When I entered my first EdCamp in late January. First, let me tell you how much I loved the experience! It was a PD run by, led, and created by teachers. You were able to choose your breakout sessions and there was such a variety!
I, personally, hadn’t planned on presenting. I wanted to just lurk and see what EdCamp was like. But then Dr. Beth Scanlon, my Adolescent Literature teacher from UCF and reading coach at a local high school, and Lee Ann Spilanne, a friend and language arts teacher at a local high school, came to me and said the words that I could not resist: Share your love of reading. With those words, I jumped in and signed up to present.
I decided to focus on the two things that I get asked the most by other teachers: How do you read so much? & How do you get your students to read so much? Since they go hand-in-hand, I thought it was a perfect thing to talk about. This is what I shared:
1. Stop reading books you do not enjoy!
Stop it. It isn’t worth it. There are millions of books out there. Books you will enjoy. Find some of them and pick them up and devour them and love them. Then share them!
2. Stop making your students read books they don’t enjoy!
Stop it. It isn’t worth it. There are millions of books out there. Books your student will enjoy. Help them find them and pick them up and devour them and love them. This is why you have to read–to help them find these books they’ll love. One of the things I do with my students is have them fill out an interest inventory and book survey at the beginning of the year to help get to know them. This allows me to give specific recommendations to each of them from the very first week. And if they don’t like a book? Let them stop and move on.
3. Read books that you can share with your students.
This makes it so that your reading is two folds. Not only is it enjoyable to you, but it gives your reading a whole new purpose. You love being an educator, so reading for your job will give you even more motivation to pick up those books your students will love. Oh, and picture books, chapter books, middle grade novels, young adult novels, and graphic novels are just so enjoyable! You’ll love them–you’ll see!
4. There is time to read.
I know this sounds harsh, but stop making excuses. If reading is a priority then there is time to read. All you have to do is set time aside. Just like you ask your students to do. My reading time is right before bed. Although I am not a perfect reader, and that is okay too! (see #6), I try to make daily reading a priority. Even if it is only 15, 20, or 30 minutes a day; there is time to read.
5. Join a reading community.
This is what really changed my reading life. I found my reading community which not only gives me other educators to talk about books with, but I also get recommendations of the best books to read. At first, I only joined Goodreads and began building more book knowledge, but then expanding my reading community came in three folds. First, I became active on Twitter taking part in chats like #titletalk and meeting educators from all over the world. They became my PLN (professional learning network). These “tweeps” have grown to become true friends, and I would not be the reader or educator I am without them. Second, I started blogging and launched It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? where 30+ bloggers connect weekly and talk about what books they are reading and enjoying. Finally, I joined The Assembly on Literature for Adolescents of the NCTE where I found true advocates for adolescent literature. I then became active first serving on the Walden Award Committee and taking part in the workshop and now I am on the Executive Board and the Public Relations committee. All of this allowed me to become more involved in the best books for adolescents.
6. Don’t be too hard on yourself.
Did you not read on Monday? Did you take 2 weeks to finish a book because you were busy? Did you abandon the last 3 books you started? Yes? That’s okay! Whenever you start feeling down on yourself, just remember me saying: It is okay! It happens. We all have reading slumps! Just pick yourself up and keep going. It will end if you keep fighting it.
7. Have a classroom library.
Having a classroom library shows your students that reading and books are part of your class culture. When you walk into a room where walls are covered in books and bookshelves, you know where the priorities lie. From my own surveys with my students, I know that having a classroom library also helps my students read more than they do in other classes. They don’t have to worry about library due dates, they have the books right in their classroom, and they have a teacher that will help them find the right book for them. See some pointers I gave at NCTE in 2013 on building a classroom library here. I also shared the website, Booksource, that I use for inventorying and checking in/checking out books of my classroom library.
I’m going to be writing an entire post about the importance of a classroom library at a later date (and I’ll add the post link here) which was inspired by Sarah Anderson. On her blog, she explains how she creates and manages her classroom library as well as why not having a classroom library is not an option.
8. Allow time for independent reading and talking about books in your class.
This builds right off of #7. If you think reading is important, then allow time for it for your students just as you are allowing time for it in your life. Also, giving students time to talk to you or each other will really push their reading further!
9. Don’t force reading logs or book expectations on your students.
Don’t kill reading for them! No one is checking up on you or limiting what you read! Yes, I know, you have a college degree already, but think back to when you were a kid. Did you enjoy logging your reading? If someone told you you couldn’t read your favorite book, how would you have reacted?
10. Have fun!
This is the most important thing! Reading is supposed to be enjoyable–let it be.
More Happy Than Not
Authors: Adam Silvera
Published: June 2, 2015 by Soho Teen
GoodReads Summary: In his twisty, gritty, profoundly moving debut—called “mandatory reading” by the New York Times—Adam Silvera brings to life a charged, dangerous near-future summer in the Bronx.
In the months after his father’s suicide, it’s been tough for 16-year-old Aaron Soto to find happiness again–but he’s still gunning for it. With the support of his girlfriend Genevieve and his overworked mom, he’s slowly remembering what that might feel like. But grief and the smile-shaped scar on his wrist prevent him from forgetting completely.
When Genevieve leaves for a couple of weeks, Aaron spends all his time hanging out with this new guy, Thomas. Aaron’s crew notices, and they’re not exactly thrilled. But Aaron can’t deny the happiness Thomas brings or how Thomas makes him feel safe from himself, despite the tensions their friendship is stirring with his girlfriend and friends. Since Aaron can’t stay away from Thomas or turn off his newfound feelings for him, he considers turning to the Leteo Institute’s revolutionary memory-alteration procedure to straighten himself out, even if it means forgetting who he truly is.
Why does happiness have to be so hard?
Review: After Aaron’s father commits suicide, he finds it difficult to find his place in the world, and the smile-shaped scar on his wrist is just one reminder of this struggle. Aaron considers turning to an institute that has the capability to alter his memory—because he wants to forget that he is gay. The text is heart-wrenching, emotionally profound, and deeply moving. Weeks after I read it, I found that I was still referencing it in daily conversations with teacher friends. I also designed a conference proposal based on a concept from this book. This is an important book that belongs in classrooms.
Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Students will enjoy debating the ethics of the Leteo Institute’s procedure. My book club had a heated debate, and at the end, I still didn’t know where I stood! Teachers might bring in other examples from the media of people who have experienced trauma and ask students—would it be okay for this person to have the procedure done? When is it ethically okay (if ever)?
Discussion Questions: How does the author unfold the plot for the reader? How does this impact the telling of the story?; Which of Aaron’s friends are loyal? Why?; What does this procedure say about humanity? Do you think people would undergo the procedure? Who might be most likely to undergo the procedure?; How does the author end the novel? What does this teach us?
We Flagged: “Memories: some can be sucker punching, others carry you forward; some stay with you forever, others you forget on your own. You can’t really know which ones you’ll survive if you don’t stay on the battlefield, bad times shooting at you like bullets. But if you’re lucky, you’ll have plenty of good times to shield you.”
Read This If You Loved: Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli, None of the Above by I. W. Gregorio, Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz
Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday is hosted by Kid Lit Frenzy and was started to help promote the reading of nonfiction texts. Most Wednesdays, we will be participating and will review a nonfiction text (though it may not always be a picture book).
Be sure to visit Kid Lit Frenzy and see what other nonfiction books are shared this week!
Kid Athletes: True Tales of Childhood from Sports Legends
Author: David Stabler
Illustator: Doogie Horner
Published November 17th, 2015 by Quirk Books
Goodreads Summary: Forget the gold medals, the championships, and the undefeated seasons. When all-star athletes were growing up, they had regular-kid problems just like you. Baseball legend Babe Ruth was such a troublemaker, his family sent him to reform school. Race car champion Danica Patrick fended off bullies who told her “girls can’t drive.” And football superstar Peyton Manning was forced to dance the tango in his school play. Kid Athletestells all of their stories and more with full-color cartoon illustrations on every page. Other subjects include Billie Jean King, Jackie Robinson, Yao Ming, Gabby Douglas, Tiger Woods, Julie Krone, Bruce Lee, Muhammad Ali, Bobby Orr, Lionel Messi, and more!
My Review: I really enjoyed this book of short stories about sports legends as children. I think the author did a great job sucking the reader in by starting with something about each athlete’s career then tying their childhood obstacles into their successes. I was impressed by how each story did have a lesson, but they did not feel didactical, and the author also made the stories ones that kids are going to connect with. This allow with fun illustrations will definitely keep readers entertained!
Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: I’m in a theme unit in my class right now and as I was reading each story, I automatically grasped the theme the author was trying to get across for each short story. Some are quite explicit while others are inferred which makes it a perfect book as you scaffold students determining theme independently. The author also uses primary sources throughout the text would be a good way to discuss primary vs. secondary sources. It could even lead into students writing their own biographical story of a historical person using primary and secondary sources. Finally, I would love to discuss the illustrations with students! They all are a bit quirky and funny though tie into the story in different ways. It would be interesting to see if kids grasp the subtle humor.
Discussion Questions: What obstacle did ______ overcome?; What character traits did _____ show while overcoming ____?; What is the theme of ______ ? How did the author support the theme throughout?; How are the stories within each section similar? Different?
We Flagged: “In 1962, he was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame. Historians have praised him for refusing to fight back in the face of racial discrimination. But Jackie did fight back, in his won way, by being the best person he could be, instead of following the bad examples of his enemies. That was a lesson he had learned from his days as the tiny terror of the Pepper Street Gang.” (p. 38)
Read This If You Loved: Picture book biographies of athletes, Sports biographies
**Thank you to Quirk Books for providing a copy for review!**
Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created at The Broke and the Bookish. The feature was created because The Broke and Bookish are particularly fond of lists (as are we!). Each week a new Top Ten list topic is given and bloggers can participate.
Today’s Topic: Top Ten Historical Settings We Love
In reverse order.
This is another time period that we can’t read about enough. The issues are still relevant today, and understanding the historical context is important to foster change.
I feel it might be inappropriate when I write that I love reading about this time period, which is a time of war and suffering. We can learn so much for the mistakes of this time, and books teach us these lessons.
I will read anything from this time period. There is something about the turn of the century that is quite compelling to me.
This is another time period that teaches us very much. Similarly to the Civil Rights books, I think books about slavery are incredibly important to read. I also enjoy reading about other countries during this time, such as Jennifer Donnelly’s Revolution, which is set in a contemporary time period and in France in the 1700s.
There is so much fire, brimstone, and witchery in the literature of this time period. I love it!
Some of my time periods overlap with Ricki’s, and I tried not to double post books from her list though she did include so many that I love!
Civil Rights (1950s and 1960s)
I believe that everyone should read about the Civil Rights Movement because it is so important to learn from our past to fix our present and future.
World War II (1939 to 1945)
World War II is such a terrifying time, but I love reading about those who overcame and those who stood up.
The Titanic, The Dust Bowl, Prohibition, and The Great Depression (1912-1939)
I know this one is a bit of a stretch date-wise, but the 20th century America just truly fascinates me!
American Pioneers, Wild West, and Turn of the Century (1850 to 1910)
This was such an important time for women, technology, development, and America.
Ancient Greece (8th-6th Century BC to c. 600 AD)
I love Greek art, culture, and mythology, so I love reading about this time period.
Which historical settings are your favorite?
It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? From Picture Books to YA!
It’s Monday! What are you Reading? is a meme started by Sheila at Book Journeys and now 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 the next “must-read” book!
Kellee and Jen, of 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 support the blogging community by visiting at least three of the other book bloggers that link up and leave comments for them.
Last Week’s Posts
**Click on any picture/link to view the post**
Last Week’s Journeys
Kellee: I finished Rescued by Eliot Schrefer this week!! Oh, you need to preorder this one! Although it is very different than the first two in the Ape Quartet series, it is just as powerful. I am a sucker for ape books and for Schrefer’s writing, but with the first two being National Book Award finalists, I am not alone.
I also read Kid Athletes: True Tales of Childhood from Sports Legends by David Stabler for Wednesday’s review. It has big ideas such as overcoming adversity, trying your best, and standing up to bullies. It was great to read stories of so many athletes as kids.
Trent has been pretty stuck on two books this week (Don’t Push the Button! by Bill Cotter and his play-a-sound Disney book); however, he has been picked up more and more books independently and begun “reading” to himself. He specifically loves his two truck picture encyclopedias.
Ricki: I went on a bit of a picture book binge this week because I’ve been hanging with K-6 teachers. I absolutely recommend The Man Who Walked Between the Towers by Mordicai Gerstein. I missed this book because I wasn’t avidly reading children’s literature in 2003, and I am really glad someone recommended it to me. This is a fabulous story that is very well-written. I finally read Ivan: The Remarkable True Story of the Shopping Mall Gorilla by Katherine Applegate. This is a wonderful picture book that pairs well with her novel (which I LOVE). I also read Uncle Andy’s: A Faabbbulous Visit with Andy Warhol by James Warhola. I loved the illustrations and enjoyed learning more about Andy Warhol. I didn’t love the writing, but the content and artwork made up for this concern.
Uncle Shelby’s ABZ Book by Shel Silverstein is a bizarre, adult picture book. It made me laugh, but I admit it disturbed me a bit. The White Book: A Minibombo Book by Silvia Borando was adorable, and if I hadn’t read books like it, I think I would have been even more impressed. I suspect many people will enjoy this book very much. Lastly, I read The Hello, Goodbye Window by Norton Juster. Grandparents will enjoy reading this book to their grandchildren.
This Week’s Expeditions
Kellee: I have a few novels to read for reviews coming up, so I plan on reading them this week. I also have a pile of picture books I want to tackle–we’ll see what I get to! I am trying to limit my TV to ensure I don’t have a week like the one I had a couple of weeks ago!
Ricki: Besides picture books, I read a lot of articles this week, so I didn’t get a chance to continue The Thing About Jellyfish by Ali Benjamin. I think I’m going to get an overdue notice because it is one of those 14-day-only books from the library…and it is due tomorrow. I need to get cracking!
Upcoming Week’s Posts
Tuesday: Top Historical Settings We Love
Wednesday: Kid Athletes: by David Stabler
Thursday: More Happy Than Not by Adam Silvera
Friday: Unleash Your (and your students’) Inner Reader
Sunday: Author Guest Post!: “Cross Curricular Integration of Climate Change Education Using Middle Grade Fiction” by Michael J. Bowler, Author of Warrior Kids
So, what are you reading?
Link up below and go check out what everyone else is reading. Please support other bloggers by viewing and commenting on at least 3 other blogs. If you tweet about your Monday post, tag the tweet with #IMWAYR!
The Perfect Tree
Author and Illustrator: Chloe Bonfield
Published January 5th, 2016 by Running Press Kids
Summary: Jack is searching for the perfect tree—one that he can chop, hack, and stack! But when it becomes too hard to find, Jack stumbles across three unlikely friends who want to show him their perfect trees.
In this lively, enchanting story, The Perfect Tree is a reminder to notice the wonders we often overlook, and to value our friendship with the natural world.
Kellee’s Review: The Perfect Tree is a book that I hope doesn’t go beneath the radar because it is a wonderful book with a positive theme and beautiful illustrations. Jack’s story makes the reader think about all the harm we do when we destroy the forest, but it does so without listing or preaching. It just shows. It mentions in her biography that Chloe Bonfield is fond of printmaking, and you can see this in her artwork that accompanies Jack’s story. It is mixed media, 3D, collage, and illustrated and just really takes the book to the next level.
Ricki’s Review: Whew. This book is quite beautiful. I felt like I went through a journey as I turned the pages. When I got to the end, I flipped to the front of the book and read it once more. My 2-year-old son kept saying, “Ooooo,” as I turned the pages. The words flow naturally in a way that is both quiet in its delivery and loud in its message. And the artwork—oh the artwork! I love the way the images are layered to grab readers’ attention. I spent much time on each page wondering, “But how did she do this?!” The mixed media will captivate readers and inspire them to want to create their own works of art/literature. I am excited to have this book in my library because I know it will be inspirational to my son.
Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: This book is a great one to discuss theme with. It is one that you have to infer, but it isn’t too difficult to interpret which would make it a good scaffolding tool to longer narratives. Additionally, it would be a great book to read around Earth Day because of the environmental lesson and love of nature.
Discussion Questions: Why does Jack change his mind?; Why is it important to take care of nature?; What are some ways that the author helps you see Jack’s story (through illustrations and text)?
“Once a boy named Jack went on a journey to find the perfect tree. Not to climb, not to draw, and definitely not to hug. No, Jack wanted a perfect tree to chop. A perfect tree to hack! A perfect tree to stack.”
Read This If You Loved: The Lorax by Dr. Seuss, The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein, The Tree Lady by H. Joseph Hopkins, Can We Save the Tiger? by Martin Jenkins, Mama Miti by Donna Jo Napoli
**Thank you to Cassie from Running Press for providing copies for review!!**
This is my anti-lexile, anti-reading level post. I get it. Well-intentioned parents want to challenge their children. Well-meaning teachers want to be sure that students are advancing in their reading levels. Maybe this is okay in first or second grade (although some commenters of this post argue that even this isn’t okay). Beyond these beginning grade levels, let’s stop this madness. We can do better. We cannot calculate the complexity of a text using a mathematical equation.
A few words from Mike Mullin, author of Ashfall: “Try taking this comment, and running it through the Lexile analyzer. Then replace every other period in this comment with ‘and,’ and run it again. The problem will be instantly apparent–the Lexile level will change by 400 – 600 points. You cannot accurately quantify something as complex as reading with simplistic sentence and word counts that fail to take into account the most important variable: the child” (Posted to http://mikemullin.blogspot.com/2012/10/how-lexiles-harm-students.html).
So why do we use Lexiles for older kids? Perhaps it is based on fear. We worry we aren’t challenging our students, so the Lexile numbers give us the confidence and assurance to move forward. It appeases the nagging worry that maybe we aren’t challenging our children enough. Because if the number/letter on the child’s book is higher than the number/letter on the last book s/he read, I am doing my job as a parent, as an educator, as an administrator, right?
Even worse, some parents/teachers make students internalize levels. A child will tell me, “I am a G reader.” How does this G reader feel when s/he is surrounded by J reader peers? What does this do for reader confidence? If we must use reading levels, let’s tell kids that they are reading G books and aren’t G readers.
(A great graphic from Unshelved)
I cringe when I hear about parents or teachers who strictly adhere to reading levels alone and won’t let children read books that are “too high/low in their Lexile number.” I watched a mother tell her son that he couldn’t get the train book that he wanted so badly because the number on the back cover was too high for him. He was disappointed, and he was even more disappointed when his mom selected a book that was not interesting to him. It really sucks the fun out of reading when you have to pick a book within your required sentence length instead of within your interests.
Let’s take a look at the Lexile Bands by grade level:
Grade Lexile Band – Text Demand Study 2009
6 860L to 920L
7 880L to 960L
8 900L to 1010L
9 960L to 1110L
10 920L to 1120L
11 and 12 1070L to 1220L
(from the Common Core State Standards for English, Language Arts, Appendix A [Additional Information], NGA and CCSSO, 2012)
When we look at the Lexile levels of books, many of the typical texts taught in these grades meet these standards. But so many don’t, and this is quite problematic. If we take Lexiles as fact, these are the grades we should be teaching the following texts (Lexiles are in parentheses):
- Night – Wiesel (570)
- The Sun Also Rises – Hemingway (610)
- Twisted – Anderson (680)
- Incarceron – Fisher (600)
- Grapes of Wrath – Steinbeck (680)
- The Color Purple – Walker (670)
- For Whom the Bell Tolls – Hemingway (840)
- Kite Runner – Hosseini (840)
- A Farewell to Arms – Hemingway (730)
- Cat’s Cradle – Vonnegut (790)
- As I Lay Dying – Faulkner (870)
- The Sound and the Fury – Faulkner (870)
- To Kill a Mockingbird – Lee (870)
- Fahrenheit 451 – Bradbury (890)
- Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close – Foer (940)
- Les Miserables – Hugo (990)
- Huck Finn – Twain (990)
- Harry Potter Half-Blood Prince – Rowling (1030)
- Diary of a Wimpy Kid – Kinney (1060)
We cannot assign a number to a book. Further, we cannot assign a book to a number. But the Common Core says we should. No, actually, it doesn’t. Direct quote from the Common Core: “The following text samples primarily serve to exemplify the level of complexity and quality that the Standards require all students in a given grade band to engage with. Additionally, they are suggestive of the breadth of texts that students should encounter in the text types required by the Standards. The choices should serve as useful guideposts in helping educators select texts of similar complexity, quality, and range for their own classrooms. They expressly do not represent a partial or complete reading list.” The CCSS actually remind us to look at quantitative, qualitative, and reader/task aspects. (See page 8, Appendix A of the CCSS for a gold mine of reasons we shouldn’t rely solely on these quantitative measures.) So why do so many people think that complexity and quality can only be measured with this quantitative measure? Perhaps this is due to the emphasis on numbers and standardized testing.
Many of the readers of this blog are avid readers themselves. They understand the problematic nature of Lexiles (or other quantitative measures). But others might react with, “Well, if I can’t use these numbers, what do I use?”
How do we challenge readers?
To start, I highly recommend you get your hands on a copy of Teri Lesesne’s Reading Ladders. She uses reading ladders in ways that address complexity without numbers. She writes, “Reading levels and Lexiles are not the way to determine the rigor of a text. Instead, rigor should be determined by sophistication of thought, depth of character development, stylistic choices, and mastery of language on the part of the author. These are present in the best of YA literature” (p. 6). In her book, Lesesne shows us how we can be better and do better than reading levels.
The key to knowing how to challenge our students/children is to read, read, read. This allows us to make recommendations when they finish books. If you don’t have the time to read or this feels outside of your field of study, ask someone who does read widely. There are many bloggers, teachers, librarians, and parents who read widely and are very willing to give recommendations if you can provide reading background and interests of the student.
Head to the library or bookstore. Have your child pick a book based on interest. Open the book and read the first page together. (This can be done online by opening up the preview/”look inside” pages of a book, too.) Ask the child if it feels too difficult to the point that it is frustrating. We want to challenge our children, but we don’t want them to dislike reading because it feels much too difficult. If the book is too easy for the child, ask yourself, “Will this be harmful?” I am a parent, and while my son is still a toddler, I picture him in elementary school. If he reads thirty books below his “reading level,” is this a bad thing? If these books propel him to read thirty more books (some above and some below) his reading level, I think this is quite all right. I want to feed his hunger to read. And telling him that he is a level 320 reader or even that he is reading a level 320 book is going to do nothing but make reading feel foreign, scientific, and boring. Let’s teach kids to read critically and be critical of these levels.
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