Monday, July 30, 2018

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. To find out what other bloggers are reading, check out the host blogs: Teach Mentor Texts and Unleashing Readers. You can also follow on Twitter at #imwayr.

Recent Reads...

Quiet Please, Owen McPhee by Trudy Ludwig

Owen talks a lot! He talks so much that his classmates start to get annoyed. A case of laryngitis helps Owen learn a lesson about talking less and listening more. Like Ludwig's book, The Invisible Boy, this one will be useful in the classroom. At the end of the book there are suggested discussion questions to start a conversation about the importance of listening.

Grumpy Monkey by Suzanne Lang

Jim doesn't feel quite right when he wakes up, but he insists he's not grumpy. His friends give him lots of suggestions to change this, but Jim still doesn't feel happy. With the help of Gorilla, Jim realizes that with time the grumpiness will pass. The illustrations are fun and comical. This book will both entertain and convey a message about feelings. 

The Princess and the Absolutely Not a Princess (Miranda and Maude, #1) by Emma Wunsch

This is a humorous and heart-warming read. It's a book about friendship that shows the importance of understanding differences and having empathy for others. For readers of shorter chapter books this will be a delightful read. You can read more about my thoughts about this book here.

Grenade by Alan Gratz

This is one intense and heart-pounding read! The battles of World War II have just hit Okinawa. Hideki is taken from his school, armed with two grenades, and sent to fight with the Japanese Army. Ray is an American Marine, fighting for the first time. The stories of the two converge as they both fight to survive and make sense of the atrocities of war. These are characters that will stay with you long after you read the book. The story is a raw portrayal of the brutality of war, illustrating how it tears families and countries apart. It also explores how fear can overtake us. There is definitely darkness within the pages of this book, but there is also hope. Personally, I learned from this story as I did not know very much about the battle that occurred in Okinawa during WWII. The author's note at the end provided additional information that I found interesting. Although, many of my fifth graders get interested in reading about WWII, I think this book would be more suited to a middle school audience. Thanks to the author for providing my book review group, #BookExcursion, with an advance reading copy of this book. The book publishes in October.

Winnie's Great War by Lindsay Mattick and Josh Greenhut

This is the story of the real bear that was the inspiration for the creation of Winnie-the-Pooh. It expands upon the story that was first told in the picture book Finding Winnie: The True Story of the World's Most Famous Bear. Winnie's journey from the woods in Canada, across the Atlantic Ocean, to the London Zoo is a sweet story of friendship and courage, but the book also gives insight into the time period of World War I. I enjoyed this book as much as the picture book. Sophie Blackall's illustrations are wonderful, too. I received an advance reading copy of this book, thanks to the publisher, at the International Literacy Association Conference. The book publishes in September.

Thursday, July 26, 2018

The Princess and the Absolutely Not a Princess by Emma Wunsch

Miranda and Maude don't see eye-to-eye about much and a friendship seems unlikely, but sometimes those who are different from us make the best types of friends. 

Miranda is a princess who is being forced to go to school for the first time and is not very interested in school work or socializing with her classmates. Maude wants to be a social justice activist when she grows up and loves learning. Miranda is disgusted by Maude's love of hard-boiled eggs. Maude thinks Miranda's rudeness is a social injustice. When Miranda has a royal birthday party, their differences come to a head and both girls treat each other unfairly. It turns out that the girls have something in common, an empathetic side that leads them past their misunderstandings. 

This book is both humorous and sweet. Miranda and Maude both have interesting and quirky personalities. Their annoyance with each other at the beginning of the book is amusing, especially when they try to one-up each other with a collection of artifacts on their desks. The story is also heart-warming, as the girls develop a friendship and learn to embrace each others' differences.

The Princess and the Absolutely Not a Princess is not only entertaining, but it can also help readers learn something about navigating relationships with their peers. The story shows that understanding differences and being empathetic are important in forming friendships.

With short chapters and illustrations, this book will suit readers who are transitioning to chapter books. This is the first in a series that promises more fun adventures with two delightful characters.

Thanks to the publisher, Abrams Books, for providing my book review group, #BookExcursion, with a copy of the book. The book publishes in August.

Monday, July 23, 2018

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. To find out what other bloggers are reading, check out the host blogs: Teach Mentor Texts and Unleashing Readers. You can also follow on Twitter at #imwayr.

Recent Reads...

Hello Hello by Brendan Wenzel

As readers say hello to a wide variety of animals, they learn that the different colors, shapes, patterns, and ways of being make the world a fascinating place. Although featuring animals, this book conveys the idea that even in spite of differences, we are connected to each other. The names of all the animals in the book are listed at the end. The author notes that many of these animals are endangered and suggests that readers learn more about them in order to advocate for their protection.

Jinx and the Doom Fight Crime! by Lisa Mantchev

Jinx and the Doom are the cutest sibling, crime-fighting duo. Through their imaginary play, they defend the innocent and protect the planet. They also do the normal kid things like eat lunch and follow Mom's orders when she has a chore for them to do. This book celebrates play and imagination. The artwork within the book is wonderful, too. Pictures were drawn, cut, and digitally colored creating illustrations that almost look three-dimensional.

Nowhere Boy by Katherine Marsh

Ahmed is alone in Brussels after his father died when they were fleeing Syria. With no where else to go, he hides out in the basement of a house where Max, the boy living there, discovers him. Max is taking a huge risk, but he keeps Ahmed's hide out a secret and, with the help of a few friends, finds a way for him to attend his school. Ahmed's story of survival is relevant and offers insight into the struggles that refugees face. It also addresses issues related to terrorism and Islamophobia. The friendship that the two boys form is beautiful. This is an engaging and timely read.

The Story Collector by Kristen O'Donnell Tubb

Book lovers and librarians will have a special place in their heart for this book. This is an interesting story, with a little bit of mystery, about a girl living in the New York Public Library. Read more about my thoughts here

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Literacy Essentials by Regie Routman, Part III

All the students walk through the doors of our schools. The ones who have shelves filled with books. The ones who don't have a book to call their own or a notebook or a pen. The ones who have models of readers and writers in their lives. The ones who don't. The ones who come to first grade confident they can read and the ones who don't. The ones who come to school as native English language speakers and those whose native language is not English. The ones who come from hard places whose walls of mistrust and fear must be broken down or at least chipped away at so they can learn to their fullest potential.

No matter which students walk through our doors, we are responsible for ensuring that all students thrive as literacy learners. All the students. Much of our students' lives are beyond our control. We can control what happens from the time students walk in the door in the morning until the time they leave six or so hours later. We can teach with a sense of urgency and purpose, hold high expectations for all our students, and provide quality instruction focused on students' strengths and designed to move them forward.

I have been reading Literacy Essentials: Engagement, Excellence, and Equity for All Learners by Regie Routman. I previously wrote about the first two sections of the book, "Engagement" and "Excellence." The third section, "Equity," may be the last, but it is no less relevant to our teaching or inspiring than the sections before. In fact, this may be my favorite chapter as it sparks thinking about how we can expand the possibilities for all our students. Regie states, "All children, regardless of where they live or life circumstances, are entrusted to us so we can do everything within our power to help them succeed - academically, socially and emotionally" (p. 254). It's our job to make learning equitable for all the students who walk through our doors, and this book shows us ways we can do this.

My Takeaways

There are many ideas and suggestions for action throughout the section of this book, but these are a few of my takeaways.

  • Implement a curriculum that is designed to hold all students to high expectations. Rather than teach skills in isolation, teach them in context and in relation to the big picture of the authentic literacy work we would like students to be able to achieve. 
  • Students' strengths and their interests and passions are the foundation for their growth as literacy learners. Uncovering these will support students as they grow in their confidence and develop a love of learning. 
  • Implement assessments and use data responsibly. With formative assessment, we can discover students' strengths and target their needs. Data from assessments is only useful if it is used to make decisions about students' learning that will help them improve upon their skills.
  • Our high-poverty schools need our strongest teachers and as many resources as low-poverty schools. Be an advocate for providing access to books and supplies for those students who need it most.  
Literacy Essentials is a book that belongs in the hands of all those responsible for the literacy learning of our students, both teachers and administrators. I've written about all three sections of the book, but I have only touched upon the wealth of ideas within its pages. There are many suggestions for actions that can be taken to provide the best literacy learning opportunities for our learners. Read the book and you will be inspired.

Because I believe that literacy educators will be inspired by reading this book, I am giving away one copy. Comment on this blog post by Thursday, July 26th, 2018 and I will randomly select one person to whom I will send a copy of the book (U.S. addresses only please). Be sure to include a way that I can contact you, such as an email or twitter handle, if you are the person selected.  

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

#CyberPD Week Three

This is week three of #cyberPD, a virtual book study group that I am participating in this July along with other educators. The group is reading Being the Change: Lessons and Strategies to Teach Social Comprehension by Sara K. Ahmed. You can find out more information about #cyberPD here.

As I was reading Chapter Five, "Finding Humanity in Ourselves and Others," I was also reading The Red Bandana (Young Readers Adaptation) by Tom Rinaldi. This is a story of an upstander, defined as "people who decide to help or to stand up, no matter the consequence" (p. 106). The book is an account of 9/11, so it's heart-wrenching. It's also the story of Welles Crowther, one of the heroes of that day, who sacrificed his life to save others so there's inspiration in the pages of the book, as well. The books ends with a reminder to readers that we all have choices and we can choose to be one who helps. This book provides young readers with insight into a crisis, a horrific tragedy, that occurred in our world, but it can also spark discussion about courage, self-sacrifice, and how helping makes our world a better place.

Sharing literature which illustrates the power of standing up and helping others is essential. Picture books, like Super Manny Stands Up! by Kelly DiPucchio and Be Kind by Pat Zietlow Miller, are must-reads in the classroom because they convey important messages about kindness and compassion that we want our students to take to heart. The conversations we engage students in about ideas related to this literature are important, but Sara offers us ways to deepen the learning about these concepts. Working with students on understanding the idea of having an obligation to others and helping them to recognize who they feel obligated to, seems to dig deeper into the mindsets that result in our decision to help or not help. Our identities and perspectives tie into the choices we make. Exploring our identities and perspectives in relation to our decisions to be kind and empathetic seems a helpful way to support students in developing strong, positive relationships with others.

When 9/11 occurred, I was just beginning my career as a teacher. I remember the challenge of addressing students' concerns about this event. There have been many crises in our world since and managing the questions and conversations that students want to have is still a challenge. There is a need to help students process what is happening around them, but also ensure that they are safe. Sara offers great suggestions in the last chapter of the book for responding to the events of our world. Listening, taking the stance of learner alongside students, and sharing the stories of good in the world will help both teachers and students process what the world hands us.

As Sara states on the last page of her book, there is no magic formula for changing the world, but every effort we make to support students in navigating the world with understanding, kindness, and compassion is a step in the right direction.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

The Story Collector by Kristin O'Donnell Tub

For many book lovers, living in a library would be a dream come true. Viviani Fedeler is living such a life in The Story Collector.

Viviani was born in the New York Public Library where she lives with her parents and her two brothers. She loves stories, but doesn't think the stories of her own life are very important. When Viviani tells a new girl at school that the library is haunted, the girl does not believe her. Viviani's plan to prove she is not a liar gets her into a predicament with her friends, but then she needs the help of one of those friends to solve a library mystery.

This book takes place in the 1920s and is based on the real life Viviani Fedeler who was actually born in the New York Public Library in 1917. Because her father was the superintendent of the library she lived there until she was fifteen. In the note at the end of the book, the author provides some historical information about Fedeler's family and the library itself.

The story draws readers into the time period, but also brings the library itself to life. From playing baseball in the library, with books as bases, to hiding in the card catalog, to exploring the rooms of the library at night, Viviani's life in the library seems fun and full of adventure. The story also addresses friendship as Viviani wrestles with a dilemma related to making and keeping a friend. The ending of the story is satisfying as Viviani learns about stories and realizes she does have a story worth sharing.

The Story Collector will speak to the hearts of those who love books and stories, especially librarians. With an interesting setting and a plot with a bit of mystery this story is an enjoyable read.

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher, Henry Holt and Co., 
I read a digital review copy of the book. 
This book publishes in August. 

Monday, July 16, 2018

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. To find out what other bloggers are reading, check out the host blogs: Teach Mentor Texts and Unleashing Readers. You can also follow on Twitter at #imwayr.

Recent Reads...

Goodbye Brings Hello by Dianne White

This book celebrates the changes and milestones of growing up. As something ends for the children throughout the book, something new begins. There is an encouraging message to embrace all the new and different opportunities that life brings. I thank Unleashing Readers and the publisher for the giveaway opportunity through which I won a copy of this book.

Mr. Monkey Bakes a Cake by Jeff Mack

Mr Monkey bakes a cake, but because he has eaten too many bananas while doing so, he decides to bring it to a cake contest. There are lots of funny near-mishaps along the way and an encounter with an unfriendly gorilla. Readers will root for Mr. Monkey as he tries to get his cake to its destination in one piece. I am always on the lookout for beginning reader series that will amuse my students as the Mo Willems's Elephant and Piggie Books do. I think the Mr. Monkey series will be enjoyed just as much. This book has short, repetitive text, charming characters, and lots of humor.

What Do They Do with All That Poo? by Jane Kurtz

There are more facts about zoo animals' poo in this book than you ever wanted to know! Students are going to be fascinated with the information they'll learn from the book. It features different zoo animals, telling interesting facts about their poop. It also gives information about what zoos do with the immense amount of animal waste that piles up at the zoo. When I bring this book to school in the fall, I imagine that it is not going to stay on the shelf very long. This is another book I was lucky to win a copy of, thanks to Word Spelunking and the publisher.

Escape From Castaway Island (Mr. Puffball #3) by Constance Lombardo

Mr. Puffball desires fame and fortune, but he knows his friends are what matter the most. In the third book in this series, Mr. Puffball is starring in a reality show, Celebrity Castaway Island, along with his feline friends, some who seem more like frenemies. As Mr. Puffball tries not to get voted off the island there is lots of adventure, mishaps, and humor. This is a series I'll recommend to readers who enjoy illustrated novels and fun stories that make them laugh. Thanks to the author, Constance Lombardo, for sending my book review group, #BookExcursion, a copy of the book to review. 

The Red Bandana (Young Readers Adaptation) by Tom Rinaldi

This true story tells about Welles Crowther, a hero of September 11, 2001. Like any account of 9/11 this is a heart-wrenching story, but it is also inspiring and hopeful. The book portrays the self-sacrifice and courage that Welles exhibited that day and offers a reminder that heroes live among us. This is an informative account of 9/11, which will give young readers insight into what occurred, but it will also be useful to spark discussions about the fact that we can make choices to help others and make this world be a better place.

Friday, July 13, 2018

Literacy Essentials by Regie Routman, Part II

I have been reading Regie Routman's book, Literacy Essentials: Engagement, Excellence, and Equity for All Learners. The book is divided into three sections: "Engagement", "Excellence", and "Equity." I previously read and wrote a blog post about the first section, "Engagement" here. The second section of the book, "Excellence," is brimming with as much practical and insightful knowledge as the first section.

The idea of teacher excellence is something I have strong beliefs about. I have seen programs come and go in the different school districts I have worked in. Some of these programs were abandoned after only a couple of years. The remains of these programs often get tucked into the back of storage closets, gathering dust, as the components of a new, shinier model take its place. Sometime the materials connected to these programs were never even opened because teachers were unsure how to use them within the program or they were never necessary to begin with. None of these programs have been the quick-fix that it seems many educators, administrators, and other stakeholders seem to be looking for. Unfortunately that quick-fix will never exist because programs won't work for all students all of the time.

Ensuring that there is an excellent teacher in every classroom is a fix, although one that takes a greater investment of time than the implementation of a boxed program. In the first chapter of the "Excellence" section of Literacy Essentials, Routman explains that professional learning must be a priority if the goal is teacher excellence and the high achievement of all students. I wholeheartedly agree with this. Programs don't make excellent teachers. The recipe for excellence includes a commitment to professional learning in which teachers delve into understanding the reading and writing processes, how students learn best, and the best practices for literacy instruction. This recipe also needs to include time for collaboration in which teachers have opportunities to problem solve together, share what works in their classrooms, and discuss ways to improve student learning. Excellent teachers make the difference in students' achievement.

There is much more within the pages of this section of the book, but here are a few of my takeaways about "Excellence."

My Takeaways

  • Ongoing, collaborative professional learning is crucial to ensuring that there are effective teachers in every classroom. Professional learning that involves conversation about shared beliefs related to literacy instruction and empowers teachers to implement best practices based on those beliefs will have long-lasting effects on students' achievement.
  • Let students talk. Learners deepen their knowledge when they engage in conversation. Supporting students as they learn to actively listen and increase their conversational skills will help to make discussions more effective. When teachers talk less and listen more, students have more opportunities to engage in talk themselves.
  • If students are to get better at reading and writing they need to read and write a lot. Share great literature with students and make the connections between reading and writing. Show students that readers can learn about authors' craft by reading and trying out this craft in their own writing.
  • The end goal in teaching readers and writers is independence. When students are allowed to do the authentic work of readers and writers, they build a sense of agency that will support them as they read and write more challenging text over time. Conferring is an opportunity to name students' strengths and provide feedback that will nudge students forward in their reading and writing.
  • Be a teacher who reads and writes. By reading and writing and sharing this with students, teachers model a literate life. Teachers also gain an understanding of the reading and writing processes that students are being asked to engage in. When teachers read what their students read, they become more knowledgeable about children's literature and have more expertise about books they can share with students and can make recommendations for students.
Look for my thoughts about the final section of the book, "Equity," next week.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

#CyberPD Week Two

This is week two of #cyberPD, a virtual book study group that I am participating in along with other educators. The group is reading Being the Change: Lessons and Strategies to Teach Social Comprehension by Sara K. Ahmed. You can find out more about #cyberPD here

Watching the news or scrolling through my feed on social media, I have no doubts that there is room for our society to change and grow. In fact, change and growth our vital to a better world. We could use more kindness, more compassion, more humanity. Reflection, exploration, and conversation about our world, our place in it, and how we relate to others will help lead to this change. As tough and uncomfortable as this work may seem, it's the work that will propel us forward.

Chapters three and four of Being the Change, offer us tools to reflect, explore, and converse with our students as they consider ideas about the world and their understanding of it. As I read these chapters, I found myself thinking that the conversations the lessons will inspire are the sort that I tend to avoid. I have been guilty of steering the conversation in a different direction when the topic seems to be one that could potentially cause distress or when students bring up questions that are hard to answer. Although discussing bias and supporting students in recognizing bias, the focus of chapter three, can be a heavy topic, it's important to address. Classrooms can be the safe places where students discuss these ideas. Students naturally have questions about the events that are taking place in their lives and the world and the lessons in chapter four can help them make meaning out of what is happening. Even if these questions about the world lead to discomfort, students need the time and space to explore what is happening around them.

As I read the chapters this week, I found myself changing. Rather than avoid the difficult conversations, we can create a safe environment of trust and respect and foster deeper understanding. We can help students make sense of ideas, such as bias, and the events of the world. We can help them figure out the kind of people they want to be and how they want to relate to others. Getting their may take some hard work, some of it risky and uncomfortable, but if we trust in our students and ourselves we can do it. 

Monday, July 9, 2018

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. To find out what other bloggers are reading, check out the host blogs: Teach Mentor Texts and Unleashing Readers. You can also follow on Twitter at #imwayr.

What I've Been Reading...

Geraldine by Elizabeth Lilly

Geraldine moves and when she starts at her new school she is the only giraffe. She feels out of place until she meets Cassie, the girl who wears glasses, likes math, and organizes her food. With Cassie's help, Geraldine learns to embrace the qualities that make her who she is. This book would be useful for discussing uniqueness, identity, and self-acceptance. Geraldine has a lot of personality, dramatic, at times, but funny. The illustrations are humorous, as well.

The Truth About Dolphins: Seriously Funny Facts About Your Favorite Animals by Maxwell Eaton III

This book is part of a nonfiction picture book series that combines information with humor. The text provides straightforward facts while the playful illustrations and speech bubbles add a comic element. I have many readers who love to learn about animals and also enjoy books that are silly so I think this is a winning combination. Readers will both learn and laugh while reading this one.

Elephant Secret by Eric Walters

This was an amazing read. Engaging and interesting. It has elephants with personality, a surprising twist, and lots of heart. Read my review of this book that publishes in August here.

Mr. Wolf's Class by Aron Nels Steinke

I am always excited to read new graphic novels because my students love them so much. This one about the first day of school in Mr. Wolf's class is charming and funny. The students, although animals, are true to the life of fourth graders. I wasn't surprised when I read the author's bio to find out he is a teacher himself. This is the first in a series and a definite must-have for my graphic novel collection.

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Elephant Secret by Eric Walters

I got to the last page and wished I could have stayed longer in the elephant sanctuary that is the setting of this book.

Thirteen-year old Samantha Gray lives on a North American elephant sanctuary with her father where they care for a herd of elephants. Samantha has lived with the elephants all her life, understands them better than people, and considers them her family. A baby elephant is born on the sanctuary and, because the mother dies during birth, Samantha takes on the responsibility of tending to her needs. About halfway through the book, the secret of the baby elephant is revealed and from there the story takes an intriguing turn. I enjoyed being totally surprised by the twist in this story, so I will say no more.

This book gives readers insight into the characteristics and behavior of elephants, bringing to light what amazing creatures these animals are. Amused by their personalities and fascinated by their loyalty, I adored the elephants. Samantha is a great character, as well, displaying a selfless love for the elephants and bravery when the lives of the elephants is threatened. Although the elephants are central to the plot, another storyline explored Samantha's relationship with her father and her father's girlfriend, adding another tender element to the story.

A compelling read that imagines a possibility that may be fact in our future, calls attention to the need to protect the wildlife of our planet, and warms the heart. 

I read an advance reading copy of this book, thanks to the publisher, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Books for Young Readers. This book publishes in August.

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

#CyberPD Week One

For the next few weeks I will be participating in #CyberPD, a virtual book study group. You can find out more about #CyberPD here. I am excited to take part in this community of educators for the third year. This year we are reading and discussing Being the Change: Lessons and Strategies to Teach Social Comprehension by Sara K. Ahmed. I will be posting weekly reflections on the chapters we are reading. Like previous years, I anticipate the #CyberPD community will stretch my thinking and help me grow as a literacy educator.

Week One: Introduction and Chapters One & Two

Teachers make a difference in lives of learners every day. They have an impact on the learners in their classrooms who will then go out into the world and take part in shaping our future. We are social beings and relationships are at the heart of what it means to be an active participant in the world. It is essential that learners have the social comprehension skills to relate to others in a diverse society, one in which perspectives differ, and navigate a world that is fraught with challenges and is always changing. Teachers can make a conscious effort to put these comprehension skills in learners' hands. That is the focus of this book. If we don't teach these skills, can we feel confident that our learners will develop them? Is that a risk we want to take?

Chapter One of the book includes lessons to help learners explore their identities. The goals being to honor learners, build connections, and help learners position themselves as individuals who exist alongside a world of others. Each of the lessons is valuable as students develop a sense of self and respect for those around them. One of the lessons, "Placing Ourselves in the World," involves learners in an exploration of their names. This is a lesson that will help students discover something about themselves and learn more about their peers. In addition to the books referenced that could be used to introduce this lesson, I think Alma and How She Got Her Name by Juana Martinez-Neal would be a useful book to explore this concept.  

Chapter Two of the book discusses how to teach students to be active listeners. I know many adults, including myself, at times, who could continue to improve upon their listening skills, so I believe this is something that our learners should be explicitly taught. As with many skills and strategies that we want learners to develop, modeling and noticing and naming what happens when engaged in the skill or strategy can be an effective teaching practice. Teaching listening skills in this way lends authenticity to lessons and will help learners internalize the behaviors necessary for active listening.  

From my reading of the first two chapters of this book, I am finding the lessons relevant, practical, and engaging. I look forward to next week's reading, Chapters Three and Four. 

Monday, July 2, 2018

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. To find out what other bloggers are reading, check out the host blogs: Teach Mentor Texts and Unleashing Readers. You can also follow on Twitter at #imwayr.

What I've Been Reading...

Niblet and Ralph by Zachariah OHora

Niblet and Ralph live in the same apartment building. They find a way to visit each other's apartments, but this leads to confusion when their owners return and find that they each have a different cat in place of their own. Niblet and Ralph are two amusing cats whose mischief inadvertently leads to a new friendship.

Meet Yasmin! by Saadia Faruqi

Yasmin is a second grader who is great at solving problems. In each of the four short chapters, Yasmin is faced with different problems that are resolved due to her sense of adventure and creativity. Readers will also get a sense of Yasmin's Pakistani-American culture throughout the book. Illustrations, which are on included on most of the pages, are wonderful, too. This will be a great read to recommend to transitional chapter book readers. Thanks to the publisher, Capstone, for sending my book review group, #BookExcursion, an advance reader's copy of the book. The book publishes in August.

Evangeline of the Bayou by Jan Eldredge

Evangeline is an apprentice to her grandmother who is a haunt huntress. When they take a job in New Orleans, Evangeline begins to question whether she has inherited any of the powers that are part of her family's history. In spite of her doubts, Evangeline is determined to keep those around her safe. This is an adventurous read with lots of action and supernatural elements. The setting, the Louisiana Bayou and New Orleans, is both charming and spooky. Evangeline is a character with strength, grit, and spunk and a heroine who demonstrates that fear can be faced head on.

Toaff's Way by Cynthia Voigt

Toaff is an adventurous and curious squirrel who gets separated from his family after a storm. The year following his loss, he takes a journey in which he strives to figure out the world and his place in it. He learns about survival, acceptance, and friendship. Imagining the world from the perspective of a squirrel, this is a sweet and entertaining tale. Toaff will win over readers' hearts. Thanks to NetGalley, I read a digital advance reader's copy of the book. The book publishes in August.

Professional Read

Sparks in the Dark: Lessons, Ideas, and Strategies to Illuminate the Reading and Writing Lives in All of Us by Travis Crowder and Todd Nesloney

Sparks in the Dark is about creating meaningful and authentic experiences for learners so they develop the love of reading and writing that will allow them to grow their literate lives. Throughout the book, Travis, a seventh-grade teacher, and Todd, a school principal, weave stories of their experiences as educators who promote literacy and provide instruction that aligns with best practice. They write about the necessity of access to books, providing choice, being teachers who read and write and the importance of having difficult conversations with kids and being professionals who learn in a variety of ways to improve our practice. This is a conversational, inspirational, and practical professional read. 

Sunday, July 1, 2018

Literacy Essentials by Regie Routman, Part I

Regie Routman is one of those literacy experts I know I can trust. When she has a new book hitting the shelves, I can almost guarantee that it will be brimming with wisdom and practical suggestions. Regie Routman's latest book, Literacy Essentials: Engagement, Excellence, and Equity for All Learners does not disappoint. The almost 400-page book (not including the appendix) is filled with brilliance about teaching and literacy instruction. In the book, Regie explores ideas, research, and practical steps that center on creating a learning environment in which all students can thrive and feel empowered.

When I started reading this book in the spring, I immediately enjoyed and connected to Regie's perspective which is smart and sensible. I found myself starring many of her suggested action steps in order to remember which ones I want to set as goals for myself. I am delving into the book again because I am discussing it with a virtual book club community. During the first week of the book club, we read and discussed the section title, "Engagement". Here are some of my takeaways from this first part of the book.

My Takeaways

  • If we want our schools to be places where all students thrive as literacy learners, we have to engage both, the heart and mind. We reach students' hearts by creating spaces where they feel safe, joyful, and celebrated. We reach students' minds by providing purposeful, relevant, and engaging instruction. Students are empowered when they learn, but also when they have a love for learning.
  • Students achieve more when they are involved in instruction that is authentic and meaningful. Allowing students choice, providing authentic audiences, helping students understand the purpose of their learning and make connections, and giving students opportunities to have a voice in their learning optimizes instruction for all students. 
  • A thriving school culture is one in which there are positive relationships not just between teachers and students, but between the entire school community. Schools should be welcoming places for students, as well as their families. In order to create a positive environment for students, teachers also need to feel safe, trusted, and respected. Students are at the center of the school community, but their sense of well-being and their knowledge that they are cared for depends on an entire school community that is working as a team towards a common goal, the success of its literacy learners. 
Next week, I will post my thoughts about the next section of the book, "Excellence". If you are interested in participating in the virtual book club, which will continue through the week of July 15th, join the Literacy Book Club Facebook page