I'm not sure about you, but sometimes I struggle to balance all of the reading I want to do. I love to read and I love to read a wide variety of things and therein lies the rub. There's personal reading, professional reading, children's book reading, YA novel reading and so much more. Unfortunately, there just aren't enough hours in the day to do it all (well, and be semi-productive)! The easiest books for me are children's books, since I have two young girls and teach at an elementary school. They're shorter too, so that's a bonus. I find it harder to squeeze in the personal and professional reading. Especially professional; sometimes I'm just too tired, you know?
Recently, however, I picked up (actually, downloaded. Hooray Kindle app!) a copy of Donalyn Miller's Reading in the Wild. What a great read! More mass-market non-fiction (think Malcolm Gladwell) than teacher resource book, Reading in the Wild feels rather like sitting in the corner of Miller's room, watching how she cultivates lifelong readers and asking a few questions along the way. I loved that this book was so easy to read and not interrupted with lesson plans, blackline masters and the like (don't get me wrong, there is definitely a place for those types of books, it's just not usually on my nightstand) and that the tone was more conversational than it was instructive. I was inspired every time I picked the book up and had thoughts on how to use some of her strategies running through my head long after I put it down. I particularly liked the ease with which her students discuss authors, genres and their preferences and how her passion for books and reading rubs off on her students (something I also notice on Carrie Gelson's blog the other day. Well done, Carrie! Check it out here). Her passion rubbed off on me too and with any luck, I'll be able to pass it on to my students!
As a total aside - Does anyone else find it so much easier to highlight and mark up an e-book than a paper book? It is deeply engrained in me that you don't write in books so I feel so free when I have the Kindle version. Not quite the same feel in your hands but, man, can I go to town with that highlighter!
When I Grow Up (Al Yankovic) - For those of you around a similar age, how hard is it not to immediately preface this man's name with "Weird"? It actually sounds wrong without it! Grown up, even. This fun little gem of a book reminds me a lot of Jamie Lee Curtis's books (see my post about My Brave Year of Firsts here) and I must admit that I am a sucker for these fun rhyming books that don't take themselves too seriously yet always seem to have message in them (often aimed as much at the adult reader as the child). This book will have your little ones laughing out loud and making connections left, right and center as they hear about all of the possible careers (gorilla masseuse? professional pickle inspector?) young Billy envisions for himself. Definitely some fun writing tie-ins to be found here! The ending is sweet, with a reminder to both young and old not to grow up too fast. Here's the trailer, read by Weird Al himself:
Finally, to round out the collection of personal, professional, picture and YA books, I thought I would share with you the book that I am currently reading. Out of My Mind by Sharon M Draper came so highly recommended from a number of sources (including other IMWAYR bloggers) that I just had to read it. This poignant story is told through the eyes of a young girl who is very intelligent but unable to communicate in any way due to cerebral palsy. I'm fairly early on in the book right now, but from what I've read so far this book deserves all the accolades it's received. What an incredibly fascinating peek inside the mind of those students who struggle to share their story with us. I look forward to finishing it!
Oh, and while I've got you here, any suggestions for a group of Gr. 6 students who claim not to be interested in reading anything? We have tried many of the standards but so far nothing has grabbed them. What are your must-reads for that age group? What do your students love? Thanks for helping us out!
If there was a way to squeal over writing insert here. If you have read my other two blogs about my son and writing (here and here) you know that it has been a struggle. In fact it has become my mission to help boys (and girls) love to write and, more importantly, choose to!
Quick recap: my son Sam is in grade three. He is an excellent reader and has always been a reluctant (sometimes hostile) writer. Being the Literacy Lover that I am I decided I was going to change that. I have worked evenings and summers with Sam on his writing. In fact the revised Scope and Sequence to our Writing Station in the Lit Pit is 100% due to my discoveries with my son and his adventures in writing. Now I would love to tell you that his transformed attitude is due to an amazing lesson I created and the inspiration I have given him, but that would be lying. Sam's turnaround in writing came from his incredible grade three teacher (I could kiss her!).
Sam came home telling his dad and I that in his free time in class he's been writing a chapter book. The shock on both of our faces was visible, and the looks between us were actually comical. When we asked him to tell us more he went on and on about his story, his characters and the plot. He talked about the adjectives (and yes, he used that word) that he was going to use to describe his characters and then went on (in case we didn't know) to explain what an adjective was. When I could finally get a word in (and, trust me, we were hanging on every word of his writing adventures), I asked him what it was that inspired him to write. He simply said, "Mrs O. She told me that writing and reading are almost the same and then she told me that she was going to teach us the building blocks of words and sentences to help us create great stories. She just loves writing and reading so much, Mom, that it inspired me to write."
There isn't much more I can say. His success and comments have simply reinforced the idea that Bryn and I try to secure our teaching to - it's not simply just important to teach How, it's important to inspire a Love for Literacy that will get our students excited about Reading and Writing. Our Motto - Love to, Learn to and Choose to - was driven home this week. Mrs O's love for writing got Sam excited about writing. All these times I've been working with him it's been more about a "job" and less about getting him to love it. Oh Mrs. O, thanks for the reminder!
First off, I imagine it's rather apparent by now that Bryn and I are a sucker for books. In fact, our husbands would say slightly obsessed. So even though I am really attempting to not spend my entire pay check on kids books I was drawn to a couple of great new titles at my children's Scholastic Book Fair at their school. I admit I am drawn to the covers of books. I know it's not a good idea to judge a book by it's cover but I can't help it, I'm visual.
Nightsong - Written by Ari Berk and illustrated by Loren Long. The Book Nightsong was new to me, in fact I've never heard of it before (or seen it for that matter) but it captured my attention. In reading it it captured my heart. It is a beautiful story of a bat and its mother. It touches on some beautiful underlying themes (of common sense, intuition and separation) and has some great bat facts! On the back it says "Sense is the song you sing out into the world, and the song the world sings back to you." This quote would be a great springboard for this book. I can't wait to see what my students think this quote means. Admittedly it made me think, "What is the song I sing into the world and what song am I hearing?" I'll let you know how the lesson goes in another post.
Bear Sees Colors - Written by Karma Wilson and Jane Chapman. Bear sees Colors is a cute book that lends itself to a great writing activity. It's rhythmic pattern would be easy to recreate and have students come up with their own text. In our Writing Station we are doing lots of work on the building blocks of sentences, so this book lends itself perfectly to our study of adjectives (and word choice!). The pictures and the words are captivating to little audiences!
hello! hello! written by Matthew Cordell. Hello! Hello! is an incredibly intelligent book. With little language (much like the book Hug by Jez Alborough) there is tons of room for inference and, in today's technology obsessed world, more connections than we would probably like to admit. There have been a number of books written lately about being "present" where we are and this is another great one. This book will illicit some great conversation and I am very intrigued to hear what my "phone toting" students have to say about it!
Born from the Heart - By Berta Serrano. There aren't many books that can bring me to tears with just the title. But this is one of them. My family is made up of three incredible children. My oldest daughter is my born from the heart daughter. I met her when she was five and I started dating her dad. From that moment on I have told her she was born in my heart, not my belly. She is now 17 and I know the love you feel for your children is not determined on whether or not they grew on your inside. This book is an incredibly beautiful illustration of that journey. This book also hits close to my heart as two of our dear friends are in the process to adopt. This process is so incredibly beautifully illustrated here and would be a beautiful book to read to classes of students and show just one more way a family can be born. Thank you Berta Serrano for so beautifully illustrating the song in my heart!!
This past week Kristi and I got to sit down with the teachers we will be working with throughout first term and hash out what exactly that will look like. I love this collaborative time; I get so excited to be trying new things and love the energy and learning that goes on when we put our heads together. It is truly one of my favourite parts of the overall shift in how we "do" learning assistance at our school (more on that here, if you're curious). Inevitably, many of the teachers I work with want to focus on literacy, often based on the book Reading Power by Adrienne Gear (Adrienne, coincidentally, was just in Kelowna to talk to us about lit circles. Perfect timing!). Frequently, these teachers would also like me to model a lesson or two before we dive right in to co-teaching; twist my rubber arm, I say. So today, as I was working through my plans for these first few lessons, I pulled out a few of my favourite Reading Power books and thought I would share them here with you too!
Je Reve en Couleurs (Sophie Rondeau) - It was brought to my attention that we have not featured any books in French on #IMWAYR. If you are not a French Immersion teacher it's hard to appreciate how difficult finding resources and books can be and how imperative it is to share anything you find. So, given the nudge by our new (and fabulous!) librarian, I am going to try and feature more books in French here on the blog (I'm headed to a book fair next week so will hopefully stock up the collection!). Please, if you know any French Immersion teachers, let them know so that we can all share the wealth.
Back to the book. I stumbled upon Je Reve en Couleurs while looking for some other resources on the Scolartek website. What a find! This book has the most wonderful descriptions, using language that is at once rich and accessible (the meaning of most unfamiliar vocabulary can be easily inferred from the picture or sentence). I use this one for visualization and then generally spill it over in to some writing lessons about word choice. Last year, we had our students create their own pages for a book "in the style of...". The kids loved it and we loved it! Wish this one came in English too!
Jessie's Island (Sheryl MacFarlane) - This is a beautiful book, full of powerful imagery. I use this one in much the same way I use Je Reve en Couleurs; linking visualizing and word choice to create powerful learning in reading and writing. There are so many senses that are stimulated by this book so I like to use it to talk about how visualizing can be more than just pictures in your head; that it can be sounds and smells and feelings too. Provided you live near the ocean, this book provides countless opportunities for connection too; if your students have never seen the ocean, use it to get at that idea of how connections help us understand a book.
Of course, there are many, many more books that Kristi and I love to use to teach literacy skills. The ones I've featured here are the ones that I went back to today, that fit with the lessons that the classroom teachers and I have decided we want to do, that are some of my go-to favs. We would love to hear about some of your go-to books - we are always looking for great new ideas!
I just have to begin today's post by sharing with you this image:
Isn't that just lovely?
Kristi and I are always tweaking thing in The Lit Pit and we just set this up today! We are super excited to be able offer our students such easy access to such a wide variety of wonderful books; books they helped us choose (yes, that's why there's a cookbook displayed right up on top there) and books we hope will help grow their love of reading.
Of course, that's why we're all here, isn't it? To share the gems that we as educators just can't keep quiet about, that make us as excited as we know they will make the kids. It is truly wonderful to be part of such a great community!
Our picks for this week are all about the magic of reading:
The Water Hole (Graeme Base) - What a fascinating book! From the beautiful illustrations, to the curious hole in the centre of the book, to the creative text, this book begs to be explored over and over again. And it truly is an exploration; part fiction, part non-fiction, The Water Hole takes readers on a journey through life at a watering hole, with hidden pictures, an ever shrinking hole in the pages and the mystery of whether or not the water will return propelling readers forward. With fairly obvious social studies and science tie-ins, as well as the sheer pleasure of just looking at the images, this book is a great addition both to your arsenal of personal favourites and to your classroom library.
Press Here (Herve Tullet) - In a world where most kids know how to make something change colour, shape and size instantly with just the swipe of their finger, this book comes along and changes things up. With a little bit of imagination and a press, a shake, a blow and a tilt, readers are transported in to world where a book behaves just like an iPad, only a bit different. Watch as the dots change size, shape and number, all because you followed a few simple instructions. Just try to not smile while you're reading this fun little book! Keep an eye out for the sequel, Mix It Up, that just came out in September.
Tap the Magic Tree (Christie Matheson) - Similar to Press Here (Herve Tullet), this is a book that needs to be touched, shaken, wiggled and jiggled! As you follow the directions given in the book, you discover a tree changing through the seasons, starting with a bare brown tree. Lots of fun for little ones, who will want to "play" with the book over and over again. A great introduction to a unit on the seasons, with some very cool writing lessons thrown in for good measure (especially if you paired it with Press Here). I love books that beg to be played with!
Flotsam (David Weisner) - This captivating wordless book has it all - adventure, intrigue, mystery and delight. A young boy, searching for treasures at the beach, discovers a washed up underwater camera. Upon developing the film (a bit of explanation may be needed there!), what he discovers is nothing short of incredible. The illustrations are so detailed that you could look at them for hours, pouring over each detail and imagining new and ever-changing scenarios. Wonderful to just look at on it's own, this book would also be great for inference (as most wordless books are), prediction and as a set of story starters for some pretty imaginative stories!
Reading can be a great adventure, you just need to choose the right books!
I'm Bryn, teacher, mom, book lover, athlete. I am passionate about living life with my family, teaching and learning something new all the time. I hope you find something that speaks to you here on my blog and would love to hear from you too!