Reading Teacher Writes

Sharing a love of literacy with fellow readers and writers


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IMWAYR: Picture Books and Memoirs

I’m spending the week with my granddaughter and today we headed to The Brain Lair Bookstore to visit Kathy (the owner and my book buddy). “M” spied one of her favorite authors right away and said, “Hey! Look! We have How to Build a Sandcastle! How about we get It’s NOT Jack and the Beanstalk?” (We have that one already, thanks to our generous and amazing friend, Josh Funk. We also have Mission Defrostable, so we searched the shelves for something we don’t already own.)

We looked a little deeper and I found a title I knew she hadn’t seen before – Claymates by Dev Petty and the fabulous Lauren Eldridge. I said Dev Petty was the author who wrote I Don’t Want to Be a Frog, and “M” was convinced. She immediately opened her new book and started to read. Not only did we buy the book for her home, now we have to go buy some clay so we can make some “claymates” animals ourselves.

 

 

We returned home and I read How to Read a Book by Kwame Alexander, with art by Melissa Sweet, who dazzled us with her beautifully-created pages. It’s a touching poem Kwame wrote for his daughter; it’s neon pink and “clementine”-colored and makes you want to find a tree to sit under so you can read the rest of the day. There are so many surprises in this book — it’s so much fun to read, again and again! Don’t forget to discover the Author and Illustrator Notes and that back jacket flap with the biographies (hint: those glasses!).

During the week, I’ll share Lita Judge’s newest, Homes in the Wild: Where Baby Animals and Their Parents Live, with “M”. It’s wonderful and “M” loves animals, so I’m sure she’ll love this book. Animals build shelters – some hidden, some underground, some in trees, etc. The descriptions are perfect for older readers of picture books (middle school and up), reminding the reader of well-known animals’ homes and introducing new animals, too. Lita’s illustrations are beautiful, and her words entertain and inform, making this one of the best picture books of the year so far (according to me).

 

After the little one goes home, I will finish Brave Face by Shaun David Hutchinson and begin the ARC of Ordinary Hazards by Nikki Grimes (due out October 8, 2019 from WordSong). I’m so happy that Kathy shared this ARC with me. I’ve been waiting a while to see it in person — I love everything my friend Nikki Grimes writes. The cover is brilliant! I am amazed that she wrote this memoir for us, and I have been following the news about this book for months. I already pre-ordered my copy, so I’ll get to savor it later, as well.

 

 

It’s Monday! What are you Reading? is a meme hosted by Kathryn at 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 I 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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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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SOLSC: Day 5 #sol19

Celebrate reading and books!

I love my author friends — they are generous, caring, intelligent, and fun!

Today we celebrate Revenge of the Enginerds by Jarrett Learner — Thank you for the bookplates and bookmarks. The kids are going to love them!

Happy Paperback Book Birthday to The Crossover and Booked, by Kwame Alexander! I love these books — they made most of my students readers — and now I have a chance to ignite new flames for new students this spring.

This is an exciting time to be a reader. Celebrate your favorite authors today.

 


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Slice of Life Story Challenge – Day 1 (#Sol19)

Well, hello! Long time, no blog. I haven’t written a Slice of Life blog post since June 12, 2018, and I miss it. I don’t have any excuses; I just didn’t write “slices.” Now it’s time to return to my blogging roots. Let’s have some fun!

March 1, 2019: My sixth grade “superfans” of Kwame Alexander (author of The Crossover and many others) participated in the Learning Ally-sponsored webinar for Read Across America Day. I had a blast watching students watch Kwame talk about his first childhood book love (Fox in Socks), reveal how long it took to write The Crossover (5 years!), and motivate students to say, “Yes” to life! Author/Illustrator connections with students help promote a lifelong love of reading, and I’m a witness to the awesomeness. These kids will remember this day forever.

I look forward to writing with you each day this March. Welcome to the Slice of Life Challenge!

 

Thank you to StaceyBetsyBethKathleenDebKelseyMelanie, and Lanny for creating this community and providing this space for teachers and others to share their stories every Tuesday. Be sure to visit Two Writing Teachers to read more Slice of Life posts.


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#NCTE18: All My Groups — IN the House!

NCTE’s annual conference was an amazing awesome adventure! All my friends were there, from all my groups, and I saw almost all of them (for at least a few minutes each) during my stay in Houston. I loved the theme this year, Raising Student Voice; I learned there are many ways to raise student voices, and that we also have a long way to go in literacy education learning and practice. I’m so happy to be a part of this amazing organization.

#G2Great: The Good-to-Great Teaching team — These are my friends and virtual “cousins.” I was thrilled to meet Brent and Amy in person this year. Nice to see you again Jan, Kim, Kathryn, Gerilyn, JoAnne, Dani, Justin, Todd, Travis C., Mary, Valinda, Fran, Margaret, Erica, Jenn, and Jill!

 

Kwame Alexander, Londa Alderink, Carmen Oliver, Jen, and the rest of the SWING Launch Team members in Houston were able to get together for a while. Thanks, Kwame, for continuing to include me in your travel shenanigans.

 

Nerdy Book Club nerds were everywhere in the Hilton Americas lobby. We definitely took Houston by storm! I can’t name all of you because it would take three pages of blogging to type all your names, but I love you all and it was so nice to see you again!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Author friends: it was nice to see you again and/or meet you for the first time. Travis, Minh, Kylene, Bob, Teri, Penny, Kelly, Colby, Donalyn, Gae, Allison, Jon, Rachel, Laurie, Olivia, Cornelius, Sara, Jonathan, Lester, Katie, Maggie, Kate, Elissa, Linda Sue, Alex, Dan, and Barbara. Wow! Meeting authors is the best way to learn how to spread the “book love” (Thanks, Penny Kittle and the Book Love Foundation).

 

 

 

 

 

 

Michael Guevara, I cannot believe it’s been that long since college, but I guess it was. (I’m not that old, though.) Don and Donalyn Miller, thanks for allowing me to crash your lunch. I’m so happy I got to sit with you all and chat.

Kelly Vorhis, you are the best roommate and friend! I can’t believe we don’t have a picture of the two of us. We will remedy that next time.

 

Look for more posts about #NCTE18 this coming week and plan to attend next year, if you can.

P.S.: I love literacy learning!

 


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IMWAYR: Big Week of Reading

After last week’s amazing reunion with Kwame Alexander, I re-read Swing, since I have my signed copy in my hands now. This reading was “way” better than the Net Galley version. (No offense to Net Galley, but I feel that the digital copy did not support the intended view and flow of the lines of poetry — I just had to have the book!)

This is a big week for reading, here. I finished Hey, Kiddo by Jarrett Krosoczka just in time for tomorrow’s book birthday. What a read! (Check out my review.)

These are titles I haven’t mentioned before, but now that I got to travel to The Brain Lair Bookstore and pick up my copies, this is a perfect day for sharing!

Lady Pancake and Sir French Toast: Mission Defrostable by Josh Funk

The Remember Balloons by Jessie Oliveros 

We Are Grateful/Otsaliheliga by Traci Sorell (Thank you to Kathy at The Brain Lair Bookstore for making sure I had a copy. It’s beautiful!)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What Do You Do With a Voice Like That? The Story of Extraordinary Congresswoman Barbara Jordan by Chris Barton (I got to meet Chris Barton at the bookstore, and he was so nice and I enjoyed his read aloud of this colorful and interesting book. It’s already on hold at the library — can’t wait to share it tomorrow!)

Next up: Liesl Shurtliff’s newest, Time Castaways: The Mona Lisa Key (Book 1). I peeked, and it seems like a great adventure read for fall break.

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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Book Review: SWING by Kwame Alexander and Mary Rand Hess

In another amazing collaboration from Kwame Alexander and Mary Rand Hess, we follow Noah and his best friend, Walt through the ups and downs of high school life. Noah and Walt are NOT on the school baseball team, but Walt hits the batting cages with fierce commitment and passion, channeling his love of jazz to help him find his SWING. Noah is a faithful friend and follower, while working on his own passions, especially his love for Sam, a beautiful BFF he’s known since “forever” ago. Sam has a boyfriend, though—none other than the buff baseball star of the team, Cruz. 

When Noah finds a birthday gift for his mom at a local thrift store, he also finds his courage in the box — the words of old love letters that were left inside. Noah copies the words for his love, longing to live the life that Cruz now has. When Walt delivers one of the letters to Sam, however, the three friends’ relationships start to change.

Meanwhile, the neighborhood is dealing with bigger issues — there’s life and love, and then there’s allegiance and angst. Patriotic duty vs. empathetic obligation towards our fellow man. Kwame and Mary SWING the readers thinking around, fluctuating with hard-hitting emotion that leaves one breathless, wondering about our own lives in the midst of all that is good and evil. Our own little lives — up against the global society.

What I loved about Swing: I loved ALL the characters in Swing, right down to the grandma who is supposed to be keeping an eye on Noah while his parents are away, and Floyd, Walt’s “love doctor” cousin. Swing will remind adults of their high school days, and help current students find ways to deal with their feelings, all while helping us think about our place on this earth.

Why you should read Swing: You will laugh with, and long for, the characters. You’ll reminisce, and maybe even renew your friendships from high school. You’ll cry. You’ll think. You’ll want to be a better person after reading Swing.


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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!

 


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Slice of Life Tuesday: Way Behind on Writing!/Reflections on this School Year

I looked back on my first year as a school librarian (21st year of teaching middle school), and I have to say—no matter what happens to me next year or beyond—I was successful THIS year. NOTHING to do with TEST SCORES, but I built up readers and spread the book love.

On April 7th, Kwame Alexander surprised a child reader (and his teachers) from my soon-to-be-closed school. He and Hafeez and Randy drove the REBOUND bus to this 5th grader’s house and allowed this child to see firsthand what meeting an author and being a reader means. Reading saves lives. Reading is fun. Reading can and will lead you to a successful future.

Even though I couldn’t be there, these awesome teachers and a Newbery-winning author made this child’s day! THANK YOU, Kwame and Hafeez, for all the coordinating and all the bugging you had to put up with (from me) to make that day happen. THANK YOU for coming to South Bend, IN! THANK YOU for supporting students and reading.

LOVE LOVE LOVE from this school librarian.


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Review of REBOUND by Kwame Alexander (due April 2, 2018)

Rebound, the prequel to the Newbery-Winning title, The Crossover, by Kwame Alexander, tells of childhood days of Charlie “Chuck” Bell (Josh and Jordan’s father). At the age of 12, Charlie had already experienced love and loss, carrying much baggage to his grandparent’s house in the summer of 1988. “It was the summer when Now and Laters cost a nickel, and The Fantastic Four a buck. When I met Harriet Tubman and the Harlem Globetrotters…”

Charlie retells his story for his sons (and the reader) of those not-so-and-absolutely glorious days — playing basketball with Roxie, his cousin, and Skinny, his best friend, in the summer heat, dealing with the heat from Grandpa and the weather, and wishing that he could be a Fantastic Four super hero star. Charlie gains knowledge about his family tree, about basketball moves (such as the crossover — get it?), and about consequences of getting into trouble. Charlie even changes his name — to Chuck (thanks, Grandpa) — that summer, and in a series of poetic episodes, finds out what it means to be a true star. He has to learn to REBOUND, on and off the court.

Kwame Alexander’s vocabulary lessons continue in Rebound, as well as his lessons about family, life, and love. I couldn’t tell how the stories would weave together at first, but Kwame expertly spins, twists, and turns the plot, and in the end, I yelled, “Swish!” out loud! Fans of Kwame Alexander’s rhythmic style will love the references to other works, including The Crossover, Solo, and the now-famous sing-along song, “Be A Star.”

Rebound IS the star of this spring’s book season. A MUST to add to your reading “Playbook.”