Sunday, July 26, 2015

The Crossover #bookaday July 26th

The Crossover, by Kwame Alexander, has been on my TBR list for months and I am so glad I finally had the chance to read it this weekend.  Tomorrow I will get to hear Kwame Alexander give the Keynote Speech at #LiLit15 in Merrick, NY and I cannot wait to hear him! The Crossover is a novel in verse, narrated by Josh aka "Filthy McNasty." There is drama on and off the basketball court for Josh as his twin brother JB falls for a girl and his dad has health issues related to heart disease, which he doesn't want to acknowledge.  One of my favorite parts was the "Basketball Rules" weaved through the book which you could easily make "Life Rules".  The Crossover won the Newberry Award this year and was a Coretta Scott King Honor Book.  It was a fast, exciting read and I love the way Kwame Alexander played with language while also striking an emotional chord.  Add it to your TBR list if you haven't read it yet! 

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Sky Color #bookaday July 25th

Sky Color is part of the Creatrilogy by Peter Reynolds, also including the books Ish and The Dot.  Each book is excellent as a stand alone, but together, they drive home the message that we are all unique and don't need to worry about coloring in the lines or making something "perfect."  In Sky Color, Marisol doesn't have any blue paint and worries how she will be able to paint the sky in her class mural.  By paying attention to the colors of the sky as she heads home, she sees all the colors that the sky can be! Her painting of the sky includes many different shades and colors.  

Reading Sky Color, Ish, and The Dot to my new third graders and then discussing the central message of each book would lead to a great discussion on the work we create this year.  I especially like the idea of pairing Amy Krouse Rosenthal and Tom Litchtenheld's Exclamation Mark with The Dot because they both talk about making your mark on the world.  Ish and Sky Color remind us that there is no one perfect way to do something and the freedom to make something "ish" lets you start and try without becoming stuck and paralyzed by fear.  These lessons are important for all of us to remember- teachers too! :) 

Friday, July 24, 2015

Exclamation Mark #bookaday July 24th

While I have been reading a lot this summer,  I haven't been able to blog about a #bookaday each day.  Now that the LIWP Summer Institute is over and I am back from my family trip to Chicago, I am hoping to be better at keeping up with a #bookaday!

I read this one, Exclamation Mark by Amy Krouse Rosenthal and Tom Lichtenheld, while my son Alex watched a movie at our local library.  I know Amy Krouse Rosenthal is the picture book author for The Global Read Aloud Project this year.  I love her books and was excited to see that she was chosen for the GRA.  Exclamation Mark is one of the books that will be studied during the Global Read Aloud and it was one I never read before.  It is a treasure!

The main character, the Exclamation Mark, feels different from the others (the periods) and not in a good way.  It isn't until she meets Question Mark that she recognizes her gifts and her power.  The other punctuation are all very proud of her.  There is an important message about making your mark that would be a great companion to The Dot by Peter Reynolds.  I look forward to reading this book to my new third graders! 

Saturday, July 11, 2015

A Handful of Stars #bookaday July 11

Many thanks to Julieanne Harmatz for organizing an online book club where several reflective and creative teachers read Cynthia Lord's beautiful book, A Handful of Stars.  We read it with the lens of writing about reading and what we ask our students to do when they read a book.  We shared our notes as we read, which really helped me see the possibilities of how students can respond to a book.

This book would be a perfect read aloud for my third graders.  I love the themes of friendship, sacrifice, ordinary vs. extraordinary, the possibilities of art, and being inclusive.  There were so many "golden lines", often spoken by Lily's grandfather.  One of my favorites: "Times change.  And it's good that they do.  But it only happens if someone is brave enough to be first."  Lily also spoke many golden lines.  One of my favorites: "I guess that's life.  It's not always fair, but you have to show up and play your best anyway."

I am looking forward to our Twitter chat to discuss writing about reading.  We will be chatting on Tuesday, July 14th (which happens to the be the birthday of my own wise grandfather who spoke many golden lines in his lifetime.)  The time is 7:30pm EST and you can find us at #WabtR.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

A Snicker of Magic #bookaday July 5th

Natalie Lloyd's A Snicker of Magic was a completely delicious read from start to finish.  There were so many beautiful, meaningful, poignant lines and the story had several layers and connected characters, all tied to a town's supposed curse.  One of my favorite parts of this book was the character, Jonah, who happened to be in a wheelchair.  His disability was just one part of who he was and one that was not the focus of his character.  You might even forget he was in a wheelchair except for the occasional reference of him driving his chair.  It seems that in some books, if a character has a disability, that is the entire focus and you don't get to know all the other facets of this character.  I deeply appreciated the way Jonah was written and he was a compelling and memorable character. 

I think I will reread this book later in the summer with the lens of how I would read it aloud to students.  I would love to know if any other third grade teachers have read A Snicker of Magic as a class read aloud and any experiences/ideas you could share! 

Saturday, July 4, 2015

The Cozy Book #bookaday July 4th

I've always loved Mary Ann Hoberman's book A House is a House For Me and often read it when I taught kindergarten.  The Cozy Book was one of the books I inherited when I moved to third grade and it was in a basket all year, unread. Today I read it and LOVE this book!

I am someone who adores being cozy.  Really. If it involves being uncomfortable, I am not a fan.  This book appeals to all things cozy and begins, "When you wake up bright and early, in your roasty toasty bed, with your covers wrapped around you and your pillow on your head, and you peek out at the morning, that's a cozy kind of way to begin the cozy doings of a very cozy day."  As you can tell, the book is told in rhyme.  It goes through cozy things to eat ("Chicken soup with spots of yellow, creamed tomato red and rosy- cozy cozy cozy cozy"), cozy games to play, cozy smells, cozy sounds, cozy places, cozy people, cozy feelings inside you, and cozy-sounding words.    

This book can inspire many ideas for writing.  There are many words and phrases to save and savor and I can imagine putting several of them up on a board reserved for "wondrous words." ("Scrambled eggs stirred soft and sunny"; "Whipped-up frothy orange Jell-O", "Snap of dry leaf underfoot" are some examples of phrases I loved). 

I love all the ways Hoberman captured the feeling of being cozy through all her examples.  The book left me with happy, warm, fuzzy, cozy feelings! 
(Happy 4th of July to all!)

Friday, July 3, 2015

A Birthday Cake is No Ordinary Cake #bookaday July 3rd

It was on my birthday that I saw this book in the middle of the shelf at the local library where I was with my children.  What a birthday gift to find this gem that I have somehow missed! Debra Frasier is the author of the classic On the Day You Were Born, a book I read often to my children when they were babies.  

In A Birthday Cake is No Ordinary Cake, the premise is that it takes an entire year to bake a birthday cake.  Science is woven in as the earth rotating around the sun is integrated into the beautifully crafted story.  It reads as a recipe, but each season is highlighted since it takes a full year to have another birthday.  There are many strong verbs and sensory details.  

This is a book I plan on ordering for my classroom library.  I can see it being a useful mentor text for several areas of writing and it would be a great text to read during a unit on seasons and how the earth revolves around the sun.  

In the About the Author section at the back of the book, I love how Debra Frasier recalls writing a sentence in her notebook when her daughter was turning 1: "She's finished her first circle around the Sun, and now she is one."  It was this sentence and her daughter's fascination with cakes that came together for inspiration for this book.  It took 18 years.  You just never know where what you write in your notebook could lead! That is a great story to share with my students. 

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Digital Reading: What's Essential Grades 3-8 #bookaday July 2nd

I have an ambitious book stack for #bookaday purposes.  There are several professional books I want to read this summer, picture books, chapter books for middle grades, YA books, and some personal reads for my book club and just for fun.  Even still, I am finding it hard to complete a book each day and blog about it.  Now that July is here, I need to get serious if I want to accomplish all my summer reading goals.

I am excited to participate in #cyberPD starting July 6th to discuss Frank Sibberson and William Bass' book, Digital Reading: What's Essential in Grades 3-8. I did complete this book and found it very valuable with many ideas to come back to and explore further.  I'm eager to see what the other teachers participating in #cyberPD share about their insights, too.

One of my biggest take-aways from reading this book was how being part of an online community makes reading and writing, something I already enjoyed, even more motivating.  Surrounding myself with other professionals who love books and love to write makes me feel part of a community of like-minded friends.  It helps solidify my identity as a person who loves teaching, reading and writing.  Digital reading and writing experiences have strengthened this identity for me quite profoundly.

I think of some of my students who still said in June that they "hated" to read (like a knife to the heart!) How might it be different if they were part of a community that enjoyed reading and writing? If it was cool to like books and swap them with friends? While I did my best to create that type of classroom, there is more work for me to do to help students feel they belong to this "literacy club" as Frank Smith would say. I think a big part of the answer lies in connecting traditional reading and writing with the opportunities that come from digital reading and writing.  I recommend this book for teachers looking to seamlessly integrate the opportunities technology creates with traditional reading and writing workshops.