3 Questions to Ask for a Critical Re-Evaluation of Your Classroom Library

“Really, Mrs. Ripp, another book about Civil Rights?” Spoken by one of my African American students as I pulled out the picture book I intended to use in our mini lesson.

Another book about Civil Rights….

His words followed me all of the way home.  Not because I was worried he didn’t know enough but because of what had followed those first words.

“You always pick those books…”

And he was right.  In my eagerness to embed more knowledge about the Civil Rights Movement into our mini lesson on advice from older characters, I wasn’t thinking about his representation to the rest of our mostly white class.  How once more what I showcased only supported a familiar narrative.  His words prompted a realization that seemingly the only picture books I used or that we even had in our classroom library featuring African Americans in them had to do with either slavery or Civil Rights.  Not every day life.  Not non-famous African Americans.  Just those two topics.  This realization has shaped a lot of my book purchasing decisions as of late and just how much work I still have to do.

I have been focused a lot on diversity of books, it’s hard not to when our world seems to need understanding, empathy, and fearlessness more than ever.  While our classroom library has been ever expanding with more diverse picks, I have realized through the help of my students that diversity is not enough.  That simply placing books that feature anything but white/cisgender/Christian characters in them is not enough.  It is a start, sure, but then how do we go further than that?

We ask ourselves; how are characters represented?

Prompted by the comment from my student, I now look for how characters of any race/skin color/culture are represented in all of our books.  Is everyone represented?  Even sub-groups that my students may not even be aware of?  Are we only showcasing one experience?  Are we only highlighting the famous people of that sub-group?  Are we only representing one narrative of a group of people that live a myriad of narratives?  My own ignorance has often led to blunders, such as the one described here, but I can do better. I can make sure that the books I bring in lead to realizations and understanding about others, not more of the same.

So don’t just ask who is represented, but ask how are they represented?  How would I feel if my own children were represented in this way?

We ask ourselves; do we have #OwnVoices authors represented?

The #OwnVoices hashtag is one I have been paying attention to as I look at the diversity of our classroom library and even on my own reading experiences.  Started by Corinne Duyvis the hashtag focuses on recommending books written/illustrated “about marginalized groups of people by authors in those groups.”  That is why I know Google who the author is and what their background is as I decide on placing a book in the library.  That is why I read blogs like Disability in Kidlit  (soon to be shut down which breaks my heart), follow Reading While White which had an entire month dedicated to OwnVoices books,  and also try to educate myself on what is out there.  If we want true representation in our classrooms then we have to do the legwork to make sure all marginalized groups are represented in the books we share with students.

So don’t just ask do I have broad representation in characters, but ask do I have broad representation in authors/illustrators?

We ask ourselves; how are books highlighted and selected?

Gone are the days where I haphazardly selected books to put on display or book talk.  Now my displays and selection process takes a little bit more time; which books are put out to grab for students?  What do the covers look like?  Who are the stories representing?  I also do not “just” put African American books on display for February to celebrate Black history month, but have them out all of the time.  My students should be immersed in a diverse reading experience at all times, not just in carefully selected months.

So don’t just grab a few books to put out because they are new; grab books that will offer students a wide reading experience and will expose them to new authors/titles that will broaden their own world.  Do not reserve diverse texts for a few months but have them on display at all times.

While I have grown, I have a long way to go.  My wish-list of books right now are a few hundred titles deep, especially as I focus on the sub-groups that are severely underrepresented in our library.  I am still educating myself, seeking out new titles, and seeking out those that know more than me.  If you want to see books that are getting added to our classroom library, follow me on Instagram as I share all new titles there.

One picture book that I urging every one to read and buy is this one

when-we-were-alone

When We Were Alone by David A. Robertson and Julie Fleet.  

From Amazon:

When a young girl helps tend to her grandmother’s garden, she begins to notice things that make her curious. Why does her grandmother have long, braided hair and beautifully colored clothing? Why does she speak another language and spend so much time with her family? As she asks her grandmother about these things, she is told about life in a residential school a long time ago, where all of these things were taken away.

If you like what you read here, consider reading any of my books; the newest called Reimagining Literacy Through Global Collaboration, a how-to guide for those who would like infuse global collaboration into their curriculum, was just released.  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.  I am currently working on a new literacy book, called Passionate Readers and it will be published in the summer of 2017 by Routledge.  I also have a new book coming out December, 2017 .   Also, if you are wondering where I will be in the coming year or would like to have me speak, please see this page.

My Favorite Chapter Books of 2016

It is with great trepidation that I make this list.  Inevitably a book will be left off or I will somehow screw this up.  But…these books have shaped my year.  These books with their worlds, their heart, and their dreams have made me better.  Have offered me solace on long winter nights, have lulled me to sleep on airplanes and in hotel rooms.  When work has been too hard and life has been too busy, these books have kept me afloat.  So how can I not praise them?  (Thank you Goodreads).  While are new this year, some are not, but all were new to me.

Please read them.  Please love them.  Please share them with others.  After all, books may just be the very thing that brings us all together.

It is always exciting when I discover a new series and The Reader by Traci Chee did not disappoint.  While it took me a few days to read, my confusion was rewarded at the end when everything made sense and I was left with a longing to read on.  PG13 and up.

I had heard of Gene Luen Yang before he was chosen as National Book Ambassador but his new title led me to discover more of his work.  While I loved all of his that I read American Born Chinese was definitely my favorite.  This is a must add to any middle school classroom and up.

It is hard not to love Pax by Sara Pennypacker.  This book was the Global Read Aloud choice for elementary and up for 2016 and I still think it is one of the most powerful reads of the year.  This story of a fox and his boy will simply stay with you for a very long time.

I thought I knew a lot about hurricane Katrina but after reading Drowned City by Don Brown, I realized how little I actually knew.  Sparse, powerful, and haunting is the best way for me to describe this graphic novel nonfiction book.  Must add to middle school and up.

It is hard to not admire Kate Messner and her formidable brain, she epitomizes to me what it means to be creative.  I love her new series, Ranger in Time,  geared toward early readers and have brought the books in to my own 7th grade classroom as well.  What a wonderful way to discover history.

This was my very first read of the year and it was oh so good.  In fact, I think Shadow and Bone from Leigh Bardugo was the series feeling I chased all year.  Magic, action, love, this series has it all for our PG13  readers.

It is hard to describe the sadness that overcame me as I read the graphic novel Yummy – the Last Days of a Southside Shorty by G. Neri.  After all, this is the story of an actual child, this is the story of something that actually happened.  This is the story of a child who got so lost that he ended taking the life of another child and then losing his own.  PG13 and up.

I teach using the Notice and Note signposts, and a A Long Walk to Water by Linda Sue Park is one of the texts used.  I knew I had to read it when I saw how it captivated all of my students.  This story of the Lost Boys of Sudan is one that many students throughout the year has also gravitated toward.  This could be placed in the hands of the right 5th grader who was ready for it.

There is always something bittersweet when you realize a book you loved and booktalked is missing in your library.  This is the case of Nimona by Noelle Stevenson.  I loved it, I book talked it, someone snagged it to read and poof it has disappeared.  This is a graphic novel tale I will gladly re-order though.

I  wonder how many times I have booktalked Gym Candy by Carl Deuker this year?  This is the book I reach for when I am running out of options for my resistant readers.  This is the book that I found myself sucked into as I ignored my family on a beautiful Sunday afternoon.  This is one of those books that becomes a magic weapon when we try to help students love reading more.  PG13 and up.

With the 15th anniversary of 9/11 we saw a slew of powerful books being published about the events.  While I read almost all of the ones published, Eleven by Tom Rogers is still the book that for me captured the day in the most powerful way.  4th grade and up but my 7th graders devour it as well.

I came across Hex Hall by Rachel Hawkins as I booktalked poor covers.  My librarian told our class that while the cover might leave something t be desired, this was a really popular series.  I therefore promptly took t home to read it and boy was she right.  Love, action, magic, yes please.  Great middle school and up series.

Another fox book?  Yes please!  Maybe a Fox by Kathi Appelt and Alison McGhee is a powerful story of loss and discovery.  Of a family seemingly torn apart.  Of a fox that knows that it plays an important part in the healing.  This book is beautiful and for 4th grade and up.

This was the year i started to re-think my hatred of dog books and Maxi’s Secret by Lynn Plourde played a big part in that.  While yes the dog dies (it is told to us in the first chapter) this story is bigger than that of a dog.  It is about friendship, finding your place, and finding yourself.  4th grade and up.

 

I was told to read The Diabolic by S.J. Kincaid this summer by a friend because she thought  it would be one of those books that I could not wait to share.  She was right.  The Diabolic is a masterful piece of work; challenging science fiction that still is a page turner.  PG13 and up.

I don’t know how I missed A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness for so long but I am so glad that I now have many copies of it in my classroom library.  This is one of those books you hand to those kids that say that they don’t like reading much.  I, along with many students, are eagerly awaiting the movie adaptation that is coming out in January.  Middle school and up.

Another book recommended to me by a trusted friend was Lily and Dunkin by Donna Gephart.  This book is needed in our libraries, especially as we focus on creating windows, mirrors, and doors into the lives of others.  Middle school and up.

I love complex fantasy, ones that have deep story lines where I need to find the time to fall into its pages and forget about life for a while.  Kelly Barnhill’s The Girl Who Drank the Moon is just the right kind of fantasy book.  Beautiful language and a story line that mesmerizes, I am glad this now a part of our library.  4th or 5th grade and up.

How amazing of a storyteller is Kate Messner?  I loved The Seventh Wishso much that it got it’s own stand alone review on this blog, and I stand by those words.  This book belongs in our classrooms, in our libraries, and yes even with elementary children.

Hands down one of the best non-fiction autobiographies I have ever read.  Melissa Sweet’s Some Writer! about E.B. White is a masterpiece in visual layout as well as text.  I have ordered another copy to house permanently in my classroom and will be using it to teach writer’s craft.  I cannot wait for children to fall into the delight of these pages and to be inspired to write more themselves.

I have loved the genius of Jenni Holm for a few years now and her new book Full of Beans is a delight.  This is one of those perfect books that will make for a great read aloud, especially in our 4th and 5th grade classrooms.  This is also a Global Read Aloud  contender for 2017.

I started my summer with The Best Man by Richard Peck.  Spurred on by my friends’ love of this book and by the sad fact that I had never read a Richard Peck book before, I was glad to start the summer with this one.  I was delighted, surprised, and ever so wonderfully tangled into the story and have loved booktalking it to students.  This one is great for middle school and up, or even a 5th grader.

 

How I have managed to go these years without falling in love with The Raven Boys series by Maggie Stiefwater I am not sure.  This has been one of my most recommended books this summer because I dropped everything just to read this whole series in a week.  Now that that the whole series is out there is no reason to wait to get this for your classroom library, I would recommend middle school and up.

The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner is still one of the best books I have read all year. This is the book I hope most of my students discover.  This is the book I keep recommending.  A masterpiece in story-telling that I could not put down and neither could those I have handed it too.  This debut author has taken everything that is right about a great YA and put it into a book.  I cannot wait for his next book.

 

I was handed Fenway and Hattie by the author herself, Victoria J. Coe, and read it the very next day. Delightful, fun, and imaginative I have recommended this book to many people since.  I love how Victoria Coe writes it from the perspective of a dog and will be using this to show perspective writing with my 7th graders.  While this is geared toward a younger audience, I think some of my 7th graders will enjoy it as much as I have.  This is also a contender for Global Read Aloud 2017.

Loving Vs. Virginia by Patricia Hruby Powell and illustrated by Shadra Strickland is a must add to your library.  This text sheds light on the landmark case of marriage equality and is riveting in how it unfolds.  You fall in love with the Lovings and their simple fight to simply be allowed to be married.  (Note: Available for pre-order now).

What an incredible book Wolf Hollow by Lauren Wolk is.  In fact, I would be surprised if we did not see this book receive awards later this year.  Unlike anything I have read in a long time, Wolf Hollow draws you into a world that speaks of simpler times and yet the story unravels in a way you would not expect.  From 4th grade and up, this book is also a must add in middle school.

I loved the scary tale and the beautiful language of The Jumbies by Tracey Baptiste. I rooted for the main character Corinne as she fights for her father and the rest of her island, protecting them from the supernatural beings that live in the forest.  For kids that love a great scary story, I cannot wait to book talk this, and even better; there is a sequel coming.

I had the incredible honor of seeing Erin Downing, the author of Moon ShadowMoon Shadow, at NCTE.  This book is a must read in 2017 (our in May!).  With its creepy yet deep story, it promises to be a book that many middle grade kids will want to read, discuss, and share.

Piecing Me Together by Renee Watson is the book I keep telling people to read, keep telling people to pre-order (out in February).  This powerful story is one that simply needs to be experienced and then placed in the hands of our middle schools and up.  Powerful, eye opening, and also just a great example of wonderful story telling.

The Wolf Wilder by Katherine Rundell is a book I didn’t expect to love as much as I did.  I had heard from others that it was a great title and yet whenever I picked it up, I just didn’t quite fall into the appeal of it.  Its tale of honor, family, and yes, wolves left me mesmerized from page 1.  This is the best of books; nature and survival, historical fiction and fast paced adventure.  This is a must for 4th grade and up.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One of these days I might write an entire post about how much I admire the talent and work of Jacqueline Woodson.  The conversations she invites us to have in our classrooms are profound and I am so thankful I finally discovered her book If You Come Softly.  While the story is set in high school it is not high school langue which makes it even more accessible to many students.  This book about race and love and growing up is one I won’t forget.  I also read, and loved, Behind You, the follow up novel.

I cannot imagine the painstaking work it must have been for Allan Wolf to write The Watch that Ends the Night.  This is the Titanic story like I had never experienced it before.  Middle school and up.

Can Jennifer A. Nielsen do no wrong?  She once again had me hooked from the early pages of The Scourge, what a great story of mystery, survival, and also devious means to fight back.  4th or 5th grade and up.

I am not sure I have enough words to publicly declare how much I love the brain of Dav Pilkey and his new series Dog Man.  This one book has completely transformed my daughter’s life, who is 7, but is equally loved by my 7th graders.  This is what great books are made of.

Another book I was surprised I had missed until now.  Home of the Brave by Katherine Applegate is her other master piece.  This book with its free verse formand heart wrenching story is everything great books are made of.  This is also GRA contender for 2017.

I don’t know how Jason Reynolds manages to crank one book out after another but I am thankful that he does.  His latest book Ghost is the beginning of a series, thank you!  It is a Global Read Aloud Contender, and it is oh so good for middle grade and up.

I finally settled into my new reading chair and fell in love with The Wild Robot by Peter Brown.  It is always such a delight when simple language brings us deep reading experiences.  This is also one of those books that I know I can hand to many kids and they can have a successful reading experience with it.  4th grade and up,  but 7th graders love it too.

I always have room for a great creepy book and Janet Fox’s new book, The Charmed Children of Rookskill Castle, is just that.  Mysterious, creepy, and suspenseful will keep readers tuned in from 5th grade and up.

I tend to steer away from WWII books simply because I have oversaturated myself in the genre, but for The Plot to Kill Hitler by Patricia McCormick, I knew I would make an exception.  What is crazy about this story is that it is true, and also one I had not heard of before.  This was book-talked once in my classroom and I have not seen it since. Perfect for middle grades and up.

I think My Lady Jane by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and JodI Meadows is one of those books where you either love it or hate it.  I loved it with a capital l.  This felt fresh, funny, and of course I had to read just one more page to see what would happen.  Perfect for middle school and up.

I can be very hit or miss when it comes to historical fiction, I feel that I either love it or really do not like it.  The Many Reflections of Miss Jane Deming by J. Anderson  Coats is a book that I loved reading.  I loved the can-do attitude of or female protagonist and also how it provided me with a glimpse into the settler time period.  This gem comes out at the end of February and is not to be missed for middle grade and up.

Argh, cancer books.  I am terrible with you and yet I also feel myself drawn to their pages.  Love, Ish the new book by Karen Rivers is one that will take you for a ride whether you wanted it to or not.  Powerful storytelling brings us right there with Ish.  Out on my birthday, March 14th, this is a great book for middle grades and up.

There were so many other books that I loved this year but I tried to stick to a little bit of a shorter list.  To see all of the books I read and rate follow me on Instagram or on Goodreads.  Which books did I miss?

Win A Copy of My New Book!

Thank you to all of those who entered, the contest is now closed.  Both winners were randomly selected by a number generator.  Congratulations to the two winners!  To purchase a copy of the book, please see here.

For the past year I have been sitting behind my computer most nights trying to figure out how to put into words the work we do in our classroom while writing two separate books.  Trying to figure out how I can help others go deeper with their literacy instruction, even within the 45 minute English classroom.   Trying to figure out how others could incorporate more global collaboration into their literacy instruction without it feeling like just one more thing to do.  Trying to figure out how to make the literacy instruction we all do more meaningful, more passionate, more connected.  There have been great nights and there have been early mornings.  There have been days when I have felt like the biggest fraud, imposter syndrome for the win, and others where I finally felt like what I had to write might actually be meaningful to someone else.

The past year has been grueling, but oh so incredible, and now I get to celebrate the first release of one of those books; Reimagining Literacy through Global Collaboration.   This how-to book is meant to help those that are new to global collaboration or have been dipping their toes in  for the past few years.  It is meant to inspire, meant to give you the why, and meant to help you create more meaningful literacy opportunities for your students.  It is meant to give you a glimpse into our classroom as we try to make the world smaller, kinder, and the work we do more relevant all in less than 80 pages.

new-cover

The official description says:

Prepare your students to adapt and thrive in the world beyond their classroom. This how-to guide offers strategies for how to establish classrooms that give students globally connected literacy experiences. Learn why students must create school projects aimed at an authentic audience beyond school walls, and plan for more purposeful opportunities for students to engage with what they learn and create. You’ll discover how to use readily available technology tools to create environments where students gain 21st century skills, collaborate with others around the globe, and realize that their work matters.

Enter to win:

So in order to celebrate the impending release of this book, I thought I would give away two copies of it.  It should be out within the next first few weeks so before Christmas and you will receive you copy right from Amazon.

All you have to do to enter is to write a comment below, make sure you enter your email address in the field where it asks for it so I can contact you if you win.  I will draw two randomly selected winners after Friday night, December 9th at 8 PM.

To order the book yourself:

While Amazon says it will not be released until January, Solution Tree says otherwise.  So if you would like to order your own copy of the book, please go here.

What is my other book?

I am currently working on a new literacy book.  The book, which I am still writing, is tentatively Passionate Readers and will be published in the summer of 2017 by Routledge.  It is the tale of how I changed my literacy instruction to create passionate readers even within the 45 minute English classroom.  It is the wisdom of my amazing 7th graders and what they wish all teachers of reading would know and do.  It is how we can bring our own reading identity in and let it help us become better teachers of reading.  It is a book filled with the practical, the inspirational, and the tools we need to hopefully help our students embrace reading as part of their identity.

 If you like what you read here, consider reading my 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.

 

 

Great Picture Books to Teach Plot

While I continue to update the other lists I have compiled of amazing picture books, a teacher asked me if I have any suggestions for teaching plot.  Well, of course I do.  I am so thankful once again to the amazing authors and illustrators that give us these incredible books to teach pretty much everything we need to in our literacy classes.

The Bear and the Piano by David Lichtfield is a book I use for plot and for theme.

Plot description:

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 . . .
Across the Alley by Richard Michelson and E.B. Lewis is ten years old but still very relevant.  This is also a great book to add to your social justice curriculum.
Plot description:
Abe and Willie live across the alley from each other. Willie is black and Abe is Jewish, and during the day, they don’t talk. But at night they open their windows and are best friends. Willie shows Abe how to throw a real big-league slider, and Abe gives Willie his violin to try out. Then one night, Abe’s grandfather catches them—will Abe and Willie have the courage to cross the alley and reveal their friendship during the day?
A Voyage in the Clouds by Matthew Olshan and Sophie Blackall is also on my Mock Caldecott watching list.
Plot description:
In the year and a half since the flight of the first manned balloon in 1783, an Italian has flown, a Scot has flown, a woman has flown, even a sheep has flown. But no one has flown from one country to another. John Jeffries, an Englishman, and his pilot, Jean-Pierre Blanchard, a Frenchman, want to be the first. On January 7, 1785, they set out to cross the English Channel to France in a balloon. All seemed to be going fine, until Jeffries decides the balloon looks too fat and adjusts the air valve―how hard could it be? Too bad he drops the wrench over the side of the aerial car. With no way to adjust the valve, the balloon begins to sink. Jeffries and Blanchard throw as much as they can overboard―until there is nothing left, not even their clothes. Luckily, they come up with a clever (and surprising) solution that saves the day.
Samson in the Snow by Phillip C. Stead is beautiful for many reasons.
Plot description:
One sunny day Samson, a large and friendly woolly mammoth, encounters a little red bird who is looking for yellow flowers for her mouse friend (whose favorite color is yellow). As she flies off with the flowers, Samson wonders what it must be like to have a friend. He wonders this for so long, in fact, that he falls asleep and wakes up to a world covered in snow. In the midst of a blizzard, Samson finds and shelters the little red bird and flower-loving mouse in a tender tale of kindness and unexpected friendship.
Du Iz Tak by Carson Ellis is also great for inferring.
Plot description:
Du iz tak? What is that? As a tiny shoot unfurls, two damselflies peer at it in wonder. When the plant grows taller and sprouts leaves, some young beetles arrive to gander, and soon—with the help of a pill bug named Icky—they wrangle a ladder and build a tree fort. But this is the wild world, after all, and something horrible is waiting to swoop down—booby voobeck!—only to be carried off in turn. Su! With exquisitely detailed illustrations and tragicomic flair, Carson Ellis invites readers to imagine the dramatic possibilities to be found in even the humblest backyard. Su!
A Bike Like Sergio’s by Maribeth Boelts and Noah Z. Jones is fantastic for theme as well.
Plot description:
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?
White Water by Michael S. Bandy, Eric Stein, and Shadra Strickland is another great book to discuss social justice.
Plot description:
It’s a scorching hot day, and going into town with Grandma is one of Michael’s favorite things. When the bus pulls up, they climb in and pay their fare, get out, walk to the back door, and climb in again. By the time they arrive in town, Michael’s throat is as dry as a bone, so he runs to the water fountain. But after a few sips, the warm, rusty water tastes bad. Why is the kid at the “Whites Only” fountain still drinking? Is his water clear and refreshingly cool? No matter how much trouble Michael might get into, he’s determined to find out for himself.
Also an Octopus by Maggie Tokuda-Hall and Benji Davies is one of the most perfect picture books for plots, this is the whole purpose of the book!
Plot description:
It begins with an octopus who plays the ukulele. Since this is a story, the octopus has to want something—maybe to travel to faraway galaxies in a totally awesome purple spaceship. Then the octopus sets out to build a spaceship out of soda cans, glue, umbrellas, glitter, and waffles. OK, maybe the octopus needs some help, like from an adorable bunny friend, and maybe that bunny turns out to be . . . a rocket scientist? (Probably not.) But could something even more amazing come to pass?
My Friend Maggie by Hannah Harrison is just a must-add in general, this picture book is great for theme, plot and just kindness overall.
Plot description:
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.

Another fantastic picture book to discuss problems and anxiety is Jack’s Worry from Sam Zuppardi.  I love the illustrations of how Jack’s worry follows him around and how he ends up solving it.  Many children would benefit from this book in their classrooms.

Plot description:
Jack loves playing the trumpet, and for weeks he’s been looking forward to taking part in his first concert. But on the morning of the big day, Jack finds he has a Worry. And his Worry starts to grow. Even when Jack’s mother calls him for a special breakfast, even when he hides under the bed or runs around the yard, his Worry follows him. Suddenly, when it’s almost time to leave for the concert, Jack finds it’s all too much. For anyone who’s ever been afraid of failing at something new, this book offers just what’s needed to shrink a Worry down to size.

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.

Plot description:

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?

To see a list of all of our favorite books for many different things, please go here.

Reimagining Literacy Through Global Collaboration

Since 2010, my students and I have been bringing the world in.  We have asked others to be our teachers, whether authors, experts, children.  We have asked others to share more of their world with us so that we could make more sense of our own.  We have created, we have become experts.  We have made the world smaller by becoming a moving piece of the world, and we have grown.  In our literacy collaborations and creations, we have become authors, poets, performers, and teachers.  We have become more than what we started as.

So when I was asked what I would propose to make school different, the answer came quickly; besides empowering students, I feel an urgent need to infuse global collaboration throughout our literacy instruction (or any subject matter for that sake).  That in a world that seems so divided at times, where we seem to be hellbent on finding each others differences and using them to distance ourselves, we need to actually know our similarities.  We need to bring the world in to make the world smaller, kinder, more empathetic.  Have students create so that they can become the person they envision rather than just pretend.

I have written this book three times over.  Starting over every single time because it was not good enough.  Within the span of sixty pages I get to plead my case for why doing global collaboration is an urgent endeavor.  For why it is easier than you think to bring the world in.  For why it should be at the top of our lists when we plan our literacy instruction. And the how.  How can you do it, what are ideas, what does it look like.  By opening up my own classroom practices, as well as other educators, I hope to inspire those that need ideas or a boost to jump in.   To create another consideration as we plan our school year and our learning adventures.  And now, it is ready for the world.  My newest book Reimagining Literacy Through Global Collaboration is out for pre-order with a birthdate of January 20th, 2017.  I cannot believe it is almost here.

cover

I hope you find it useful, that is truly my biggest dream for this book.  That you will learn something, that it will inspire you to try and to change in ways that are meaningful to you.  It may have been a long process to write this book, sometimes that is how it goes, but the words are genuine.  We need to create classrooms where students learn with others, for others, and through others.  And our literacy instruction time gives us the perfect conduit for just that.  Welcome to the world.

To see the book on Amazon, go here.To see the book on Amazon, go here.To see the book on Amazon, go here.

I am currently working on a new literacy book.  While the task is daunting and intimidating, it is incredible to once again get to share the phenomenal words of my students as they push me to be a better teacher.  The book, which I am still writing, is tentatively Passionate Readers and will be published in the summer of 2017 by Routledge.  So until then if you like what you read here, consider reading my 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.

 

If Not Us, Then Who?

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When I was 17 years old, my history teacher pulled me aside and told me tone it down.  “It” being my opinion in case it intimidated others.  “It” being speaking my mind because sometimes I would come across so forceful that others did not want to engage.  So I stopped speaking in his class.  I stopped jumping in, afraid that I was going to rock the boat or upset the other students.  I knew I had opinions, but I didn’t want to be known as someone who did not make room for others.

A long time ago I decided that staying quiet would not get me anywhere.  That hoping that someone would understand what I needed without me actually speaking up was a delusion.  That I could no longer wait until someone spoke the words that burned within me so I could quote them and pretend I hadn’t thought the exact same thing.  I started writing, speaking, and teaching as the whole me, rather than the 17 year old girl who had been told to tone it down.  It has been quite a journey since then.

As educators we speak up all of the time.  We speak up for ourselves when changes need to be made in our schools.  We speak up for our students when they need us to advocate.  We speak up for our own needs and hopefully for the needs of our students.  We speak up when we see injustices that need to be righted, when our teacher stares are not enough.

So I think it is time for us to speak up and let our voices be heard because when I look at my classroom library, when I really study the books I am able to put in the hands of my students, I cannot help but wonder; where are the books from non-white authors?  Where are the picture books that center around kids that are going about their every day life that look like some of my students?  Where are the holiday books, the birthday books, the first day of school books, the books that share small slices of life that have characters that are not white?

While I buy the ones that I know of thanks to blogs like Reading While White, We Need Diverse Books, and the Nerdy Book Club, I am constantly reminded of how few there are out there for us to purchase.    When I receive a package of books I am constantly reminded of how often the kids in the books look just like my own kids in all of their whiteness.  How my kids must take it for granted that, of course, the books they read have people in them that look like them.  That I do not have to scour the internet to find books that remind them of themselves because those are the majority of books out there.   That in book upon book being white as a character is the standard not the exception.

We need diverse books.  We need own voices books.  We need more than what is out there and so we need to raise our voices.  There will be no change if we do not say loudly; “This is not enough.  This is not ok.”

So as educators we can speak up.  We can reach out and demand better.  We can spend our precious budgets on books that do not just offer up more white narratives, but actually mirror the diversity that we are surrounded by.  We can tell publishers that we need books that show all of the kids we teach.  We need books about Native American written by Native American, or other #OwnVoices authors.  We need books that go beyond the standard stories being shared so that when all of my students open up a book they can find a character that looks like them.  Or when my own white children read a book, they will see a character that does not look like them and understand that that too is the norm.

For too many years we have waited for publishers to notice the major gap that has been created, and while changes are under way, the process won’t speed up until we speak up.  So use your voice, use your connections, use your money to show the world that when we echo that “We need diverse books!” it is not just because it is a catchy phrase, but is the truth.

I am currently working on a new literacy book.  While the task is daunting and intimidating, it is incredible to once again get to share the phenomenal words of my students as they push me to be a better teacher.  The book, which I am still writing, is tentatively Passionate Readers and will be published in the summer of 2017 by Routledge.  So until then if you like what you read here, consider reading my 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.