being a teacher, books, Reading

Some Favorite Graphic Novels to Add to Your Middle School Collection

If you follow me on any social media platform, you hopefully know how much I love to share amazing book titles. For many years now, I have used this blog and other places to give recommendations, create book sets and lists and just in general share the love for all of the amazing books that are out there in the world. Doing this means that a lot of other educators ask me to share ideas for when they are filling their own classroom collections. This week, I was asked to share some of our favorite graphic novels for middle school, a format of books that my students and I love to read and thus have a lot of, so here you are. This list is by no means all of them, there are too many to share, but instead a snapshot of some of the most popular titles being read.

Some of the titles shared here are more mature reads for my 7th graders so as always read the books that you wonder about before placing them in your collection. Many of the ones shown here are books in a series and I would recommend the whole series.

Amazon.com: They Called Us Enemy (9781603094504): Takei, George, Eisinger,  Justin, Scott, Steven, Becker, Harmony: Books
Real Friends (Friends, 1): Hale, Shannon, Pham, LeUyen: 9781626727854:  Amazon.com: Books
Science Comics: The Digestive System: A Tour Through Your Guts: Viola,  Jason, Ristaino, Andy: 9781250204059: Amazon.com: Books
Displacement | Kiku Hughes | Macmillan
The City of Ember: The Graphic Novel: Middaugh, Dallas, DuPrau, Jeanne,  Asker, Niklas: 9780375867934: Amazon.com: Books
The Crossover (Graphic Novel) (The Crossover Series): Alexander, Kwame,  Anyabwile, Dawud: 9781328960016: Amazon.com: Books
Long Way Down: The Graphic Novel by Jason Reynolds, Danica Novgorodoff,  Hardcover | Barnes & Noble®
Amazon.com: Hey, Kiddo (National Book Award Finalist) (9780545902489):  Krosoczka, Jarrett J.: BooksAmazon.com: Yummy: The Last Days of a Southside Shorty (9781584302674): G.  Neri, Randy Duburke: BooksI Survived The Sinking of the Titanic, 1912 (I Survived Graphic Novels):  Tarshis, Lauren, Haus Studio: 9781338120912: Amazon.com: BooksSuper Indian Volume One: Arigon Starr, Janet Miner, Arigon Starr:  9789870985952: Amazon.com: BooksAmazon.com: The Pact (Volume 4) (7 Generations) (9781553792307): Robertson,  David A., Henderson, Scott B.: BooksDavid A. Robertson | CBC BooksDavid A. Robertson | CBC BooksAmazon.com: Ms. Marvel Vol. 1: No Normal (Ms. Marvel Series) eBook: Wilson,  G. Willow, Pichelli, Sara, Alphona, Adrian: Kindle StoreTeen Titans: Raven by Kami Garcia, Gabriel Picolo, Paperback | Barnes &  Noble®March: Book One: John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, Nate Powell: 9781603093002:  Amazon.com: Books
best graphic novels for middle schoolbest middle-grade graphic novelsHilo Book 1: The Boy Who Crashed to Earth: Winick, Judd: 9780385386173:  Amazon.com: BooksAmazon.com: Last Pick (9781626728905): Walz, Jason: Booksbest graphic novels for middle school
best graphic novels for middle school
best graphic novels for middle schoolbest graphic novels for middle schoolreal friends - shannon hale - best middle-grade graphic novels
best Middle-grade Graphic Novels
best graphic novels for middle schoolbest graphic novels for middle schoolbest middle-grade graphic novels
best graphic novels for middle school
best middle-grade graphic novelsbest graphic novels for middle schoolsmile - raina telgemeier - best graphic novels for tweens
GO WITH THE FLOW
TWINS
ALL TOGETHER NOW
WHEN STARS ARE SCATTERED
Witches of Brooklyn: Escabasse, Sophie: 9780593119273: Amazon.com: BooksBabymouse #19: Bad Babysitter by Jennifer L. Holm, Matthew Holm:  9780307931627 | PenguinRandomHouse.com: BooksThe Witch Boy: Ostertag, Molly Knox: 9781338089516: Amazon.com: BooksGreen Lantern: Legacy: Le, Minh, Tong, Andie: 9781401283551: Amazon.com:  BooksAmazon.com: Miles Morales: Ultimate Spider-Man Ultimate Collection Book 1  (Ultimate Spider-Man (Graphic Novels)) (9780785197782): Bendis, Brian  Michael, Pichelli, Sara, Samnee, Chris, Marquez, David: BooksThe Stonekeeper (Amulet #1) (1): Kibuishi, Kazu, Kibuishi, Kazu:  0000439846811: Amazon.com: Books

For ease, I have also gathered a shopping list on Bookshop.org – a great website that funnels its orders through independent bookstores.

I hope you discovered some new or not so new graphic novels to add to your collection because remember, graphic novels are indeed real books and should be given the same respect as other books. And while I will gladly offer up suggestions for more, and will continue to share daily recommendations on Instagram, I will also give a few more tips…

  1. Always ask your students what books they wish you had. I have gaps in my classroom collection that I am not aware of because it is not a genre I prefer to read, thus asking my students helps me create a collection of books they would love to read helps me create better reading experiences for all of them.
  2. Read your own library collection. I can speak books with my students because I read a lot of the same books. I am continually in awe over the incredible books created in the world.
  3. Know and use resources that post critical reviews of childrens’ books. I am eternally grateful for the hard work of so many such as the staff at the CCBC, the people who run Latinx in Kidlit, or The Brown Book Shelf, or those who run We Need Diverse Books, and the amazing creators behind American Indians in Children’s Literature to name just a few.

I am excited to be heading out on the road again to be with other educators in-district or at conferences, while continuing my virtual consulting and speaking as well. If you would like me to be a part of your professional development, please reach out. I am here to help.

being a teacher, books, Reading, Reading Identity

On “Easy” Books…Again

When we tell a child that a book is Design

I have been thinking a lot about easy books. About our adult urges to steer kids into “better” books, harder books, away from all those easy books. Away from books with pictures, graphic novels, or topics we deem immature.

I have been thinking a lot about our well-meaning intentions and how they sometimes do damage that we are not even around to see because the real consequences of our gentle guidance actually steers a child away from reading altogether.

I have been thinking a lot about the collections of books we build, where our money is used, because often it is not so much into the books that kids actually want to read but the ones we hope they read. And how we then sometimes wonder why no one seems to want to read the books we have.

Why is it that we, the adults, who have the ability to shape the reading lives of our students into beautiful things sometimes get so lost in thinking of the future of our readers that we lose sight of the present? Don’t get me wrong, I want to do the best I can to create rich reading opportunities for all of my students but that also means that they need to want to read right now.

As so perhaps this reminder is more for myself as I feel the pressure to help these children grow as readers, perhaps this post is really just a re-commitment to the words I have spoken for so many years. Perhaps it is a reminder to the universe of what our gatekeeping of books can do for the lives of the readers we are entrusted with. Perhaps this is a reminder that when we decide that a child is reading too “easy” of books we are really dismissing the reading journey they are on. That in our quest to challenge our readers we sometimes lose sight of what they may need from their reading experiences right now, and that that perhaps is not harder vocabulary or more complex storylines but instead a chance to truly melt into a world and escape a little bit from the craziness of this one.

It is a question I am asked a lot when I coach and train other teachers; what about the kids who read books that are much too easy, how will we challenge them?  The problem is implied; easy books don’t offer up real growth opportunities.  Easy books don’t develop their skills.  Easy books don’t push them forward in the ever-present journey toward becoming a better reader. Easy books means that they will never perform in a way that our standardized tests want them to do. And I hear the worry, the concern for their readerly lives, I see that the question is not asked out of an urge for censorship but instead from a place of care.

But it seems as if, in our well-meaning intentions, that we have forgotten what a better reader really is.  A better reader is not just someone who can just tackle complex texts, who can comprehend at a deep level, who can answer the questions on the test to back up what we already knew.  While those are aspects, they are not the only thing that makes a child a better reader.

A better reader is someone who sees reading as valuable.  Who recognizes the need to read because they will feel less than if they don’t.  Who sees reading as a necessity to learning, for themselves and not just for others.  Who sees reading as a journey to be on, something worth investing in.  That a better reader is someone who will continue to come back to reading when they can, finding value within whatever materials they read in order to make their lives better in some way. A better reader is not just a child who reads hard texts, always pushing their skills, but also someone who commits to the very act of reading. And so I wonder; when we tell children not to read “easy” books, how much of their individual reading identity journey have we dismissed? And what becomes of the reader?

“Easy” books, whether they be graphic novels, illustrated books, books about “silly” topics, books below their actual comprehension skills, free verse, audio books, or even picture books, can get such a bad reputation in our schools.  As if those books are only allowed in the brief moment of time when they fit your exact level, whatever level means.  As if those books are only meant to be discovered when you have nothing else to read, when you actually are allowed to read for fun, rather than for skill.  As if those books are only relegated to a certain age, a certain stage in your readerly journey. and after that they should be put away, never to be revisited again.

Yet so often the books that others may judge as “too easy” for us are the books that make us readers. The ones where we finally feel comfortable, where reading is not hard work but something that we can do successfully. Are the books that keep us loving or liking reading.  That keeps us coming back.  Those books that we devour in one sitting because we must find out what happens next, aren’t those “easy” books for all of us?

So do we tell our students to embrace easy reading whenever they want to keep them loving reading?  Or do we push them so hard to develop their skills that their connection to reading breaks and then we wonder why reading becomes something just to do for school and tasks?

And yes, I teach that child that reads Diary of a Wimpy Kid every day, who is not sure of what else he can read that will make him love reading as much.  My job is not to tell him, “No, you cannot read that,” but instead to urge him to read more books in the series and to celebrate the reading that is happening. To recognize that this child has discovered a part of himself where he finds a purpose within the pages of this book and to help him find books that will offer up similar experiences.  Not to take away, but to recommend, while also protecting the fierce commitment that exists between a child and a favorite book.  To explore why that child loves this book so much and then help discover others like it.  To acknowledge the reading relationship that already exists and to build on that rather than breaking it apart at all costs because I know better.

Don’t all kids deserve to have their reading choices celebrated and held up as valuable choices no matter where they are on their journey?

I am not dismissing the need to challenge kids to read more, to read longer, to read more complex text, but we must be careful with how we present their reading choices, how we judge their reading choices.  We must make reading for enjoyment, whatever that means for a child, a central part of our teaching so that children can understand that reading for enjoyment is just as, if not more, important than reading for a skill.  And we must honor the choices that kids make to further this part of their journey. The research agrees, “…it was shown that those who graduate from programs that encourage self-selected reading, do not avoid literature of high quality…Children in a print-rich environment in which they are free to select their own reading do not stay with easy books.  They not only read more as they mature, but they also select, on their own, books that are harder to read and have more complicated plots.”(Krashen, Lee, and Lao – Comprehensible and Compelling, 2018).  So are we making room to embrace those books that happen to make our children, and adults, love reading?  Or do we only focus on those texts that will continue to challenge them in the ways we have deemed acceptable, to move their skills, unfocused on the other damage it may do?

Because when we tell a child that a book is too easy for them we are dismissing the very reading journey they are on. That book we called too easy may have been the first book they have ever wanted to read, it may be the first series they have wanted to complete, it may be a book that offers them an escape, it may be the first book they have connected with, that they have seen themselves in, or even one that they can fully read on their own.

While our job, as educators, is to develop children who can read, our job is also to support and develop children who want to read.  The two are not always taught together, or even considered, so it is up to us to make sure that when we plan for our reading experiences that “easy” books and anything else that may keep a child’s love of reading intact is not only welcomed but encouraged in our classrooms.  We must ensure that when we plan for reading instruction, that we plan for the protection of the love of reading. And that we stop calling books easy when what we really mean is enticing.

I am excited to be heading out on the road again to be with other educators in-district or at conferences, while continuing my virtual consulting and speaking as well. If you would like me to be a part of your professional development, please reach out. I am here to help.

being a student, being a teacher, books, Reading, Reading Identity

When They Abandon Book After Book After Book

When a child abandons one book after Design

“….well, I didn’t finish any books last year…”She turns to me and smiles.

“What do you mean?”  I ask, not sure I have heard her correctly, after all, I know what amazing work they do in 6th grade.

“….I just stopped reading them, I didn’t finish them.  I got bored…”

She puts the book down that she is abandoning and starts to look for a new one.

I love book abandonment.  It is something I preach should be a taught skill to all kids, a right even.  If you don’t like the book, don’t read it, it’s as simple as that when it comes to building a love of reading.  And yet, this year, we have been exposed to a new level of book abandonment.  A whole group of kids who never, according to their own recollection, finished a book of their own choosing last year.  Not one, not two kids, but many.  And they really don’t like reading. And the pandemic shutdown didn’t help their habits in any way.

Perhaps you have a group like this as well?

And it is not for lack of trying. Many of my students will pick up a book to try, some gladly, some more reluctantly, but many simply don’t find that right book. That book that transports them further into the pages than they have ever been. And I see it in my own reading habits that seem to have been altered by the pandemic. My attention span is shortened, my stamina for making it through slower part is nonexistent at times. I look at my own shelves and see more work rather than adventures waiting to happen. Books are no longer calling my name as loudly as my TV or gaming console.

So how do you re-establish, protect or create the joy of reading, when you really need students to experience a whole book from start to finish? When you know that somehow our readers need to stick with a book but you don’t want it to be out of force because that typically doesn’t change habits long-term but instead just cements the pre-existing tenuous relationship to reading?

In conferring with many of my students, the obvious place to start is their book selection process.  When I ask them how they find their next read, many of them confess to only doing a few things, mainly look at the cover and then start it.  They grab and go, often a new book every day or every couple of days. They go into it thinking that as long as they grab a book then that is all they need to do right now or that is all the have space for right now. And yet, in this hurried book shopping, often with pressure from the teachers in the room giving limited time comes one of our missed opportunities. When book shopping is not given enough time, the conversations that need to happen with our serial book abandoners have no room to take hold and grow. It doesn’t allow them to leisurely browse, to flip through the pages, to consider things like the length of the book, the font, the text size, whether it is a stand alone or a series. They haven’t reflected much on their likes or dislikes and what draws them into stay for longer periods of time. And so when their book shopping results in yet another less than stellar book, it just adds further proof to the notion that all books are boring, that reading sucks.

So reading identity is once again where we start.  How well do they know themselves as readers?  What do they like to read?  What is their reading pace?  What do they abandon?  Is there a pattern?  Are they aware of their own habits at all?  Have they had pleasurable reading experiences at any point? If yes, what was it? If no, why not? I start by interviewing them and taking notes, then I also have them reflect on themselves as readers and we track this information.  I also check in with them more, how are they doing with the book?  How are they liking it? Getting kids to recognize that book selection carries many components starts with a reflection of self and where they are on their journey.

Book selection comes next.  What are their book shopping habits?  We refer to the lesson we did at the beginning of the year and help them book shop.  Who are their book people?  How do they find books to read?  What are their preferences?  What is on their to-be-read list already?  How do they browse a book to try it on? Thinking of all of this can help them with their next selection. COVID has added an additional layer of complication to this and so we have been browsing books by me pulling them out and acting as concierge of sorts, spreading opened books out in the room so they can read the blurbs, see the font and text size, helping them glance without touching. Opening up our room to more book discussion and recognizing where everyone is on their journey. Slowing down and making space for all of this may seem like wasted time but it is exactly what needs to happen.

Track their abandonment.  While all students are expected to write down finished or abandoned titles, we are finding that many of our serial abandoners do not, so we will help them do that.  This is so they can start to see their own patterns; when did they abandon a book, why did they abandon it?  How far were they?  What type of book was it?  What strategies did they use before they abandoned it?   They can track this on this form or we can simply discuss when we have our reading conferences,  This is only something we will do with these serial abandoners, not students who abandon a book once in a while.  What can they discover about themselves as they look at this information?  I also know that some of our serial book abandoners are not on our radar yet, so this survey will help us identify them so we can help. We often then set goals together, if they are in a pattern to only give a book 20 pages then how long do they want to try this one. Looking at their own patterns and habits help them discover where they can tweak and try new things.

Teach them stamina strategies.  Many of our students give up on books the minute they slow down or “get boring” as they would say.  They don’t see the need for slower parts to keep the story going.  They also, often, miss the nuances of these “slower” parts and don’t see the importance of them.  So a few stamina strategies we will teach are asking why the story is slowing down and paying attention to what they have just figured out about the characters.  Another is to skim the “boring” parts for now so they can get back to the story.  While this is a not a long-term solution, it does help keep them in the book and hopefully also helps them see that the book does pick up again.  They can also switch the way they interact with the text, perhaps they can read these sections aloud, or listen to an audio version for those parts. I have also had kids successfully read two books at the same time, declaring that when one book got boring they simply switched to the other one. This ping-pong between books may seem counterproductive but for some of my most set in their ways abandoners, it changed their reading.

Realize we are in this for the long haul.  Too often our gut reaction is to restrict.  To select books for the students to read no matter what.  To set up rules where they are not allowed to abandon the next book they select or determine how many pages they mus read, and yet, I worry about the longevity of these solutions.  What are they really teaching?  So instead, we must dedicate the time and patience it takes to truly change these habits.  We surround students with incredible books, we book talk recommendations, we give them time to read, and we give them our attention.  We continue to let them choose even if we are wondering how developed their abilities to choose the correct book are.  Becoming a reader who reads for pleasure, or who at least can get through a book and not hate it, does not always happen quickly.  We have to remember this as we try to help students fundamentally change their habits with books.  Restricting them in order to help them stick with a book can end up doing more damage than good as students don’t get to experience the incredible satisfaction of having selected a book and then actually finishing it. And so realizing too that we may not see the fruits of the labor we invest into our students’ reading lives come to fruition is also part of the journey we need to be on. Because recognizing that when a child abandons book after book after book is not a weakness but rather an opportunity to study and reflect further on their journey as readers invites us into this work more delicately. It reminds us at the core that we all carry emotions within us when we read or not read and that for many what may seem as an easy decision or a cop out is instead a way to shield themselves from more negative experiences.

I know that this year, I will once again be transformed as a teacher, I already have been.  That these kids that I am lucky enough to teach will push me in ways I haven’t been pushed before.  My hope, what I really hope happens, is for every child to walk out of room 203 thinking; perhaps reading is not so bad after all.  Perhaps there are books in the world for me.  A small hope, but a necessary one.

I am excited to be heading out on the road again to be with other educators in-district or at conferences, while continuing my virtual consulting and speaking as well. If you would like me to be a part of your professional development, please reach out. I am here to help.

being a teacher, books, Reading, Reading Identity, student choice, Student dreams, student driven

Centering Reading Joy in the Virtual Classroom

Our class lists were released yesterday and with it came the excitement for the upcoming year. While it may not look anything like I have ever taught before, the year will still start, the 80 or so students will still arrive, and the work with kids will continue much like it has in other years.

This year rather than having a luxurious 5×90 minutes a week with every child, we are fully virtual for the first quarter at least, a decision I am inherently grateful for. That means that I will see my students 2×70 or 4×35 minutes depending on when I have them during the day. They will have 60-90 minutes of asynchronous work to do as well throughout the week. A huge reduction of time and thus also a huge need to really focus in on what we will do together, the learning journey we will be on. As I sat in a meeting with my fantastic colleagues last week, one thing immediately became clear, we all wanted to preserve independent reading during our live time, but not just that, we wanted to center it in reading joy.

But how do we do that when the students are not right there? When we don’t have the tool of proximity, body language, and being able to physically hand them a book? When the time is much shorter? When we can’t read the room or pull them in for a quick conference? When everything has to be pre-planned, pre-scheduled, and done from afar? Well, there is a way to do so.

We will center it in identity. I have written a lot about how (re)discovering and continuing the development of their reading identity is at the center of the work we do. With tools like our reading identity digital notebook which centers in discovery, goal setting, ad honest reflection, this is the work we do all year. That means that within the first week, our students will do their initial reading survey (slide 13 on) in order to establish a baseline for how they are starting and where they need to go. This also offers me a chance to get to know them and their journey up until now. I ask for their honesty but also know that some students rightfully so don’t trust me yet. After the survey, the very first reading conference we have discusses their answers and helps them evaluate the goal they have set. The survey offers me a place to start and a place for the students to reflect back upon as they grow.

We will center it in our reading rights. As a class, we will create our reading rights much like we have in the past, but instead of being able to post our reasons for why reading sucks or why it is magical, we will do it on Padlet. Students will then work in small breakout groups to notice patterns and decide what type of rights they would like to have as readers in our community. I know there are a few rights that they will have no matter what they come up with; they have the right to choose books that matter to them, they have the right to abandon any book, they have the right to do meaningful work, they have the right to read with others. Every year, the students create fantastic rights that create the foundation for our learning together, to read more about the process see this post.

We will center it in personal goal setting. For several years, I set all goals for students and then grew frustrated when there was no buy-in or little progress on the goal. Now, students set their own goals, determine steps for how they will reach them, and reflect at set times on their progress, fine-tuning what they need to work on and (hopefully) noticing their own progress and developments. (Slide 7 on). Diving into the 7th grade reading challenge and discussing what a goal may be beyond quantity has been instrumental to the work we do as it allows kids to see beyond the page number for worthwhile reading habits. Reading growth comes in many sizes and it is important that we acknowledge, protect, develop and praise that. To see more about our reading goal setting, read this post linked here.

We will center it in choice. Getting books in the hands of kids is at the forefront of our ELA departments mind and in collaboration with our incredible library staff, it will happen. We will book talk books during our live time; I do a quick read of the blurb and give my opinion encouraging kids to write down potential titles on their to-be-read lists. We also have static book recommendations as found in our class hub which is housed on our class website. Our librarian will also be booktalking and highlighting books. Students will be able to request books both from the library and from our classroom collection through a simple Google form (here is what mine looks like) and they will have the opportunity to be “surprised” – adding in additional books they may like with every pick up order. They will then have twice weekly pick-up times where books can be grabbed following safety guidelines. If a child cannot pick up the books, we will find a way to get them to them. Book access is paramount for all kids, no matter their access to transportation. For those looking to book browse and shop safely while in class, please see this post for ideas.

We will center it in time. Even though I will have less live time with students than normal, we will still spend time reading together. For the class that only has me for 35 minutes a day, it will be 10 minutes of uninterrupted reading time (mics off), for those with 70 min in a day, it will be 15-20 minutes. I will be working behind the scenes with kids who may not have books, don’t want to read etc during this time. I will say again; if we say we value reading as one of the biggest components of student growth then we have to spend time on it and not just assign it assuming it will happen. Of course, I will hope that the students will also read outside of class but recognize that for some that will simply not happen. The very least I then can do is make sure they have time to read with us when we are together.

We will center it in talk. Reading conferences usually happen when students are doing their independent reading and while that would still be super convenient to continue, I have a feeling that during that time there will be plenty of “in the moment” things to take care of. So instead, I will ask students to confer with me every two weeks where we will have a private ten minute conversation in regard to who they are as a reader and how their goal is progressing. Not only will it give me a glimpse into their reading life, but it will hopefully also serve as a way to get to know them better. Students will have a choice to do it virtually or via the phone, I wrote more about the set up and process here.

We will center it in read aloud. Using read alouds, picture books in particular, has long been a mainstay in our community. This year is no different as I kick off the year with a picture book read aloud, We Don’t Eat our Classmates by Ryan T. Higgins, as a way to dive into what we need to feel safe. I will read it live holding it up to the computer, but as the year progresses, I will scan the pages in so the students can see them in a slideshow while they listen to my voice read it live. Reading aloud bring joy, invites reflection, invites conversations, and offers us a springboard into topics that matter to us; identity, consent, fighting oppression, curiosity and many other aspects of the world. Sharing texts, whether short stories, long form, or picture books, allows us a shared language so we can speak books to one another.

We will center it in time. Building a community centered on reading joy takes time. For some kids they are already invested and ready, others will work on it all year. I know that this year presents additional obstacles that make the road seem even longer, the climb even steeper, yet I can honor every child’s journey by giving them all year to grow. By getting them books. By helping them discover personal value in reading beyond what the teacher asked them to do. I can center our practice in what we know is good for children; choice, time, meaningful work, skill development, community, and access.

We will center it in acceptance and celebration. Our students come to us with so many different emotions tied to reading. I will not help them if all they feel is judged within our virtual walls. I will not help them if I determine their path or tell them how to be a reader. Instead, I can create a space where kids feel that wherever they are on their journey is okay, that however they feel is okay. We will do meaningful work together, we will share read alouds, we will speak about what it personally means to be a reader and develop the skills we need to be stronger readers. We will use reading as a tool of transportation, as a tool of growth, not just in the skills we develop but also in how we view the world. There is room for every child’s reading journey on this mission, there is no one size fits all approach needed.

I know it can be tempting to create a lot of accountability measures in this virtual/hybrid Covid-19 teaching time. I know that it may seem like no big deal if we have kids log every minute, every page. If we ask for adult signatures to prove that they are, indeed, reading like they say they are. If we tell them all to read the same book over and over in order to create classroom conversation. If we ask them to write a short summary, do a small recording, take a quiz every time they finish a book. But what may seem insignificant quickly becomes a potentially damaging requirement. Writing one small summary about a book does not do a lot of harm but having to repeat the process every time one finishes a book can quickly lead to disdain for the reading process itself. Asking kids to log often leads to kids only doing the bare minimum rather than paying attention to when they have the capacity to read longer or the desire to. Asking kids to only read the same books does little to develop their independent reading identity and often makes them liars. The short-term gains from many of these accountability measures are not worth the long-term damage. So rather than focus on the quick accountability tools, take the time to really build the community. To invite the students into the governing decisions. To take stock and change course when it doesn’t work. To continually keep the dialogue open. And to give yourself grace as well. This year for many is not what we had hoped it would be. For many of us we are in entirely new territory. But we got this. We will do our best and then we will return the next day and try again. We don’t need to have all the answers just an idea of where to start.

Building reading joy is possible in virtual teaching, it may just look a little bit different than it has in the past and if there is one thing I know we educators are good at, it is embracing change and making it work. So one step at a time, we got this.

If your district or conference are interested in bringing me in virtually or live throughout the school year, please see information here. I have been supporting teachers remotely and in-person as they plan for meaningful literacy instruction in an in-person, virtual or hybrid model throughout the years and would love to help others as well.

books, Literacy, new year, Reading

Book Shopping and Handling Books in Our Classrooms During Covid-19 – A Few Ideas

If there is one thing that is considered the cornerstone tool of what I do with students it is the sharing of the books that we read throughout the year. Our classroom and school library collection is vast, it is varied, it is inclusive, and it is always a work in progress. For many years the books that we read are what brings us together, what centers all of the work we do within our reading identity and the time we spend on independent reading is what students tell me year after year makes the biggest difference in their own reading lives. I spend a lot of time watching kids and how they handle their books; do they dive right in, eagerly open up the book when it is time to read? Do they hesitate? Do they ignore my request to find a book altogether? Do they avoid touching books at all costs? How a child handles a book will often give us great insight into how they feel about reading. That is something that e-books and audio, while both amazing, simply doesn’t provide us in the same way.

We know that COVID-19 is cruel in many facets. We know more about the potentiality of spread and the risk of exposure due to the diligent research happening globally. What we know today may be further refined tomorrow and so this post is not meant as a guidelines post, but rather as an idea post, ultimately, whatever guidelines we are handed from districts or other governing policies trump any ideas. There are ways to still have kids book shop and browse books, there are ideas we can implement to keep them safe. We know that COVID-19 lands on surfaces including paper but the CDC has told us, “Children’s books, like other paper-based materials such as mail or envelopes, are not considered a high risk for transmission and do not need additional cleaning or disinfection procedures.” (CDC, Apr 21, 2020). However, a new study says that some print materials such as board books need at least 96 hours of quarantine.

I am not as worried about kids getting exposure by touching a book briefly and then another child touching it, at least not if I read what the CDC has to say about it: There is still a lot that is unknown about COVID-19 and how it spreads. Coronaviruses are thought to be spread most often by respiratory droplets. Although the virus can survive for a short period on some surfaces, it is unlikely to be spread from domestic or international mail, products or packaging. However, it may be possible that people can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes, but this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads...but more about the social proximity that tends to come when we book shop and such which can lend to increased exposure. While all people in our school are required to wear a mask if/when we open, I still want to minimize risks as much as possible. So how can we still have kids book shop and browse books without increasing their exposure risk, because surely, telling teachers and librarians to close their book access and solely focus on digital is not the only solution. And neither is going crazy with ideas without knowing the risks.

So I wanted to share few ideas but also direct you toward ALA’s guidelines (some of them are from the spring and the guidelines may have changed since then.)

My own ideas for my classroom collection include:

A quarantine space for books that have been handled. If I am teaching in a hybrid fashion, I will have three classes a day with the the same kids for two days, then a different cohort with also three classes another two days (Online will not be with live, they will be in a separate cohort – so some kids will start with me at the the beginning of week and the other cohort will end with me live. So cohort A: Live M + T, Virtual W + R + F, Cohort B: Virtual: M + T + W, Live: R + F, it’s a lot to navigate. I plan on having a basket for kids to place books they have touched into and then removing them from the room with gloves if I can get some. Then books will be left to wait it out for at least 96 hours before being placed back in our collection.

A highly requested and read book cart. The titles that tend to fly off the shelves, like the ones listed here, will be on a separate cart so that kids don’t have to dig through anything to get them. I will have some form of electronic synopsis available for kids to browse through in our Google Classroom so they can read the blurb and not handle the book. They can then grab the book they would like when they have found one to try. I can also be the one handling the book and act as curator when we are bookshopping.

Touchless browsing. Another idea I have is to grab collections of books and leave them out with the back or blurb facing up. Kids will be encouraged to write down potential titles on their to-be-read list and then check out a few books to try. When they leave us for the week, they should bring the books home to try as part of their online learning.

Lysol and Clorox browsing. Every students browses books with disinfectant wipes in hand. If they touch a book and they end up not grabbing it, it gets wiped down by them right after and then handed to me to be set aside. Books should be cleaned if dirty and then disinfected. (Do at your own risk, me wiping down a book once in a while in my classroom is not the same as a book in a school or public library being wiped down all of the time).

Electronic browsing. I don’t have a digital library collection of titles but will start working on one for the coming year, that way students can browse through titles we have in our classroom and put in a request through a google form for a book they would like. I may even just do this in Google Slides. While I am not going to do anything super fancy, I know there are fancy ways to do this.

Video book talks. There are many already made and to be found on Youtube which will help me speed up the processing time, but I also want to start recording electronic book talks to have for throughout the year. Besides, we all do book talks differently and I want to use them as another way for students to create connection to our community. This approach not only allows me to curate a collection that I can use year after year if I want, it helps me audit what I am book talking since I will be pulling specific book stacks to use. I am allowed into my classroom right now for the sole purpose of grabbing books and I will be grabbing as many inclusive titles as I can to use.

A video tour of our library. I will be recording a tour of our classroom library when I head in so kids can see different genres available, how it is organized, and also just get ready for using it at some point. This will be part of their online learning so they are preloaded with some info before they are in the classroom. That way I can also pull out books to show, showcase how things are shelved, and build some book excitement.

If we are fully online, I am hoping to set up some sort of concierge service to drop off sanitized books for kids. Much like librarians have done throughout the country, kids would be able to request books and then have them placed in quarantine for a drop off or pick up. In the spring we were not able to get into our schools which greatly limited physical book access for all of us. We were able to get some books in the hands of kids who had none through a google from and mailoing but it was nowhere enough to what we would have liked to see. We know book access in a major inequity and so my district right now is also discussing ways to get physical books to all kids and not just e-books.

Also, I am hoping to drop a book off to each student as we begin the year if we start online. I would choose selections from Books4School under $3 each and then drop them off when we do our scheduled “yard visits.”

I asked on twitter what other people were doing and was once again deluged with wonderful ideas, thank you to everyone who shared!

Link to Jill’s playlist
Link to Demco blog
Link to BookDash

While we wait for districts to release our fall plans, I know we will find a way to get books in the hands of kids. We have to so feel free to share more resources and ideas in the comments.

Also, if your district or conference are interested in bringing me in virtually throughout the school year, please see information here. I have been supporting teachers remotely as they plan for meaningful literacy instruction in a virtual and hybrid model throughout the summer and would love to help others as well.

being a teacher, books, Literacy, new year, Reading, Reading Identity

But They Still Hate Reading: Establishing and Cultivating a Personal Reading Identity – A New Free Masterclass Offering

Note: the link now works to register, hooray!

As summer continues here in the Northern Hemisphere, I am excited to move into my next free Masterclass focusing on developing and supporting an individual student reading identity. This is the work I have been invested in with my students for the past six years in particular and I am so excited to offer others a deep dive into all of the components that we integrate into the curriculum as we try to create and maintain experiences that center on the individual student’s journey in reading. These sessions will be live as well as recorded for later access if the times do not work for you.

This masterclass is in 4 parts:

July 8th at 11 AM PST – Passionate Readers: The Art of Reaching and Engaging Every Child.

This first 1-hour session is focused on the birdseye view of the entire year, the research behind why student identity needs to be at the core of our work as well as practical ways to start or continue the focus on reading identity. This will also focus on how to do an all-district or school reading audit and how we can align practices better so that students are not victims of an educational lottery where some get access to meaningful reading experiences that center on personal reading, and others do not.

July 15th 1:30 PM PST – But They Still Hate Reading: Establishing and Cultivating a Personal Reading Identity- Part 1.

July 22nd 11 AM PST – But They Still Hate Reading: Establishing and Cultivating a Personal Reading Identity- Part 2

July 29th 11 AM PST – But They Still Hate Reading: Establishing and Cultivating a Personal Reading Identity- Part 3.

These three parts will focus on all of the components that make up our year together: Creating and maintaining an inclusive book collection, supporting independent and joyful reading, reflection and goal setting throughout, scaffolds and supports we can use to help kids whose reading experiences have been negative, using book clubs as a meaningful way to discuss the world, individual reading challenges, and of course, how to help students find space for reading in their life outside of school. The three sessions will take place on the following dates. This is an invitation into the work I do behind the scenes, the work my students take on, as well as planning for a virtual or hybrid school start.

While the sessions will take on the form of presentations, there will be office hours to go along with them. These office hours are meant for questions, discussion, resource sharing, as well as anything else related to the sessions. These are also free, but not recorded.

Office Hour July 12th – 8 AM PST

Office Hour July 19th – 8 AM PST

Office Hour July 26th – 8 AM PST

Office Hour July 29th – 7 PM PST

I hope that these free PD offerings will be helpful to you. To sign up, please click on the link embedded in this sentence and you can sign up

The final masterclass after this one will be embedding authentic choice and voice as we start the year together with students. It will be focused on all of the things I am trying to wrap my head around as we prepare for our new year together. The information for those can also be seen on the website and sign up will be open soon.

Also, if your district or conference are interested in bringing me in virtually throughout the school year, please see information here. I have been supporting teachers remotely as they plan for meaningful literacy instruction in a virtual and hybrid model throughout the summer and would love to help others as well.