Launch Week: How to Navigate our World



Welcome to Unleashing Readers!

The goal of Unleashing Readers is to be a go-to resource for all levels of teachers to find resources for utilizing the best pieces of literature and nonfiction in their classroom. We hope to do this by making our website specifically tailored to give teachers exactly what they need.

For each book we review, we will include a summary, our thoughts, potential discussion questions, quotes/pages we flagged, and books that are similar. To make the review even more useful for teachers, we will include how we would use the book in our classroom, including if we recommend the book for a read aloud, literature circle/book club, close reading/analysis, and/or classroom library buy:

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To us, these four suggestions are quite different.  If we recommend a book for:

Read Aloud

This would be a great choice to read aloud to all students in the class. We often suggest this category when the book has strong, widespread appeal to many types of students.

Lit Circle/Book Club

This text would work very well for discussion within small groups. We often suggest this category when the book offers great points of discussion, but it might not appeal to every student in the class.

Close Reading/Analysis

There are many passages within the book that would be great for close analysis. We often suggest this category when a book has complex passages or great sections to teach literary elements to students.

Classroom Library

This would be a great addition to your classroom library. Often, these books fit well with a specific type of student, but we definitely think it is worth purchasing for your classroom.

Every classroom is different, and therefore, our categorizing is merely a suggestion. Please feel free to comment on a review if you feel a book might be used in other ways. Each review will also be categorized by genre, sub-genre, format, and teacher uses. These categories allow you to find exactly what you need by clicking or searching for a specific category. The reviews will also be tagged with topics that are found within the book. This allows you to find specific books that fit into a certain unit, topic discussion, or theme.

Another resource we are hoping you find useful is our Navigating Literary Elements page. On this page you will find a list of books that we recommend for teaching different literary elements. This page is continuously evolving as we add more elements and change/edit/add to our lists.

We hope that you find Unleashing Readers to be useful.
Please contact us at if you have any questions,

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Launch Week: Meet Ricki



Today we wanted to let you get to know Ricki a bit better. You can find out the basics about her by checking out our About Us page.   We tried to make it a little more interesting by having Kellee interview her.


Kellee: What were your favorite books as a child?

Ricki: I grew up loving The Boxcar Children and Babysitters’ Club series. I owned all of the books and read them multiple times. As a teen, I loved Homecoming and The Face on the Milk Carton. I devoured any book that I could get my hands on. Every night, I tried to hide my book under my napkin at the dinner table, but my mom always caught me.


K: What was your favorite hobby when you were a kid (other than reading)?

R: I loved playing school with my sister and cooking in my Easy-Bake oven. I was a crafty kid. You could find me singing as I walked around the house, noodle necklaces swinging from my neck, or concentrating on my bead loom, tuned out from the world.


K: When did you know you were going to be a teacher?

R: When I was in second grade, I declared I was going to become a second grade teacher. The next year, I realized third grade was cooler than second grade, and every year, I bumped the age level.

Until my sophomore year of college, I always thought I would become a math teacher. I hated the required reading in my high school English classes and loved my AP Calculus course. After a few great English professors, I quickly changed my mind.


K: What is something that most people don’t know about you?

R: I am Native American. Being a minority (and one who doesn’t look like a minority) had a strong impact on my education as a child. I enjoy teaching in diverse settings because I feel that I can identify with many of the emotions the students’ experience.


K: What is your favorite animal? Color? Food?

R: I have a frog pond in my backyard with dozens of tadpoles. I love reading on a chair beside them. Is that weird? I also talk to my woodchuck named Chuck and his wife, Chuckina. Today, my neighbor caught me on my hands and knees, peering into the hole, talking to the woodchuck. It was awkward.

My favorite color is purple. My students realized I wear a lot of purple this year, so they started printing their essays in purple ink.

I am a huge foodie. I spend hours watching Food Network and would probably be a culinary instructor if I wasn’t a school teacher. I love making homemade pasta (It’s really easy if you haven’t tried it!).


K: What is your favorite genre of books?

R: I’ll read anything! My favorite books are those that teach me something new. I always love a great historical fiction because I am bound to learn something knew, but really–I will read anything.


K: What is your favorite movie?

R: I actually don’t enjoy movies (insert gasp here). I can’t watch them without thinking about the good book I am missing. My husband loves movies, and during most of those that we rent, I pull out a book halfway through the movie. As long as we are spending time together, we don’t have to be entertained by the same thing, right?


K: Next to reading, what are your hobbies now?

R: I love to paint, cook, and garden. We bought a house about a year ago, so I have been relearning plants, which were much more familiar to me as a child. Really, I spend almost all of my time reading books or searching the internet, trying to learn something new. I am a total nerd.


K: You are pursuing your PhD. Tell us about the program you were accepted into.

R: I was just accepted to the University of Connecticut’s Curriculum and Instruction program with a concentration in Secondary English Education. I hope to be both a researcher and an advisor to pre-service English teachers. I plan to focus my research primarily in young adult literature, with possible connections to urban education and minority students, particularly Native Americans. I proposed and implemented a Young Adult Literature elective in my school, and I think it would be really neat to develop similar reading programs in other school systems. I would be remiss if I didn’t say that I have the best advisor in the world, Dr. Wendy Glenn. 🙂


K: If you could have dinner with one author (dead or alive) who would you pick?

R: I think this is the most difficult question anyone has ever asked me! If I had to pick–Sherman Alexie. He is so wildly funny and entertaining. I have a feeling I would snort my drink by accident.


K: Why did you decide that this was the right time to jump into blogging?

R: I really loved working with you [Kellee] on the Amelia Elizabeth Walden Award committee. When you asked me to join you on a new blog, it seemed like a no-brainer because your are so fun, knowledgeable, and hard-working. I am excited to try something new. Plus, we are both control freaks who obsess about things, so why not pair us together?


K: Tell us about your family.

R: I met my husband ten years ago and we started dating four years later. We’ve been married for two years. He is an engineer, and our personalities are very different, but we are both curious people, so I think that makes us a great match. My father and brother are physicians, my mother is a nurse, and my sister works for Google, so really–I am a bit unique in my field of interest, family-wise. I am expecting my first child in December, and I can’t wait to meet my little reader.


 Tomorrow, join us for more information about how to navigate Unleashing Readers and we really appreciate you stopping by today!


Launch Week: Meet Kellee



This week is all about getting you, the reader, comfortable with our new blog. Today we wanted to introduce you to Kellee so you can get to know her better. All the basics can be found on the About Us page, so today we wanted to have Ricki interview Kellee to make it a bit more fun.


Ricki: What is your youngest reading memory?

Kellee: This one is an easy question for me. I remember my mom reading to me every night from when I was a toddler until I was in late elementary school. My favorite book when I was Ten Apples On Top by Dr. Seuss and I was so proud of myself when I memorized it because I was “reading” to my mom.


R: When did you know that you wanted to be a teacher?

K: This is a tough question. When I was younger, I used to play teacher with my sister all of the time and I even taught her how to spell and read; however, I always said I wanted to be a lawyer. When I was in college, it became evident to me that that dream was not where I was actually heading. I had a bit of a breakdown, called my mom, and she calmly told me that it didn’t matter because I was made to be a teacher. I then went to observe some classrooms and I knew I was in the right place.


R: Did you enjoy English class in high school?

K: Honestly, for most of the years, no. My 9th and 11th grade teacher really focused on memorizing LONG lists of vocabulary and I just never connected to them. I felt what they taught was out of date and I didn’t really like how they taught.  10th grade wasn’t as bad. I actually liked my teacher and how he taught a lot, but I could tell that he was following a curriculum instead of teaching from the heart.  I did take a creative writing poetry class in 11th grade that I loved where I finally felt like I could be myself and felt at home.

12th grade changed it all. In 12th grade I had Ms. Haley. Ms. Haley was 83 years old, had been teaching in the same room since she was 18, and was a legend in the school. At first, I was terrified of her. She was tough. But soon I realized it was tough love. Ms. Haley was the first teacher in a long time to actually make me realize that I was very good at something and not just a middle-of-the-road student.  She was the reason I ultimately chose English Literature for my bachelor’s. She is my inspiration.


R: What is one piece of advice that you would give to a teacher who is trying to get his/her students to read?

K: When I give advice to any teacher who is struggling to get their students to read, the first thing I ask is, “Do you read the books that you want your students to read?” That is the key. Passion feeds passion. If you are passionate about reading then your kids will be too. The other pieces of advice I give are: give your students time to read and access to may books.


R: If you weren’t a teacher, what would you be?

K: If you ask my grandfather, I am still meant to be a lawyer and that is probably what I would have been if I wasn’t a teacher. I would just have to work on the crying when I don’t get my way 🙂


R: Why do you teach middle school instead of elementary or high?

K: This is a very hard question to answer. I originally went to school for elementary education and spent a lot of time in elementary schools. I always thought the kids were cute, but I never felt the connection to them that I wanted with my students. Because of this, I decided to go visit a middle school and I just knew it when I entered into the 6th grade social studies classroom. I loved how middle school students were young and impressionable yet they can still hold a deep conversation with you. It was at that moment that I knew middle school was where I belong and I’ve never questioned my decision.


R: Does your husband enjoy reading?

K: Traditional reading? No. He’s read and enjoyed only 3 or 4 books since I’ve known him. He has actually helped me stretch my definition of reading, because when I started thinking about it, I realized that he may actually read more than me just in different ways: he get the New York Times on his phone, he reads more blogs than I do, and you can find him most days in front of his computer reading some article on either Geekologie or some other site. I actually plan on writing a reflective post about what I have learned from being married to a “non-reader.”


R: What is your favorite genre to read?

K: Any. I think my favorite genre changes more often than my hair length. I go through stages. I will say that the only genres I struggle with are high sci-fi and major fantasy books.


R: What activities do you enjoy outside of reading?

K: I am a pretty big teacher/book nerd. I mostly like to read or take part in social networking about books or teaching. I do love TV and watch way too many shows. I am also a huge Cubs fan and watch as many of their games as I can each season (and I have become a new hockey fan so I watch some hockey on TV as well). Finally, I have a wonderful husband and friends and I love to spend time with them.  If I am not doing those things, I am writing a professional book proposal so you’ll find me working on that.


R: Tell us something that most people don’t know about you.

K: I think one of the most interesting things that people don’t know about me is about how diverse and artistic my family is. My grandfather was on Broadway (inaugural showing of South Pacific!) then was an agent, my father directs art museums, my mother is a photographer, my sister works at the Erie Canal Museum, and my brother is a graphic artist.  As for me, my art is reading, teaching, and writing (though I did play cello in middle/high school and college).


Tomorrow join us to learn about Ricki and thank you so much for stopping by today!

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Launch Week: It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? 6/24/13




It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? From Picture Books to YA!

It’s Monday! What are you Reading? is a meme hosted by Sheila at Book Journeys. 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!

Jen Vincent, of Teach Mentor Texts, and Kellee 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.

Welcome to Unleashing Readers!  We thank you for checking out our new blog and cannot wait to share our love of books and teaching with you. This week we will be getting you acquainted with our blog during our Unleashing Readers Launch Party. We hope you’ll come back and check us out. 


Last Week’s Journeys

Kellee: This week I continued rereading my books for the award committee, so unfortunately I cannot talk about them. What I can share is that I finished an (adult!) Al Franken audiobook entitled Oh, The Things I Know! which, if you like Al Franken, was quite funny.  He really knows how to find humor in just about any situation.


Ricki: I am also continuing to reread books for the award committee, and sadly, I can’t talk about them either. We will surely share news about them when we are permitted. I finished The 5th Wave by Ricky Yancey and loved it. I plan to post a review next Thursday to share its goodies. I also finished Relish: My Life in the Kitchen by Lucy Knisley, an excellent graphic novel about Kinsley’s life, told through food.


This Week’s Expeditions

Kellee: I am going to take a quick break from rereading because I got a book from the library that I had been waiting for: Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell. I have heard such great things about it from some people I know who have great taste. After finishing it, I will go back to my rereading though I am almost done.  For my audiobook, next in line is a Margaret Cho (adult!) book which I hope is as hilarious as her stand-up.


Ricki: My school librarians gave me one more day to finish Les Miserables, so I will finish that today or tomorrow. Honestly, it has been insufferable, so I’ve been trudging through it for weeks. I always tell my students to put down books they don’t like, but I never seem to follow my own advice! I am also reading Eleanor and Park, like Kellee, and we plan to team up for a review later this month (yahoo!).


Upcoming Week’s Posts



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!

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