Reading Teacher Writes

Sharing a love of literacy with fellow readers and writers

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#PB10For10: Picture Books To Share in Middle School, Back-To-School Time

About the #PB10for10 Community:

“Picture Book 10 for 10” has been around since 2010. Love picture books? Then you’re in the right place. This community is dedicated to sharing picture book love. Please visit the hashtag, #PB10for10 to learn about picture books you’ll want to read next. Each August is the Picture Book 10 for 10 event, and in February the community hosts Nonfiction Picture Book 10 for 10. Have fun reading and enjoy all the resources shared.

Today was my first day of school, but since it was a teacher work day, I didn’t share with students. I will share these ten titles SOON, though. Picture books are my favorite books to use in reading/ELA classes because of the versatility and artistic joy they bring to our middle school classrooms. (Ask me about how “Picture Books are Perfect in Middle School” and I can talk all day!)

Honestly, I chose these 10 books because I want students to revisit former author/illustrator friends (comforting “old stuff”) and I want to introduce some new titles that students didn’t get to see yet due to the pandemic (exciting “new stuff”). I use picture books frequently in middle school classes and in the library for mini-lessons, so I’m not worried about what comes first this year. I want students to find inspiring books to read all year long, every day. Let’s get started!

The Day You Begin by Jacqueline Woodson and Rafael López (Nancy Paulsen Books, 2018) — This is perfect for the first days of school. “There will be times when you walk into a room and no one there is quite like you.” Our school is diverse and fabulous, and I love to share titles like this with my students.

I Am Every Good Thing by Derrick Barnes and Gordon C. James (Nancy Paulsen Books, 2020) — I love modeling JOY and EXCELLENCE for all our students, especially with read alouds like this one. I’m so happy that Mr. Barnes and Mr. James are teamed up here again to celebrate our students. My former elementary school students loved The King of Kindergarten, and this book is even better (in my opinion).

I Want My Hat Back by Jon Klassen (Candlewick Press, 2011) — I am ordering posters for the library, and if you have seen the new ALA Graphics catalog, you’ll want to get this “Hats Off to Reading” poster, too. (Click here.) Our students remember those “Hat” books from elementary school.

Milo Imagines the World by Matt de la Peña and Christian Robinson (G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 2021) — I want our students to see new perspectives of the world. Students remember this writing duo from Last Stop on Market Street, which was a huge hit (and a Newbery Medal winner!).

Nana Akua Goes to School by Tricia Elam Walker and April Harrison (Schwartz & Wade Books, 2020) — Grandparents are the best school visitors, aren’t they? This Nana shows a class her tribal markings and then the students create their own. What a wonderful way to get to know someone’s background, culture, and heritage!

The Rabbit Listened by Cori Doerrfeld (Dial Books for Young Readers, 2018) — It’s been tough. We have all suffered and lost this past year and a half. Sometimes you just need someone to listen.

Red: A Crayon’s Story by Michael Hall (Greenwillow Books, 2015) — I loved this book when it first came out when I shared it in an art class, but now I love Red even more. “Everyone seemed to have something to say…” We need to let people (and crayons) be who they really are.

Watercress by Andrea Wang and Jason Chin (Neal Porter Books, 2021) –In Ohio, a family stops by the side of the road to gather watercress, embarrassing the young girl. “Why can’t they just go to the store?” But when a story is told, understanding begins. I encourage my students: Tell YOUR story!

Wishes by Mượn Thị Văn and Victo Ngai (Orchard Books, 2021) — The nouns in this story wish (“The night wished it was quieter…The light wished it was brighter…”). This is one of the most moving, heart-breaking, hopeful stories I’ve read in a long time.

Wild Symphony by Dan Brown and Susan Batori (Rodale Kids, 2020) — I teach in a fine arts academy middle school, and our orchestra is going to get this book as a gift. So much fun! Dan Brown is the composer of the music and his creations are amazing! QR codes lead to the audio for each page, helping readers to fully experience the magic of the symphony.

Thank you for sharing YOUR picture books with your students. Have fun with it! What 10 books will you share this August?


IMWAYR: “Prep For School” Time

It’s “Prep For School” time! I’m excited to go back to work. I’m also nervous and I’m not ready to go back. Summer break is not what it used to be, that’s for sure. Since I’m organizing and attending professional development sessions this week, I won’t have much time to read.

I’ll keep reading Fire Keeper’s Daughter by Angeline Boulley. It’s sooo good so far! I highly recommend this for upper middle school and high school (and adults).

I still have a stack of picture books I received from Publisher’s Spotlight (Thank you!) to read and these look promising! As I head into the school year, I’ll be sure to use them with my middle schoolers and staff in our “Picture Books are Perfect For Middle School” sessions.

It’s Monday! What are YOU reading?

IMWAYR is a weekly blog hop with kid lit co-hosts Jennifer from Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee and Ricki from Unleashing Readers. The original IMWAYR, with an adult literature focus, was started by Sheila at Book Journeys and is now hosted by Kathryn at The Book Date. It’s a great way to share what you’re reading and get recommendations from others. We encourage you to write your own post sharing what you’re reading, link up, leave a comment, and support other IMWAYR bloggers by visiting and commenting on at least three of the other linked blogs each week.

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#NF10for10: February 10th and 10 Nonfiction Books – Outside/Nature

It’s February 10th, and that means the annual #nf10for10 (Nonfiction 10 for 10) book lists are posted today. Thanks to our hosts: Cathy Mere (Reflect and Refine) and Mandy Robeck (Enjoy and Embrace Learning).  I enjoy challenging myself to come up with meaningful lists to share with other readers.

It’s been a crazy winter here; we haven’t seen our standard winter snowfall amounts. I look to nature and outdoor activities more instead of being cooped up inside as usual. Here are ten picture books that focus on outside/nature:
Move! by Steve Jenkins and Robin Page. (2006) Swim, leap, slither, slide…discover how animals move in different ways. We use this book to find more descriptive details about animals and how they get around.
Over and Under the Snow by Kate Messner. Art by Christopher Silas Neal. (2011) Speaking of snow, what’s under that blanket of white? “A secret kingdom.”
Carl and the Meaning of Life by Deborah Freedman. (2019) Carl is a fictional earthworm, but the story surrounds what happens when this little animal doesn’t do its job. All life is interconnected. Just ask Carl!
Homes in the Wild by Lita Judge. (2019) A home can be high in the trees, in an underground burrow, or even out in the open country. A beautiful look at some different animals you may not have heard of before.
Pink is for Blobfish by Jess Keating. Illustrations by David DeGrand. (2016) My students love “The World of Weird Animals” series by Jess Keating. In this first installment, we learn about the “world’s perfectly pink animals.” This infographic-style picture book is a pleasing plunge into the weird animal world.
Eat Like a Bear by April Pulley Sayre. Illustrated by Steve Jenkins. (2013) Written by my local favorite nonfiction author, April Pulley Sayre shows readers how bears find food in all seasons to prepare for winter hibernation.
Frogs by Seymour Simon. (2015) Okay, I could have done a whole “nonfiction 10 for 10” with Seymour Simon books. I love them! Amazing photography highlights the information about different species of frogs.
An Egg is Quiet by Dianna Hutts Aston. Illustrated by Sylvia Long. (2006) I love these light, airy, beautifully soft descriptions of all kinds of fascinating eggs.
Looking Closely Through the Forest by Frank Serafini. (2008) I love Frank Serafini’s photographs. From the “Looking Closely” series, my favorite is the “forest book.” It reminds me of my hikes at state parks and nature preserves.
Camp Panda by Catherine Thimmesh. (2018) This Robert F. Siebert Honor Book explains how pandas are cared for in captivity for the purpose of being released back to the wild. Rebuilding habitats is a much needed, timely activity.
Have fun reading this week. Take a look at some nature books to get you through the rest of the winter.

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IMWAYR: Finishing Up Summer and Preparing for the School Year

I didn’t read the stack of books in one week (see post from July22 here) like I wanted. I’m finishing up Anthem and Other Words for Home this week, as well as re-reading picture books I want to use in the first quarter of the school year.

During summer school, I shared several nonfiction picture books so the 7th graders could start thinking about their first quarter research. We read a LOT of books! (Just ask my students; one boy said he had never read so many books before. Yay!)

This week I’m in week 2 of summer school, while getting reading for the school year, and writing my upcoming professional development sessions, “Picture Books are Perfect for Middle School.” I am excited to share classroom ideas for meeting curriculum standards with good books. My students are wondering what books I will show them next. We work together to learn — the best kind of learning.

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: Picture-Book-Palooza

I spent the evening re-reading picture books, and it was the most entertaining time of the day. I chose serious picture books first, then went for the funny ones to end my reading day on a light and enjoyable note. I love reading! What did you read today?













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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February 10th: Time for #nf10for10 “Winter”

It’s February 10, 2018, and all the local news revolves around the deep snow and Winter Olympics, so I’m going to use the news for my theme. My nonfiction picture book “10 For 10” has me thinking about winter (#nf10for10).

The Snowflake: Winter’s Secret Beauty (Kenneth Libbrecht): Pair this nonfiction book with Snowflake Bentley (Jacqueline Briggs Martin) for a winter research project. Wilson Bentley discovered the beauty and wonder of intricate snowflakes. I enjoyed a look at individual flakes and wondered how they all pack together to create the chaos that is today’s weather. (I like reading about snowflakes better than looking at the snow outside.)

Secrets of Winter (A Shine-A-Light Book) (Carron Brown/Georgina Tee): My granddaughter and I carefully pulled up the papers on these pages to reveal fun secrets. What is winter like outside?

When Winter Comes (Nancy Van Laan): What happens to flowers, and fish, and deer when winter comes? This book allows us to snuggle under the warm covers and find out.

The Polar Bear (Jenni Desmond): Nonfiction facts AND a beautiful picture book. Just look at the cover — it pulls you in!

A Is For Axel: An Ice Skating Alphabet (Kurt Browning with Melanie Rose): Take a look at Olympic ice skating from a real expert — Kurt Browning skated for Canada and was a 4-Time Figure Skating Champion before writing this ABC book. Part of the alphabet series and appeals to any-age vocabulary buffs. (2nd edition, 2015)

A Kid’s Guide to the 2018 Winter Games (Jack L. Roberts): This book came out in July 2017, and prepared readers for events of the 2018 Winter Olympics, going on NOW. This title is COOL — it has colorful and interesting photographs, facts and figures, and even a medal tracker readers can use to record winners.

Best in Snow (April Pulley Sayre): Speaking of photographs, I could just sit and stare at April Pulley Sayre’s beautiful pictures all day. Her picture books’ photography shots are “best in show” for sure! This title shows the wonders of the snow and winter in the wild. I consider her books science class must-haves, and it doesn’t hurt to tell you she’s a friend, does it? (By the way, I’ll just recommend her new title, Warbler Wave — coming out this week– while I’m at it!)

Over and Under the Snow (Kate Messner): Speaking of friends, let me also recommend the Over and Under books by Kate Messner. Her nonfiction books are beautiful and informative, and the research presented in them is packaged in an engaging picture-book style (my favorite format!). In this title, the reader discovers the wonder and activity that lies beneath the snow-covered ground.

Blizzard (John Rocco): Now that I’m an adult, I sure hope we don’t have to relive the Blizzard-of-’78-kind of snow again. I remember donning my one-piece snowsuit as a 10-year-old and heading out to the swing set in the back yard — my sister and I sat on TOP of it! We had so much fun while my dad and the neighbor walked all day to get groceries at the corner gas station. What a crazy week that was. John Rocco placed his memories in this picture book, which is just as fun to read as that old swing set was to sit on.

Now it’s time for YOU to read and share your #nf10for10. Picture books are the best!


IMWAYR: Math and Reading Come Together

I just love using picture books for my middle school classroom! This book will help both math and reading teachers spread the book love. This is 7 Ate 9: The Untold Story, by Tara Lazar, and illustrated by Ross MacDonald, and it is comic genius in picture book form. 

Private I tells the story of his newest case: 6 banged on the detective’s door, scared that 7 is coming to get him. Private I took the odd case and started looking for the root of the problem. But 7 cannot be found for questioning. There are a number of suspects, and quite a few witnesses to interview, too. Private I’s work seems to multiply as the case moves forward. Can he solve the case in time, or will the numbers be subtracted, one by one?

If you’re looking for a twisted mystery, Tara Lazar provides the narrative. If you’re looking for some math vocabulary to add to your lesson plans, this book is a positive addition to your library. If you want to read a beautifully-illustrated picture book during your child’s bedtime routine, Ross MacDonald serves up the cake — I mean, pi.

Have fun reading 7 Ate 9 soon!



Slice of Life Tuesdays: Reasons I Will Read Picture Books in My Middle School Classroom

Slice of Life Small LogoPicture Books in My Middle School Classroom

I spend time in class reading aloud, and the most enjoyable moments come from sharing picture books. My current classes gather in the meeting area and students listen intently, sometimes even applauding at the end. Why do I do this? I cannot possibly list all the reasons here in this brief post (there are so many!). Using picture books in middle school and upper grade classrooms has recently been a feature topic in many research and education articles. I add my two cents here:

  1. Picture Books are short and teach lessons within a tight time frame. No need to expand on this one —  I have 45 minutes in a class period. The more I can cram in, the better. Why not cram in the good stuff — the stuff that teaches and engages students at the same time?
  2. Picture Books are fun! Students enjoy listening and responding. Teachers enjoy sharing the love of reading in this simple manner. Baby books? Not anymore!
  3. Picture Books teach the standards, in overlapping, spiraling, content lessons that teachers can revisit many times during the school year. These mentor texts help students to identify, connect, discuss, comprehend, and respond to curriculum goals in all subject areas:

Perspective/Fitting In: Gaston (DiPucchio), I Don’t Want to Be a Frog (Petty).  “Living Your Dreams/Finding What You Want in Life” is our current theme for our reading workshop assigned textbook.


Perspective/The World Around You (Science): Look Closely Inside the Garden, Look Closely in the Rainforest (series by Serafini)


Problems/Solutions: Sam and Dave Dig a Hole (Barnett), 14 Cows for America (Deedy)






Using Figurative Language/Personification/Perspective: The Day the Crayons Quit (Daywalt), Voices in the Park (Browne), The True Story of the 3 Little Pigs (Scieszka)




PBArtTheme/Discussion: Fox (Wild)

Art Appreciation/Analyzing Visuals: 14 Cows for America, Fox







Historical Events (Social Studies): Blizzard (Rocco)

PBBiographyBiography/People/History (Social Studies): When Marian Sang (Ryan), More Than Anything Else (Bradby)





As you can see, picture books can be used in classrooms to create awesome opportunities for learning and loving reading. Have fun sharing your favorites!



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Summer Reading: Where Should I Start?

Summer Reading: Where Should I Start?

In the last week, I have read no less than 14 (that’s where I stopped counting) book lists and recommendations for summer reading. I am overwhelmed at the sheer number of LISTS out there, and I wonder how I will ever be able to choose, start, and finish all the books on all the lists! Which list is best? Should I read a series? Should I stick with a certain genre or author? Will I be more satisfied with adult books, or should I stay with the YA bunch and prepare for the next year of teaching middle school? Maybe I could read all the picture books with my granddaughter and decide with her which ones stand out.

So many lists! So many questions! Then, it hit me. It’s summer, right? I should heed the call to read my choice of books! So simple! Then I panicked again. Where should I start?

Like a Mack Truck…smack! A friend’s blog post not only mirrored my thinking (thank you, Tara Smith), her words cemented my decision. I will start at the top of my own pile and read whatever I want, all summer long! That’s what we recommend to our students; that’s what the research says: Summer reading should be choice reading. Summer reading should be enjoyable. Just do it! So I am…reading what I find intriguing and loving every minute of it. And you should read, too. Whatever you want. Whenever you have time.

Just do it!

My students talked about these titles quite a bit. Maybe you’ll want to check these out:

Wonder (Palacio), Out of My Mind (Draper), Crossover (Alexander), The Impossible Knife of Memory (Anderson), Number the Stars (Lowry) , Divergent (series)(Roth), Percy Jackson (series) (Riordan), The Tiger Rising (DiCamillo), Big Nate (series) (Peirce), Michael Vey (series) (Evans), Diary of a Wimpy Kid (series)(Kinney), and El Deafo (Bell).

My YA favorites this year (in addition to the books above): Brown Girl Dreaming (Woodson), The One and Only Ivan (Applegate), The Fault in Our Stars (Green), When You Reach Me (Stead), Home of the Brave (Applegate), Fish in a Tree (Hunt), Counting by 7s (Sloan). There are so many others  – you don’t want to read my list…read the books!

My Starting Line Up of Summer Picks (Adult titles, not for school): Every Day I Fight (Scott), All the Light We Cannot See (Doerr), Summer Rental (Andrews), Zeitoun (Eggers), Gray Mountain (Grisham).

Picture Books we shared and loved: Sam and Dave Dig a Hole (Barnett), Blackout (Rocco), Fossil (Thomson), It’s a Book (Smith), Flotsam (Wiesner), I Don’t Want to be a Frog (Petty).

Professional Development titles (that already won me over!): The Unstoppable Writing Teacher (Cruz), Reading Workshop 2.0: Supporting Readers in the Digital Age (Serafini), The Reading Strategies Book (Serravallo), and Notice and Note: Strategies for Close Reading (Beers/Probst) (which I used all year and have marked up well).

Summer Reading: Where will you start? Now…go find your happy place and read!




Slice of Life Tuesday: Who’s Having More Fun?

I just opened the front door and found two boxes on the freezing cold front porch. I stepped outside for a few seconds to carry the unexpected, unexpectedly large boxes inside. The boxes were not heavy, but awkward, and I had to turn them both at an angle to get them in the door. Ok…I didn’t have to turn them 45 degrees or anything; the cardboard containers were not that large, about the size of vinyls or big picture books…OOH! It came!

The first box was my daughter’s new vinyl (I called them records when I was young — times have changed). She’s into music right now. But I — I got the book! I was so excited to receive my granddaughter’s birthday gift early — I Don’t Want To Be a Frog by Dev Petty! I wasn’t ready for it; I don’t need it until July, but I ordered it, and it’s here! “Why did you order it so early?” you ask? Here’s the truth: I love picture books, even more than my granddaughter, more than my kids, more than my students!

Last week, I packed my bag for school, carrying Sam and Dave Dig a Hole, Blackout, Blizzard, Snow Day, and Once Upon an Alphabet. My sixth graders buzzed around the room when they saw me unload. “Are you going to read new picture books today?”

“Of course!” I exclaimed. I love to share my new picture books with my “grown-up” sixth graders. They gather in the meeting area, never quietly, always giggling, and I share my new finds. Even though these are the “little kid” books, we read them. We’ve been talking about award-winners in literature, so this was well worth the instructional minutes. (Motivating students to read is always worth the instructional minutes.)

One of my students inquired, “You get really excited about this stuff, don’t you?” Yep. True story.

Who’s Having More Fun?

I’d have to say, “Me!”