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.

being a teacher, global read aloud, Literacy, Reading

What Are We Reading Aloud? Survey for K-8 Educators in the United States

I have written before about the read aloud and its power for older students. I have written about how read alouds brings us all together, how they offer us a new language to speak as we build our community. How read alouds allow us to step into a world we might not know or invite others into one that we already live in.

Since founding the Global Read Aloud in 2010, I have been responsible for selecting a read aloud to be shared around the world. The task always feels heavy. The task also brings a lot of joy, but as I have mentioned, the task of selecting the books to be read aloud have also made me curious; what is already being read aloud in the United States? What are the corner texts that, we as communities, keep coming back to year after year? What do our students get to experience from year to year as they travel through our classrooms?

Rather than just be curious, I figured I would ask. So will you help me out by taking this survey and sharing it with others? I tried to make it easy to take but still offer up valuable information. I will share the results once I have enough responses, because once we know more we can learn together.

Be the change, books, global read aloud, Literacy, Passionate Readers, Reading Identity

Auditing Your Read Aloud – A Whole School Conversation

In 2010, I created a project called The Global Read Aloud, for the past 11 years I have been the driving force behind this global literacy initiative. For 11 years, I have asked educators to recommend books for us to read aloud on a global scale. To suggest books they feel would make for an incredible connection around the world. That will inspire students to learn more about others. That will inspire students to learn more about themselves. That will generate connections that maybe were not possible before.

You could say that for the past 11 years, I have seemingly had a front row seat to the most recommended read aloud books in America. And I am here to tell you something; they are almost all by White authors featuring White kids.

Probably not a shock to many, but still something to sit with for all.

I used to not notice. That’s what happens when White privileges blinds you to seemingly obvious things. I would gladly go with the suggestions not thinking about skin color or ethnic heritage as the read alouds were selected. Not thinking past the book and into the life off the author, after all, a read aloud is separate from the person who creates it, right? And these books were great. These books would generate conversations. These books had merit. These books had endured and would guarantee a beautiful read aloud experience for all of us. And they did.

And yet, a few years in, someone kindly asked; when will the “Global” part of the name come true? When will you pick a book that isn’t set in America, that isn’t written by a White author? I felt so dumb when the comment came my way. How could I have not noticed? How could I have forgotten to think deeper about what the project recommended?

Now looking back at the years of recommendations, patterns emerge quickly. Despite asking for #OwnVoices authors and stories set outside of the White dominant culture, these books continue to be the most often recommended. The same authors keep popping up. The same titles even. Even when they have been chosen in previous years, I am told that they would make for a great read aloud again because surely nothing can beat the experience we already had. Even if the books have been deemed problematic, they are still recommended.

This is not a trend limited to the Global Read Aloud. I see it play out on social media all of the time. Someone asks for a recommendation for a read aloud and in that list are the same White books. The same books that we, White educators, have loved for years and years and continue to read aloud because to us they mean something more. The same authors but with new titles. The same situations. The similar story of yet another White child overcoming obstacles. And of course, we need these stories too, however, we do not need them as much as we are using them right now. With a teaching profession in America that is dominated by 80% White people, it shouldn’t be a surprise, and yet, it should be something that we, as a profession, recognize and see the harm in.

Dr. Rudine Sims Bishop, of course, reminded and continues to remind us of the power of seeing yourself in books. We Need Diverse Books started from yet another moment of exclusion in a White dominated conference field. The CCBC continues to remind us how White children’s books are. Lee and Low reminds of how White the publishing industry is. But that doesn’t mean our read alouds need to be. In fact, quite the opposite. This is the once again urgent reminder to all of us, White educators, and those who choose the books that we hold up and venerate enough to make a part of our curriculum, of our experience, that we need to audit our read alouds.

That we need to look past the books we have loved for a long time and see what else is out there.

That we need to start recommending #OwnVoices books. Books written by people who are marginalized within our society.

That we need to expand our loyalties. Our lists should contain numerous names of BIPOC authors who are writing incredible stories.

That we need to start reading more widely ourselves in order to discover the new authors who are creating stories that we so desperately need in the hands of our children.

That we need to stay current.

That we need to audit across grade-levels so that we can see what the read alouds are from one year to the next and disrupt the pattern of White dominance that inevitably occurs within most schools because an audit is not done.

That we look around and ask ourselves; what is the story told of kids of color? What is the story told of White kids? And how often is the story told? How does my read aloud cement or disrupt the dominant culture and how we view others?

Whose story is highlighted? Whose story becomes a part of the community we weave together? Whose stories hold power for all of us?

We need to think of the patterns we continue to perpetuate when we fail to see how much power a read aloud holds. Especially if we teach in White majority schools or in schools with White majority teaching staff. Our kids deserve stories about kids whose lives may not mirror their own, but who are still living incredible lives.

Because that’s what a great read aloud does; it creates connections, it leads to revelations, it it binds us together in deeper sense because we have lived through the story of another.

So we need to keep asking; whose stories are we living through? And how does that impact the students we teach? Because it is, and it does, and it is up to us to do something about it.

PS: I would be remiss to not thank those who have pushed my thinking on this. I am so grateful for the work done by the #DiversityJedi #DisruptTexts Chad Everett, Sara Ahmed, #WeNeedDiverseBooks, Dr. Ebony Elizabeth Thomas, and countless others

If you are wondering where I will be in the coming year or would like to have me speak, please see this page. 

books, Literacy, Reading

A Few Favorite Books from Our Classroom for Teens Who Say They Can’t Find a Great Book

One of the many benefits there is from being an educator who reads a lot is that I get to create many different reading lists in my head. From the child that asks me to find another book just like the one they just read, to the colleague who needs some books to take their mind off of bigger things, to the child who tells me that they have never liked a single book, there are lists in my head with ideas. These lists grow as I read, study what our kids are reading, and also get to know our readers better.

One of my most used list from my head is for the last group of kids, the kids that come to us saying that all books are boring. That all books they have tried are only okay or not worth their time. Who read a book only because they have to or fake read hoping we won’t notice. Those books are in high demand.

There are a few trends with many of the books that help kids find value in reading again. Many are free-verse or novels in verse, many have mature topics discussed throughout, many are shorter. In fact, I would say that the world needs even more of these books – books with mature, complex storylines that are around 200-250 pages, especially those written by #OwnVoices authors.

So which books make the list at the moment for our readers? Here are a few suggestions…

I have loved book talking Torrey Maldonado’s Tight to my students because you can see them get interested quickly once I share the book. After all, how many of my students can relate to the idea of trying to navigate demands from friendships without losing yourself.

I rejoiced loudly at the news that Nic Stone wrote a middle grade novel. Students love both Dear Martin and Jackpot but for some of my students they need a little more accessible language, which Nic so seamlessly delivers in this Clean Getaway, her new middle-grade novel without sacrificing the complexity of the story.

Another book that has been replaced multiple times is The Rose that Grew From Concrete by Tupac Shakur. I love when students discover this book because they so often check with me to see if this is “The Tupac” or some other guy.

I book talked Standing Strong by Gary Robinson last week and it had an immediate wait list. I can’t wait to see what the students think once they have read it.

Free-verse continues to reign supreme for many of our students and this new addition Under the Broken Sky by Mariko Nagai has been gaining attention since I book-talked it a month ago.

I cannot wait to book talk Manning Up by Bee Walsh this week. It has a few common patterns that seems to do well in our classroom; it’s free verse, it is action packed, it is more mature, and it is about sports.

We have continued our discussions about influences, bias, and what causes us to do what we do throughout the year and so I book talked The Wave by Todd Strasser and the book has furiously made the rounds. It’s short, accessible, and a riveting read as we see just how frightfully easy it is to manipulate others.

I have lost of how many kids have read Maybe He Just Likes You by Barbara Dee.

Yummy – The Last Days of a Southside Shorty by G. Neri and illustrated by Randy DuBurke

I have replaced Yummy more times than I can count because it is one of those books where once I book talk, I tend to not see it again. One kid book talked it repeatedly as he tried to convince other us its rightful place in their reading lives.

One of our newer additions to must-read books has been Warcross by Marie Lu. This book is featured in our dystopian book club work and is a book that kids love for its fast pace and mystery.

If there is a book that defines our time together it is this masterpiece by Jason Reynolds. Long Way Down continues to be one of our most worn-out, passed around, talked about books more than a year after its release. I have lost count of how many readers have asked for books just like this after they finish its pages.

Scythe by Neal Shusterman is the second most read book series in our classroom, and for the kids who are not quite ready to decode its many pages, the audio version beckons. With its complicated plot lines, incredible world building, and suspense, I am in awe of the talent that is Neal Shusterman and how he never underestimates our readers.

Eleven by Tom Rogers about 9/11 is a book that I book talk on the anniversary of the attacks and I see it passed from child to child. The kids I teach now were born after the attacks and long for books that can help them understand what happens. With its dual narrators, the book is fast paced yet accessible for many.

Until Friday Night by Abbi Glines is one of the more mature books in our classroom, but without fail it is one of the most read series we have. With its focus on football, small town, tragedy, and relationships, it pulls readers in from many walks of life.

Also more mature, the poetry collection The Princess Saves Herself in this One by Amanda Lovelace is one that especially many of my 7th graders who have not found value in reading gravitate toward. I book talk it individually as well as to the class.

I have seen The Bad Guys series by Aaron Blabey dismissed more times than I can count by adults who deem it too easy for our readers, and yet, this series has single handedly transformed at least three readers’ lives in our classroom over the years. Why someone would dismiss a great series that a child wants to read continues to baffle me.

The Crossover – Graphic Novel Adaptation by Kwame Alexander and Dawud Anyabwile Even if a child has read The Crossover (which is also on this list), they still get so excited to see the graphic novel adaptation.

Handed Cold Day in the Sun by Sara Biren to one of my hockey players and she could not put it down.  Her word of mouth recommendation means that it is flying through the classroom, and kids who told me they hate reading are devouring it.

Image result for hey kiddo

Kids cannot believe that this is a graphic novel.  With its unflinching look at how addiction shaped his life and his talents, Hey, Kiddo by Jarret J. Krosoczka is flying through the room.

“Mrs. Ripp, I only want to read books like this one…” so said one of my most resistant readers this year, and it happens every year.  Jordan Sonnenblick’s Drums, Girls and Dangerous Pies is one of those books I can count on to be a great reading experience for almost every child I hand it to.

Dear Martin by Nic Stone is one of those books that takes you by the heart and then twists it painfully.  Unyielding in its honesty, this book stays with you long after the last page.

What happens when the alpha bully at a middle school hits his head and forgets everything about himself?  I think so many of my students can connect with Gordon Korman’s Restart for many different reasons.  It is fast-paced and Chases’ dilemma makes you want to read on; will he go back to how he was?

Also by Jason Reynolds, Miles Morales – Spiderman is the first full-length novel that features the comic book character Miles Morales as Spiderman.  Need I say more?

Orbiting Jupiter by Gary D. Schmidt has hands-down been the biggest game changer for a lot of my readers.  I have 7 copies circulating and none of them sit on the shelf for more than a day.  We have it on Audible as well for students who prefer to listen to their books.

 Rhyme Schemer also by K.A. Holt is about a bully who becomes the victim.  I love how students relate to this story and often see this passed from kid to kid.

Who would think that our most resistant readers start to fall in love with reading through free verse?  What Kwame Alexander’s The Crossover has done for our reading life cannot be underestimated.  I have already had to replace my copies of this book this year and students are eagerly awaiting Booked on it’s arrival date of April 5th.

Reality Boy by A.S.King may have a very angry protagonist but I think the anger and “realness” of the books is what draws readers to it.  This is another book that is often recommended from student to student.

Another free verse book, this one is House Arrest by K.A. Holt has been making the rounds as well.  The discussions in class that this book leads to are powerful for many students.

When a resistant reader recommended this book to me I knew it had staying power in our classroom.  Carl Deuker’s Gym Candy is not your typical sports book and I think that is why it has been so popular with many resistant readers.  It is a little bit raw and a little bit unresolved, a perfect choice for many of my more picky readers.

Another Jason Reynolds book, Ghost is book one in the Track series and left my students wanting to read the next book, Patina, right away.  Easily accessible langueg with a relatable character who does not have the easiest life, this was a book many kids declared as a favorite.  

Boost by Kathy Mackel was book talked last week and has not been in my classroom since, quickly passing hands from student to student.

For the first time ever, I used We Were Liars by e.lockhart (Emily Jenkins’ pen name for her YA books) and I was not disappointed.  It was clear that my group of readers quickly became absorbed as they begged for just one more minute of reading time.

It can come as no surprise that Monster by Walter Dean Meyers is a book many readers gravitate to.  I have loved the reflections and thoughtful dialogue that this book creates but even more so how many students have recommended to each other.

What are your must adds/must-reads that you pull out for the kids who say they can’t find a great book?

If you are wondering where I will be in the coming year or would like to have me speak, please see this page. 

being a teacher, being me, conferences, Literacy, Reading, Reading Identity

What’s Important in Your World – A Small Question to Boost Conferring

I have been having small conversations with students. Isn’t that what teaching is in so many ways? Much like we live life in the moments in between the big, we teach in the moments in between the big as well, the big assignment, the best draft, the presentation. We go throughout our day using our voice to connect, our bodies to show our listening, our eyes to show we care. We seek out those moments in between hello’s and goodbye’s to make sure that with us, these kids, our kids, feel seen, challenged, and cared for.

So in thinking about how I could structure more conversation to build trust, I have been starting each reading conference with a simple yet meaningful question. Inspired by Sara Ahmed’s work in Being the Change, after I have asked them how their night was, how their day is going, I then ask, “What is important to you in your world right now?” It took some finessing with the question, in some conversations it flows seamlessly and the students latch onto it and take it in the direction they need it to go. Others ask for clarification which I typically bumble through, but what it shows me each time, is that continued need to connect that drives everything we do in room 203.

That there is still much to be done.

That all of the community we think we have built is still not enough. That each child is still carrying so much within them that ties in with their day, their mood, their thoughts, their actions, their dreams. From the worries about homework as the end of the quarter nears, to friendship issues they are navigating. From coming to terms with sports ending and figuring out what else to use their time on, to not quite knowing what to do with something they know, these kids take that question and allow us one more glimpse into their lives. One more way to build a way for them to trust us with the emotions that are tied into the work we are doing.

Because I can start a conversation asking just about their book.

Because I can start a conversation getting right to the skill.

Because I can start the conversation by asking what they are working on as a reader.

Because I can start the conversations moving into the work as quickly as possible.

But what that will never do is build the kind of trust we need to have with each other when kids tell me how they really want to grow. Why they worry about reading. Why they worry about writing. Why they worry about being in a community where some seemingly don’t understand them. Why they worry about grades, about the future, about the news.

So for now our conferences are taking a little bit longer. So for now, I am not quite sure how the conversation will go. I am not sure when we will get to the work they are doing as readers. But we will and we do.

But before then. Before that.

I get a tiny glimpse into their world and isn’t that what teaching is also about in so many ways? A tiny glimpse so we can help them capture the world the way they want to.

It is for me.

If you are wondering where I will be in the coming year or would like to have me speak, please see this page. If you like what you read here, consider reading my latest book, Passionate Readers – The Art of Reaching and Engaging Every Child.  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