Penny Kittle Never Ceases to Amaze

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I look forward to the weeks we are assigned to read Penny Kittle’s Book Love. Even thought it is a professional development book, it is quite the page-turner! This week, we read the last few chapters of the book, and as usual, they were filled with wisdom I will take with me into my future classroom. These couple chapters were about the community aspect of reading.

In Chapter 8, she first explains “big idea” books and how she pushes students to see connections between their independent reads based on major themes. I really liked this idea because it would connect contemporary literature to classics. These older novels are much more intimidating, but if students have a more accessible book to compare it to, their reading will be more meaningful and less scary. She also discusses reading reflections at the end of each quarter. I thought this would really help students consciously acknowledge all of the books they have read up to that point, so they can choose more diverse or challenging books or just more books in general for the next quarter based on what they notice.

In Chapter 9, she introduces the school-wide reading break. Kittle’s school is silent for twenty minutes each day as students and teachers alike read. Before, Kittle found that “20 percent of our students said that they read books regularly, about 30 percent read a book or two a year, and the remaining 50 percent said they did not read books at all. We found dozens of students who had never read a chapter book” (142). I found this quite incredible. I really don’t understand how a student wouldn’t have read a single chapter book up to that point, and I think it’s sad that both parents and teachers allowed that to happen. Although I am sad that Book Love is finished, I will take every ounce of wisdom from Kittle’s writing with me into my future classroom.

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Summer Reading Plans

Summer is just around the corner! I don’t know if it’s the terrible weather we’ve been experiencing in Chadron or my general feeling of being behind, but I cannot believe that next week is our last week of regular classes. This semester has flown by, and my stress for my remaining assignments is just about to peak. On a more positive note, I cannot wait to start my summer reading! When I was in high school, we didn’t have any independent reading in the classroom, so I had to cram as much in during summer and winters breaks as I could! I know that my classmates didn’t read as much as I did, but I don’t think certain summer reading programs would have changed that.

Donalyn Miller said, “When we communicate to children that the only reason to read is to earn a reward or grade, we fail to impart reading’s true value. Reading is its own reward and it bestows immeasurable gifts on readers.” When we impose rewards for independent reading on students, they lose sight of what reading is really about. I also believe that when students are reading only for extrinsic reasons, they won’t read as much as they could. If students are assigned one book they hate, they may (or maybe not) finish it and then will stop reading for the rest of the summer. If they read for their own personal growth and entertainment, who knows how much reading they’ll get in?

Other than my general love for reading, my sister will make sure that I read all summer! Alli is about to graduate from high school and loves reading YA books. When I saw her for Easter, I lent her The Hate U GiveTurtles All the Way DownThis is Where it Ends, and Eleanor & Park. She finished The Hate U Give and This is Where it Ends in less than a week! I know she’ll keep prodding for more suggestions.

Because I babysit all summer, I know that reading a book every day is a little out of reach for me. Last summer, whenever I tried to read while they were playing, they’d get a little jealous! However, I think two per week is a challenging and doable goal to begin with. I will read for twenty minutes each day I babysit with the triplets, every night before bed, and while my family watches TV. I like to read in silence, so my dad’s hunting earmuffs have been an invaluable tool!

These are the YA books I already have that I want to read this summer, and I live very close to my town’s library!

A Wrinkle in Time (cont.)

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Well, I finished A Wrinkle in Time. I wrote in my last review of this novel that I wasn’t overly impressed with it, but I thought my dislike of it had something to do with the target audience or my general lack of interest in fantasy/science fiction novels. I finished the book, and my feelings did not change. I found the novel harder to enjoy as it got further and further away from reality. I was also a little disappointed in the ending. I’ve stated in previous blogs that I like really dramatic endings, and I wasn’t expecting anything to life-changing at the end of this novel, but I did find the ending a little cheesy. SPOILERS! She saves her brother with love. Humans with free will can love whereas the people on Camacotz could not. I know this book is targeted for a younger audience, but I found it overly simple; it seemed extremely surface level. I got done with the book and wondered if there was some deeper meaning or larger point to the book that I was missing. This book is the first in a series, but I don’t think I’ll be reading any others.

I’ve also realized how long it took me to finish this book. Yesterday, I started reading Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus, and I’m almost halfway done with it already. I think this really shows how addicting books can be when you’re interested in them! This story follows a thirteen year-old eighth grader whose family just moved to a new state. Aven, the narrator, was born with no arms. She grew up with her classmates from Kansas, and they were all used to watching her flip pages, eat, write, etc. with her feet, but none of her new classmates in Arizona can stop staring. I won’t get into this book too much because I will blog about it next week, but so far, I LOVE it!

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A Wrinkle in Time

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About a month ago, my book club decided we would read A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle. We knew this book was a big deal in the world of YA literature, and it has won the Newbery Medal. At the time, the movie had not came out yet, and we were all interested in seeing it. Unfortunately, I have not enjoyed it nearly as much as other novels I have read this semester.

The story follows Meg, Charles Wallace, and Calvin as they journey to find Charles and Meg’s father. At the beginning of the novel, they are visited by Mrs. Whatsit and then later meet Mrs. Who and Mrs. Which. They lead them beyond Earth and even beyond the Milky Way. They also observe The Black Thing overtaking Earth. The Black Thing is evil, but other than that, I don’t really know much about it. Right now, I’m a little over halfway through the novel, and the three have just arrived on another planet where they observe children playing in rhythm. The people do everything the same and avoid any variety. They are still looking for the two’s father, but their three guardians have left them.

We talked about this novel last night in book club, and many people are not enjoying it as much as our other reads. Personally, I found the characters a little unbelievable, and I had a hard time visualizing some of the situations they were in. One group member brought up that the book was written for younger children, and the novels we have been reading are aimed more towards high school students. I was looking at some of the movie’s reviews, and one suggested to “see it with a child’s wonder. Otherwise, probably don’t bother seeing it at all.” The books I read don’t normally require too much imagination, and I wonder what I would have thought of this book had I read it when I was in early middle school. Would I have quickly devoured the novel and loved mentally creating the scenes L’Engle describes? Maybe my lack of enjoyment for the novel has more to do with my age and lack of imagination than it does with the novel itself.

Student Motivation

If we read these articles at the beginning of the semester, I think they would have really stood out to me! Students should get to pick what they read! Wow! Now, it seems ridiculous that teachers do it any other way!

In “Aim Higher: A Case for Choice Reading and a Whole Lot More in AP English,” Amy Rasmussen explains why students in AP English should get to choose what they read. She points out that a lot of teachers are afraid that students won’t read the books they choose if they aren’t forced to. If it’s about the book specifically, I’m not sure I understand the idea that certain classics have to be read by every single person let alone every teenager. If teachers argue that students won’t challenge themselves unless they’re forced to, they don’t have enough faith in their students. When I was a junior in high school, we read The Scarlet Letter, and I spent several minutes on each page, making sure that I understood the text. It was the first time I had been challenged that much by any book, and I loved it! I checked out a whole stack of classics for winter break, starting with The Great Gatsby. People love a good challenge, and I think students would surprise many teacher if they were granted any choice in their learning.

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I’m not saying that I’m going to make my students read The Scarlet Letter, but I do believe all teachers should appropriately challenge their students. There were students in my class who tried reading the novel but couldn’t get through it and quit, and there were others who didn’t struggle with it as much as I did. It was the perfect book for me at the time, and whole-class texts reduce the chance of each student being challenged appropriately.

 

Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda

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I’m sure many people have heard of the movie Love Simon that recently came out, and to my surprise, it is actually based on a book with a much more complicated title. Over midterm break, I made my way into Barnes & Noble with little money to spend, and I thought Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda (and many others) looked like a really fun read. Last week, I finished the novel in about two days.

Simon has an anonymous email relationship with “Blue,” another boy at his high school. However, Simon forgets to log out of his computer after emailing Blue, and Simon’s relationship with Blue and his homosexuality may no longer be a secret. Throughout the novel, Simon tries to figure out Blue’s identity while also trying to reveal his to those he loves most. He is very close with his family and a group of friends, and he doesn’t want his relationships to change once they find out.

This content of this novel was  out of my comfort zone. The content didn’t make me uncomfortable, but it was much different than I am used to. Previously, homosexual characters were minor characters in the novels I read, and Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda was a refreshing change. It was also  written well. Teen Vogue called it “The love child of John Green and Rainbow Rowell.” It had a little bit of sexuality, so I would be a little uncomfortable suggesting the novel to junior high students, but I think it would be a great read for high school students.

Personally, this was window read. It was one of those books that helped me understand a way of life than is different than my own, and I think it would do that for a lot of people. Anyone is welcome to borrow the novel if they’re interested!

YALSA

Although I had never heard of YALSA before this week, I’ve learned it is an insanely cool tool for discovering new YA literature. I was a little overwhelmed with all of the lists to explore, so I focused on “The Best of the Best” at first. Over the past two semesters, I have become slightly obsessed with graphic novels, so that was the first list I explored, and then I got lost in all of the different awards lists on the website.

I think this website should definitely be used in the classroom.  Teachers can explore the best of the best books from each year in different genres. Although all of the lists were a bit overwhelming to me at first, I think it would be just about impossible to run out of books on the website. I think the lists for reluctant readers are especially helpful. Normally, students who are already readers won’t need as much help finding reading material. It’s extremely helpful that there’s so many genres to explore, but it’s even more beneficial that there is so many resources just to reach reluctant readers.

Another set of lists that really interested me is “Outstanding Books for the College Bound.” Just in the “Literature and Language Arts” list, there was over twenty-five book suggestions, and there were other lists based on other majors as well. I think these resources would be extremely helpful for students who aren’t sure what they want to do after high school.

Some of the books that really interested me are:

I Am Alfonso Jones by Tony Medina (2018 Top Ten Great Graphic Novels for Teens)

My Brother’s Husband by Gengoroh Tagame (2018 Top Ten Great Graphic Novels for Teens)

One of Us Is Lying by Karen M. McManus (2018 Top Ten Quick Picks for Reluctant Young Adult Readers)

Eyes of the World: Robert Capa, Gerda Taro, and the Invention of Modern Photojournalism written by Marc Aronson and Marina Budhos (Nonfiction Award)

The 57 Bus: A True Story of Two Teenagers and the Crime That Changed Their Lives written by Dashka Slater (Nonfiction Award)