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The We Read, You Read Podcast – Episode 3

Well, I’m a pretty terrible blogger. I just always would rather read than blog. But here I am again, and I’ll try to post this every week. Maybe it will bring me back into the blogging fold.

My son and I started a podcast. We got the idea from the book Maker Dad, by Mark Frauenfelder. It was pretty simple, and we’re having a lot of fun doing it. We’ll see how long it lasts!

Here is a link for episode 3. The embed doesn’t seem to work on WordPress. You can find the first two episodes at wereadyouread.podomatic.com.

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It’s Monday, December 16! What are you reading?

“It’s Monday! What are you Reading?” is a meme co-hosted by Jen and Kellee at Teach Mentor Texts. Just like #booksaroundtheroom, it is a way to share books you’ve been reading, reviewing, and loving during the last week. I read a lot, both on my own and with my two kids, Corbchops (2008 days) and The Iza (1253 days). I’m excited to hear what you’ve been reading.

Mon Reading Button PB to YA

Got this one in at the wire. At the expense of tree-side reading, unfortunately. I’m gonna bust this out quick!

Here’s what I’ve enjoyed during the last week:

Middle Grade:

I finished two middle grade novels.

  • Each Little Bird that Sings, by Deborah Wiles. A nice story about funerals and death. The holiday season helped me notice the carol connection to the names: “O tidings of comfort and joy.” I listened to the audiobook.

Picture Books:

I  read nine new picture books. Here are my favorite three:

  • Little Red Writing, by Joan Holub and Melissa Sweet. So fun. A little tricky for large group read aloud.
  • Mr. Wuffles, by David Wiesner. The Corbchops and I had fun guessing what the aliens were saying.
  • The Bear’s Song, by Benjamin Chaud. It’s French.

Poetry:

I don’t read enough poetry, but I read one short collection last week.

Informational:

I read three informational books.

  • The Tree Lady, by H. Joseph Hopkins and Jill McElmurry. Nonfiction picture books are the perfect way to learn about something you had no knowledge of.
  • Frog Song, by Brenda Z. Guiberson and Gennady Spirin. The craziest frogs were the one that had froglets break through its back skin and the one who stored the tadpoles in its throat sac for seven weeks and then just let them hop out of its mouth. What.
  • The Case of the Vanishing Honeybees, by Sandra Markle. Another good scientific mystery by the author of The Case of the Vanishing Golden Frogs.

AND

Right now When I finish this blog post, I’m reading:

Wake Up Missing, by Kate Messner

SO

What are you reading?

Leaving your mark

A little story for you, for this happy Thanksgiving.

A few weeks ago, I was forced to send the following email:

I think I might have left my bookmark in The True Blue Scouts of Sugar Man Swamp, by Kathi Appelt, when I returned it to Barkley on Friday. A bookmark is a bookmark, but I’ve had this one for about 23 years! Any chance it could be tracked down or folks could keep an eye out for it? It is made of three Antigua stamps featuring Mickey Mouse, Granny Duck, and Huey, Duey, and Louie. I would love to get it back! Also, hello Bethany if you are reading this.

Sure. A bookmark. Big deal.

But it was.

I remember buying that bookmark. I have a frustratingly poor memory when it comes my childhood, but I remember this moment clearly. I think I was in fourth or fifth grade. We were in my childhood independent bookstore, Eagle Harbor Books. I don’t remember what books we bought that day, but I do remember the small basket of homemade bookmarks on the checkout counter. I flipped through them as my mom was paying for books. I discovered the triple-stamp, Disney-themed Antigua postage. Whoever made it had the clever idea to take the stamps and laminate them. Simple, but such a nice idea for a bookmark. I’ve since used that idea to make several bookmarks of my own out of expired membership cards, European paper money, and more.

Anyway. I instantly wanted this bookmark. I begged my mom for it. I don’t know how much it cost, but I came home with it.

The bookmark’s journey for the next many years is fuzzy. It seems likely that I used it for many books, but I do not specifically remember placing it between any middle grade pages during those middle grade years.

So, fast-forward. It may have been college. It may have been shortly after. In any case, I rediscovered this bookmark, probably in a box at my parents’ house. I instantly recognized it, snatched it up, and I came home with it.

For the first nine years of my teaching career, I read some. Not a lot. But I had my Guys Read Club, and I would go through little phases of reading a lot. Back then, I read grown-up books, sometimes. I remember using a variety of bookmarks, including Antigua-Disney.

Then, three years ago, I discovered Twitter, then walked into the clubhouse when #nerdybookclub started, and started reading like a crazy person. I abandoned the pretension and word count of grown-up books and dug deeply into my true love, children’s literature.

With me through every book was that bookmark. Think about it. That’s hundreds of books. Thousands of pages. Millions of words. Not to mention the emotions and thoughts and worries and cares of me, the reader.

So it was a big deal. I got choked up thinking about losing this bookmark. Over three stamps and a plastic coating! Real tears! Real heartache! It had been with me for more than twenty years. It faithfully held my place in hundreds of books. Many of us have books that have touched us, that stay with us, that we hold in our hearts. We feel like those books are a part of us–and they are. They helped shape us. Does a small, flat, rectangular object have powers of its own?

The more I thought about it, the more I felt that the relationship between a reader and his twenty year-old bookmark is something more intimate, deeper than it might seem. That bookmark sat between the pages–pages that I turned with my own fingers, held with my own hands–of nearly every book I’ve read in the last five years, and probably a few hundred in the more than fifteen years before that. There is little so stable and steadfast in one’s life.

I got this email:

Adam,

Haven’t seen your bookmark here at Barkley, but will let you know if it turns up. It’s a drag to lose something you’ve cherished a long time!

Georgi

So, I was sad. How many things do you have and have used constantly, continuously, for more than twenty years? How many people do you interact with, every day, for more than twenty years straight?

I was sad. Because I figured my bookmark was gone. I figured whatever kid–I hoped it would be a kid–decided to give Kathi Applet’s newest a try would find it, claim it, and keep it. I hoped she would use it well. Maybe it would be his reading companion for the next twenty years. Maybe it would leave a mark on her reading life–her whole life!–like it did on mine.

And then I received one more email:

Hello Adam,

That bookmark has been located! You may pick it up at the adult circulation desk at the Central Library. It is in our lost and found filebox under your name. I’ll pass your greeting on to Bethany!

Thanks,

Suzanne

IMG_0097

And so I went to the Central Branch, to recover what was lost. To pick up my old friend, who knows me more than many, knows what I like and what I despise, who I admire and who I envy, my secret crushes and hated nemeses, who has heard me laugh and seen me cry, and who always, always, waited so patiently for me to return, who saved my spot for me, in my reading life. In my life.

And I came home with it.

IMG_0099

The View from Saturday #8

Number 8? And I skipped the first week. So nine weeks I’ve been working on Reading and Writing Workshop.

I really just want to reflect on two things today. Oh, and my class finally drove me to tears yesterday. But not in front of them! Just in front of my wife…I’m better now.

First, I’ve been thinking a lot about assessment. Conferences are coming up, and I’m not really sure what to do for a Reading grade. What do others do? With our old curriculum, Open Court, the Reading grade is easy. Read some stories, do some worksheets, take some quizzes and tests, and violà!, Reading grade. This Reading and Writing Workshop thing is a bit trickier. A lot better, but a bit trickier. So, can I get your help on this one? I have tons of notes from Readers’ Notebook letters, some notes from admittedly inadequate one-on-one conferences. How do I turn this into a grade that the students and their parents can understand? It doesn’t help that my school is also in transition from ABCDF to standards-based grading, so there is nothing in place. Open Court works pretty well with ABCDF. RWW works pretty well with standards-based. But neither of them work very well with “transitional period.” Anyway, I would love your thoughts and advice, if you have any.

Second, I have finally agreed with those around me, that I am working too hard, and my students are not working hard enough. So I made a deal with them. I told them about my dissatisfaction with the number of reading conferences I was able to do each week. We discussed reasons why: Time wasting during minilessons leads to less independent reading time; too many off task during reading time leads to me needing to manage. I told them I want to be able to do 20 conferences a week.

So here’s the deal: If I can do 20 conferences per week, then they can have a choice rotation for their reading responses. The Readers’ Notebook letter is difficult for my students. Prior to this year, all they had to do with the book they were reading was take an AR test. Now they have to actually think about their book? Gah! I know it is a struggle, and I have given and demonstrated many, many strategies, to little success. So I knew my offer would be well-received. Provided we tighten things up so I can do some significant conferencing, they will only need to write a letter every three weeks. On the other two, they can choose between a drawing+explanation/reasons, a story mountain, a book review, and maybe other things as we move forward (Thanks to my admired and trusted Twitter friend Katherine Sokolowski for thoughts on those options). It is a trade off–when I’m not able to conference much, the letters provide much of my formative data; if I can conference more, I can get that “letter-data” from one-on-one conversations, instead.

It was well-received. One student asked if she could still write a letter every week (“Of course you can, you perfect child!). Another asked if he could write a letter never (Sorry, but no). We will see how many conferences I get done this week. I made a first-week goal of 15 conferences, three per day. The next week I will be looking for a four-per-day average. And then parent-student-teacher conference week and Thanksgiving blows everything up.

I would love to hear your thoughts.

I’m glad you’re with me.

The View from Saturday #4

On most days, there are moments when I wonder if it would have been best to turn away from Reading and Writing Workshop when I discovered the “nature of my group.” Some days there are just a couple of moments. Some days it seems like one constant moment. But then, it doesn’t seem fair to teach in a way I don’t believe in, just because the students aren’t on board…yet.

I’ve realized that, while I’m, technically, attempting and reflecting on my first true foray into Reading and Writing Workshop, for most of this class, we are not working on Reading and Writing, exactly (too many commas!). For a lot of these students, what I’m really working on is being responsible, being respectful, being kind, being independent, and caring–about themselves, about others, and about learning.

I rearranged the seating this week. Now I have two groups–four students each (actually, one group is just one student, since two of them are now SpEd pullouts, and one was suspended…)–that are the talkers, the off-taskers, the out-of-their-seaters. And five groups–four students each–of students that are capable of working independently without too much of my hovering oversight.

We will see how it goes. Hopefully, I can devote some very focused, very firm energy and instruction on the “tough” groups. And then, again hopefully, that will pay off and I will actually be able to confer with students during independent time, instead of just managing. As I’ve mentioned before, I’m not the best manager. But I’m certainly getting a lot of practice.

I’ll be calling some parents this week. I’ll be setting goals with the tough groups. I’ll be working on staying patient and calm (which I always was before). I’ll be working hard to get everyone on the same side–the side of learning.

But first, I need a long, quiet time to myself. Maybe a book. Maybe a nap. Maybe just closing my eyes and letting the quiet surround me and calm me and become me and refresh me.

I’m glad you’re with me.

 

The View from Saturday #1

Clever name for a weekly reflection on my Reading and Writing Workshop, yes? One of my favorite read alouds for 5th grade. But you’re not doing it right if you don’t give Julian a British accent.

It was my plan to make this a weekly reflection, though I didn’t even make it one week. After the first week of school, I was so, so tired–mentally and physically–that I could hardly muster anything. I guess you can consider this paragraph last week’s reflection, and use your prodigious inferencing skills.

So, this week. I guess let me first say that Lucy Calkins’ Units of Study series are both excellent and maddening. It reads a lot like a professional development text, which I love, but it reads a lot like a professional development, which makes for a lot of reading and thinking for each lesson. Reading and thinking is exactly what I need to be doing, but it’s hard when I have to do it every night when I’m already pretty tired. However, having taught about seven lessons from the Units in both Reading and Writing, I’m starting to get a sense of what I (and my students) need, and what we don’t, and how to not make myself crazy.

The hardest thing, by far, has been managing and motivating my students. In my first post, I mentioned my new meeting area. Man! What a tough spot. I love the community and intimacy that a meeting area brings, but dang these fourth graders are squirrelly and not used to sitting so close to each other without bugging or distracting each other. I don’t want to sound like I’m bad-mouthing my district, but I definitely feel the struggle that comes with moving to Reading and Writing workshop with 28 nine year-olds who have not really participated in a workshop model before. There is a ton of teaching that needs to happen. My minilessons have been running so long, because we spend so much time stopped and examining behaviors. It’s a wicked cycle, because they get more antsy the longer they sit, and the more they get antsy, the longer it takes to get through the minilesson. Yeesh. We are improving, but slowly. Soooooo slowly… Writing suffers the most–there’s been a day or two when we’ve only had about 5-10 minutes to write independently. End-of-workshop sharing also suffers. Time is a killer, as it always is for teachers.

So, the management aspect, which is already a general challenge for me, has been difficult. We are making progress, but it is a bit draining in the meantime.

Thoughts on Reading:

A lot of my students like to read. This is a big plus. And they’ve also never had a teacher with a graphic novel shelf like mine. Some of them are pretty comic-starved–I haven’t seen a Babymouse, Lunch Lady, or Smile on the shelf since the first day. 

What my students are not used to is valuing reading as a part of their lives, or “building a reading life.” They’ve taken a lot of AR tests. They’ve heard a lot about what they are “supposed” to read, and what they “can’t” read. That’s something pretty hard to break. When I talk with them about a reading life, I get a lot of blank stares. I’m reassured by this passage from Lucy Calkins, in response to initial fears that the beginning lessons were asking too much of students:

We’ve made the decision, then, not to scale back aspects of these early lessons that might, at first, seem a bit much. So my advice is this: Try to teach as if your kids are totally taking in what you are saying. As when you read aloud a poem–more of the message gets through than you realize. (Unit 1, “Building a Reading Life,” p. 45)

So, that. 

A little anecdote from Reading Workshop. I had a student who refused to read. He “didn’t like chapter books.” I gave him Squish and he devoured them. Lunch Lady and he consumed them. He checked out a chapter book at the library and stalled out. Too resistant to even read a page. So scared of anything without pictures and over 100 pages. So I sat with him and read the first two pages to him. The book was How to Survive Middle School, by Donna Gephart. Instantly, we meet a boy who is short, has a hamster, and loves TV. Well…guess what was true about the boy I was reading to? He got excited and agreed to read it for the rest of workshop. He took it home. Success! He came back to school not having read another page, and saying he just couldn’t do it. Almost a success. Almost. “I just don’t like reading,” he says. “Not true!” I reply. “You ate up Squish and Lunch Lady! That is reading! You do like reading, when you find the right books.” He is currently swallowing up Mal & Chad, and I’ll keep working him.

By the way, how in the world can I confer with 28 students in one week, in 2.5 total hours, especially when I spend 8 minutes with one student trying to help him understand that he is a reader and spend 5-10 minutes a day managing? 

Thoughts on Writing:

This “View” is getting long, so I don’t want to write much more. We run Writing Workshop right after Reading, and it gets crunched pretty hard. We start late, the minilessons run long, and we end up with very little writing time. Some students have responded very positively to the work we are trying to do to start the year. Others have done nothing. I think I really need to do the minilesson as quick as I can and then cut the class about in thirds. Those who can go off to write, and I run a sort of guided writing group with the other two-thirds(!) to continue the work of the minilesson and to get kids on the right track. Unfortunately, for this to work I really have to tighten up the times so I can still preserve at least a little conferring time for the rest of the class. I’ve been pretty frustrated by the time. We’ll see how it goes. A lot of students not used to choice and self-motivated writing. We’ll get there. I think. I hope.

Thanks for reading.

Poor old Michael Finnegan…

…Begin again.

Hi, how have you been? I promise to come around more.

This will be a big year. Big year = big post.

I’m returning to 4th grade, after two years in 5th. I’ve taught 4th for eight out of eleven years, so the transition shouldn’t be too hard. Unless I make it hard. Which I’m going to. On purpose. More in a second.

We’re moving into a new school. After winter break. Some construction delays made it so finishing in time for the beginning of the year was impossible. So it goes. I’m excited to be in a new space. Moving mid-year isn’t ideal, but…new school! Ya!

Our two wonderful principals, stolen two years ago from other schools and districts, were stolen back at the end of the year. So now we have two new wonderful principals. I feel confident that they will be wonderful. I also feel confident that they are new.

Plenty of change. Plenty to do. Plenty to think about. And so I went ahead and threw in some more.

For seven years, I struggled to make my way at my school. I was missing two things that I think a new teacher desperately needs: A professional learning community and innovation. It wasn’t that my colleagues were not helpful–they would help me with anything I asked. It wasn’t that my colleagues didn’t believe in what they were doing–they just were not very interested in trying something new.

So I struggled. And after about seven years, I finally felt like I had a handle on what I was doing. Great, right? Sure, except what I really had a handle on was what everyone else was doing. I felt little ownership.

For a couple of years I went through the motions generally stress-free. I finally had things figured out! Sometimes they weren’t that exciting–for me or my students–but at least I knew what I was doing.

And then I joined Twitter.

I started out by following the people who were truly in my heart–children’s authors. Since my third year, the one thing I was doing that I truly believed in was my Guys Read book club.  So, it was natural to pursue those who I felt most comfortable with. The first author I followed was Sharon Creech.

Then I started following teachers and librarians who were following (and were followed by) those authors. You know who they are–John Schumacher, Colby Sharp, Donalyn Miller, Katherine Sokolowski.

Then my world exploded.

Because all of a sudden I had a PLC. I had access to people who were motivated and enthusiastic about growth and innovation. They didn’t know me, but they changed my life.

I started reading professional books again, something I hadn’t done since college. I started pushing back against things I always knew, deep down, were not best practices–AR, Open Court, contrived writing programs.

Suddenly I had the support system I never had. Which gave me the confidence to change the way I teach.

Which brings me to today. The first day of my twelfth year of teaching. The year when I start over.

I am abandoning Open Court. I am ignoring AR. I am lining up my teaching with my heart and with my mind. I’m going all in with Reading and Writing Workshop.

It’s convenient that my district is in the process of adopting new literacy “curriculum.” It makes it so other teachers look at my changes with less raised eyebrows. I am on the adoption team. So I get to be a “pilot.” But I have no intention of ever going back to teaching that is about following a book instead of following the needs of students.

So here I go. To help me, I read the entire huge, thick Fountas and Pinnell book, Guiding Readers and Writers. One of the perks of being in mid-curriculum adoption is that I have Lucy Calkins’ Units of Study for both Reading and Common Core Writing. My district also held a Summer Institute on Balanced Literacy. I’ve learned a lot in the last two months. I feel a little less stress having something to guide me. But I’m still nervous. A little scared. A lot excited.

It won’t be easy. We have no book room, no leveled sets for guided reading. We have plenty of books for literature study, but few of them are nonfiction, and almost none are recently published (the exception is books I’ve pushed for purchase for my Guys Read club). And, of course, I have no other colleagues trying this with me. But I have Twitter. I have #nerdybookclub. I have a PLC, they’re just not at my school.

I built benches for my classroom. I’m not even handy! Eleven years of teaching upper elementary and for the first time I have a dedicated meeting area. I never thought it was necessary, before. I never knew how important it was. Now I know better.

Eleven years of teaching upper elementary and I finally have enough knowledge in my head, and confidence in my being, to be able to teach literacy from my heart.

I’ll keep you posted.

Starting over feels so, SO good.

iLVU

I didn’t manage to squeeze in a non-IMWAYR post this week. So here is a post I wrote on our family blog that seems fairly relevant to this blog’s audience. Enjoy!

We have always surrounded our kids with books. I read a bit. They know me at the library. And by always keeping the Corbchops and The Iza supplied with stories, we’ve surrounded them with something else, too: Words.

This is a the Corbchops post. Though The Iza is starting out on this journey herself.

Any time the Corbchops has a book in front of him, we call it reading. Some people may say that just looking at a book doesn’t actually qualify as reading. I disagree. Reading is interacting with text or story. The Corbchops has read the pictures of his books since he could hold them. His is interacting with the story through its pictures. With wordless picture books, he reads them the same as anyone else. So he has always been a reader.

But it is still exciting that in the last couple months he has really started working on sounding out words. We’ve never pushed word-reading. But when the Corbchops expresses an interest, we help him with it. We’ve got the alphabet down. At his pre-K, there is a letter of the week, and they work on both finding the letter and writing it. They work on the sound the letter makes. We piggy back on this, and the Corbchops has sounded out full words on his own. He’s not quite at the stage where he will sound out words in books he is looking at, independently. He will try, when he is ready. He is stepping through his own stages as a reader.

The Corbchops has also been copying letters for quite a while. We will write what he wants to write, and he will copy it. We call it writing. And it is.

In the last couple of weeks, the Corbchops has been a bit of a terror. It has been very challenging. But a couple of times he has initiated his own coping strategy, one that we had never really suggested. The first time he did it, he told The Wife, “I really need a pen.” Then he proceeded to draw a picture to let out his feelings. That’s right. The Corbchops is into art therapy. All on his own.

Then, this week, I did something that the Corbchops didn’t like. He left and came back a minute later with this:

 

It’s a little hard to read, but you can see the angry, sharp-toothed man that might be “mean-me,” or might be “angry-Corbchops.” Next to it, the Corbchops wrote “iDNDLKU.” So, that’s “I don’t like you.” Which made me a little sad, but also HOLY COW HE WROTE SOMETHING!

I think I said something like, “Oh, that makes me really sad…But look! You wrote that all by yourself!” I couldn’t really contain my excitement about it, despite what it said.

He left and then came back with more added. “iLVU.”

Whoa.

This was the first time the Corbchops had sounded out and written his own words. It was amazing.

“Corbchops! You’re figuring out the code of writing!”

He was excited. He left and came back with a picture of “MOME” (Mom-ee) and “DADD” (Dad-dee).  What a step to witness.

Today, the Corbchops came home from daycare with this picture:

We couldn’t decipher the word in the bottom left, even with the Corbchops’s help (he tried sounding it out), but you can clearly see “Love” and “Mommy.” He also scribbled out a “Love” in the top left. Maybe he wanted it in a different place, or maybe he wasn’t satisfied with it. It’s hard to know, too, how much his daycare person might have helped. Still. Writing.

The Corbchops will go to kindergarten next year. It makes me a little nervous, for a variety of reasons. Mostly, though, I am worried about reading and writing. At home, the Corbchops is a reader. He is a writer. He is a lot of things. I don’t want that to change. I don’t want anyone to tell him that he isn’t a reader yet. That he isn’t a writer yet. I don’t want anyone to tell him what books he can read and which ones he can’t (Of course I’ll read that Dora book with you, Corbchops [but it might go “missing” later…]).

But what can I do? Some things we can’t control. In the meantime, let’s read this book. Or write this story. Clearly, the Corbchops is on his way. He has taken a few more steps on the reading and writing continuum. We’re pretty excited to be tagging along.

WWU Children’s Literature Conference 2013

I’ve mentioned my intense jealousy of big cities like Chicago and New York, with their endless parade of children’s lit folk. Oh, sure, we’ll have an event with Rebecca Stead and RJ Palacio. Hey, come to our panel on middle grade lit. Come see _____ on their big city book tour! Argh!

I live a long way from New York City. Or Chicago. Or LA, or whatever. I live in Bellingham, WA. Which means I live about 90 miles north of Seattle, and 50 miles south of Vancouver, BC. I already feel neglected in the Pacific Northwest, our wet, green, little corner of the country. Our big little town is kind of off the path for the kidlit author circuit.

However, once a year, we get to be on the map.

Ten years ago, one year after I graduated from Western Washington University with a teaching degree, my pseudo-mentor and English-Elementary Ed advisor, Nancy Johnson, started a dream. In 2003, WWU hosted a handful of children’s authors and illustrators for its first Children’s Literature Conference. I don’t think I went to that one. But that’s when it started. A children’s literature event, in our little corner of the country.

I think I’ve been to the conference six times. I’ve seen Brian Selznick, David Weisner, Lois Lowry, Christopher Paul Curtis, Candace Fleming, Gary Schmidt, and many more. I don’t think I’ll ever miss it again, unless some sort of emergency comes up.

Last year, I was honored to be asked to introduce Patrick Carman. My Guys Read club made a video. It was amazing. Maybe that was the beginning of very good things in my life with children’s literature.

As you probably know, I’ve had quite the life-changing year. Kidlit has gone from a strong interest to a life passion. Thanks to Twitter. Thanks to #nerdybookclub. This year’s conference, therefore, had me positively giddy.

The WWUCLC has a pleasant habit of nailing award winners. Brian Selznick came a month after winning the Caldecott for Hugo Cabret. This year was no exception. Along with Michael Grant, Brian Pinkney, and Susan Campbell Bartoletti, we’d have Newbery-winner Katherine Applegate in the house.

Gah! #nerdybookclub overload!

The conference was wonderful. I got to see Nancy, who had been absent for two years as she taught in Singapore. I saw librarian and teacher friends. I sat in the front row. With Kirby Larson (former conference presenter).

I am always revived by hearing passionate authors and illustrators talk about their work. February is a gray, wet, challenging month. My students are usually starting to be more middle school-y than elementary-y. It is my least favorite time of year. But there is always WWUCLC, shining on the horizon.

All of the presentations were excellent. Brian Pinkney was engaging and fascinating. Susan Campbell Bartoletti was funny and focused while describing her research and writing about morbid, depressing aspects of our history. And Katherine Applegate and Michael Grant killed me with their very grown-up presentation, particularly a hilarious, witty, mildly and entertainingly offensive “bio-pic.” Really, Katherine Applegate could host Saturday Night Live. She would be so good.

And we ended, as always, with cookies.

I got my classroom copy of The One and Only Ivan signed, and then sort of hung about, savoring my time at the Northwest’s premiere kidlit event. And then Nancy dropped a bomb on me.

She asked me to be a part of it. As in, “Will you join us on the advisory board?” What? What!

Is was stunned and honored. I looked around and saw three advisory board librarian friends huddled together sort of whispering, “Well? Well?!”

I said yes. Then we all had a group hug.

I attended my first advisory board meeting last week. We discussed our announced presenters, Steve Sheinkin, Jennifer Holm, and Laura Vaccaro Seeger. We threw out names for another potential illustrator presenter. We could just say whoever we wanted! Ahhh! The names being bandied about!

I know we’re stuck way up in a far corner of the world, but I hope you’ll join us someday, as we celebrate stories and the people who make them. Maybe it will be next year, March 1, 2014. Maybe the year after. Someday. You’ll have a great time, I promise.

It’s Monday, [March 18]! What are you reading?

Every Most Mondays, I send out a #booksaroundtheroom via Twitter, so my students can share what they’re reading with the world. “It’s Monday! What are you Reading?” is a meme co-hosted by Jen and Kellee at Teach Mentor Texts. Just like #booksaroundtheroom, it is a way to share books you’ve been reading, reviewing, and loving during the last week. I read a lot, both on my own and with my two kids, Corbchops (4.74) and The Iza (2.68). I’m excited to hear what you’ve been reading.

Mon Reading Button PB to YA

Two really exciting meetings last week, along with swim lessons, a Sounders game, and report cards, kept me from reading much last week. But the meetings were reading related! The first was a brainstorming meeting for the idea of a countywide middle grade read. We have some great ideas. The second meeting was my first as a member of the advisory board of the WWU Children’s Literature Conference. I was so honored to be invited to join this group. It was a lot of fun. You wouldn’t believe the author and illustrator names we were dropping!

I really feel like I am making a positive impact on readers in my community, and it feels…pretty darn good. Even if I have less time to read.

Here’s what I’ve enjoyed during the last week:

Middle Grade:

I finished just one middle grade novel last week.

Graphic Novels:

I finished one graphic novel last week.

  • Extreme Babymouse, by Jennifer and Matt Holm. I will never not like a Babymouse book.

Picture Books:

I read 9 picture books last week. My favorite three were:

  • Learning to Swim in Swaziland, by Nila Leigh. This memoir was written by a fourth grader. It is pretty great. We used it during a writing lesson on using a natural voice.
  • The Beetle Book, by Steve Jenkins. The Corbchops and I loved the intricate illustrations in this nonfiction picture book.
  • The Hueys in the New Sweater, by Oliver Jeffers. Funny. A little predictable.

Reviewed:

On the TMCE Guys Read blog, I reviewed Courage Has No Color, by Tanya Lee Stone.

AND

Right now When I finish this blog post, I’m reading:

Hide and Seek, by Kate Messner.

SO

What are you reading?