must Reads” looks like this:

Darius the Great is Not Okay by Adib Khorrman

Marshfield Memories by Ralph Fletcher

Blended by Sharon Draper

You’ll Miss Me When I’m Gone by Rachel Lynn Solomon

Becoming by Michelle Obama  

I’m finishing Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe (from Simon & Schuster, 2014) by Benjamin Alire Sáenz tonight.

What are you reading in 2019? Share with us in the comments, so we can add to our To-Be-Read lists. Happy reading!


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Book Review: Mixed: A Colorful Story by Arree Chung

Consider this colorful picture book for your first days of school…for all ages and grades.

Yellows, Blues, and Reds live peacefully in a city, until one day, a Red declares, “Reds are the best!” The whole community is thrust into chaos — so much so that the three color groups must live apart, forming segregated neighborhoods. One day, Blue and Yellow are seen together with a new color…what will become of the union? In Mixed: A Colorful Story, Arree Chung shows us a world of colors, teaches us about tolerance, and how “mixing it up” might just be the best thing for everyone.

Why I Like This Book: My current school is a mix of old and new — students who have attended there and students who are now enrolled due to school closings and consolidation in our district. This is a perfect book to make students (and teachers) think about ways we can come together, and that being united is better than being alone.

Why You Should Read This Book: It’s colorful! (Hint: there’s an art lesson here — primary colors, secondary colors.) It includes simple and fun characters, but it also introduces a big message about communities that we all need.


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Review: THE WRITE THING by Kwame Alexander

Have you ever wanted to start a writing workshop in your classroom? Do you run a writing workshop that needs some…tweaking? THIS is your answer! Kwame Alexander’s The Write Thing: Kwame Alexander Engages Students in Writing Workshop and You Can Too is THE how-to guide to get started (or to change your boring routine). Kwame leads you personally through the steps to write, publish, and present student writing in a new way – with poetry. Why poetry? Kwame explains that question in chapter one of this fabulous new professional development book.

In The Write Thing, Kwame is right there with you all the way. As I read, I could hear his voice talking to me. Kwame’s Book-in-a-Day approach (2006) inspires new and veteran teachers alike to start and continue a student-led writing workshop and publishing “house” in the classroom. The book is organized into three essential parts, with features called “Kwame QuickTips”, “Solo Acts” (voices from other writers and teachers), “Lessons in Action” (plans), “KwameTime” videos, “You Can Too!” (reflection questions), and “Questions for Kwame.” You are never left alone in this writing PD. It’s like your own teacher preparation class, with Kwame as your teacher.

When I watched the “KwameTime” videos, he was in the room, guiding and encouraging me to use poetry to teach writing. In each chapter of The Write Thing, we read poetry, looked at possible mentor texts lists (organized by grade level), and used the writing workshop approach to help students learn to tell their own stories through writing, publishing, and presenting their work.

Kylene Beers wrote the foreword for The Write Thing, where she nudges the reader consider poetry as “the neglected genre” and to adopt a new vision for teaching – she asks teachers to use poetry at all times of the school year, not just during the designated month in the spring. I found myself reading this book straight through, but I will also take Kylene’s advice to slow down and “linger, muse, reread, mark…” I look forward to seeing students succeed as writers because of this book.

As a bonus, The Write Thing includes Appendices (A-D) that will make your teaching life easier. (What teacher doesn’t want that?) It’s ALL “write” there. Kwame Alexander is the “life force” (say Greg David and Priya Sitaraman) – “a captivating authentic leader who connected easily and deeply with (our) students during our writing workshops…”

If you’re a writing teacher, buy The Write Thing by Kwame Alexander. Start your school year with a fresh, new, exciting approach to writing class. Encourage your students to write and present their stories. And don’t forget, have fun!