Book Review: TBH, This is SO Awkward

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I read TBH, This is SO Awkward: A Novel in Text, by Lisa Greenwald, so I could keep in touch with the teenage trends. I never fit in while I was in middle school, so I don’t know why I thought I could go back in time now and relive the awkwardness. But I did. And I’m glad I read the book — it’s really going to become a recommended read for those pre-and-teen girls who like to text and want to talk about boys. Really. It just wasn’t “me.”

Lisa Greenwald creatively uses text-style writing and emojis to write this entire story, which is an accomplishment. The cover makes you want to pick it up off the shelf, for sure. It’s easy to read for middle and high schoolers, and there’s a glossary at the end of the book to help the rest of us. The story is about 3 BFFAE (Best Friends Forever and Ever), Cecily, Gabrielle, and Prianka, who live in the middle of the middle school drama and are thick as thieves — making mistakes concerning a new girl, mothers, boys, and the Valentine’s Day dance — all the while staying friends. Of course, they get mad at each other, but at the end of the day, these girls are nice, smart girls who are just trying to live through their middle school days (just like the rest of us did.)

If you like middle school, teen drama, mean girls, cute boys, and school dances, this book is a must-read. I think if I would have lived a different middle school life, I would have liked this book better. But that’s not Lisa Greenwald’s fault; her words-in-text send a needed message for today’s students: Be kind. Do good things. Stay BFFAE.

Recommended for ages 10 and up.

Revisiting Reading Class: Two Years Later

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I drafted these words for a blog post in March of 2016:

I read a post by Kelly Gallagher about the number of high school seniors who admitted that they had never read an entire book. Although I was saddened by this news, I would have to agree. School is a place where if students ACT like they are busy, teachers leave them alone. This should not be acceptable any more!

My main reading grade in my reading class comes from the motto: “Read During Reading Time.” I give my students, choice, time, opportunities (I have a huge classroom library) — all of the categories required to promote reading inside (and outside of) school. So why is reading left behind?

(I never published that post.)

Wow! These words still ring true today, at the Saturday workshop for Indiana Partnership for Young Writers at Butler University — and I still have the same question. Kelly Gallagher was the Visiting Scholar today, and the entire workshop I was picturing my past reading classrooms, reflecting on my teaching, and questioning why nothing has changed for students in school. I have always held the belief that students should, indeed, READ during reading class. I didn’t understand why people standing outside the classroom were looking for anything else inside — namely the teacher at the board teaching reading comprehension skills, with students “performing tasks” and “taking notes,” or completing a worksheet, or taking a test. I ended the draft above with a question: So why is reading left behind? What I meant (at the time) was that it seemed like activities that could be observed as students “being engaged” or “learning” were better indicators of “reading” than reading a book. It wasn’t the first time I heard about an observer reporting to some reading teacher, “Students were just reading.” I questioned (in my head), “What do you want them to do in reading class?”

That question in my head bothered me so much that I made it my teaching reading motto: READ DURING READING TIME. It WAS (and IS) what should be happening in reading classrooms. Period. In a published piece, I posted these words on my blog in October of 2017:

I attended the IRA (International Reading Association, now International Literacy Association) Annual Conference in Minneapolis in 2009. I remember rushing to a session on reading research that would explain how to improve student achievement in reading (my area of teaching). I was so excited; I sat on the edge of my seat with my notebook in hand. I heard about research that spanned 5 years, with over a thousand subjects. At the end of the presentation, the main presenter looked at the crowd and asked, “You know what we found?” (“What? Tell me!” I thought. I readied my pen to the paper.) He gave a long pause and studied the faces looking back at him, and he smiled.

He said, “The more you read, the better reader you become.” 

I gasped (I could hear it.), I thought to myself, “What? Duh! I knew that!” Reading creates better readers.

Obviously, this “kids-don’t-read-in-school” issue is still grinding on my nerves. Thank you, Kelly Gallagher, for reminding me again that reading creates better readers — and adding “better writers” — in middle school and high school. Here are the BIG IDEAS I took away from the workshop:

1. One MUST READ to become a good writer. Today we read quite a few texts, wrote about them, and shared with a partner.

2. We need to read and write with students in school every day. Every. Day.

3. There are 4 teaching moves that can help students to become better readers and writers: increase volume of reading, give choice in reading and writing class, model good reading and writing for our students, and confer with students about their reading and writing.

I promise I will not keep my thoughts in my head anymore. I love teaching reading, writing, and I love learning. I want my students to love reading, writing, and learning as much as I do.

 

 

 

 

 

This is NOT a book review of THIS IS NOT A VALENTINE

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LOL! Dear Carter, You started my February book-reading time off right. Thank you! Love, Jennifer

This is NOT a Valentine. It’s just a little note that tells readers they will enjoy this lovely picture book, This is NOT a Valentine by Carter Higgins. Carter has taken all the Valentine stereotypes and threw them out the school bus window, and she shows us what Valentine messages really mean.

Valentines sparkle; they’re pink and glittery.
“But you might like the brown in the mud puddle…”
Valentines have cooties that tumble out when you open them.
“But if we both get cooties…then we can have cherry juice…together.”

This is NOT a Valentine. It’s a good book to share with someone in February…or any other month you like.

IMWAYR: Comics Squad!

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What do you get when you cross well-known middle grade graphic novel writers and school? Comics Squad! I had fun recommending Comics Squad: Lunch! today when a student had finished (and couldn’t find another-because-they’re-always-checked-out-of-the-library) Diary of a Wimpy Kid. Comics Squad series books are collections of stories and drawings of already-famous characters, written by already-famous authors — in compact, colorful books, and they are FUN to read! Right up my alley — and my middle graders’.

Thank you to Jennifer L. Holm, Matthew Holm, Jarrett Krosoczka, Cece Bell, Nathan Hale, Jason Shiga, Cecil Castellucci and Sara Varon, Peanuts, and Jeffrey Brown for creating this particular edition (Lunch!) of comics for readers. This librarian is spreading the book love!

Imagine…

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IMWAYR: The Youngest Marcher by Cynthia Levinson

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I love learning about people and their real-life stories. I especially love the lesser-known stories of historical time periods. Today we celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr. and we also remember other great names in Civil Rights history. Did you know that some famous Civil Rights activists were children? Today’s IMWAYR title should be shared widely. I share here to remind myself and others that children CAN and DO make a difference in our lives and in our communities.

The Youngest Marcher: The story of Audrey Faye Hendricks, by Cynthia Levinson will stay with me for a long time. I know the stories of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s marches and speeches, and they have inspired me in the past. Last year when I read The MARCH Trilogy, I learned so much more from Representative John Lewis’ firsthand accounts and experiences. Now I am reminded (through a picture book — see, picture books teach all ages) that there were children arrested in May of 1963, one being Audrey Faye Hendricks, who was nine years old at the time. I thought, “NINE? They arrested 9-year-olds?” Yes, yes, they did, and by doing so, they filled the jails in Birmingham, Alabama. Amazing. Frightful. Inspiring.

I missed this book when it released in 2017, but I am so glad I have remedied that. I recommend that you buy this book and keep it — read it when you need a good story about children being brave and changing the world.

Picture Books are for Everyone! January 12, 2018 Reviews

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If you ever hear someone say picture books are just for kids, don’t listen! Read these picture books. You’ll be glad you opened your heart.

Wolf in the Snow, by Matthew Cordell. (Feiwel and Friends, 2017)

Matthew Cordell doesn’t need words to convey the message of empathy, love, and kindness in this Caldecott nominee for 2018. I felt so much — for the humans and the wolves — in this story about being lost in the snow. A small child waves goodbye to her school friends, and begins her walk home. A pack of wolves also sets out around the same time, with a little one struggling to keep up in the blowing snow. Both the small girl and the small wolf become lost as the pages turn white. What happened next pulled at my “mom” heartstrings.This is a MUST READ book for all ages.

 

Love, by Matt de la Peña. Illustrated by Loren Long. (G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 2018)

I LOVE this book! Love is NOT just red roses and pink hearts, and Matt de la Peña and Loren Long focus on the daily definitions of love in this beautiful new book. There is love when you play in the sprinklers, when you hide from parents who fight, when you fish with grandpa. There is love in flowers, laughter, and rain puddles. There is love, even when you cannot find love and you try, try, try. Enjoy the sounds, smells, and colors of LOVE and share the book, and your love, with everyone.

 

 

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