Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Slice of Life - My Reader

Slice of Life is hosted at the Two Writing Teachers blog every Tuesday. 

It's a cloudy afternoon in Maine, and the ground is covered by a new coat of fresh white snow, the first of the season.  We sit not quite side by side on the couch, me leaning against the back, her snuggled under her Mickey blanket against the pillow.  A library copy of Joy Cowley and Nic Bishop's Red-Eyed Tree Frog sits open between us.  The book was checked out for first grade wonderers but hasn't yet made it to the classroom, claimed instead by the curly-haired wonderer at home.  Her eyes go from questioning to amusement as we read through the little frog's day.  "He sleep all day?" she asks, wondering what kind of silly frog would do a thing like that.  Choruses of "What's that?," her favorite question, accompany nearly every page.  She giggles at the katydid--"Silly bug"--and her eyes go wide when the frog jumps to escape the boa snake in a dramatic double page spread.  The frog goes back to sleep as morning comes to the rain forest, and as I close the book, I hear "Again!"  Later she will pick it up on her own, talking her way through the pictures.  "Frog sleep all day."  "No eat caterpillar."  "Jump!" "Frog go to sleep."  My baby is a reader.

One red-eyed tree frog
plus one wide-eyed two-year-old
makes reading magic.

Monday, December 2, 2013

A Holdout Joins the #nerdlution

I'm not sure when this #nerdlution thing started, but somewhere in the neighborhood of Thanksgiving night, a bunch of people on Twitter decided to make resolutions together to commit to for the next 50 days.  What started as a couple of tweets snowballed into a full-fledged Nerdy resolution revolution, with new people joining the community every few minutes.  From my couch, I briefly got excited reading the resolutions that people were making:  writing every day for 30 minutes, walking/running/exercising for 30 minutes, even 100 pushups a day (go @iChrisLehman!).  The competitive part of me that doesn't like to be left out wanted to shout my own resolution from the rooftop to match theirs.  And then the logical part of my brain took over and announced, "Great ideas.  But that's not going to work for you."

This part of my brain was totally right.  There are seasons in everyone's lives, and I am not currently in a season where I can commit to these kinds of resolutions.  I'm not in a position to start a new exercise program right now, much as I'd like to.  I know that I could try to commit to writing for 20 or 30 minutes every day, but I honestly don't have that time to spare without taking more time from my two-year-old and my husband.  So, as I watched #nerdlution after #nerdlution pass through my Twitter feed, I gave up on the whole idea.  "I can't do this," I thought.

But the idea wouldn't let go.  I got thinking about what this would mean in my classroom.  Sometimes I like to think of my Twitter PLN as a big class--we are a diverse group with different learning styles and different ideas who have come together by building our community and sharing books.  That pretty well reflects my first grade class as well.  What would happen if I asked my first graders to set goals?  Would I encourage them to set the same goals, or would I differentiate, helping each student to set a goal that worked for her, that pushed her to a new level?  I would never accept "I can't do this" from a student.  I returned to my resolutions to see how I might differentiate for myself.

In reading through the #nerdlutions, I saw patterns.  Most people were choosing two resolutions, one having to do with improving health and one having to do with leading a more literate life (through reading or writing).  I started thinking about what I could commit to daily and feel fairly confident about experiencing success.  Here's what I came up with:

  • Drink more water each day.  I know, this sounds totally simple.  However, I'm not good at hydrating throughout the day, and the health benefits of this one are myriad.  
  • Write a haiku every day.  I want to live the life of a writer, but I also know that time is precious.  I wanted a writing #nerdlution that I could do on my lunch break, or while I'm cooking supper, or quickly before my daughter wakes up in the morning.  Haiku are one of my favorite things to write. (I got a reputation for writing snarky ones in some of my less-interesting undergrad classes.)  They are also kind of a gateway drug--I think that the more I am thinking like a writer, the more I will write.  Whether this means in some kind of a notebook or more blog entries, I don't know, but we'll see where it leads.  For now, I'm committing to a daily haiku.
So, I'm in.  Thank you, Twitter PLN, for giving me a push once again.  Only the Nerdiest among us set resolutions going into one of the craziest times of the year, but we're in it together.  Here's the first of my 50 haiku.  

Writing #nerdlution:
Fifteen syllables a day.
I can handle that.

P.S.  I drank half a glass of water while I wrote this post.  I've totally got this.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Why I'm Thankful for a Cold

I'm joining with Ruth Ayres and lots of other bloggers in this week's celebration link-up.   Ruth has been inspiring me lately in her book, Celebrating Writers, and her blog, Ruth Ayres Writes to consciously make a decision to celebrate successes and blessings daily.  Here are my celebrations from this week:

1.  Parent Teacher Conferences

I was attempting (in vain) to fight off a tremendous cold as I met with the parents of my students on Monday and Tuesday, but the parents I met with were more than patient with what was left of my voice.  I loved having the opportunity to share my students' growth and learning from the last 50+ days of first grade.  I'm making a goal to share more of these celebrations with parents in the future with positive notes and phone calls.

2. Reading Time

Unfortunately, the cold didn't go away and our plans for two family Thanksgivings quickly changed into pizza and hanging out on the couch for a few days.  Last week, I had tweeted that I thought I was being a bit ambitious with my reading plans for the break, but at the end of the day on Wednesday, I was wishing I had brought more home from the library.  So far, I'm up to 6 novels.  After a long, busy stretch without much time to read, reading through the stack of titles I've been looking forward to felt like sinking into a soft feather bed.

3.  Family Time

I have loved having this time at home, even if Mommy hasn't been much fun this week.  Listening to my daughter singing through her repertoire of nursery rhymes always makes me smile.  She's growing up too fast--she'll be two in a couple of weeks--but we are cherishing every day with her at this stage.

What are you celebrating this week?

Monday, November 11, 2013

Why You Are Not a D: Thoughts on Reading Levels

"This book is an F?  Wow!  I thought I was a D!"

If I never hear another comment like this again in my classroom, I will be a very happy teacher.  As a first grade teacher and former Reading Recovery teacher, I know the value of leveled books in my classroom.  I know that my beginning readers will be best supported by the gradually increasing sight word vocabulary, phonics demands, and text structures that leveled books offer.  I love to introduce them to characters like Bella and Rosie, or the Bear family, or Kitty Cat and Fat Cat, knowing that their knowledge of these characters will support them as their books get more difficult.  I think the quality of leveled books in fiction and nonfiction is better now than it ever has been, and I put as many of them into my kids' hands as I can.

I think where our use of leveled books has gone off the tracks is when we chose to focus on the level and not the book. I want my students to be, to borrow Donalyn Miller's phrase, wild readers.  I want them to be able to pick up a book because it looks interesting, then judge for themselves whether it is just right for them now or will be saved for later.  My classroom library is not leveled for this reason.  Wild readers need to be able to make that determination for themselves.  I am very aware that first graders (and all students) need a lot of support to make that happen, but I worry that in our intention to build a scaffold, we have built a cage instead.  Will my first graders who are excited to move from level D to level F grow up to be sixth graders who avoid books like See You at Harry's because it is "not the right level"?

I do not share or emphasize reading levels with my students.  I tell that that there are lots of books with different letters on the cover that will be just right for them for different reasons, and that I try to pick the book that I think will help them grow as readers.  I think there are other ways to show students how they are growing as readers besides presenting reading as a video game with levels to be completed.  I want them to BE readers, to connect with characters, to get lost in another place, to see the world from the eyes of someone different than themselves.

To the student who told me, "But I'm a D!", here is my reply:

No, you are not a D.  You are not a letter.  You are a reader.

Monday, October 21, 2013

It's Monday, What Are You Reading? 10/21/13

I'm linking up with Kellee at Unleashing Readers and Jen at Teach Mentor Texts.  Make sure you check out their book recommendations as well!

Here are my books for this week.  This was not exactly a record-breaking reading week, but we're going with quality over quantity. Most of my new reading was done with my students this week, so these are also their stories.

David Wiesner's new book, Mr. Wuffles, is a fun wordless book.  Mr. Wuffles is generally very picky about his toys, but the alien spaceship that has landed looks quite entertaining to him...much to the chagrin of the aliens.  I'm going to share the trailer with my students this week, and then I'm guessing it will probably become very popular.  We haven't done a lot with wordless books yet, so my kiddos are not terribly familiar with how they work.  Here's the trailer, if you haven't seen it.

I totally forgot that I'm a Frog! was going to be released this week.  I had preordered it, and I was quite surprised when I opened the giant box from Amazon that I thought only contained my daughter's diapers.  My students were really excited as well.  After I shared it once, we put the book under the document camera and split the class in half to read the parts of Gerald and Piggie.  They had so much fun! We will definitely do this with other Elephant and Piggie books in the future.  This won the vote for Room 11 Book Pick of the Week in a narrow victory over the next title.

The story of Otis and the Tornado is subtitled, How My Students Learned About the Wonder of Interlibrary Loan.  We shared Otis by Loren Long for Read for the Record Day a couple of weeks ago, and I had told the kids that there were other Otis books.  A couple of my students had seen this one in the bookstore, so I told them I'd try to find it in the library.  We looked it up together and found it at a library a few hours away.  I made the request, and they were so excited to walk in this week and see it sitting on the desk.  They are really starting to learn about how readers plan ahead for future reading.  Of course, we added Otis and the Puppy and the new Otis Christmas book to our Shelfari TBR list.  This is a great story to read if you enjoyed the original, and if you haven't read any of them yet, definitely add them to your list.

I love Kevin Henkes, although I had only read his picture books before this one.  The Year of Billy Miller is a great book for late first, second, and early third graders.  I like that the book is about a boy.  It seems that these types of early realistic fiction (with the exception of Ready Freddy and Horrible Harry) are usually centered around girls (Junie B., Clementine, Ramona, Marty McGuire).  That being said, I wish Billy Miller had maybe a little bit more spunk.  It was a sweet story, and I like how it focused on his family relationships as well as his school ones.  I may share this with my students toward the end of the year.  

I'm currently listening to The Mouse with the Question Mark Tail by Richard Peck on my commute, and I've got a small stack upstairs that I'm hoping to get to soon, including Serafina's Promise and Penny From Heaven.  What else should I add to my list?

Monday, October 14, 2013

It's Monday, What Are You Reading? 10/14/13

It's been quite a while since I've done an IMWAYR post (or a post of any kind, actually).  I'd feel bad about that, but I'm not going to.  There is a season for everything, and apparently the six weeks of school is not a season for blogging.  Today I am enjoying the last day of my beautiful three-day weekend, which means a little extra sleep, time to read, and Pete the Cat singalongs and plastic pizza cook-offs in our pajamas this morning.

Although it's been quite busy around here lately, I have had some time to sneak in a few books here and there.  I'm linking up with Jen at Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee at Unleashing Reader for this post today.
Here are some of my favorites from the last few weeks.

I listened to Jennifer Nielsen's The False Prince on audiobook, and I really enjoyed it.  The narrator was just right for Sage, the cocky and infuriating main character.  I really enjoyed the plot twists and it was hard to get out of the car in some parts because I wanted to keep listening.  Right now I'm reading the second book in the trilogy, The Runaway King.  I had a hard time putting it down last night.

This is a cool picture book.  I'm not generally a huge fan of Raschka's illustrations, although I love to use A Ball for Daisy with my students.  This one reminds me a little bit of Marla Frazee's Walk On and others like that.  I didn't love the illustrations,  but the story and the message made it worth reading.  It's a great book for encouraging persistence and determination in pursuit of a goal.

Fall Walk by Virginia Brimhall Snow is a really neat book that a friend recommended.  The illustrations are terrific, and I love how only the leaves on each page are in full color.  The story is a nice rhyming story about walking through the woods in the fall, and on each page, Snow highlights a different kind of leaf.  This is a great one to add to your fall collection, especially if your backyard is as colorful as mine is right now.
I have been looking forward to Ame Dyckman's new book for a few months now.  Tea Party Rules is about a cub who desperately wants cookies and will do ALMOST anything to get some at this tea party.  K. G. Campbell's illustrations are hysterical.  When I shared the book with my students, we had to take a second look at the illustrations with the document camera.  The emotions that he is able to convey in the characters' expressions are perfect.

My class flipped for Mr. Tiger Goes Wild by Peter Brown.  This is such a very cool book.  The story is terrific, the illustrations are terrific, and even the design of the book jacket and cover is terrific.  This was voted our Room 11 Book Pick of the Week for this week by a wide margin.

There's not a lot I can say about The Real Boy that hasn't already been said.  I absolutely loved it.  I wanted to rush through it and savor it at the same time.  I love Oscar and Callie and their friendship.  I love how Anne Ursu developed her magical fantasy world and the plot twists and turns in the story.  I waited to read this book for a very long time and I was afraid that it wouldn't live up to the hype, but it did and then some.  This is my favorite 2013 book so far.

I'm hoping to finish The Runaway King this weekend and start on The Year of Billy Miller by Kevin Henkes.  I'm also reading Celebrating Writers: From Possibilities to Publication by Ruth Ayres (free preview right now at Stenhouse).  What are you reading?

Monday, September 9, 2013

It's Monday, What Are You Reading? 9/9/13

I'm linking up with Kellee at Unleashing Readers and Jen at Teach Mentor Texts today.  Check out both sites for some great books!

This was sort of a crazy week.  Tuesday was our first day back at school.  I am really excited to be back, but the first week is always exhausting.  I'm looking forward to getting into more of a routine. We had a great first week of math thinking, reading, writing, and learning together in Room 11.  I just have to remember that we are building stamina for EVERYTHING, not just independent reading.  (And I need to keep reminding myself that that includes me too.  Perfection is not a smart expectation for the 30th week, let alone the first week.)

I did get a chance to do a little bit of reading this week, so here are some of the books I enjoyed.

Carnivores by Aaron Reynolds and illustrated by Dan Santat is an awesome new book.  I had heard a lot about it, but I sort of got the feeling that it was a bit old for my first graders.  I was definitely wrong.  My first graders are definitely going to get a kick out of this one.  This was a really funny book.  I think I might pair it with Nugget and Fang and Surprising Sharks when I read it to my kids.  It also would pair really well with I Want My Hat Back.

I am so very late to the party on this one.  Rabbit & Robot: The Sleepover by Cece Bell was a 2013 Geisel Award honor book.  I can't wait to read this one aloud to my students.  The dynamic and the dialogue between Rabbit and Robot was hysterical, and I know they are going to be laughing through the whole book.
Yet again, late to the party on this title.  Each Kindness has been getting so much excellent publicity, and for very good reason.  This is a story that really needs to be told as many times as possible.  I liked that it didn't tie up in a nice pretty bow at the end.  I think it's more of a real-life mirror that way.  This is a powerful and important book to share with students about the importance of kindness.
I read the companion book to this one, Okay for Now, earlier this summer and really enjoyed it.  I liked this one even more.  Mrs. Baker has to be one of the greatest fictional teachers ever.  I also really appreciated the historical fiction aspect of it--this isn't a time period I've read much about.  If you haven't read this one yet, I would highly recommend it.

Room 11's Pick of the Week
I actually read Warning: Do Not Open This Book! by Adam Lehraupt a couple of weeks ago, but somehow I haven't written about it yet.  I shared it with my students on Friday.  Now this being the first week of school, we have really kicked things off with a bang and shared some pretty fantastic books.  On Friday afternoon, we voted for our favorite read aloud of the week, and this one was a runaway winner.  They begged me to read it again as soon as I had finished it.  We watched the trailer 3 times as well.  I have to say, I would echo their enthusiasm about it.  I actually brought it on a family picnic this weekend so my sister could read it.  She and my dad were both big fans.  If you haven't read this one yet, or if you haven't seen the trailer, you need to check them out.

What titles did your students really enjoy this week?

Monday, September 2, 2013

It's Monday, What Are You Reading? 9/2/13

I'm linking up with Jen at Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee at Unleashing Readers today.  Make sure you check them out for some great books!

I can't believe this is the last IMWAYR post of the summer.  I started out the summer with the goal of participating in Donalyn Miller's #bookaday challenge...ish.  I figured that 76 books might be a fairly lofty goal with a toddler at home and our plans for the summer, so I thought I'd just get as far as I could.  Well, 76 days later, my grand total is 101 books.  I read more than I've ever read before in a summer (which was really my goal to begin with).  The breakdown is:
  • 6 adult novels
  • 5 professional books
  • 4 YA novels
  • 16 middle grade novels
  • 5 early chapter books
  • 65 picture books, including 18 nonfiction
Thanks to Twitter, the IMWAYR community, and the Picture Book 10 for 10 event, I had more than enough books to fill my "to-read" list.  I'm starting the school year with a bunch of new titles in my teaching toolbox as well as a considerable list of titles that I wasn't able to get to this summer.

Here are a few of my favorites from this week:

After waiting all summer, I finally got my hands on a copy of Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell.  I had been hearing really good things about it, so I was excited to read it.  I thought it was a great story, and I really liked the characters, but some of the language was a little rough for me. 

Over and Under the Snow by Kate Messner was a book I had skimmed before, but hadn't really taken the time to read.  This is an incredible mentor text for language, structure, and narrative nonfiction.  The illustrations are terrific, and Messner's beautiful language and way of weaving facts in through the story make it a must have.

This is the book I bought when I went to the bookstore for something else.  I couldn't resist adding to my Steve Jenkins collection.  As always the illustrations are fantastic and the animal facts will definitely pique your interest.


On a Beam of Light: A Story of Albert Einstein by Jennifer Berne is another title that has been getting rave reviews on Twitter.  I had seen it recommended to a fellow first grade teacher and I thought, "Really?  A book about Albert Einstein in first grade?"  Yes, absolutely.  Berne has crafted a biography that serves as a science mentor for every grade, even if the theory of relativity is a little beyond reach.  This is a book about noticing and wondering, and that is the perfect message that I want to give to my first grade friends.  We'll be sharing this one early on in the year.

I know that next week's reading will slow down considerably.  Now that I'm back to my school commute, I'm listening to The False Prince on audio.  I'm also in the middle of The Wednesday Wars by Gary Schmidt, so I hope to finish that.

Monday, August 26, 2013

It's Monday, What Are You Reading? 8/25/13

My summer vacation is rapidly drawing to a close, and so is my #bookaday challenge.  It's getting harder to find time to read in between planning and getting things ready for my kiddos, but I'm going to do my best to get to a couple more titles on my reading list with the few reading days left before my new friends join me in Room 11.  I'm linking up with Kellee at Unleashing Readers and Jen at Teach Mentor Texts today to share this week's reading. 

I do not like chickens.  Not even a little.  The very few times in my life when I have been sent on an egg retrieval mission have not been good experiences.  So when a book makes me think that owning chickens might not be the worse thing in the world, you know the author has done a good job.  I enjoyed Prairie Evers and her story, but I still don't think I'll be adding livestock to our backyard anytime soon. 

Lulu and the Brontosaurus is one of my favorite books to read aloud.  The song always gets stuck in my head and the kids sing it all day long.  I had high expectations for the sequel, and Lulu Walks the Dogs did not disappoint.  I'm excited for the third Lulu book, Lulu's Mysterious Mission, to come out this spring.  

Escape From Mr. Lemoncello's Library is such a cool book.  I loved all of the references to the books that were scattered throughout, and I really had a hard time putting it down as they got closer and closer to solving the clues.   If I taught fourth or fifth grade, this would absolutely be an early read aloud for me.

A Sick Day for Amos McGee is one of my favorites, so I couldn't believe I had missed A Home For Bird by Philip Stead.  Vernon is very determined to help Bird find his home, but Bird offers no support or clues.  I think my students will enjoy this one as well, and it will give them opportunities to do some good reading work too.


Number Sense Routines: Building Numerical Literacy Every Day in Grades K-3 by Jessica Shumway was a terrific professional read.  I can't recommend it highly enough for anyone who teaches math in the primary grades.  I had been thinking about revamping my calendar time and the beginning of my math workshop, and this book really helped me see how that would work.  I'm excited to use these routines with my students.  I really think it's going to make a big difference in math this year.

This week, I'm hoping to sneak in a few more titles.  I finally have Eleanor and Park after waiting on the hold list for it all summer, and I'm excited to pick up On a Beam of Light from the library as well.  What are you reading this week?

Monday, August 19, 2013

It's Monday, What Are You Reading? 8/19/13

Once again, I'm linking up with Jen at Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee at Unleashing Readers.  Thanks to both of you for hosting!

My reading is down a little this week now that I'm spending some time getting my classroom ready.  Of course, this involves a great deal of staring at things and trying to figure out where to put stuff.  I think I moved a set of dictionaries three times this week.  It's starting to take shape, but I'm really glad that I still have a week and a half to work on it before we officially start back.  Here are a few favorites from this week.

I picked up several nonfiction titles at the library this week that I had put on my TBR list after reading Carrie Gelson's blog post about Wonder-Inducing Nonfiction Titles.

Island: A Story of the Galapagos by Jason Chin is an amazing nonfiction title.  It tells the story of an island from its birth until it disappears back below the surface of the ocean. (I didn't even know that could happen.  There was a lot of new learning for me in this one.) The book tells how the animals and plants came to the island, as well as the changes throughout its lifetime.  It was a really cool book.

The Boy Who Drew Birds: A Story of John James Audobon by Jacqueline Davies and Melissa Sweet was terrific picture book biography.  I love Melissa Sweet's illustrations--there is always so much to look at.  I like that the book focuses on Audobon as a young man.  I think that some of our students will be able to relate to certain parts of the book.

Mrs. Harkness and the Panda by Alicia Potter and illustrated (again) by Melissa Sweet is one of the nonfiction titles on this year's Maine Chickadee Award list. I thought the book was very well done, but I had such a hard time getting past the concept of going to China and taking a baby panda out of the wild that I can't say that I really enjoyed it.  I think it would be a great title to read with intermediate students to provoke discussion.  There is an author's note that gives further information about the issue, including some of the good things that happened as a result of Mrs. Harkness's panda-snatching. I'm guessing that students would have some strong opinions.

Building Our House by Jonathan Bean is such a cool book.  It is based on the true story of how his parents built their own timber-frame house from the ground up as homesteaders.  It would be interesting to read this book along with Construction Zone  by Cheryl Willis Hudson and Barn by Debby Atwell to compare and contrast the methods and materials used for building.  I think my students are really going to like this one.

Last spring, I listened to the first two books in Ally Condie's trilogy Matched and Crossed on audiobook.  I enjoyed them both, but my library didn't have the audio for the third book.  I finally got my hands of a copy of Reached this week.  I liked this one, although I was a little disappointed in the ending.  I felt like after three novels, there should have been more to it, more of a sense of closure.  That being said, I would recommend the trilogy if you're a fan of dystopian fiction and you are one of the few people that hasn't read it yet.

One of the interesting things about reading books that are recommended on Twitter is that you don't often get more than a title to go on.  Sometimes you can get a sense of genre, but not always.  Kathi Appelt's The True Blue Scouts of Sugar Man Swamp is one of those titles that I think would be nearly impossible to describe in 140 characters, which explains why I knew pretty much nothing about it when I started.  When the first sentence referred to the characters' "paws," I knew I had to revise my thinking.  This was a great, funny book.  I guess I would characterize it as a tall tale, although there were elements of animal fantasy and realistic fiction as well.  I am amazed at the characterization in the book, from our hero, Chap, to Bingo and J'miah, our favorite raccoon scouts (and the owners of the paws).  This would make a great read aloud.  I really want to get my hands on the audiobook, which is apparently read by Lyle Lovett.

Next up on my list is Number Sense Routines  by Jessica Shumway.  I'm revamping the calendar/morning meeting part of my day, and I'm hoping that this will give me some insights.  I'm also hoping to make a dent in the stack of books that I still want to read before school starts, but I think it's probably unrealistic to think I'll finish.  Happy reading!

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

A Reading Life

This past week, my husband and I took our 20-month-old daughter on a short trip to Boston.  She loves animals, so we were very excited to take her to the zoo and the aquarium.  As I was packing for our trip, I only put in one book for myself, knowing that I wouldn't have much time to read.  (As it turns out, I should have gotten something to read on my iPad in the dark while she was sleeping.  Sharing a hotel room with a toddler has some unique issues.)  Even though I didn't actually spend much time reading, I was struck by how much of our vacation was influenced by books.

We were waiting at the gates when the Franklin Park Zoo opened.  As soon as we went in, we went straight to the Tropical Forest exhibit where the gorillas are.  My daughter was amazed by the gorillas (as were her parents, though we'd seen them before), and I think she would have been happy to sit and watch them all day.  We watched them quietly for quite a while before we were joined by a rowdy group of students that were part of a summer camp.  Several of them were egging each other on to bang on the glass and get a reaction from the largest and closest gorilla.  All I could think of was Ivan, the gentle but fiercely protective silverback.  I wished in that moment for a copy of The One and Only Ivan to pull out of my backpack so that I could gather these kids in front of the window for a read aloud.  I know I'll never look at a gorilla the same way again after reading it.
Gorilla at the Franklin Park Zoo

As we continued around the zoo, we pointed out some of the animals that were familiar to our daughter.  Most of them she knew from reading either her animal book or from our daily readings of Goodnight, Gorilla.  We always pointed out when there was an animal that was "just like in your book!"
When we passed by the farm exhibit, we noticed a rather familiar looking tractor.  Even our daughter recognized it and shouted, "Otis!" Loren Long's lovable tractor has been a favorite in our house this summer as well, and she knew what this tractor looked like.  Only a Nerdy Book Club family could go to the zoo and find Otis the tractor.


We left the zoo for the day and headed into Boston to see some of the sights.  We went to Boston Common and the Public Garden on a mission.  There was no way that I was going to visit Boston without seeing this:

 Make Way for Ducklings has been one of my favorites for a long time, and even if we had to make a couple of laps around the Public Garden, it was worth it to find these ducks.

Looking back on how much our vacation was influenced by our reading, I am reflecting on how much reading connects to our lives outside our books.  I wonder how many of our students have the opportunities for similar experiences.  As the school year gets ready to begin, I'm thinking about how I can model not only a love for reading, but a reading life outside of my books as well.

Monday, August 12, 2013

It's Monday, What Are You Reading? 8/12/13

I'm linking up with Jen at Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee at Unleashing Readers today. 

We had a fun family vacation week, so there was not a whole lot of reading this week.  Here are a few favorites:

Unicorn Thinks He's Pretty Great by Bob Shea is a 2013 title that I will be adding to my beginning of the year list.  Goat thought he was pretty great, but he's no match for Unicorn's ability to make it rain cupcakes or other mystical, magical things like that.  This book is a fun read because of Goat's voice, and it teaches a great lesson about valuing our own unique talents.

Wild About Books  by Judy Sierra and illustrated by Marc Brown is a title that was recommended several times on Twitter to use at the beginning of the year.  I picked this one up from the library, but I really think I need to own a copy.  I think my kids will really enjoy this story about the Zoobrary! I always use A Sick Day for Amos McGee when we talk about routines, and I think this one will go nicely with that and Pssst! in my beginning of the year zoo collection.

Anne Ursu's new title, The Real Boy, has been getting huge buzz on Twitter.  Unfortunately, it still won't be released for another month and a half, but I hadn't read Breadcrumbs  yet either.  I really enjoyed this modern fairy tale.  It was so beautifully written and wove together seamlessly the realities of a middle grade realistic fiction with the fantasy elements of a fairy tale.   I would highly recommend this one, if you haven't read it yet (especially if you're as impatient as I am for The Real Boy!).

This is the fourth John Green title that I've read, and what strikes me is just how smart he is. I already had a sense of this from following him on Twitter and watching his Mental Floss videos, but wow.  I think An Abundance of Katherines is the nerdiest of John Green's books (you can probably tell from the cover), which is maybe one of the reasons I really liked it.  It's full of trivia, facts, and math.  Like his other books, there were great characters and a great storyline.  I listened to Will Grayson, Will Grayson and Looking for Alaska on audio, and I read this one and The Fault in Our Stars on paperI think I want to go back and listen to the audio for the two that I read, just because the audio was so well done on the others.

I am currently reading Teaching Reading in Small Groups (still...this is not a vacation title, so it stayed home this week).  I'm also hoping to start The True Blue Scouts of Sugar Man Swamp.  What are you reading this week?