IMWAYR: Stories Are Important! Let Them Read!

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To kick off the school year and prepare for Banned Books Week (September 23 – 29), I’m revisiting these two 2017 fabulous titles:

Our Story Begins, edited by Elissa Brent Weissman

I sat with Elissa at dinner during Nerd Camp Michigan this summer, and she is amazing! She put together stories and snippets of work from now-famous authors from when they were kids. The subtitle of the book is Your Favorite Authors and Illustrators Share Fun, Inspiring, and Occasionally Ridiculous Things They Wrote and Drew As Kids. Authors include my friends, Kwame Alexander and Chris Grabenstein. I love their stories!

Ban This Book, by Alan Gratz

School boards are in charge. Of reading. Of books that are allowed in the libraries of schools. Wait, what? Amy Anne Ollinger isn’t going to let Mrs. Jones, the school librarian, or her mom, or the school board, tell her that she cannot read her favorite book of all time, From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler (by E. L. Konigsburg)! Amy Anne and her friends defend their books, and their right to read them. Alan Gratz has an Author’s Note stating that all the books mentioned in Ban This Book have been challenged or banned at least once in the last 30 years. Sad. Makes me want to read Coraline (by Neil Gaiman) again before Halloween.

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.

 

 

Reflections From the All Write Institute — #6: Dinner with Seymour Simon

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Reflections From the All Write Institute — #6: Dinner with Seymour Simon

“What an amazing opportunity!” I told my family as I planned for All Write. My mother-in-law was listening to the conversation and looked up from her chair, “What? You’re going to dinner with another man?”

“Yes, Mom. And probably 60 other people.” She did not understand. Who was this guy? Why was it so special to have dinner with him?

SeymourBooksForMe

Seymour Simon’s works are some of the most beautiful and interesting books for science, and nonfiction in general, that I’ve ever read. I remember teaching 5th grade, reading Wolves, Volcanoes, and The Brain over and over. (Did I mention that he has written over 250 books for children, Mom?) He hosts a fabulous website, he’s on Facebook and Goodreads, and even has a famous app called “Science Fun to Go.” Yes, it was an honor to have dinner with him. We even got to meet his wife, and we asked her how could she possibly put up with all of us google-eyeing her husband! She laughed and was very understanding.

Seymour Simon talked for a while about making paper airplanes, teaching the students in his class to make them just right, so they would fly far across the classroom. He even held outside flying contests on the school grounds. He wrote a book about flying paper airplanes.  Traveling back in time, he told us the story of riding in a propeller-powered aircraft, and how he was so scared. I was there with him — his words so eloquent — his story so upsetting to the stomach (LOL). Fast-forward to the present: he told us about teaching, writing, and some life lessons learned along the way. (A friend sitting next to me at the table leaned over and said to me, “There just aren’t many great storytellers left.”) I believe she’s right. This is an experience I will share with my students, for sure.

Seymourtalks

“We are story.”

“Start with the Why.”

Everyone has stories to tell. Lives matter, and sharing experiences is just one way to carry on our culture to the next generation(s). Students should find value in telling tales and listening to stories.  It’s truly a one-of-a kind experience, and I will start my school year with storytelling.  I cannot wait to share Seymour Simon’s talk with my class. It’s almost like I want school to start sooner than planned. Please check me out; do I have a fever?

 

 

 

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

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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!”

 

Slice of Life Tuesday: What a Find!

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I looked at http://www.indianayoungwriters.org with a student yesterday, and I found a picture that was familiar. Author Ralph Fletcher, and a teaching colleague from my school were together on the site’s thumbnail pictures. As I scrolled through, looking for the information I wanted, my student stopped me and said, “Hey, isn’t that Mr. Y from upstairs?” I gasped. It was!

I remembered that day. We traveled to Indianapolis together to attend Ralph’s writing workshop for teachers.  I replied, “Yes, it is, and I was standing right there.” (I pointed to the blank part of the screen to the right of my buddy.)

Another student heard me, and jumped up from her desk. “What? Where were you?” I showed her the space on the screen where my body should have been. The young lady said, “You were with Mr. Y? What for?” The young man said, “Wow. That’s cool. You met Ralph Fletcher?” I told the story of how teachers want to learn, too. The advantage is that teachers get to learn from the real published authors sometimes, when organizations like the Indiana Partnership for Young Writers support our learning!

I abandoned my original search on the site and started clicking through the icons. How cool, indeed! Then I saw it — a slide show on the next page — and there, right where I described, was…ME! My girl student yelled out, “There you are! You’re right!” The boy yelled, “Mrs. Sniadecki’s on here!” We shared the find with the class. I couldn’t believe it! I felt famous.

Then I thought of that movie title, “Almost Famous.” I remembered that day, and how exciting it was to watch Ralph speak. The opportunity to rub shoulders with one of the best writers out there made for a fabulous day, but this! Sharing this experience with my students — now a year “plus” later — was amazing!