Some Small Ideas to Help Students Self-Select Books Better

I was asked this morning on Twitter how we move students beyond wanting hand-picked recommendations every time they book shop.  How do they move beyond needing someone, typically, the adult or trusted reading role model to help them find the next book to read?

The truth is there is no simple answer, however, there are things that we can do starting on our very first day that starts this process of independent book selection that will last beyond our classroom experience.  And while it certainly starts on the first day of school, there is no “too late” for this to be implemented.  These ideas make a difference no matter when, so it is not too late (nor too early) to start working toward student independence in self-selecting texts.  So where do we start?

We build our libraries, both whole school and classroom libraries. 

In fact, we need to become advocates for our school library and our certified librarians to make sure that everyone knows just how much they matter to our school and to our reading lives.  (If you need to see research on the importance of school librarians, here is a great place to start).  And then we build our own classroom libraries as well, filling them with a wide representation of topics, readability and format that fits all of our readers and not just a few.

In fact, we must bring classroom libraries into every classroom so that children can see that reading is something that can happen in any subject area and not just English.  While supporting classroom libraries and school libraries may seem costly, they make a difference, in fact, Morrow and Neumann both report that children read 50-60% more in classrooms with libraries in them than those without.  And we must think of the books that we surround our students with asking ourselves not just WHO is represented, but HOW are they represented and also who is NOT represented?  Students must be able to find themselves but also see others in the very books we place in front of them.

We carefully craft our book displays.

I was at my public library yesterday, a beautiful building that has a dedicated library staff, and yet their teen section is bland and boring.  Every time I go there, I wonder why?  Why not pull books and put them on display?  Why not use the power of visual representation to pull our readers in?  Why not show off the hottest new reads and help kids find the books they may not know they want to read?  SO in our classroom, the displays are always changing.  The books facing out rotate through.  Our book tree where students and I showcase our favorite books is always being reworked.  Books surround us because they need to be staring at us, calling to us at all times.  And I place books knowing where they will catch the eyes of students so that they want to grab them.  Not in haste, but carefully so that students feel the urge to read.

We have a to-be-read list.

This simple list in our reader’s notebook is our someday list to quote Nancie Atwell.  The books that perhaps we want to try reading.  The books we are enticed to read but may not have time to read just yet.  The book list is always growing and it is a must for all students to have it in some form, whether on paper or on their device.  Whenever a child book shops, I ask them to pull out their to-be-read list so that it becomes a habit.  Whenever a book talk happens, I ask them to pull out their to-be-read list so that they remember they have it.  We discuss them, we share them, and we remember that they should be filled with maybe books because they know that some of those books they will abandon.  This list is also sent home with students on the last day of school physically, and an image of it is emailed home or shared in some other way.

We book talk books almost every day.

I start every single day with 10 minutes of independent reading unless we are in book clubs where the time comes later in the period.  After this sacred ten minutes, it is time for a book talk, first by me and then by others.   I keep my book talk short and sweet, holding up the book and showcasing an image of the cover behind me so that students can write down the title.  If it is a student doing a book talk I quickly find the cover to project behind them as well. I remind students to write the title down if they are enticed by it, otherwise, many will forget to do this simple step.

When students do book talks, we either do it on the fly, asking simply if someone has a book they want to recommend or I have them fill out a notecard with a 30-second book talk and then give them their notecard when it is their time to recommend.  I will have the book cover images ready to project as well.

We do lessons on how to book shop.

One of the first lessons I do in the year is how to book shop, while this may seem crazy, I teach 12-year-olds after all, I have found it to be a necessary reminder.  Kids will tell you they know how to bookshop but then they simply go through the motions, not actually looking at the books or even finding any they want to read.  So we break it down into a whole lesson, described more in detail here so that students know what I am expecting and are also reminded of what they should do while browsing books.  Before we head to our school library every other week, they are also reminded of how to book shop down there, transferring their skills to a different environment as practice, because this is what they need to do once they leave us.

We just say no.

Many of my students would rather I book shop with them at all times, and while I will gladly support this in the beginning of the year, as the year progresses I pull back that support.  I tell them they have to book shop on their own, show me their pile, and then I can certainly help out after.  While it depends on the child, some get the idea pretty quickly and develop that independence, while others need repeated experiences.  While I feel bad telling a child “No,” I also see the necessity of it; if we never say no, they will never stop asking, because, let’s face it, it is much easier just to ask an adult than do the work themselves.  We have to teach children to not be helpless in our classrooms, and that includes when they select their next book.   If we never give them the opportunity to try to figure it out themselves then they will not have grown like they should have.

We dive into their reading identity.

If a child does not know how to self-select a text, independent of Lexile, levels, or other outside systems, then they do not know themselves as a reader.  So this becomes our mission throughout the year; having students reflect on who they are as a reader and how they create successful reading experiences for themselves.  After all, as an adult reader, this is how I keep reading; I am in tune with what I am in the mood to read.  This is what I describe a lot more in detail in chapters 4 and 5 of Passionate Readers.  After all, if a child does not know how to create a successful reading experience for themselves while they are with us, then how will they do so once they leave us.

Throughout the year, we set meaningful reading goals, we reflect on how we are growing, and we decide what’s next for our journey.  This ownership is vital for students to develop as readers and needs to be carefully cultivated throughout the year, not left to chance or happenstance.

We read every single day in class.

You may wonder what does actually reading have to do with selecting the book they are reading, but the answer is; everything!  If we do not have students read in front of us, we will not see their reaction to the book they have chosen to read.  We will not be there to notice when they start to skim the pages, pretend to read or shut the book completely.  So if we want students to successfully self-select their texts then we need to also give them the time to actually try the text out with our guidance if needed.  This also goes for those kids that consistently pick “Ok” books.  These are the kids that are having decent reading experiences, but not amazing ones, these are the kids we end up often losing as readers because they never have incredible experiences and thus never get what the magic is all about.

How do I know how students are feeling about their books?  I ask them in my quick reading check-ins during their independent reading time and we discuss how book abandonment as a major component of being a reader who knows themselves.  Because the ten minutes (and I only do ten because I have 45 minutes altogether, if you have a longer period do more!), allows me time to see my students reading, I can often point out things they have not noticed themselves yet.  It allows me a chance to connect with them, reader to reader and to individualize their instruction.

Helping students self-select a text has many different components, and in all honesty, this blog post is only the beginning.  For further reading, I highly encourage you to read Donalyn Miller’s Reading in the Wild, Teri Lesene’s Reading Ladders, Penny Kittle’s Book Love, and my own book Passionate Readers. 

 

 

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On Which Reading Program to Purchase

I was recently asked if I could give a 2-minute answer to which reading program would be best for a district.  While I was flummoxed at first; 2 minutes, that’s not enough time to discuss the needed components?!  I quickly realized that I really don’t need even two minutes to answer this question, because here’s the thing…

If a program does not leave time for independent reading every day – don’t buy it.

If a program does not leave space for students to self-select their books independent of their level or Lexile at any time – don’t buy it.

If a program does not leave room for teacher’s to adapt it to the needs of their students – don’t buy it.

If a program tells you that students should sit in front of a computer every single day to be successful – don’t buy it.

If a program is based on short segments of texts, filled with lots and lots of things to do, with no room to build stamina or to go beyond the obvious in their answers – don’t buy it.

If a program dictates that every single teacher must follow every single lesson with fidelity or their students will not be successful – don’t buy it.

So what should we look for instead?

A program that supports choice, independent reading time, small group, one on one conferring, as well as lessons for ideas.

A program that focuses on the needs of the individual as much as the needs of the group.

A program that leaves teachers and students alike thinking that reading and being a reader is something good.

A program that builds hope for all readers to be readers.  That balances out between reading for skill and reading for pleasure.  A program with an emphasis on developing reader identity as well as reader skill.  A program that doesn’t kill the love of reading but instead bolsters it.

That is the program you should buy.  And then don’t ever forget that fidelity should always remain to the students and not to the program itself to quote my Assistant Superintendent, Leslie Bergstrom.

And if you are not sure if that is the program you have; ask the very students who are forced to endure it.  Ask the teachers who have to implement it.  Ask the caregivers and parents who hear the stories.  They will always tell you the answer if you are ready to hear it.

Ps:  Wondering what research says about best practices in reading instruction? Here are a few articles; one from NAESP, one from ILA and one from NCTE

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.

How Do You Reach Your Vulnerable Readers?

This morning I was asked what we do for our most vulnerable readers to help them be successful.  As I took a moment to ponder this questions, I realized a big thing;  what we do for the most vulnerable is also what we do for all of our readers.

We have fidelity to our students, not to our programs.

I work in a district that believes in fidelity to the students and not to the program.  Think about that for a second.  Oregon School District believes in staying true to what the children need and not what an outside purchased program, no matter how research-based it is, tells us what to do.  We use components from incredible programs, but they do not dictate our decisions; our students do.

We place them with amazing teachers.

We give them the best teachers we have to work on interventions.  These teachers know their research and use best practices.  They are given longer books, they have choice, they do meaningful work.  We make sure they work on stamina in books, not chopped up passages to just check their skills.

And we do not put them in front of computer programs.  We need our students to read, to think, to work through a text and then come out on the other side with a deeper understanding.  We need face-to-face interactions to gauge what they really know, not what a computer may think.  There is no replacement for a qualified teacher and so every child deserves one, especially those who are not where we would hope they would be.

We have them surrounded by books. 

We have a beautiful school library, staffed by a fully certified librarian, and we also promote classroom libraries.  As Neumann researched, having a classroom library can increase reading up to 60% and so we believe in the power of great books within their reach at all times.  As one student told me Friday, “Mrs. Ripp, I love that we have great books right here, I never have to go far to find my next read.”

We are also mindful of the books we surround them with.  Inspired by the word of Dr. Simms Bishop, Chad Everett, Nerdy Book Club, and so many other passionate advocates for better library experiences, we think of how our library shapes our students’ identities.  Can they see themselves?  Can they see others?  Who is represented, how are they represented, and who is not?  All of this pushes us forward as we purchase more and better books.

We are careful with our language. 

I flinch a little whenever I hear the term “struggling readers.”  As Donalyn Miller has taught me, there is little hope in that term.  How about vulnerable?  How about careful?  How about developing?  How about just readers?  Our language promotes a growth mindset so we have to be aware of what our language does to shape their self-image.  How do we speak about our readers when they are around or not around?

 

We cultivate patience.

It is really hard to not lose hope when you have implemented best practices (choice, time, books, and a reading community) and then see little results.  And yet, sometimes we are working against years of a negative reading identity.  We are working on catching up years of stalled reading experiences.  We are working against unseen forces that derail us any chance they get.  So we must be patient.  Patient with the child who is trying.  Patient as the teacher hoping for results.  I have said it before and will say it again; sometimes we are just the tourniquet that stops the growth of the hatred of reading or the negative reading experiences, not the teacher that will see the actual seeds of change grow and bloom.

We balance our purchasing decisions.

While we may be going one to one with Chromebooks, my principal will also tell you that she always has money to purchase books.  Our literacy coach asks us if we want more books because if we do then she will get us some.  This speaks volumes because if a district is spending money on technology without spending money on books there is a serious imbalance in priorities.   And if that is the case, a conversation needs to be started about what is more important?

So when I think of what we do for our vulnerable readers, I once again see the thread that runs through our entire school community; every child a reader, every single day.  Every child deserves the best chance.  Every child deserves the best teachers.  The best experiences.  The best, period.

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.

Small Ideas For Creating Visible Book Buzz

I start thinking of summer on the very first day of school.   As I greet my new students, I cannot help but wonder; who will leave us a reader?  Who will include books in their summer plans?

With this in mind, I teach with a sense of urgency as so many of us do.  I am not just teaching for the now, I am teaching for the after.  After the bell rings.  After Friday afternoon.  After the day before break. After the school year is over.

I teach for the kids who come to me loving reading; my job is to protect that love with all I have.

I teach for the kids who see no point in books.  Who scorn every day when I ask them to settle in, settle down, get to reading.  For the kids who would rather sit in silence and pretend to read than actually read a book.

And I hope that this year, this time in our classroom, perhaps a seed will be planted.  Perhaps an idea will form that reading is not the slow, quiet torture that they have decided it is and that perhaps there is indeed books out there for them.

And so in those very first days, we make reading visible.  I book talk a book on the second day of school.  This year it was Dear Martin by Nic Stone.  I make it the expectation that books are shared, discussed, rated, and abandoned when needed.  We speak books as our primary language, immersed in everything else we have to do.  The book buzz builds and at the end of the year when I ask what made the biggest difference, there it is, nestled in with time to read, a community of readers, a classroom library; recommendations. But what does that look like?  Here are the simple, yet powerful components, plus a few extra ideas that we use to create a visible book buzz.

What Mrs. Ripp Read over the Summer Display

This year, I didn’t just portray the covers, I made a display of the physical books that I had read and wanted to share from the summer.  On the second day of school, I pointed to the tree and told them that these were books that I would highly recommend.  That this tree would soon be overtaken by their favorite reads, but for now it showcased mine.

What is Mrs. Ripp Reading Display

Throughout our school, you can see a variety of staff reading displays.  I chose to not just display what I had just read but keep a visual record of all of the book covers for the year.  My students know that my goal is 90 books for a year and so this also keeps a visual track of that.  This hangs by our door so it is the last thing they see as they leave.

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Our Favorite Books Tree

Within the first few weeks of the year, the tree I used to display my summer reads turns into the students’ favorite reads instead.  If books are in high demand this is where they go, if a student loved a book, this is where they can place it to be read by others.  This tree is many of our student’s first stop to bookshop.  Hat tip to Nancie Atwell for this genius idea.

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A To-Be-Read List in the room

Our someday list, wish list of books, books I cannot wait to read.  Whatever you call it, I am grateful that advocates like Teri Lesene, Nancie Atwell, Donalyn Miller, and Penny Kittle remind us that students need to have reading plans and that includes having ideas for what they want to read next.  In our reading notebook, we have a few pages dedicated to just this, or students can choose to use their devices and Goodreads for example.  Whenever a book talk is underway, students are reminded to write down any titles that catch their eye.  At the end of the year, we take a picture of the list and send it home to parents/caregivers so they have ideas for summer reading.

A daily book talk.

After our ten minutes of independent reading, I try to start the day with a book talk.  Usually, it is a book I have just finished or an old favorite.  The book talk is short and sweet; what’s the book about, why did I like it and why might others’ like it.  Students have their to-be-read list out and ready to add titles to it.

30-second book talks. 

The day we came back from break, I asked my students to write down a 30-second book talk on a notecard.  They had to write the title, the author, a little about the book and then why others may like it.  It took us about 5 minutes.  I then collected the cards and now pick three cards every day for students to do their book talks.  The students experience little stress by it because the work is already done and I get to have the book cover ready to display for students to see while they speak.

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Book speed dating.

Another take on short book talks is when students split into two equal groups; one with a favorite book in hand, the other with their to-be-read list.  Students then line up in front of each other and when I say go, they have 45 seconds to book talk the book in their hand.  When the time is up, every child on one side takes steps to the side, thus standing in front of a new child.  We do this five or six times in a row.  The next day, the roles switch.

Book group book talks.

Once in a while, I will book talk an entire group of books centered around a format, theme, or author.  This way students are given multiple ideas for what to read next if they like one of the books.  Recently I did this with free-verse books, one of the most popular formats in our classroom, and the books have been flying off the shelves since.

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Book shopping 

We book shop every three to four weeks in our classroom.  It is a community event and one that we discuss how to do well.  The goal for every child is to walk away from the book shopping experience with at least a few new titles they want to read.  I have written more extensively about our process, right here.

Sharing on Instagram

I resisted Instagram for a long time as I didn’t want to share more aspects of my life, and yet, I needed a quick and easy way to recommend books without having to write an entire review.  Enter Instagram.  The bonus to sharing “live” recommendations of books on here has been that some of my students follow me on there to get recommendations.  As I only use Instagram for book-related things, I don’t have any hesitations with students following my account.  To follow my account, go here

There are more ways to build book buzz, but these are a few that work.  Other ways include book abandonment, creating enticing book displays, acknowledging our own reading gaps, involving the school librarian and other reading adults, and speaking books to all students.  I wrote about all of these and more in my book Passionate Readers, a book MiddleWeb has said should be required reading in all Reading Methods Classes.  While those are huge words to live up to, I think it once again speaks to the power of all of the little things we do to create passionate reading environments.

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.

Using Picture Books in the Middle School Classroom

Image result for there is no too old for picture books pernille ripp

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.

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..

Product Details

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?

 

Product Details

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.