Monday, November 30, 2015

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? is a community of bloggers who link up to share what they are reading.  For more information check out the host blogs: Teach Mentor Texts and Unleashing Readers.

What I Read This Week…

A Dog Wearing Shoes by Sangmi Ko

Mini finds a dog and, although she knows he belongs to someone because he is wearing shoes, she wants to keep him.  When the dog runs away one day, Mini realizes that his owner must be missing him.  When Mini finds the dog's owner she happily returns him and then adopts her own dog.  There is a message about empathy within the book.  The author also includes an end page in the book in which she advocates for shelter dog adoption.  The illustrations which are mostly black and white, with exceptions such as the dog's bright yellow shoes, help to give the story humor and charm.  

Dear Yeti by James Kwan

This is a sweet tale of a wilderness, winter-time adventure.  The story is mostly told through letters that two young hikers send, with the help of a bird, to yeti as they try to find him and convince him to show himself.  Yeti proves to be a true friend when the hikers are face-to-face with a grizzly bear.  The text is brief, but the illustrations are adorable and the message is heart-warming.

I Don't Like Koala by Sean Ferrell

This is a funny story of a creepy stuffed animal and the boy who just can't get rid of him.  Adam attempts to hide him and run away from him, but the stuffed koala, "who has terrible eyes that follow him everywhere" keeps turning up.  Adam's attitude changes when he realizes that koala's watchful eyes may actually do some good.  The illustrations show a stuffed koala who is both creepy and cute.

Meet the Dullards by Sara Pennypacker

Mr. and Mrs. Dullard are dull and they want to keep it that way, so when their children shock them by doing things that are not dull, such as reading and playing outside they decide to move.  The book has humor and word play: the Dullard children are named Blanda, Borely, and Little Dud; the children sit and watch the television to calm down although it is unplugged; the ice cream stand has 90,000 flavors but the Dullards order vanilla cones without the cones or the vanilla.  The dullness of the Dullards is greatly exaggerated which may make anyone who thinks their life is boring reconsider.  

The Red Bicycle: The Extraordinary Story of One Ordinary Bicycle by Jude Isabella

When Leo outgrows his bicycle, Big Red, he donates it to an organization that collects used bicycles and sends them to countries where they are needed for transportation, but people can’t afford them. The book tells the story of how the bike makes a difference in the lives of others living in a country in West Africa.  At the end of the book, the author provides additional information about organizations that collect bikes for those in need.  This story shows the global impact that one person can make and will provide inspiration for those who want to help others. 

When Santa Was a Baby by Linda Bailey

This is a picture book that will satisfy the curious mind of anyone who would like to know what Santa was like as a child.  The book tells about aspects of Santa’s childhood that mirror what he is like as an adult.  There is his booming voice even as a baby, his affinity for red, chimneys, and cold temperatures, his generosity, and his pet hamsters which he harnessed with ribbon to a matchbox.  I think the illustrations are what I like best about the book.  They look old-fashioned and remind me of the Golden Books I read as a child.  Baby Santa is without pants in a couple of pictures which is sure to make children giggle.   

The Ghost Backstage (The Haunted Library #3) by Dori Hillestad Butler

This book is part of an early reader chapter book series.  There is a ghost who has been separated from his family, a girl named Claire who can see and talk to ghosts, and a mystery concerning ghostly happenings at Claire's school.  The plot is simple, but it's hooked the interest of many of my readers who enjoy the mystery and the fantasy within the story.

Dino-Mike and the Underwater Dinosaurs by Franco

This is the third book in a chapter book series.  The book is short with illustrations on every few pages so it would be appealing to younger readers who are just beginning to transition to chapter books or don’t have the stamina for longer texts.  Young readers will appreciate the action and adventure, especially those who like dinosaurs.  The main character in the series accompanies his paleontologist dad on fossil hunting trips, but has his own experiences with real dinosaurs.

Never Girls #1: In a Blink by Kiki Thorpe

Recently, I was asked by parent if I knew of any books about fairies that, in her words, "were not lame." She explained that her child only wants to read books about fairies and had already gone through one book series.  After some searching, this is the series I found. This chapter book series, by Disney, is written for 6-10 year olds.  In the book, four girls are transported to Pixie Hollow, a land of fairies, which for them is like a magical, marvelous dream. Readers who are fans of fairytales and magic will be transported along with the girls to an imaginative land and enjoy the girls' adventures.

The Tapper Twins Go To War (With Each Other) by Geoff Rodkey

This is the first in a middle grades chapter book series about twins who are also rivals.  In this book the twins are at war and they each try to play the biggest and best prank on the other.  The book is written in a unique way as it’s told from the perspective of the twins as they alternate telling their account of what happened and includes text messages, photographs, and chat logs to tell the story.  The storyline is meant to be silly and humorous, but some may feel this is a book for the upper end of the middle grades due to the topic and the nature of the sibling rivalry.   

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Leading Readers to the Books They Love

My love for reading began when I was a child.  My first memory of books and stories were those that my parents read to me, most often from a treasury of Mother Goose.  The rhythm and song of the rhymes and poems was magical and entrancing.  As I grew into a reader myself, I appreciated the imaginary places to which books would take me. The moment I could finally sign my name and was handed my own library card was an exciting moment.  I had favorite authors and series that I read devotedly, which I searched for at the library and the bookstore.  The lowest shelf in my closet was dedicated to my books; my books were arranged there so they were never very far and as if they were treasured friends.

I was an enthusiastic reader, to say the least, as an elementary child.  Not every elementary child is this enthusiastic about reading.  But this is the enthusiasm I wish for every child.  My goal in teaching my students is to help them become more proficient and independent readers, but I also want them to enjoy books.  I want children to experience other places and meet new characters that only reading will lead their imagination to find.  I want students to choose books that interest and engage them.  I want my students to be better readers, but I also want them to be motivated to read.

As I motivate my readers, I think of Frank Serafini’s quote, “There is no such thing as a child who hates to read; there are only children who have not found the right book.”  As a reading teacher, part of my job is to help students find the right book.  I truly believe if a child says he hates to read that child needs to be supported in discovering his interests and tastes for reading.  With the right support, even those students who claim a dislike of reading can be led to the new book, the new series, or the new genre that they will just love.  Motivating students to read can be challenging.  Here are some ways to get started in supporting students to develop an enjoyment of reading and books.

Be a reader of children’s books.  I try to become familiar with the latest in children’s books and read books that I think will interest my students.  This enables me to make recommendations to my students.  When reading children’s books I include those that may not be my preference of reading material, but think my students probably will enjoy.  This year I have a group of students who enjoy graphic novels.  These are not typically the type of books I seek out to read, but because my students are interested in them I have made a point to read more of them.  I have been pleasantly surprised with many of the graphic novels I have read and have recommended them to readers who enjoyed them.

Give book talks.  Book talks are a great way to introduce students to new books and get them interested in books they may not find on their own.  It only takes a couple of minutes to tell students about a book and get them curious and wanting to read it.  I gave a book talk about Princess Pink and the Land of Fake-Believe, a transitional chapter series, to my third graders.  I began with a simple hook to get them interested in the plot (Would you like to open your refrigerator door, step inside, and magically enter a land of fake-believe where the characters are like those from fairy tales?), gave a brief summary of one of the books, and read the first chapter.  That day a student took the book home to read and others are lined up to read it next.

Provide students with opportunities to preview books.  I’ve seen students randomly grab a book off my shelf and ask to read it.  I’ve never gone into Barnes and Noble and chosen a book for myself this way and if I did I don't think the chances are great that I’d end up with a book suitable for my tastes.  Teaching students how to preview a book is something they need to be explicitly taught.  I discuss how I preview a book with my students and show them what I might do when choosing a book - read the title and author, read the summary on the inside front cover or back of the book, look at the illustrations and graphics, scan the table of contents, look at the illustrations and graphics, and read the first few pages.  I also give students the opportunity to preview books by doing a book pass.  I give every student or pair of students a book.  They have a minute or so to preview the book and when I call “pass” they pass it to the next person.  If I do a book pass with a small group of students I continue until all students have had a chance to preview all of the books.  Students often discover new books they want to read after participating in a book pass.  

Provide opportunities for students to talk about books.  After students have heard many book talks, they can take over by doing book talks themselves.  At my school, we have a few students every week talk about books they are recommending to others during morning announcements.  Students tell the title and author of the book, whom they are recommending it to, a brief plot summary, and why they are recommending it.  Students also write recommendations that are displayed in the library for others to read and get ideas for their next book.

Have students keep a future book list.  When there is a lot of talk about books, students are hearing many titles and hopefully getting ideas about books they are interested in reading.  Students can be encouraged to keep a list of books they want to read in the future.  This can be a “Someday Book List” or a “Possible Future Reads” list.  At the end of a book talk or after a book pass, if a student is interested in reading a new title, at some point, it can be jotted down on the list.

These suggestions for motivating readers have increased the talk and interest surrounding books amongst my students.  Students are also exposed to books they wouldn't discover on their own. Even some of my less motivated readers have been enticed to read a new book or try a different book series.  It can be challenging work to motivate students to want to read, but it's just as important as teaching them how to read.  Students may think they don't like reading, but they just don't yet know that the right book is out there.  I can lead them to find it. 

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Slice of Life: A Literacy Conference

Lester Laminack spoke
about the power of the read aloud.
One of the things I look forward to every fall is the Literacy for All conference hosted by Lesley University.  It is one of the best professional development events that is close enough to me so that I can attend without having to fly or book a hotel.  There are always well-known speakers, authors of professional texts and children’s books, who present workshops to share their expertise.  Many teachers, from all over the United States and beyond, attend the workshop.  It is always a worthwhile event – the knowledge I gain from the presenters is invaluable and the conversations that are possible with other educators are energizing and inspiring.

The conference is a three-day event, preconference workshops on Sunday and two days of workshops and sessions on Monday and Tuesday.  This morning, on the last day of the conference, I am waiting to hear Mary Pope Osborne speak about her passion for writing and reflecting on what I have gained from the conference.  I am making plans for my teaching and instruction based on what I have learned here.  I was lucky enough to spend Sunday with Kylene Beers and Bob Probst and I am looking forward to implementing some of the strategies they have discussed.  They presented very useful information to teach the signposts which they write about in their books Notice and Note: Strategies for Close Reading and Reading Nonfiction: Notice and Note Stances, Signposts, and Strategies.  I read Notice and Note when it was first published, but need to reread parts and I am looking forward to reading their newest book on nonfiction. Many of the strategies they discussed are intended to scaffold students to go beyond a surface level understanding of text to dig deeper into meaning.  I think many of these strategies are going to be beneficial to my students.

Kylene Beers and Bob Probst discussed signposts for fiction and nonfiction.

Attending Literacy for All this year has led me to develop plans for my teaching and plans for my reading life.  There are strategies I want to try and new professional texts I have added to my to-be-read pile.  I still have the rest of the day to enjoy the conference and I’m sure there will be more learning, more conversations, and more ideas to come.

Three big questions Beers and Probst say students should be asking about nonfiction text:
What did the author think I already knew?
What surprised me?
What changed or conferred what I already knew?