RSS Feed

Tag Archives: book recommendations

Fall update: #MustReadin2016 & #CrenshawFoodDrive

Fall update: #MustReadin2016 & #CrenshawFoodDrive

#MustReadin2016 is a personal challenge to commit to reading books of your choice.  Visit creator Carrie Gelson’s site here for more information and for links to other #MustReadin2016 book lists. 


While I have been tackling my Must Read in 2016 booklist, many other books have crept in that weren’t on my radar when creating this list at the end of 2015.  Favorite additions to my 2016 list include All American Boys by Jason Reynolds and Brendan KielyMindsets and Moves by Gravity Goldberg, Echo Echo: Reverso Poems About Greek Myths by Marilyn Singer, and DIY Literacy by Kate Roberts and Maggie Beattie Roberts. All of these books deserve five star ratings and a spot on your Must Read lists!

I set out to write brief descriptions of several books on my Must Read list that I have recently completed, but I have since decided to dedicate this full post to Crenshaw by Katherine Applegate.


My nine year old son and I read Crenshaw together this summer.  And we couldn’t put it down. Applegate tackles the topics of poverty and homelessness gently and through the eyes of a child.  Jackson’s imaginary friend, Crenshaw, seems to appear exactly when Jackson needs him the most, helping him cope with his family’s mounting financial stress.  There is an excellent book trailer that brings Crenshaw to life and can be shown when recommending this book to others.

Crenshaw is a difficult book to read without being moved to take action. Jackson and his sister are often hungry and without food or resources. Applegate engaged in research for the book at the Monarch School whose mission is to educate students who are impacted by homelessness. According to Applegate’s website, “Nearly one in five kids in America lives in a household that struggles to put food on the table.

So how can you help?

Applegate is sponsoring a Fight Hunger with Crenshaw campaign, in which schools can win a Skype visit with her by being one of the top 3 schools to collect the most food for a local food pantry by November 30th. She includes resources for schools and libraries to use to promote the campaign on her website.


This image is part of the Crenshaw Digital Toolkit that can be downloaded as part of the Fight Hunger with Crenshaw campaign that is linked above. 

Many thanks to Carrie Gelson who organizes the Must Read challenge!  Participating in this annual challenge requires setting goals, monitoring progress, and reflecting on outcomes or changing course.  There are numerous benefits for educators to join reading communities, including modeling these processes for students, being able to recommend quality selections to colleagues, and helping students find the right book at the right time. There’s nothing more powerful than connecting the issues faced by a character to issues within our students’ communities, and Crenshaw provides a perfect opportunity to teach empathy and the power that readers have to take action.

“I hope children will experience losing themselves in a book; at same time I hope they’ll experience finding themselves in one.”

~Kylene Beers on Twitter for #WRAD16

Check out what others in the Must Read challenge are reading here.

Do you have a recommendation for our next Must Read lists?  If so, please comment below.

The book is in your court…


Visit Teach Mentor Texts and Unleashing Readers to participate in the #IMWAYR community.


What Will Your Legacy Be? Celebrating Over a Decade as a Literacy Specialist

This week represented a turning point in my professional life.  I said goodbye to a job I have had for over a decade.  However, it’s not quite right to describe it as just a job.  I know that the fellow literacy specialists in my PLN will agree with me when I describe it as a passion, a way of life.

I created this blog to celebrate books and the way they connect us as teachers, students, and human beings.  I have always celebrated and will continue to celebrate reading.  But I always wonder… are my students becoming REAL readers?  Do they have a connection with books that will last long after I am gone from their daily lives?

As the goodbye cards began to appear on my desk, I was so proud to see a theme emerge. From teachers, from parents, and from the kids. I think the theme will be evident from the pictures below.IMG_5224-0IMG_5214-0

One of the things I love best about being a literacy specialist is that teachers often ask for advice for read-alouds.  I’ve been able to recommend The One and Only Ivan, Rump, Wonder, Along Came Spider, Out of My Mind, The Honest Truth, Each Kindness, Freedom Summer, and many, many others over the years.

One of my recent suggestions was One for the Murphy’s, a book that really touched kids’ hearts. This clever 5th grader used a One for the Murphy’s theme to create this good-bye card for me.  The best part is the picture of me holding a “Book of Books,” which represents all of the recommendations I’ve handed out over the years. Now, I have never taught this particular student, but I have taught her teacher. Today, I can celebrate the far-reaching influence that literacy specialists have.IMG_5219-0

One of the last moments that I had with students was a celebration of the progress they have made on their 40 Book Challenge.  As they were leaving, I invited them to take a book so that they could continue working toward their goals.  The response?  “Just ONE?”  As you can see from the picture, these students left with plenty to read. This is something else I will celebrate-  knowing that I have continuously put books in kids’ hands and hopefully inspired them to reach their reading goals.
IMG_5211I was also reminded of the influence we have as parents who model a love for reading. Today, for a class gift, I had to ask my eight year old son for a bit of advice that he would give his teacher who is expecting her first baby this month. He was on his way to practice, so I asked my husband to text me with his response. (Please excuse the poor grammar.  This is how we text!)

IMG_5262And so this is how I know that my legacy includes inspiring a love of reading. I see tracks of influence on the kids that I teach, the kids that are taught by teachers that I work with, and in my own children. Truly…something to celebrate.

CELEBRATE This Week: LIJoin the celebration every week on Ruth Ayres’ blog here.

Tips & Tools for Helping Students Set Reading Goals


At the beginning of every school year, teachers around the world all have a common goal: to know their students as readers. They are conferring, listening, surveying, interviewing, etc. to get a sense of student interest and ability.  We all know that in order to get better at reading, students have to spend time reading.  Kylene takes it a step further in her Tweet from September 1, 2014: “More reading helps create better readers. More choice helps create passionate readers, Let’s create both.”  Easier said than done!  How do we put this theory into practice? Below are some tips and tools to help you help kids become more passionate about reading.

Tip: Find out as much as you can about your students as readers. One of the most worrisome situations is when kids have books in the home but don’t read them.  It is one thing to avoid reading because you feel you can’t do it, but it is another to have access but choose not to.  My students have reported that they have hundreds of books at home but are reading in the single digits over summer break and even during an entire year. This is a 911 situation!

Tool: Reading Surveys- Look for a survey that includes the estimated number of books in the home as well as the number of books students read over the summer and the number of books read last year. Shannon Clark has an excellent survey here that is based on the work of Donalyn Miller and Nancie Atwell. I know that my work is cut out for me when my students come from a literacy rich environment but aren’t interested in engaging in reading.

Tip: Help readers set goals.  I’m not talking about reading for incentives and prizes.  I’m talking about the real type of goal-setting.  The type that you can find adults engaged in on Goodreads, Twitter, or in the blogging community.  When kids receive rewards for reading, we are sending the wrong message.  Reading is its own reward.  Celebrate by offering more reading time and providing kids with books of interest.

Tool: The 40 Book Challenge- Using Donalyn Miller’s ideas to set an expectation for reading in your classroom can help inspire and motivate students to read. However, it’s not about the number!  I have been working on my #MustReadin2015 list and have been getting stuck on “how many…” Donalyn reminds us that it’s not about the number and certainly not a competition.  If you are skimming over this section, thinking, “yeah, yeah, I already do this,” STOP and go directly to The 40 Book Challenge Revisited. If we were giving out award for the top blog post of 2014, this cautionary post by Donalyn would get my vote. Here is an excerpt:

“The 40 Book Challenge is a personal challenge for each student, not a contest or competition between students or classes. In every competition or contest there are winners and losers. Why would we communicate to our students that they are reading losers? For some students, reading 40 books is an impossible leap from where they start as readers, and for others, it’s not a challenge at all.” Donalyn Miller, 2014

Tip: Confer with all students regularly. A common concern of teachers is effectively managing independent reading.  They are worried that kids are reading books that they haven’t read.  They are at a loss for what to say and do during reading conferences. We need to reframe this thinking.  It can be an advantage to confer with a child about a book that you, the teacher, haven’t read. Just as we teach the writer, not the writing when conferring in writing workshop, we need to teach the reader, not the reading when conferring with kids about books.

Tool: Readers Front and Center by Dorothy Barnhouse– This book changed my thinking about conferring with kids. Dorothy explains the role of the teacher, the student, and the book when she states, “Conduct research conferences. Our job is to get to know how our students think as they read. Books are our indispensible partners in this work.” (Closely Reading Our Students, 2014)  Dorothy has taught me to focus on the reader’s thinking and what they are working on as readers. We should not be quizzing them to uncover the plot or elicit a summary. We should follow their line of thinking to help them apply strategies as they develop interpretation of text.

When we understand how students are operating as readers: their reading habits, their reading stamina, and their application of reading strategy, we can better help them set goals and select books that match their interest and purpose for reading.

My final tip is to walk the walk. Set reading goals for yourself. My students set goals for reading over winter break, which included the books pictured below.  A tool that can help you set your reading goals is Carrie Gelson’s #mustreadin2015. The rules are simple; list the books that you will commit to reading in 2015.  It is a personal challenge.  There are no incentives.  It is not a competition.  It’s just the environment we want for our students as well.

How are you helping kids become passionate about reading? What kinds of books are you recommending for your students? I’d love to continue the conversation in the comments. If you have tips, tools, or book recommendations, please share. The Book is in your Court…




Crawling Out of the Classroom

In everything that my students and I do together, we strive to find ways to use reading and writing to make the world outside of our classroom a better place for all of us to be

Literacy Lenses

Just another site

Katherine Bomer

The Journey is Everything: Writing & Teaching to Discover, to Essay, to Live Wide Awake

EdTech Bytes with Bormann

Ideas for integrating technology into a 21st-century classroom.

Ms. Victor Reads

Reflections on my life as a teacher.

Teachers for Teachers

Just another site

Ethical ELA

Reflections on Teaching English


Two Literacy Teachers Learning and Sharing in the Blended Learning Classroom

Teachers As Innovators

Two teachers bringing research into classroom practice