Reading Teacher Writes

Sharing a love of literacy with fellow readers and writers

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IMWAYR: Versify! Bus Tour!

Spring Break is over and it’s time to get back to reality. Wait! Not quite! It’s the Kwame Alexander “Versify” and “Crossover/Booked” Bus Tour! That means more traveling for me, which is exciting! The Versify books (new imprint of HMH Books curated by Kwame Alexander) published on Tuesday, April 2nd, and I’m reading them this week:







The Last Last-Day-of-Summer by Lamar Giles

¡Vamos! Let’s Go to the Market by Raul the Third

White Rose by Kip Wilson

The Undefeated by Kwame Alexander (illustrated by the legend, Kadir Nelson)


While I was on spring break, I read Song for a Whale by Lynne Kelly. This is an amazing book about Iris, a special girl with electronics skills. She repairs old radios for Mr. Gunnar, the owner of Joe’s Junk Emporium. She is also a collector of cool old radios, and trades her skills for parts to fix them up.  She’s deaf, too, and her skills are quite different from her hearing friends, which makes repairing radios even more intriguing. Her parents named her after a whale who had been beached near the family’s home on the Gulf of Mexico. Marine biologists found that this sei whale couldn’t communicate with other whales for some reason. Whales depend on sounds to follow their families and find food in the ocean. Years later, in science class, Iris learned of another whale, Blue 55, recorded making unique sounds, and traveling alone in the ocean. Scientists thought there must be a story, just as the sei whale’s, a reason that she was alone. Iris could relate to Blue 55, and wanted desperately to help. Iris decided to research Blue 55 and use her electronics knowledge to create a special song for the whale. Maybe the hybrid whale could find her family, or a least “know” that someone out there was like her.

You MUST read this book! Students and adults of all ages will root for Iris to save Blue 55 — finding one’s voice in a big world. It’s a beautiful and hopeful story of love and learning. I’ve added Song for a Whale to my 2019 “Best Books So Far” list. 5 Stars!


I also started reading (and will probably finish tomorrow) Reading to Make a Difference: Using Literature to Help Students Speak Freely, Think Deeply, and Take Action by the fabulous duo, Lester Laminack and Katie Kelly. I saw the pair at NCTE last November speak about this call to action, and the stories of the students who are making the world a better place inspire me! Pick this one as your next literacy PD read. You won’t be disappointed.

It’s Monday! What are you reading?

It’s Monday! What are you Reading? is a meme hosted by Kathryn at The Book Date. It is a great way to recap what you read and/or reviewed the previous week and to plan out your reading and reviews for the upcoming week. It’s also a great chance to see what others are reading right now…you just might discover your next “must-read” book!

Kellee Moye, of Unleashing Readers, and Jen Vincent, at Teach Mentor Texts decided to give It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? a kidlit focus. If you read and review books in children’s literature – picture books, chapter books, middle grade novels, young adult novels, anything in the world of kidlit – join us! We love this meme and think you will, too. We encourage everyone who participates to visit at least three of the other kidlit book bloggers that link up and leave comments for them.


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A Five-Star Year: Best Books of 2018 (According to Me)

I’ve seen a number of “Best of” book lists this week, and I always wonder how my list would stack up against the others in any given year. This year, I used a friend’s recommendation to review my list, and when I looked, I found many books that received my rare “5-Star” rating (maybe not-so-rare, then). Just a note, there happens to be 20 titles on the list. I didn’t limit the list to 20; it just worked out that way.

Other notes of importance for readers…

Before I show you my “Best of 2018” list, please know that I read many books this year, and that most of them I rated “4-Star” reads. I usually like the books I read (I don’t abandon often), so I have a tremendous amount of “recommended” books. I wrote a post, #MustReadin2018″ and many of the books I read are not on this “Best of” list. To narrow this “Best of” list, I chose only the “5-Star” books from my Goodreads account. Also, I limited this list to the “5-Star” books that were published in 2018. I categorized these titles by format, but I don’t have them in any particular order. Here they are:

Picture Books — Yes, this list is heavy on the picture books. I successfully used these books at school, and/or my PD sessions, “Picture Books are Perfect for Middle School” and I highly recommend them.

Dreamers by Yuyi Morales

Alma and How She Got Her Name by Juana Martinez-Neal

The Day You Begin by Jacqueline Woodson

What If… by Samantha Berger

Mixed: A Colorful Story by Arree Chung

A Seed Is the Start by Melissa Stewart

The Rough Patch by Brian Lies

The Brilliant Deep: Rebuilding the World’s Coral Reefs by Kate Messner

Mission Defrostable by Josh Funk

Drawn Together by Minh Lê

The Word Collector by Peter H. Reynolds

Got to Get to Bear’s by Brian Lies

What Do You Do With a Voice Like That? The Story of Extraordinary Congresswoman Barbara Jordan by Chris Barton

Graphic Novels — Graphic novels are becoming a favorite in school and here at home. These two titles stayed with me.

Speak: The Graphic Novel by Laurie Halse Anderson (illustrated by Emily Carroll)

Hey, Kiddo by Jarrett J. Krosoczka

Professional Texts — I’m always reading to learn, and these PD books really did change the way I think.

Being the Change: Lessons and Strategies to Teach Social Comprehension by Sara K. Ahmed

Game Changer! Book Access for All Kids by Donalyn Miller and Colby Sharp

Fiction/YA/MG — These stories captured my heart and stuck with me.

Loser’s Bracket by Chris Crutcher

In Sight of Stars by Gae Polisner

Rebound by Kwame Alexander

Have a Happy New Year! I look forward to reading with you in 2019.