Tuesday, August 22, 2017

#road2reading Challenge - setting up classroom libraries without levels 8.22.17

All journeys have a starting place.
This is a weekly place to find books and tools 
that you may use with readers at the start of their reading journey.
Join in the conversation at #road2reading.

When I look at my twitter feed, instead of it being filled up with #opportunity2read photos or #amreading discussions, I now see pictures of classrooms, of classroom libraries, or even pictures of the first days of school.  It's that time of year where are all of our minds are turned back to our classrooms and not as much as our own reading.

One of my favorite areas to set up in my classroom is my library.  It's the heart of my class and the area I am most proud of.  It's an area that ebbs and flows as my readers change and grow.

It has also changed over the years as I have learned new information and reflected on practices.  If you had walked into my classroom ten years ago, you would have seen books pulled together in bins that were sorted by series and authors.  And you would have seen lots and lots of picture books.  Pictures books sorted by series and authors... and into levels.

Yup.  The L-word.  Levels.  Always a controversial topic.  Well over a decade ago I first learned about levels and guided reading.  I learned about both and thought levels were the way to organize.  But even then I knew that I didn't want a child to pick from a lettered bin.  I knew enough to see that levels were fluid.  They built upon each other.  I clumped letters together that had similar enough characteristics.  Instead of putting the letter on the outside of the book, I grouped them by color dots.  But students knew what color was their "bin of choice".  I remember telling students to pick a few from the color bin they were reading at and the rest could be any other books.

But as time has gone by, as we've learned more about the intention of letters, my library has changed.  I got rid of the levels.  I grouped by genre.  Series go into genres.  Formats go into genres.

My library is for independent reading, not for instruction.  I may choose books to use from my library for instruction and then I will pay more attention to a level.  But when students come in for book shopping, we don't talk about levels.  

So how does this look for my young readers?  How do you organize picture books and chapter books?  

First, I organize my books by genre.  I find that an easy place to start when students come book shopping - what kind of book are you looking for today?  Some of the genres I have include:

  • realistic fiction
  • fantasy that have people as characters
  • fantasy that has animals as characters
  • sports books
  • adventure
  • mysteries
  • nonfiction about the world around us
  • nonfiction about animals
  • biographies
  • historical fiction

Next, each genre is further organized by format.  I start with picture books at the top of my shelves, followed by early readers/chapter books, transitional chapter books, graphic novels, to middle grade.  Take a look at these two photos from my realistic fiction genre shelves. 

  • the top shelf holds all of my realistic fiction picture books.  None of them are leveled.  I have a wide range of levels within each bin that I can easily book talk to readers.
  • the next shelf holds early reading chapter books to beginning transitional chapter books.
  • the second photo is a continuation of the realistic fiction shelves.  The next shelf holds more transitional chapter books to some middle grade.
  • the bottom shelf are my middle grade and more advanced middle grade
Some points to note:
  • notice the variety of formats all together - picture books, chapter books, graphic novels.
  • notice the variety of formats available - there are similar numbers of books in picture books, transitional chapter books and middle grade.
  • notice series are placed within their genre
  • I still use stickers, but this time it's to organize into the proper genre bin, not by level.  For example, all of the realistic fiction picture books have yellow dots on them, fantasy books with animals have an orange sticker with an A, fantasy books with people have an orange sticker with a P....
Here are some more visuals:

Fantasy with people (notice the progression)

Fantasy with animals and poetry bin

Here are nonfiction animals - they are divided by
series and habitats

I hope this gives you some new thinking about classroom library organization or the motivation to de-level your library!

Be sure to stop by Alyson's blog KidLitFrenzy and check out a new series.

Want to talk about books for readers who are on the #road2reading?  Link up here!

Monday, August 21, 2017

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? 8.21.17

This weekly post comes from Jen at Teach Mentor Texts
 and Kellee and Ricki at Unleashing Readers.  
It's a great source to find new books to use with your students.

Last Week's Adventures

I continued #pb10for10 day in my #road2reading post - 10 books for your readers who are starting their independent reading journey!

I hosted the cover reveal for author Annette Pimentel's upcoming book, Girl Running.

This is by far one of my new favorite middle grade books - The First Rule of Punk.

Picture Books

Creepy Pair of Underwear!
Creepy Pair of Underwear! by Aaron Reynolds
4/5 stars
When you see the names Aaron Reynolds and Peter Brown on a book, you know to set yourself up to laugh.  Definitely a different storyline, but with the characteristic humor, black and gray and one highlight color palette, and eye appealing illustrations, readers are in for a treat!

It's Not Jack and the Beanstalk
It's Not Jack and the Beanstalk by Josh Funk
5/5 stars
Two Lions sent me a copy of this book and I was thrilled to get a sneak peak of the upcoming Josh Funk book!  It has what you expect from Mr. Funk - witty, smart, and well-played, but it's his first published book that is not in rhyme format!  I think this book is going to have many uses as a read aloud and mentor text.  Longer spotlight post on this book coming in September!
publishes September 19th

Skin Again
Skin Again by Bell Hooks
5/5 stars
Thank goodness for Twitter friends.  They led me to this book and it's one I will be buying.  An important book to read now and in the future.  We need to continue to have the discussion with students from here on out about what is important in people - the inside, not our color, appearance, what we have or don't have.

Boo Who?
Boo Who? by Ben Clanton
4/5 stars
A sweet book about including people in your play, especially when they are new.  Also about looking for things to do that includes people of all abilities.  Would be a good book to use at the beginning of the year.

Early Readers

What This Story Needs Is a Vroom and a Zoom
What This Story Needs is a Vroom and Zoom by Emma J. Virján
3/5 stars
Another fun book in the "What this story needs" series.  I read it to my 4yo niece and it was a hit!  I can see young fans of the "Cars" movies flocking to this book!  
Sad to see this is the last book in the series.  It's been a fun series to hand off to our young readers.

Middle Grade

Cyclone by Doreen Cronin
4/5 stars
I really enjoyed this complex story.
Nora has blackmailed her cousin, Riley, to ride the crazy rollercoaster, the Cyclone.  After the ride is over, Riley suffers a stroke due to an unknown heart condition, which lands her in critical condition at the hospital.   
One part of the story is about Riley's rehabilitation at the hospital.  The way a stroke can affect a person was an interesting part of the story, as Riley ends up speaking better Spanish than English.  I liked the use of footnotes to explain a lot of the medical terms for a reader.  The use of words are also explored through drawings and the many ways you can say the "f-word" without actually saying it!  Cronin was creative with that one!
Another part of the story is piecing together what lead up to going on the rollercoaster.  We know there had been a fight and Nora had information that Riley did not want her mom knowing.  We get the background information in pieces but see how this affects the present part of the story.
Another part of the story is how grief hits us all differently.  We meet Jack who is important to Nora in understanding grief, hospitals and relationships.  Although Jack's story isn't a main part, he passes on a lot of important things for Nora to think about throughout the story.
This story was hard for me to put down.  I was a little conflicted at the end.  I wanted more redemption for one of the characters.  
I think readers who enjoyed Jenn Bishop's The Distance to Home or Ali Standish's The Ethan I Was Before will really enjoy this one.

The Running Dream
The Running Dream by Wendelin Van Draanen
5/5 stars
I'm including this book with middle grade, although I would recommend it for upper middle grade.  It could easily be read by young adult fans, as well.
I loved this book because of the positivity.  This is a disability book, but it's one that deals with the disability in a realistic and positive way.  
I love how the main character is realistic about her views, but has the stubbornness to confront issues and try.  
I've had this book for a very long time and it's one I knew I would love, just needed the time to read it.  I think I read it at the best time as my child goes through her own rehabilitation program.  I immediately handed the book to her to read.
As we talk about #weneeddiversebooks, please remember to include books like this in your collection.  The more we show physical disabilities, the more understanding we have for people with these challenges.

Miles Morales
Miles Morales by Jason Reynolds
5/5 stars
I've never been a big Marvel fan.  I've seen handfuls of the movies here and there.  I've only recently heard of there being different Spider-Man(s).
With that said, I'm guessing if you know more about the Miles Morales story, you'll probably understand the story just a bit more.  But if you're like me and don't know it, you can fill in the holes and understand what you're missing.
This is a Spider-Man story for today's generation.  The storyline is very relevant and having Miles as the Spider-Man is even more important.
What I liked about this story is it stays true to today's generation instead of it being about the action and adventure you find in super hero stories.
I hope Mr. Reynolds has more coming!

Currently Reading

The Stars Beneath Our Feet
The Stars Beneath Our Feet by David Barclay Moore

#bookaday has ended for me!  School starts this week and I have no doubt that my reading is going to slow down!  Between school, the regular routine, and my daughter's physical therapy, the waking hours are packed.  It's always a little bit of a withdrawal, but I know we'll find our rhythm soon!

Thursday, August 17, 2017

The First Rule of Punk - a review 8.17.17

The First Rule of Punk
The First Rule of Punk
by Celia C. Pérez
published by Viking
August 22nd

What I love about The First Rule of Punk is that it's original and it's a book for kids.

I'm going to start with that second statement.  We're doing our best to get books in the hands of young readers.  Many teachers are reading books so we can talk and share these books with our young readers.  Some of the books that are getting so much love among adult readers are not always books that kids love.  This one I think is different.  It's a book I see being passed around from reader to reader.  I think they will appreciate the coming of age story because it's not as typical as some of the others that are out there.  There's culture explored.  There's being your own person - being different from your parents.  There's standing up for being different.

Then there's the first reason I love this story so much.  Pérez has included her love for creating zines in this story.  I didn't know what that was at first, but once I saw it, I had memories of doing something similar.  See, most kids find ways to express themselves.  It might not always be traditional art, but almost everyone does some kind of art, doodling, creating.  Zines are pages that are created with mixed media, including cut up magazines, that express some kind of original thought.  I love that there are zines included throughout this book.  It's original and I think it's going to really make this book stand out.

I can't wait to share this book with readers this fall.  It's going to be easy to book talk this one!

Goodreads summary:
From debut author and longtime zine-maker Celia C. Perez, The First Rule of Punk is a wry and heartfelt exploration of friendship, finding your place, and learning to rock out like no one's watching.

There are no shortcuts to surviving your first day at a new school--you can't fix it with duct tape like you would your Chuck Taylors. On Day One, twelve-year-old Malu (Maria Luisa, if you want to annoy her) inadvertently upsets Posada Middle School's queen bee, violates the school's dress code with her punk rock look, and disappoints her college-professor mom in the process. Her dad, who now lives a thousand miles away, says things will get better as long as she remembers the first rule of punk: be yourself.

The real Malu loves rock music, skateboarding, zines, and Soyrizo (hold the cilantro, please). And when she assembles a group of like-minded misfits at school and starts a band, Malu finally begins to feel at home. She'll do anything to preserve this, which includes standing up to an anti-punk school administration to fight for her right to express herself!

Black and white illustrations and collage art throughout make The First Rule of Punk a perfect pick for fans of books like Roller Girl and online magazines like Rookie.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday - cover reveal for Girl, Running 8.17.17

Every Wednesday I join Alyson Beecher from kidlitfrenzy and other
kidlit bloggers to share wonderful nonfiction picture books.
The intention of today's blog post is to give professionals that work in the
education field new nonfiction reading material and ideas to use 
with students to promote a love of reading nonfiction materials.

I am so excited to have author Annette Bay Pimentel with me today.  

You may recognize Annette's first book, Mountain Chef, which was published in August of 2016.  Mountain Chef introduced us to Tie Sing, whose quick thinking and culinary skills had a part in the creation of the National Park Service.

Mountain Chef: How One Man Lost His Groceries, Changed His Plans, and Helped Cook Up the National Park Service
Mountain Chef:
How One Man Lost His Groceries, Changed His Plans, 
and Helped Cook up the National Park Service

Or maybe you recognize Annette as a fellow Wednesday nonfiction picture book blogger!  Maybe you have visited her blog (and if you haven't, I recommend taking the quick jaunt over there as it has a wealth of information!). 

Today Annette stops by to talk about nonfiction writing, her new book, Girl Running: Bobbi Gibb and the Boston Marathon, and.... the cover reveal for the new book!

Here are some questions I had for Annette that she kindly agreed to answer.  Welcome, Annette!

1. Can you give your upcoming readers some more information about Girl Running?

In 1966 Bobbi Gibb tried to register for the Boston Marathon but organizers rejected her application out of hand, telling her that girls were capable of running only one and a half miles. Bobbi decided to prove them wrong, so she sneaked into the Boston Marathon. Girl Running tells the story of what happened.

As I researched this book, I was stunned to realize just how much our attitudes toward women in sports have changed in my lifetime. I started to remember incidents from my own life, like my grandmother warning me that jogging could lead to infertility. To my child readers, of course, 1966 is ancient history. But I hope they’ll be inspired by Bobbi Gibb’s joy in running and by her quiet belief in her own capabilities.

Micah Archer, who just won the Ezra Jack Keats Award for the illustrations in her book Daniel Finds a Poem, has created wonderful illustrations for this book. Her collages are beautiful, layered with timelines and maps to give the art a rich, complex feel.

2. Looking at your current and upcoming titles, how do you find the person you are going to write about?  Many of them are new to me people, or people I'm not very familiar with.  How do you decide their story is one you want to tell?

I’m fascinated by people on the margins of history who helped shape the world we now live in but who have been largely ignored or forgotten. This book started when I was reading an essay and the author mentioned in passing that she, like many other female runners, had been inspired by Bobbi Gibb’s 1966 Boston Marathon run. That caught my attention! These accomplished women had all been moved by someone I’d never heard of. I thought there might be a story there.

But I’m never sure if I’ll have enough information to properly tell someone’s story until I dig into the research. I’m thrilled when I find strong primary sources for one of these nearly-forgotten people. Then I know I’ve found a story I can tell.

3. With picture books, you have to be very selective about how much information you want to tell within the pages of the book.  How do you choose the parts you tell and the parts you choose not to use?

I once heard another nonfiction picture book writer, Alice B. McGinty, talk about finding the golden thread that runs through a nonfiction picture book. She explained that everything in the book must connect to that single thematic thread or it doesn’t belong. I love that image and think about it often as I’m revising.

Limiting myself to a single golden thread was especially tough in Girl Running. My original draft was more than twice as long as the published version. I told so many more parts of Bobbi’s life—how she got thrown out of a library because she was a woman, how she injured herself on a run to save a dog’s life, how she moved across the country to train for the marathon. They were all wonderful stories and all illustrative of her character but ultimately they didn’t fit the golden thread running through my book. Girl Running is much stronger and a much greater pleasure to read without those anecdotes.

(And luckily you can read Bobbi Gibb’s autobiography Wind in the Fire if you want all the stuff I had to leave out!)

4. I find the back matter an author includes to be very interesting, but I know many young readers who skip it.  What do you hope young readers get from the information you include?  Do you keep them in mind as you put it together?

I love back matter too! When I started writing nonfiction for kids, I thought of back matter as a piece of writing for adults. But as I’ve visited schools and libraries and talked with kids, I’ve been surprised at how many of them devoured my back matter.

So my approach to back matter has definitely changed. Now I write back matter for both kids and adults. I don’t expect all my readers to dive into the back matter. But for those who have been captured by the world of the book, the back matter gives them a place to linger, to find out what happened next, and to examine how the book connects to their broader world.

5. We see the finished product, but I always find it fascinating what we don't see.  Can you tell us something interesting about when you were going through during the writing of Girl Running?

This is the first book I’ve written about someone who is still alive, so I very much hoped to speak with Bobbi Gibb as part of my research. I tried several avenues to reach out to her but they were all dead ends. I’d been working on the manuscript for months when I complained to my husband that I hadn’t been able to connect with her. He disappeared into his office and emerged an hour later with a very old email address for her. Miraculously, it still worked! We exchanged emails and ultimately spoke on the phone. She answered my questions and was unfailingly gracious and kind.

I had a tough time finding the right tense for this book. It seemed like it should be in the past tense—it’s about the past after all!--but my versions written in the past tense felt leaden. In desperation I tried present tense and was surprised at how the story leapt to life. I’ve learned that, for me at least, writing in the present tense helps catapult me into the historical moment. I hope readers feel transported to the past with me!

After reading Annette's answers, I am so excited to read this next book. I already have it preordered... for February 6th!

And now, for all our Wednesday nonfiction readers, here's Girl Running!

Girl Running: Bobbi Gibb and the Boston Marathon
written by Annette Bay Pimentel
illustrated by Micha Archer
published by Nancy Paulsen Books
February 6th, 2018

Make sure this book is on your 2018 TBR list! Looking forward to great nonfiction reading!

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

#road2reading Challenge - 10 for 10 day continued! 8.15.17

All journeys have a starting place.
This is a weekly place to find books and tools 
that you may use with readers at the start of their reading journey.
Join in the conversation at #road2reading.

I love participating in the 10for10 events every year - both fiction and nonfiction.  As I sat down to create this year's picture book list, I wasn't sure what direction I was headed in.  I had a couple of lists going, ultimately deciding to make a list of books that show perspective.  If you would like to see that list, click here.  

But another list I had started was my favorite early reader books.  I figured why throw it away, it's a perfect list for the #road2reading Challenge!  So if you are a preK-2nd grade teacher, here is a list of 10 early reader books I would suggest having in your classroom.  As your students become more independent with their reading, these books are ones they will reach for time and again.  Some of the books are full of sight words and decodable text.  Other books have short sentences, some that repeat.  Even if a reader can't read all of the words the first time through, read the book once to them and they will be able to figure it out all by themselves in the next read.  All of the books have engaging and fun stories.

Happy early reading!

Is That Wise, Pig?
Is That Wise, Pig?

by Jan Thomas

Peep and Egg: I'm Not Hatching
Peep and Egg: I'm Not Hatching
by Laura Gehl
illustrated by Joyce Wan

What This Story Needs Is a Munch and a Crunch
What This Story Needs is a Munch and a Crunch
by Emma Virján

Press Here
Press Here
by Hervé Tullet

Touch the Brightest Star
Touch the Brightest Star
by Christie Matheson

Everyone Loves Bacon
Everyone Loves Bacon
written by Kelly DiPucchio
illustrated by Eric Wight

Image result for who done it olivier tallec
Who Done It?
by Olivier Tallec

A Pig, a Fox, and Stinky Socks
A Pig, A Fox, and Stinky Socks
by Jonathan Fenske

Oops, Pounce, Quick, Run!: An Alphabet Caper
Oops, Pounce, Quick, Run
by Mike Twohy

Duck, Duck, Porcupine!
Duck, Duck Porcupine
by Salina Yoon

Want to talk about books for readers who are on the #road2reading?  Link up here!

Monday, August 14, 2017

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? 8.14.17

This weekly post comes from Jen at Teach Mentor Texts
 and Kellee and Ricki at Unleashing Readers.  
It's a great source to find new books to use with your students.

Last Week's Adventures

Some new transitional chapter books from Scholastic.

I love the blend of narrative nonfiction and expository facts in this book about koalas!

This book is a MUST for middle grade collections.

And it was #pb10for10 day!  I had no idea how relevant this list was going to be when I put it together, and I think it will continue to be needed for the foreseeable future.  A list of books to share with students and other teachers - 10 books about perspective

Picture Books

Monster's New Undies
Monster's New Undies by Samantha Berger
4/5 stars
Oh this is such a fun read aloud!  Read this book so you can hear giggles.  Read this book so you can have kids fighting over it when you're done.  It's pure fun!

The Only Fish in the Sea
The Only Fish in the Sea by Philip C. Stead
4/5 stars
Sadie is one of my favorite characters.  She's strong-willed and strong-minded.  It's always fun to see the adventures she goes on.  I love the partnership between author Philip Stead and illustrator Matthew Cordell.

I Like, I Don't Like
I Like, I Don't Like by Anna Baccelliere
5/5 stars
I included this book on my perspective #pb10for10 list.  So important for children to read outside of their own walls.

Informational Texts

A Boy, a Mouse, and a Spider: The Story of E. B. White
A Boy, A Mouse, and a Spider by Barbara Herbert
5/5 stars
Anything Lauren Castillo illustrates is a book I'm going to love.  
After reading Melissa Sweet's biography of E.B. White last year, I feel like this one really does a great job getting the important details of his life in a picture book.  Her sentences are concise and to the point.  Not a wasted word.
And the illustrations.  Sigh.  Just beautiful.
This will be on my Mock Caldecott and Mock Sibert.
publishes October 24th

Middle Grade

Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus
Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus by Dusti Bowling
5/5 stars
For me, this book is so important.  It gets disabilities right.  It gets all the different feels kids who have them just right.  I hope kids read this and they learn to accept and understand.  Please come back on August 31st for my full post.
publishes September 5th

Step Up to the Plate, Maria Singh
Step Up to the Plate, Maria Singh by Uma Krishnaswami
4/5 stars
I really like this book - it reminds me of Dash by Kirby Larson and Esperanza Rising by Pam Muñoz Ryan.  It takes place during World War II in California when there was racism present because of events taking place overseas.  This book covers the sentiment towards Germans and people from India - which is something new.  I like how the book brought in females playing baseball!  
I think the cover of this book doesn't do it any favors.  It looks very young and I think it will turn off some readers.  I believe the characters are in fifth grade, yet the goodreads summary says they are nine years old.  I think kids in fifth and sixth grade would enjoy this book and be able to handle the historical background.  I wish the characters were just a bit older and it was a different cover.  With a good book talk, teachers will be able to get readers for this book.

The Great Treehouse War
The Great Treehouse War by Lisa Graff
4/5 stars
What happens when a child has had enough?  They find a secret loophole to live in a tricked out treehouse, of course!  I like that Winnie finds a way to say it's too much - too much ridiculousness by her parents.  Although the scenario might not be the same, we do put too much on kids at times.  Good for them for speaking up!
The use of multimedia in this book (emails, sticky notes, comics, directions, drawings, etc.) make this book unique and fun.

Posted by John David Anderson
5/5 stars
I don't think I could have read this at a more relevant time.
Powerful, powerful read.  
For me, and my background experience, this book felt very very realistic.  I always have hope that it's not like this everywhere.  I have no doubt that this book will be a mirror book for far too many kids.  
I hope for those seeing it as a mirror, they find this as something they can hold on to.  For kids who are seeing this as a window, I hope they see this book as a catalyst to do something.  To see the power of words and the power of kindness.

This book should be required reading for both teachers and students.

Currently Reading

The Running Dream
The Running Dream by Wendelin Van Draanen
I've owned this book for a very very long time.  But it kept getting pushed off so I put it on my #mustreadin2017 list.  It's my designated August read!

It's the last week before school starts so I'm trying to cram in as many reads as possible while getting all of those last minute things done.  We're also returning home from our summer in Florida and I have the maximum amount of books on hold at my library - 30 - so lots of picture book reading coming up!  Let me tell you, not all libraries are created equally! While I am already going in withdrawal from the lack of palm trees in the midwest, I'm very happy to be back at my local library!

Happy reading!