Reading Teacher Writes

Sharing a love of literacy with fellow readers and writers

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IMWAYR: Just a Few New Titles

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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I read a few new titles over the weekend and today. There are many good picture books coming in 2023! I’m excited to use these with students. Bear is Never Alone by Marc Veerkamp and Jeska Verstegen, translated by Laura Watkinson (Eerdmans Books, 2023), is a look at what happens when one has “had it up to here!” Bear loses his cool after all the forest animals demand more of Bear’s beautiful piano music. It’s Zebra who comes to the rescue, sitting quietly with Bear and reading after Bear’s outburst. The stress subsides as the book ends and makes Bear (and the reader) feel better.

A related title is Snail Trail by Ziggy Hanaor, illustrated by Christos Kourtoglou (Cicada Books, 2023). “Marjorie was a happy snail. She liked playing with her friends and spending time with her family. But occasionally, Marjorie wanted to be on her own.” Marjorie, like Bear in the story above, “loses it” when she gets overwhelmed. It takes her fellow snail friend, Bernard, to teach Marjorie a trick to keep others away.

These are both books I can see using in a classroom – maybe on a stressful or noisy day – and students and teachers can safely talk about feelings and the consequences of letting those feelings get the best of us.

How the Sea Came To Be (And All the Creatures In It) by Jennifer Berne and Amanda Hall (Eerdmans Books, 2023) is a wonderful new title that needs to be in STEM classrooms and school libraries. Written in three parts, this poetic journey through time tells how the “sea came to be – and all the creatures in it.” Jennifer Berne and Amanda Hall use poetry, colorful pictures, surprising page layouts, and bunches of backmatter to encourage children to observe, discover, and research our past and plan for our future. This picture book is gorgeous and interesting — readers will fall in love with the ocean and all the organisms in it. Teachers will love the glimpse at the eons and captioned notes about animals most of us have never heard of before. There are pages of key terms and concepts that dig deeper, yet are accessible to students. Recommended readings and more fill the end of the book, leading to a lifelong commitment to joyful exploration and care of our earth’s oceans.

Finally, I picked up Jack Wong’s When You Can Swim – a fictional account of a young person learning to swim. The idea came from Mr. Wong’s personal experience and it’s an idea that I found original and fun. Adults will remember back to the days when they learned to swim and will read this one with new “little fish.” The book releases in May (Orchard Books, 2023) and I cannot wait!

It’s Monday! What are YOU reading?


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IMWAYR: Solution Squad

I am NOT a “math person.” Never have been, never will be. But sometimes we “reading people” must learn something new, and share that learning with others. Here is a wonderful example of a math learning opportunity: Solution Squad by Jim McClain. Mr. McClain is a teacher (which makes this book even more important to me) who strives to give his students the most engaging learning possible AND uses his strengths (he’s a comic book maker and connoisseur) to make that happen in his classroom.

When you open the colorful Solution Squad for the first time, you find an introduction written by McClain that explains how he got started with writing books. After the Table of Contents, there are a few pages of “How to Read Comics,” by Tracy Edmunds. This is helpful for people like me, who don’t read comics or graphic novels on a regular basis. Solution Squad continues with “Primer,” the first story, that introduces characters, math vocabulary, and (here’s where it gets interesting) the first problem for the Squad. “Looks like a code,” the character, Ordinate, states. The story continues and the characters use a primitive device (I learned about in my math classes) to solve the problem (You want me to give away the solution? I won’t do it!).

There are a few stories in Solution Squad, all based on math standards and McClain’s artistic way of drawing students into the learning using comics. Nathan Hale, author of the Hazardous Tales series, praised the work in the testimonials: “I wish I’d had Solution Squad when I was trying to learn math…” My personal favorite story was “The Trouble With Trains.” Remember the “train” problems from word problems in math class? Yep, I do. Now I understand not only the problem and solution ideas, but the humor that leads adults to groan at “train problem” jokes.

Jim McClain adds background information for his characters through the newest member of the squad, Radical, reading the book. What a cool way to spread the book love — from characters to real-life students. Reading is important. Reading is crucial for learning. Reading brings math to life!

One last thing — a bonus for teachers — Solution Squad has lesson plan ideas and a guide for the solutions from the stories in the book. Written for teachers, by a teacher. That’s a winning solution for math class!

Jim McClain brings STEM learning to life for students, adults, and comic book fans. Learn more about Solution Squad from the website,