He Was an Angry Child, You Know

He was an angry child, you know.

The clenched fists.  The stare that could take you down.  The raised voice with the yells of unfairness.

“It wasn’t me…” traveled down the hall, always emanating from our classroom.

He was the angry child.

The kicked-back chairs and the tossed desk told his story loudly.

The playground fights, the raised fists told it as well.

So did the suspensions.

The missed assignments.

The checklist and the endless meetings.

He was an angry child, or so they said.

At least, that is all you would see if that was all you noticed.

If you didn’t look further or take the time, you would have missed everything else that he was.

Because did you know, he was a dancer?  That he could play ball with the best of them?

That he could hold a tiny baby and surround it with love, thanking you for the chance to say hello.

That he was funny, his smile would light up the room, his jokes would crack us all up, even when I tried to teach.

That he liked to read when he found the right book.

That while his life was far from easy, he still had love?  He wanted to give love.

It would have been so easy to only see the angry.  After all, how often do we only see a child for their loudest quality?  How often do we so easily dismiss everything else they are as we try to fix their problem, as we try to fix them?  How often does their story reach us before they do and already we have prepared everything we think we need without knowing if they need it.  We get stuck in our thought patterns and only see the flaws, the areas of growth, and not everything else that makes them the person they are.

How easily we compartmentalize children to only be one story, while we speak of growth mindset and embracing differences.  To only have one facet and let that become the only thing we see in every interaction, in every discussion?  Do we ever stop to consider how the narrative we dictate becomes the story that unfolds?  Do we ever wonder if the children we teach can see the labels we have for them?  (I think they do). And while some may fight with everything they have to not be who we think they are, others may simply shrug their shoulders and accept the destiny we have had a part in designing and become the kid that they think we see.

It would have been so easy to only see the angry.  To only discuss the fights.  To only share the bad, the areas needed for growth.  But we didn’t.  We couldn’t.  Because he deserved more than what he had gotten before.

Because sure, he was an angry child, but he grew up to be a college student.  A football player on a scholarship, telling you he is going to be a PE teacher some day.  One who checks in once in a while, showing of his GPA (3.36 baby!) that may have just made you cry.  Who may not be at the end of his journey just yet but has come so far already.

He was an angry child, you know, but he was also a child who needed more love than he had gotten before.  More understanding than I had ever given before.  More patience than I thought possible.  And he grew up and he becomes something more.  Not because of us, but despite us at times.

So what do you see when you see that child?  Who do you think they will become?

If you like what you read here, consider reading my newest book, Passionate Readers – The Art of Reaching and Engaging Every Child, out August 2017.  This book focuses on the five keys we can implement into any reading community to strengthen student reading experiences, even within the 45 minute English block.  If you are looking for solutions and ideas for how to re-engage all of your students consider reading my very first book  Passionate Learners – How to Engage and Empower Your Students.      Also, if you are wondering where I will be in the coming year or would like to have me speak, please see this page.

 

 

 

 

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Using Picture Books in the Middle School Classroom

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We have hundreds of picture books in our classroom.  Ranging from board books, yes, books meant to be handled by babies, to beautifully illustrated picture book versions of classic stories; ours is a picture book classroom.  And while I have written extensively about the power of picture books and how it can be used to hook resistant readers, to build a reading community, and all of the other incredible benefits of having them as part of our reading community, I have not really written about the usage of picture books as mentor texts.  That is, until now, so here you are, some of the ways we use picture books to teach different concepts.

Thematic statements

Using a picture book as an example, see my list here, we read one aloud and work through the example together.  While many of my students can easily pick up on the theme “word” (Death, love, freedom), they have a much harder stretching that into an actual thematic statement.  So rather than just death, they have to write something along the lines of “In the picture book, Ida Always, the text is used to illustrate that the fear of death should not stand in the way of creating lasting bonds.”  While this may seem hard at first, the idea of doing this work with a picture book, rather than a longer book, alleviates some of the stress that my students have with the analytical work being done.  After we write our thematic statement and turn it into a full paragraph, the students are then given a stack of picture books to choose from to practice on their own.  This is, therefore, a way to assess their understanding without having to use a common text.  Students can then either hand in their thoughts as a written piece of work or choose to discuss it with me or record it using their device.

Writers Craft

The writing skills used in a great picture book are worthy of our close analysis.  I love finding a stack of small moment picture books and then having students really take the writing apart.  How did the author move the story along with such few pages?  If we were to remove the images would the story still stand on its own?  Why?  Other questions can be:

  • How does the author transition time or setting?
  • How the author situates us?
  • How is the character described?
  • How are the words further explained through the illustrations?

These are just a few examples of separate lessons that can be done through a lense of writer’s craft.

Non-Fiction Focus

We have written nonfiction picture books in the past and one of my greatest joys is to get students read some of the incredible nonfiction picture books we have in our collection.  I think of books like Pink is for Blobfish, Growing Up Pedro, Gorillas, Giant Squid, or How to Be an Elephant.  These authors breathe life into their nonfiction texts and so I ask my students to study their craft.  How did they take all of this research and create something so accessible yet information-filled?  It is wondrous to see the lightbulb go off for my students when they can see what I mean right in the text.

Fluency and Expression

One of our favorite units of the year is when all of our students perform plays based on Mo Willem’s Elephant & Piggie books.  It is incredible to see these sometimes very cool 7th graders, truly connect with their silly side and go for it in their performance.  Reading aloud picture books, performing them, and putting your heart into it helps with all public speaking skills.

Introductory texts. 

In order for us to go deeper with text analysis and discussion, I need my students to sometimes gain some confidence.  Picture books are not scary.  They are inviting to kids.  So as we begin the year with an introduction or reminder of the signposts as discussed in the book Notice and Note, I use picture books to introduce every single signpost.  (To see the lists go here).  It helps me break it down simply for kids, to give them confidence, and then also to be able to transfer it into their own reading.

Inferring.

One of my biggest tools for boosting inference skills is to use wordless picture books.  After all, it is hard to read books like Unspoken or The Whale and not have an opinion on what just happened.  Another reason I love wordless picture books is that it levels the playing field for a lot of our kids.  They don’t have to decode the words to get to the story but instead have to decode the images.  I have found that some of my most vulnerable readers are incredibly good at this as this is one of the reading survival strategies they use daily.

As you can see, picture books are not just for show, and yet, even if they were, I would be ok with that.  After all, how many times does a child just need to fall into the pages of a picture book to remember the magic that reading itself?  What an incredible gift all of these authors and illustrators give us when they decide to spill their ideas into a picture book.

To see all of our favorite picture books, go here or follow me on Instagram for “live” recommendations of books.

If you like what you read here, consider reading my newest book, Passionate Readers – The Art of Reaching and Engaging Every Child, out August 2017.  This book focuses on the five keys we can implement into any reading community to strengthen student reading experiences, even within the 45 minute English block.  If you are looking for solutions and ideas for how to re-engage all of your students consider reading my very first book  Passionate Learners – How to Engage and Empower Your Students.      Also, if you are wondering where I will be in the coming year or would like to have me speak, please see this page.

Debate Boxing – A Way to Get Kids Thinking Fast

December is a fun month to teach if you know how to use the inevitable energy that the students bring in.  While I may long for my fireplace and a good book, my students are eagerly awaiting snow, break, and perhaps even Christmas.  To say that our classroom is loud in the afternoon is an understatement.  Knowing the energy level of the kids, my smart colleague Reidun, therefore, proposed doing debate during the month of December, and boy was she right.  The energy is infectious, the kids are committed, and the engagement is high.

While the students have successfully completed their practice unit, we are now gearing up for the big one; the summative debate where they must find their own articles, research reliability and also try to prep for whatever their opposing team will throw at them.  This is why thinking on their feet is so important, as well as being able to listen to what is actually being said and then formulating a response.

Enter debate boxing.  Not my idea, nor the idea of my colleague, but definitely an idea that needs to be shared (If you know where it came from please let me know so I can link it!).

The concept is simple:

Pick something for the students to debate.  We used this podcast from NPR’s More Perfect because it does not give a black and white answer.  We use the podcast to discuss how our perspective changes as we uncover more facts.  This took us about two days as the students took notes throughout and we stopped and discussed.

Then, using their notes, have students draft an opening statement.  I only gave them ten minutes to do so, because I don’t want them to get hung up on this.  They know they need to have an opinion, evidence for it as well as explain why their evidence proves their claim.

Then, split the class into two teams based on their opinion.  Have each team select a team member to start off their match.

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Either, create a ring in your classroom or have the two students debating stand on a table or a chair.  Either way; have where they are stand out.  Then with their notes in hand, one team reads their opening statement.  Their opponent then gets 45 seconds to give their rebuttals based on what they heard and what they know and off they go.  The rebuttals go back and forth at a fast pace.

At any point, the member can “tap out” and have someone else take over or we also said that the team can switch them out.

After a few minutes, the round is over, the team members both switch and the other team reads their opening statement.

You can go for as long as the kids have something valuable to say.

For a twist toward the end, I had the teams switch opinions and argue opposite of what they had.  This was amazing as they had gotten rather intense about their opinion and now had to debate for the opposing claim.

Today we debrief, we discuss what they learned from the experience, and also why thinking on your feet and listening is so vital when we discuss.  While our classroom may have been loud yesterday and just a tad bit crazy, it was the best kind of crazy there is.

On Student Talk and What to Look For

I am struck by the noise that surrounds us.  As I walk through my school, Oregon Middle, the voices of kids float through the open doors.  Sure, the teachers can be heard as well, but over and over, again and again, there the kids are.  Asking questions, discussing, getting passionate.  We are carried forward by the voices of the very kids we serve.  It makes me even prouder to be a teacher here.

And yet.  I think back to the days where I thought silence meant learning.

Where I thought deep engagement was almost always quiet.  Punctuated by brief answers facilitated by me to check for understanding.

Where I thought that if only I could get them to listen, then they would learn.

If only they would stop talking then they would really understand.

If only one child answered then surely that was engagement.

If only they turned and talked when I asked them that meant we were doing student talk right.

And while we still savor the quiet hush that surrounds us when we reach the zone with our books or with our thinking or with our writing, we also relish the noise that comes from student engagement.

But not just any type of noise, the productive kind.  The one that goes deeper.  The one that isn’t just because the kids are being compliant but because they actually care.  That is when student engagement is done right.  So what can we look for when we evaluate the types of noise our kids are making?

Who is making the noise? 

Is it you or is it them?  While there is much to be said for teacher-led discussion, at some point we have to turn it over so the kids can do the probing, the analyzing, and the digging deeper.  What if we didn’t give them all of the questions, but instead gave them the time to discuss?  What if we modeled it but then truly let them take the reigns, not just once in a while but almost always?  What if students came up with the discussion questions as well as moderated the flow?

How much noise is it?  

Is the noise contained to brief periods of time in your class or is it throughout?  Are students engaged outside of the questions we ask?  Are the teaching points inspiring them to care more?  To ask more?  To push their thinking?  Or is just having them discuss one thing and then lapsing into silence as they wait for the next direction?

Who controls the noise?

While I see many teachers embrace the “turn and talk,” I wonder how often that’s it for student talk.  I am guilty of this thinking;  as long as they turn and talk then surely there is student engagement.  Yet I have found that in my eagerness to get to the next thing, I have often cut off the kids from going deeper into their conversations.  That my desire to ask the next question has stopped their further inquiry.  That my casual discomfort with student silence means they are not getting time to just think.  I am working on seeing where it goes and following along when we can.

What emotions lie behind the noise?

I loved the discussion unfolding in our classroom today as students discussed “Who should get the baby?” after listening to an NPR podcast.  They were so upset, not with each other, but with the facts of the case, how it wasn’t black and white, and also how others were not agreeing with them.  To see this passion for a podcast as we discuss uncovering facts to change our perspective is exactly what I hope for; that they care about it.  That they speak up because they cannot imagine staying quiet.  That it matters enough for them to actually bother with adding their voice.

And for me that’s it; when I think of true student engagement through student talk, I look for the emotions.  How students speak.  Why they speak.  What they say, but also how they say it.  Within this exchange, we can gauge their interest.  We can see whether they are simply going through the motions or whether our class, our learning exploration, actually matters to them.  And so this is where we start, where I start every time I evaluate our student talk; with the emotional investment or lack thereof.  It turns out that the truth can really be found in how they speak their words.

If you like what you read here, consider reading my newest book, Passionate Readers – The Art of Reaching and Engaging Every Child, out August 2017.  This book focuses on the five keys we can implement into any reading community to strengthen student reading experiences, even within the 45 minute English block.  If you are looking for solutions and ideas for how to re-engage all of your students consider reading my very first book  Passionate Learners – How to Engage and Empower Your Students.      Also, if you are wondering where I will be in the coming year or would like to have me speak, please see this page.

To My Almost Nine-Year-Old Daughter

To my almost nine-year-old daughter,

It started with your long sleeves.  Do you remember that?  It was September and I couldn’t understand for the life of me why you insisted on every day wearing long sleeves too school even though it was 90 degrees out.  You finally told me it was because of them.  Those kids who had started calling you names, pointing to the hairs on your arms and making you feel ashamed.  I shook my head, reminisced about my own childhood and told you that kids could be mean.

I didn’t think about it further.

Not too long after, you were so mad.  I walked into the kitchen, home from work, and it was like the levees burst.  You told me about the shoving.  You told me about the names.  You told me how these kids kept finding you in the hallways, in the quiet moments in class, in the lunch line and told you, you were ugly.  That you were stupid.  That they wished you weren’t there.

We told your teacher, she spoke to you, to the kids, and we thought that was it.

One night you asked me what bitch meant.  Your dad and I sat there stunned.  Why do you ask?  You told us how during writing that day a girl had sat next to you and in her sparkly pink notebook she had written “Thea is a bitch” and then proudly showed it to you.  You knew it was bad.  You were so upset.

We told your teacher, we asked for a meeting.

But before then someone wrote on the bathroom walls.  Mean things about other kids and they signed your name.  Then told every child that wanted to hear it how you had done it.  You were so angry, I didn’t think you would ever calm down again.

We told the school, we got our meeting.

An investigation was started and yet it continued.

You learned to not bring anything special to school because it would be taken.

You learned to not walk by yourself in the hallways so that you would have a witness.

You learned to move when some kids sat by you.

You learned to calmly tell a child that you were not those things they said you were.

You learned to hold your tongue when all you wanted to do was lash out.

And yet, we felt your anger.  And also your fear; do I have to go to school, Mom?

Then one day, dad picked you up and you were in trouble.  Some kids had called you the “B word again” and this time you had had enough, you had pushed one of them.  Our sweet girl pushed another child.

We told you no way.  We told you that was not how to handle problems, and yet at the same time, we wondered, what could you do?  Because following the rules and being nice had done nothing.

And we waited for news from the school.  What did the investigation find?

Last night you told me that someone whispered to you during carpet time that you were an ugly fucking bitch.  At dinner, I had to tell you that no matter what another child says to you, you are not ugly.  You are smart, kind, beautiful and that we are so proud of you.

The school finally told us that there was a clear case of bullying and that there would be serious consequences.  And yet, does that really matter?  Because the same day as the kids were told to stop bullying you, one of them kicked you as you walked by.  “On accident.”  How many more on accidents incidents will you have to put up with?

This morning, you asked me to keep you home.  Please don’t send me to the mean kids.  I told you to keep your head up high.  To report anything that happened.  To interrupt the teacher if you had to.  That the adults know.  That they care.  That they are trying.

And yet as I sit at school, I wonder if I told you the truth?  Can we really stop it?

Your teacher is trying.  Your principal is trying.  We are trying.  And yet, is it enough?

So I write this to tell you again that those kids with those words don’t matter.  That you are perfect just the way you are.  That we will continue to fight for you just like you will fight for yourself.

So to my almost nine-year-old daughter; you are enough.  You are everything to us.  You are perfect just the way you are.  Don’t let anyone make you believe otherwise.

Love,

Mommy

PS:  So many people have sent their love and support to Thea since I wrote this.  Thank you, because as much as I want to say it has ended, it has not. If you would like to send her a note of encouragement, you can mail it to her through me.  My address at school is:

Pernille Ripp

Oregon Middle School

601 Pleasant Oak Drive

Oregon, WI 53575

Great Picture Books for Small Moment Stories

As we dive into our first fictional writing unit, I am reminded that sometimes kids don’t know how to move their story along.  So of course, what better time than to read some more picture books to remind them of the amount of action needed for a short story.  I dug through my shelves today and pulled a few favorites.  Here they are.


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Baby Goes to Market by Atinuke and Angela Brooksbank.

Plot Description:

Market is very crowded.
Mama is very busy.
Baby is very curious.
When Baby and Mama go to the market, Baby is so adorable that the banana seller gives him six bananas. Baby eats one and puts five in the basket, but Mama doesn’t notice. As Mama and Baby wend their way through the stalls, cheeky Baby collects five oranges, four biscuits, three ears of sweet corn, two pieces of coconut . . . until Mama notices that her basket is getting very heavy! Poor Baby, she thinks, he must be very hungry by now!

 

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Shhh!  We have a Plan by Chris Haughton

Four friends creep through the woods, and what do they spot? An exquisite bird high in a tree! “Hello birdie,” waves one. “Shh! We have a plan,” hush the others. They stealthily make their advance, nets in the air. Ready one, ready two, ready three, and go! But as one comically foiled plan follows another, it soon becomes clear that their quiet, observant companion, hand outstretched, has a far better idea.

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Extra Yarn by Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen

This is an extraordinary new picture book about a little girl who cocoons her cold, grey town in joy and warmth…and brightly coloured yarn! On a cold, dark day in a dull, grey town, little Annabelle discovers a box of brightly coloured yarn. She knits a cosy jumper to keep herself nice and toasty warm and finds, to her surprise, that she still has yarn left over. So she decides to knit her dog a jumper too but – hang on a second – she STILL has extra yarn! Annabelle knits and knits and, soon, she’s blanketed the entire town in a rainbow of colour, knitting away the dreary iciness that grips it. Her prodigious status spreads far and wide. It doesn’t take long for the evil Archduke to set his beady eyes upon Annabelle’s magical box of yarn but, little does he know, you have to have a little bit of magic inside your heart for it to work..

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A Bike Like Sergio’s by Marybeth Boelts and Noah Z. Jones

Ruben feels like he is the only kid without a bike. His friend Sergio reminds him that his birthday is coming, but Ruben knows that the kinds of birthday gifts he and Sergio receive are not the same. After all, when Ruben’s mom sends him to Sonny’s corner store for groceries, sometimes she doesn’t have enough money for everything on the list. So when Ruben sees a dollar bill fall out of someone’s purse, he picks it up and puts it in his pocket. But when he gets home, he discovers it’s not one dollar or even five or ten—it’s a hundred-dollar bill, more than enough for a new bike just like Sergio’s! But what about the crossed-off groceries? And what about the woman who lost her money?

 

When an Iraqi family is forced to flee their home, they can’t bear to leave their beloved cat, Kunkush, behind. So they carry him with them from Iraq to Greece, keeping their secret passenger hidden away.

But during the crowded boat crossing to Greece, his carrier breaks and the frightened cat runs from the chaos. In one moment, he is gone. After an unsuccessful search, his family has to continue their journey, leaving brokenhearted.

A few days later, aid workers in Greece find the lost cat. Knowing how much his family has sacrificed already, they are desperate to reunite them with the cat they love so much. A worldwide community comes together to spread the word on the Internet and in the news media, and after several months the impossible happens—Kunkush’s family is found, and they finally get their happy ending in their new home.

 

Jameson only ever wears green pants. When he wears green pants, he can do anything. But if he wants to be in his cousin’s wedding, he’s going to have to wear a tuxedo, and that means black pants. It’s an impossible decision: Jameson would love nothing more than to be in his cousin’s wedding, but how can he not wear green pants? Will Jameson turn down this big honor, or will he find a way to make everyone happy, including himself?
A young astronaut is absolutely sure there is life to be found on Mars. He sets off on a solitary mission, determined to prove the naysayers wrong. But when he arrives, equipped with a package of cupcakes as a gift, he sees nothing but a nearly barren planet. Finally, he spies a single flower and packs it away to take back to Earth as proof that there is indeed life on Mars. But as he settles in for the journey home, he cracks open his cupcakes—only to discover that someone has eaten them all!
Jack is not fond of the bossy narrator of his fairy tale! When Jack is told to trade his beloved cow Bessie for some magic beans, throw the beans out the window, climb the ENORMOUS beanstalk that sprouts overnight, and steal from a GIANT, he decides this fairy tale is getting out of control. In fact, he doesn’t want to follow the story line at all. Who says Jack needs to enter a life of daring, thievery, and giant trickery? He takes his story into his own hands—and you’ll never guess what happens next!
Jabari is definitely ready to jump off the diving board. He’s finished his swimming lessons and passed his swim test, and he’s a great jumper, so he’s not scared at all. “Looks easy,” says Jabari, watching the other kids take their turns. But when his dad squeezes his hand, Jabari squeezes back. He needs to figure out what kind of special jump to do anyway, and he should probably do some stretches before climbing up onto the diving board.

Sangoel is a refugee. Leaving behind his homeland of Sudan, where his father died in the war, he has little to call his own other than his name, a Dinka name handed down proudly from his father and grandfather before him.

When Sangoel and his mother and sister arrive in the United States, everything seems very strange and unlike home. In this busy, noisy place, with its escalators and television sets and traffic and snow, Sangoel quietly endures the fact that no one is able to pronounce his name. Lonely and homesick, he finally comes up with an ingenious solution to this problem, and in the process he at last begins to feel at home.

Seven year-oldInnosanto’s father, a famous Indonesian playwright, is in trouble with the government for his newest play’s unfavorable portrayal of governmental power and corruption. After a rousing performance at a large theater complex which also houses the Jakarta Planetarium, Innosanto’s father manages to sneak out of town to avoid arrest while Innosanto and his mother spend an exciting night sleeping under the stars in the Jakarta Planetarium.

 Ida, Always by Caron Lewis and Charles Santoso.

Gus lives in a big park in the middle of an even bigger city, and he spends his days with Ida. Ida is right there. Always.

Then one sad day, Gus learns that Ida is very sick, and she isn’t going to get better. The friends help each other face the difficult news with whispers, sniffles, cuddles, and even laughs. Slowly Gus realizes that even after Ida is gone, she will still be with him—through the sounds of their city, and the memories that live in their favorite spots.

My Friend Maggie by Hannah E. Harrison.

Paula and Maggie have been friends forever. Paula thinks Maggie is the best—until mean girl Veronica says otherwise. Suddenly, Paula starts to notice that Maggie is big and clumsy, and her clothes are sort of snuggish. Rather than sticking up for Maggie, Paula ignores her old friend and plays with Veronica instead. Luckily, when Veronica turns on Paula, Maggie’s true colors shine through.

The Bear and the Piano by David Lichtfield

One day, a bear cub finds something strange and wonderful in the forest. When he touches the keys, they make a horrible noise. Yet he is drawn back again and again. Eventually, he learns to play beautiful sounds, delighting his woodland friends.
Then the bear is invited to share his sounds with new friends in the city. He longs to explore the world beyond his home, and to play bigger and better than before. But he knows that if he leaves, the other bears will be very sad . . .

Ferocious Fluffity written by Erica S. Perl and illustrated by Henry Cole

Mr. Drake’s second grade class has a new class pet. Fluffity appears to be a cute and docile hamster—but the kids soon discover that she is not the cuddly pet they expected. From the moment her cage door opens, Fluffity becomes FEROCIOUS—biting and chasing everyone down the hall and into the library! Will the class be able to tame this beast and bring peace back to their school?

Lailah is in a new school in a new country, thousands of miles from her old home, and missing her old friends. When Ramadan begins, she is excited that she is finally old enough to participate in the fasting but worried that her classmates won’t understand why she doesn’t join them in the lunchroom.

Lailah solves her problem with help from the school librarian and her teacher and in doing so learns that she can make new friends who respect her beliefs.

 

Jacob’s New Dress by Sarah and Ian Hoffman, illustrated by Chris Case.  being yourself can be hard when you society will judge you but this book is a must add for any classroom.

Jacob loves playing dress-up, when he can be anything he wants to be. Some kids at school say he can’t wear “girl” clothes, but Jacob wants to wear a dress to school. Can he convince his parents to let him wear what he wants?

 

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La Princesa and the Pea by Susan Middleton Elya and Juana Martinez-Neal

El príncipe knows this girl is the one for him, but, as usual, his mother doesn’t agree.

The queen has a secret test in mind to see if this girl is really a princesa.

But the prince might just have a sneaky plan, too . . .

 

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Rice and Rocks by Sandra L. Richards and Megan Kayleigh Sullivan 

Giovanni’s friends are coming over for Sunday dinner, and his grandmother is serving rice and beans. Giovanni is embarrassed he does not like ‘rice and rocks’ and worries his friends will think the traditional Jamaican dish is weird. But his favorite Auntie comes to the rescue. She and Giovanni’s pet parrot, Jasper, take him on a magical journey across the globe, visiting places where people eat rice and rocks.

 

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Ish by Peter Reynolds

Ramon loved to draw. Anytime. Anything. Anywhere.

Drawing is what Ramon does. It�s what makes him happy. But in one split second, all that changes. A single reckless remark by Ramon’s older brother, Leon, turns Ramon’s carefree sketches into joyless struggles. Luckily for Ramon, though, his little sister, Marisol, sees the world differently. She opens his eyes to something a lot more valuable than getting things just “right.”

 

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Billy’s Booger by William Joyce 

Billy loves to draw. He draws on books and on his homework and even on his math tests—he might not get the answer right, but doesn’t it look swell sitting in a boat at sea? His teacher doesn’t think so, and neither does the principal. But the librarian has an idea that just might help Billy better direct his illustrative energies: a book-making contest!

Billy gets right to work, reading everything he can about meteors, mythology, space travel, and…mucus? Yep, his book is going to be about the world’s smartest booger, who stays tucked away until needed—say, to solve multiplication problems, or answer questions from the President. Billy’s sure his story is a winner. But being a winner doesn’t mean you always win.

The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore by William Joyce

Morris Lessmore loved words.
He loved stories.
He loved books.
But every story has its upsets.
Everything in Morris Lessmore’s life, including his own story, is scattered to the winds.
But the power of story will save the day.

 

Ever wonder where this game comes from?  Here is the origin story.
An inquisitive fox sets off on a seafaring voyage with a crew of deer and pigeons in this enchanting tale of friendship and adventure.

Marco the fox has a lot of questions, like: how deep does the sun go when it sinks into the sea? And why do birds have such lizardy feet? But none of the other foxes share his curiosity. So when a magnificent ship adorned with antlers and with a deer for a captain arrives at the dock looking for a crew, Marco volunteers, hoping to find foxes who are as inquisitive as he is that can answer his questions. The crew finds adventure and intrigue on their journey. And, at last, Marco finds the answer to his most important question of all: What’s the best way to find a friend you can talk to?

La Paz is a happy, but noisy village. A little peace and quiet would make it just right.
So the villagers elect the bossy Don Pepe as their mayor. Before long, singing of any kind is outlawed. Even the teakettle is afraid to whistle!

But there is one noisy rooster who doesn’t give two mangos about this mayor’s silly rules. Instead, he does what roosters were born to do.

He sings:
“Kee-kee-ree-KEE!”

There are many more, but I thought I would share a few.  happy reading and if you are looking for more of our favorite books, go here. 
If you like what you read here, consider reading my newest book, Passionate Readers – The Art of Reaching and Engaging Every Child, out August 2017.  This book focuses on the five keys we can implement into any reading community to strengthen student reading experiences, even within the 45 minute English block.  If you are looking for solutions and ideas for how to re-engage all of your students consider reading my very first book  Passionate Learners – How to Engage and Empower Your Students.      Also, if you are wondering where I will be in the coming year or would like to have me speak, please see this page.