IMWAYR: Aru Shah and the End of Time by Roshani Chokshi

AruShahandtheEndofTime_Chokshi2018

“Rick Riordan Presents” title, Aru Shah and the End of Time, by Roshani Chokshi is my new pick this week. It came to me highly recommended, so I moved it to the top of my “To Be Read” list. Here’s what the back cover has to say:

“Percy Jackson meets Sailor Moon in this inaugural title in the Rick Riordan Presents program, a wild – and wildly funny – epic journey based on Hindu mythology.”

The words, “wildly funny” got me. I need some laughs this week.

Coming Up: Next week is Banned Books Week! I have a LOT of titles to re-read during the celebration of the right to read!

Happy 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.

IMWAYR: Light/Dark Reads and an Anniversary

I was not as much of a dedicated reader as I wanted to be last week. Migraine headache vs. reading brain = knocked out. To overcome, I spent the weekend with a light a funny read and a dark, yet important graphic novel.

Santa Bruce by Ryan T. Higgins is the third in the Mother Bruce series, and it’s the best, in my opinion. “Bruce was a bear who did not like the holidays…Bruce also did not like being cold…” When Bruce dons warm weather long underwear and a cap, which happened to be red, the animals of the forest think he’s Santa Claus. Now he’s stuck — awake AND mistaken for someone else…again! This hilarious story is sure to be a holiday hit. It hits stores tomorrow, so get your copy asap!

Speak: The Graphic Novel by Laurie Halse Anderson, with artwork by Emily Carroll, is the graphic novel remake of the 1999 controversial novel, Speak. I read the novel years ago, and saw the movie, and supported the book with its presence in my former classroom library and today in the school library. I added the graphic novel this year, and I’m so glad that Melinda’s story is reborn for a whole new generation of readers. This is an important topic, and girls need to feel that they can SPEAK out against violence and isolation. If you haven’t read either of these books yet, read them soon.

Next up for me…continuing Seafire and Fresh Ink (see August 27th’s post) and this week’s anniversary reading of 14 Cows for America by Carmen Agra Deedy and Nine,Ten by Nora Raleigh Baskin. We remember.

 

Book Review: Mixed: A Colorful Story by Arree Chung

Consider this colorful picture book for your first days of school…for all ages and grades.

MixedAColorfulStory_Chung2018

Yellows, Blues, and Reds live peacefully in a city, until one day, a Red declares, “Reds are the best!” The whole community is thrust into chaos — so much so that the three color groups must live apart, forming segregated neighborhoods. One day, Blue and Yellow are seen together with a new color…what will become of the union? In Mixed: A Colorful Story, Arree Chung shows us a world of colors, teaches us about tolerance, and how “mixing it up” might just be the best thing for everyone.

Why I Like This Book: My current school is a mix of old and new — students who have attended there and students who are now enrolled due to school closings and consolidation in our district. This is a perfect book to make students (and teachers) think about ways we can come together, and that being united is better than being alone.

Why You Should Read This Book: It’s colorful! (Hint: there’s an art lesson here — primary colors, secondary colors.) It includes simple and fun characters, but it also introduces a big message about communities that we all need.

IMWAYR: We Have Stories! Let Them Read!

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.

 

Book Review: SWING by Kwame Alexander and Mary Rand Hess

In another amazing collaboration from Kwame Alexander and Mary Rand Hess, we follow Noah and his best friend, Walt through the ups and downs of high school life. Noah and Walt are NOT on the school baseball team, but Walt hits the batting cages with fierce commitment and passion, channeling his love of jazz to help him find his SWING. Noah is a faithful friend and follower, while working on his own passions, especially his love for Sam, a beautiful BFF he’s known since “forever” ago. Sam has a boyfriend, though—none other than the buff baseball star of the team, Cruz.

When Noah finds a birthday gift for his mom at a local thrift store, he also finds his courage in the box — the words of old love letters that were left inside. Noah copies the words for his love, longing to live the life that Cruz now has. When Walt delivers one of the letters to Sam, however, the three friends’ relationships start to change.

Meanwhile, the neighborhood is dealing with bigger issues — there’s life and love, and then there’s allegiance and angst. Patriotic duty vs. empathetic obligation towards our fellow man. Kwame and Mary SWING the readers thinking around, fluctuating with hard-hitting emotion that leaves one breathless, wondering about our own lives in the midst of all that is good and evil. Our own little lives — up against the global society.

What I loved about Swing: I loved ALL the characters in Swing, right down to the grandma who is supposed to be keeping an eye on Noah while his parents are away, and Floyd, Walt’s “love doctor” cousin. Swing will remind adults of their high school days, and help current students find ways to deal with their feelings, all while helping us think about our place on this earth.

Why you should read Swing: You will laugh with, and long for, the characters. You’ll reminisce, and maybe even renew your friendships from high school. You’ll cry. You’ll think. You’ll want to be a better person after reading Swing.

IMWAYR: Choices!

One of the most important aspects of my job as a librarian is to spread the book love! I want students to know what books are out there, and I want to supply them with those books. There are so many choices! This week I’m excited about…

SWING by Kwame Alexander and Mary Rand Hess

Swing is the story of Noah and his best friend, Walt (aka: Swing). The boys are NOT on the baseball team, but they also have other pressing concerns surrounding love and life. This book will swing you around and around, and even teach you about jazz music greats and Salvador Dali. You’ll love it! (Coming October 2nd — pre-order now! Seriously. You want this one.)

SEAFIRE by Natalie C. Parker

(From Goodreads) “After her family is killed by corrupt warlord Aric Athair and his bloodthirsty army of Bullets, Caledonia Styx is left to chart her own course on the dangerous and deadly seas…” Who wouldn’t want to read about adventure on the open seas AND strong women? (Well, okay. I can think of some people.) I read the preview for this book on Net Galley, and I can’t wait to get my hands on it. (Book birthday TOMORROW!)

FRESH INK! An Anthology

These authors are some of my favorites, and I can’t wait to see how this book supports the #WNDB (We Need Diverse Books) movement. It’s out already! I’ve pulled it to the top of my “To Be Read” list for this coming long weekend.

 

 

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.

#PB10for10: Picture Books I’m Sharing with My New Staff

I’m moving to a new school, and I couldn’t be happier with my fine arts academy middle school staff. I am lucky to be a part of the arts integration movement, and the school library will be the best place to support our curriculum. Here are ten picture books I will share with my new staff and students.

To Start the Year/Build Community (We are the Bears, and we are Brave):

Mother Bruce, by Ryan T. Higgins (2015)

Jabari Jumps, by Gaia Cornwall (2017)

For The Visual Artists:

Drawn Together, by Minh Lê (2018)

Vincent Can’t Sleep, by Barb Rosenstock (2017)

I Cannot Forget My Math and Science Friends:

7 Ate 9, by Tara Lazar (2017)

The Most Magnificent Thing, by Ashley Spires (2014)

For My Choir and Band Buddies:

When Marian Sang, by Pam Munoz Ryan (2002)

Incorporate Beauty, Research, and a Little Love:

Red & Lulu, by Matt Tavares (2017)

It’s All About Perspective/The Joy of Learning:

They All Saw a Cat, by Brendan Wenzel (2016)

It’s NOT Jack and the Beanstalk, by Josh Funk (2017)

 

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.

Book Review: THE WRITE THING by Kwame Alexander

TheWriteThing_Alexander2018

Have you ever wanted to start a writing workshop in your classroom? Do you run a writing workshop that needs some…tweaking? THIS is your answer! Kwame Alexander’s The Write Thing: Kwame Alexander Engages Students in Writing Workshop and You Can Too is THE how-to guide to get started (or to change your boring routine). Kwame leads you personally through the steps to write, publish, and present student writing in a new way – with poetry. Why poetry? Kwame explains that question in chapter one of this fabulous new professional development book.

In The Write Thing, Kwame is right there with you all the way. As I read, I could hear his voice talking to me. Kwame’s Book-in-a-Day approach (2006) inspires new and veteran teachers alike to start and continue a student-led writing workshop and publishing “house” in the classroom. The book is organized into three essential parts, with features called “Kwame QuickTips”, “Solo Acts” (voices from other writers and teachers), “Lessons in Action” (plans), “KwameTime” videos, “You Can Too!” (reflection questions), and “Questions for Kwame.” You are never left alone in this writing PD. It’s like your own teacher preparation class, with Kwame as your teacher.

When I watched the “KwameTime” videos, he was in the room, guiding and encouraging me to use poetry to teach writing. In each chapter of The Write Thing, we read poetry, looked at possible mentor texts lists (organized by grade level), and used the writing workshop approach to help students learn to tell their own stories through writing, publishing, and presenting their work.

Kylene Beers wrote the foreword for The Write Thing, where she nudges the reader consider poetry as “the neglected genre” and to adopt a new vision for teaching – she asks teachers to use poetry at all times of the school year, not just during the designated month in the spring. I found myself reading this book straight through, but I will also take Kylene’s advice to slow down and “linger, muse, reread, mark…” I look forward to seeing students succeed as writers because of this book.

As a bonus, The Write Thing includes Appendices (A-D) that will make your teaching life easier. (What teacher doesn’t want that?) It’s ALL “write” there. Kwame Alexander is the “life force” (say Greg David and Priya Sitaraman) – “a captivating authentic leader who connected easily and deeply with (our) students during our writing workshops…”

If you’re a writing teacher, buy The Write Thing by Kwame Alexander. Start your school year with a fresh, new, exciting approach to writing class. Encourage your students to write and present their stories. And don’t forget, have fun!

 

IMWAYR: Breakout by Kate Messner

Breakout_Messner2018

I’m so lucky to have met many awesome authors in the last few years, and Kate Messner is one author I’ve followed closely. Her newest book, Breakout, released on June 5th, and I finally got my pre-ordered book in the mail today. I haven’t finished yet, but I wanted to share this post immediately so you can add this book to your “To Be Read” list.

Breakout is written as a collection of newspaper clippings, letters from the characters (mainly Nora Tucker, a middle school student journalist and Elidee, a new student at the school), poems, text messages, and other documents. This design choice is the main reason I think middle school students through adults are going to love this unusual story. The setting is summer vacation in the mountain town of Wolf Creek, and Nora wants to enjoy her break. But two inmates from the town’s prison break out (hence, the title) and the town and its residents are forever changed.

One of the main reasons I love this book so far is that I can see myself using it in my middle school — the story starts with a writing assignment for the students at Wolf Creek Middle School — and beyond. “How I See My Community” is the premise that is already changing as the story unfolds in the letters, texts, and transcripts of “recorded conversations.” I believe (as Kate Messner does) that all humans have stories to tell, and the author certainly weaves these characters’ stories together in an interesting way.

I have to get back to reading now (I won’t put this book down, I’m sure, until the last page). By the way, the end of the book provides book lists for further “thinking” texts, separated into age-appropriate categories for readers. Thank you, Kate! That’s a nice idea! If you want to read more about how Kate Messner created this book and her writing process, please visit her website. The Breakout section of her blog is interesting, informative, and inspiring for teachers, students, writers, and everyone else. Check it out here.

It’s Monday! What are YOU reading?

 

Reading Teacher Writes — Summer Plans Lead to a Fabulous Future

It’s been an interesting year here at Reading Teacher Writes. I got to live my dream of serving students and spreading book love as a school librarian in my fabulous middle school. The highlights of the year included

  • Kwame Alexander, poet and writer extraordinaire, visited our city and surprised one of our students (and his teachers) during the Rebound Bus Tour. Amazing! I cannot thank him enough — reading DOES change lives, and Kwame made it happen here!
  • Josh Funk gave his time for another wonderful, fun-filled Google Hangout. I always appreciate Josh’s friendship and willingness to entertain and inform our students.
  • Jess Keating sent us “The Curious Creative” magazine (online) each month, with articles, interviews, and activities for the curious science students (and teachers!).
  • I bought the books kids wanted, and I extended my knowledge and support of #WNDB (We Need Diverse Books).
  • I presented my PD series, “Picture Books are Perfect…” (my current passion) and led a PD/Book study at school using Jeff Anderson and Whitney La Rocca’s book, Patterns of Power.
  • I wrote, and stopped writing, and started writing, many times over this year. It’s a daily struggle, but I’m planning to write much more in the near future.
  • My personal professional development is awesome– I am reading, reflecting, learning each day with my online/social PLN (Professional Learning Network)! My friends at #G2Great and #NCTE continue to inspire me to be the best teacher I can be.
  • Ralph Fletcher asked for our students’ contributions to his current writing project (our 6th graders have some great stories!). I thank him for the opportunity.

With just 4 days left of school, I planned my summer. Wow! I have a LOT to do. Number 1: Relax and enjoy my time. Number 2: Attend the most awesome PD ever! Number 3: Present PD more often and extend my offerings to a wider audience. Here are some of this summer’s plans (Who will join me?):

  • The Lead Learners (formerly All Write), Warsaw, IN
  • NErDCampMI, Parma, MI
  • Teachers Write – writing with the Facebook group, led by Kate Messner, Gae Polisner, and Jennifer Vincent
  • Book Love Foundation Summer Book Club – led by Penny Kittle and others

When I looked at my fall calendar, I found that filling up, too! The best year ever is coming! I look forward to many new opportunities:

  • NCTE Annual Convention, Houston, TX in November — I’m a Presenter! I’ll be at the round tables with many other amazing colleagues during the #whymiddlematters session,  “Writing From the Middle Level Classroom: Overcoming the Fear and the Seemingly Impossible.”
  • RSAC (Raising Student Achievement Conference), St. Charles, IL in December — I will spread the book love with a “Picture Books are Perfect” session.

YES, it’s been an interesting year here at Reading Teacher Writes. Thank you for joining me. If you haven’t joined me yet, please consider your upcoming year and include http://www.readingteacherwrites.org. Have a Fantastic Summer!

Reading Goals: Then and Now

NothingHappensAtAll_JohnGreen_WordSwag.jpg

On October 18, 2017, I wrote a blog post about my reading goals/solutions for schools and for myself. Today, I revisit that post and update my goals; I look forward the future.

Make reading in school FUN again.

THEN: The fondest memories I have of school reading are of teachers who read aloud fantastic stories (using the voices of characters!) and showed us wonderful covers of beautiful books in well-stocked libraries, where we could choose what we wanted to read to take home. We got to use free time to peruse almanacs, maps, atlases, and we talked about the Ripley’s Believe It Or Not tales that grossed us out the most. Every year, my family saved money for the Scholastic Book Fair, because we would get new books to read and share. I was a good reader because I read. We read a lot.

NOW: The best part of being a school librarian is sharing a brand new book, just out of the box, with students in the room. “Look what I just received!” I yell across the room, so people in the hallways hear me. “Come and see!” As students gather around my counter, I show them the fresh titles to add to the collection, and bright eyes open wide. Students clamor to be the first to check out the best titles – the ones they’ve been waiting for – and the few minutes of time I spend book talking is FUN. The line forms at the checkout sign; I place books in readers’ hands. THAT’S what it’s all about. I still dream of a school where reading is the most important activity during reading class, and where students want to come to school, because it’s fun.

Make real reading a priority. Real reading.

THEN: That means no snippets of articles or excerpts of stories that have been torn apart and meticulously “leveled” back together to “help” children read. Real reading. That means real books — not basal readers. Real reading. That means real authors weaving their own creations and illustrators designing the pages to make readers say,”Ah! Wow! Awesome!” Real reading, where students are led to practice (at least 20 minutes a day, uninterrupted, in school) with the help of a qualified reading teacher and supports that are there and can be taken away so students can transfer their learning from one text to another. (Yes, this means direct instruction, led by a teacher, and not a computer monitor.)

NOW: Real reading is still my goal, and it’s a tough sell. Administration members (outside the school building) send emails, speak at meetings, and send reports, making sure all teachers know that we MUST follow the mandates “with fidelity.” We MUST account for the ISTEP scores of students. We MUST raise student achievement. Recently, there’s been a push with a big-name researcher to hold teachers accountable by following a certain plan, a certain program, or a certain method of teaching reading. If one does not comply, then shame on you! Some loud-speaking “experts” say that books are not necessary to learn to read, or computer programs teach just as well as teachers (or better), or independent reading time is just a frivolous dream and not worthy of adding to the school day. All of these issues are frustrating (and wrong!), and teachers continue to fight back, citing their own evidence, following researchers who care about kids, teaching children to read in spite of those mandates. Real reading is really needed — inside schools. Students count on us to help them learn, and we are letting them down with each failing grade/standardized assessment.

Invite teachers to attend professional development:

THEN: Conferences, workshops, classes, etc. that will enhance their skills in teaching reading. Build PLNs (Professional Learning Networks) where teachers can learn with other educators and support each other in the work. (Yes! It’s work. That’s okay.) Have teachers practice “best practices” in reading, and watch how they — and their students — grow.

NOW: I still promote author signings and events, conferences, and workshops. I am a life-long learner, and I love sharing my learning with others. My author friends and conference teammates are essential to my learning and my sharing – we promote authentic reading, writing, thinking, and learning. I invited teachers to travel with me to events and share in the joy of learning something new. I will continue traveling and connecting with others not only because I love it, but because I challenge myself to take those conversations and lessons back to the classroom, where kids are waiting.

Promote reading/literacy in each community in the nation.

THEN: (Not just for the affluent communities) Education is important, and reading is important for one to become an educated, intelligent citizen of our world. Be a reader yourself, spend time talking about reading, and spread the book love! (This is my favorite part of being a reader in the global community.)

NOW: I am officially a professional development presenter and speaker. This is my most important dream come true. I love it! I look forward to many adventures in the future, spreading book love and helping others to be as passionate as I am about reading, and teaching reading and writing. Another dream I’m following now is my friend’s dream to open an indie bookstore for our community – encouraging children and teens to “read locally, connect globally.” This is a wonderful way to spread the book love AND help our youth. I’m also researching and reading on my own, and I renewed my memberships to worthwhile organizations such as NCTE, ILA, and ALA. I continue to join Twitter chats, such as #kidlitwomen, #wndb, #tcrwp, and #g2great. We need intelligent citizens in our country who know how to read, write, and think. I will continue to find ways to lift up our youth and promote literacy. THIS is the time. THIS is the place. And as our school motto reads, “I am the one!

Review of Upcoming Book, REBOUND, by Kwame Alexander (04/02/18)

Rebound, the prequel to the Newbery-Winning title, The Crossover, by Kwame Alexander, tells of childhood days of Charlie “Chuck” Bell (Josh and Jordan’s father). At the age of 12, Charlie had already experienced love and loss, carrying much baggage to his grandparent’s house in the summer of 1988. “It was the summer when Now and Laters cost a nickel, and The Fantastic Four a buck. When I met Harriet Tubman and the Harlem Globetrotters…”

Charlie retells his story for his sons (and the reader) of those not-so-and-absolutely glorious days — playing basketball with Roxie, his cousin, and Skinny, his best friend, in the summer heat, dealing with the heat from Grandpa and the weather, and wishing that he could be a Fantastic Four super hero star. Charlie gains knowledge about his family tree, about basketball moves (such as the crossover — get it?), and about consequences of getting into trouble. Charlie even changes his name — to Chuck (thanks, Grandpa) — that summer, and in a series of poetic episodes, finds out what it means to be a true star. He has to learn to REBOUND, on and off the court.

Kwame Alexander’s vocabulary lessons continue in Rebound, as well as his lessons about family, life, and love. I couldn’t tell how the stories would weave together at first, but Kwame expertly spins, twists, and turns the plot, and in the end, I yelled, “Swish!” out loud! Fans of Kwame Alexander’s rhythmic style will love the references to other works, including The Crossover, Solo, and the now-famous sing-along song, “Be A Star.”

Rebound IS the star of this spring’s book season. A MUST to add to your reading “Playbook.”