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.

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!

Captain Underpants

 

 

 

 

 

 

Quite a while ago, our week’s articles were focused on banning and censorship. I was surprised to see so many books that I had read on the list, but I was even more surprised to see Captain Underpants by Dav Pilkey. I hadn’t read any of the books, but I watched the movie last summer and wondered how such seemingly harmless books could get such a negative response.

Luckily, Brian Doll had the first four books and allowed me to borrow them. Last week, I read The Adventures of Captain Underpants, Captain Underpants and the Attack of the Talking ToiletsCaptain Underpants and the Invasion of the Incredibly Naughty Cafeteria Ladies from Outer Space (and the Subsequent Assault of the Equally Evil Lunchroom Zombie Nerds), and Captain Underpants and the Perilous Plot of Professor Poopypants. In the first “epic novel,” George and Harold, the two ornery main characters, bought a “3-D Hypno-Ring” and hypnotize their mean principal, Mr. Krupp. They convince him that he is Captain Underpants, a character they created in their regular comic books. Before they can turn him back, he jumps out the window to fight crime. Eventually George and Harold figure out that dumping water on him turns Captain Underpants back into Mr. Krupp. However, whenever someone snaps, Captain Underpants is back! The next three books revolve around different trouble the boys get into with Captain Underpants and his sudden arrivals.

I strongly disagree with whomever thinks these books are inappropriate. First of all, even though George and Harold cause trouble in school, they also create a series of comic books. How cool is that! They’re bored in school, but they’re still writing and creating! Also, the book doesn’t use the most mature humor, but that’s why the book is so popular with young kids. I, a twenty year-old who is somewhat close to earning a Bachelor’s Degree, laughed out loud multiple times in every book.  Admittedly, I don’t have the most mature sense of humor either. Anyway, if you’re looking for a light, funny read, Captain Underpants is for you.

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Social Media & Reading Lives

With social media becoming such a huge part of society, it only makes sense that it is reflected in modern books as well as discovering new adolescent literature. I’m not long out of high school, but I never used social media to find new books when I was a teenager. I would get recommendations from friends and family or I would just wander around the library until I found a title that looked interesting. But once I found an author I liked, I would normally stick with his/her books for a while.

Today, however, finding your next read can be a lot easier. In my exploration of ya hashtags on twitter over the last week, I wasn’t really surprised with how much I found. To start, I found I found one website that had thirty different YA twitter hashtags, and I was busy for a while! A lot of the tweets I found were about new YA books. I think my favorite thing about Twitter, however, is that you can follow famous authors. How cool is it that an average person like me can see what J.K. Rowling or John Green tweet on a daily basis!

I also explored Instagram and Pinterest this week. I currently follow a few YA literature-related pages on Instagram, but I spent time this week looking through hashtags, and I found multiple new pages to follow! I was honestly surprised to see Pinterest on the social media sites to explore, but I actually found it most helpful in finding more books. All I searched for was “ya books” and lists like “29 YA Books about Mental Health,” “10 Most Anticipated Young Adult Books of 2016,” “6 YA Novels About Grief and Mourning,” “20 Biggest Teen Series That Launched in 2016,” and many many more. There were also different categories like “dystopian,” “mystery,” “LGBT,” and “romance” at the top to explore. Before this week, I knew that Twitter and Instagram (somewhat) are popular social media sites to find YA books, but Pinterest really surprised me, and I will definitely be using it in the future.

 

 

 

I found this awesome picture from Epic Reads on Pinterest.

 

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The Hate U Give

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Last semester in Methods, The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas was book talked by a classmate, and it really intrigued me. Ever since it was book talked, I had only heard positive, raving reviews about it online. Needless to say, I was very excited that my book club chose it as one of our readings.

This book is told in first person from the protagonist, Starr Carter. At the beginning of the novel, she witnesses her best childhood friend get shot by a police officer when they were pulled over after a party. Neither of them were drinking, and they were both unarmed. Starr is the only witness in the case, and she must decide if she wants to stand up for her deceased friend Khalil or keep quiet. Starr also struggles with her identity throughout the story. She lives in a predominantly black neighborhood of Garden Heights but goes to school almost an hour away in a predominately white area and dates a white classmate, Chris. She feels that she has two identities, one around black people and one around white people. This obviously takes a huge toll on her, and she said that she sometimes feels that neither side of her is enough.

I couldn’t relate to Starr’s specific experiences throughout the novel, but I think Angie Thomas’s portrayal of Starr made her a very relatable character. Angie Thomas was born in 1988, making her 29 or 30 years old, but she flawlessly writes from a teenager’s perspective. My book club discussed how all of the references she makes throughout the book are very accurate and popular today. I also found the book to be very convicting. People were more concerned that Khalil was a suspected drug dealer than with the fact that he was shot three times by a cop even though he was unarmed. At one point, the event makes the news with the headline “Drug Dealer Killed in Police Shooting” or something like that. This part really stuck out to me because if I saw that on the news, I wouldn’t have thought twice about it.  I HIGHLY recommend this book to anyone who hasn’t read it. I have a copy that anyone is welcome to borrow! 🙂

The Genius of Penny Kittle

First of all, I’d like to say that I really hope that Penny Kittle’s students feel truly blessed to have her as a teacher. Her classroom seems like a magical place. Anyway, our reading from Book Love this week was really insightful.

Penny Kittle said, “a key difference between readers and nonreaders is readers have plans. A to-read-next list helps whens students come to class having just finished an engaging book and are reluctant to start another” (63). I experienced this firsthand. My first book talks were last semester in Methods, and they made a HUGE difference in my reading life. There was multiple books being advertised by students and Dr. Ellington every day, and I started a list in the back of my planner of all of the books that sounded interesting to me. I continued the list on sticky notes and in my notes. A lot of my random sticky notes are lost now, but I think it’s so cool that I got introduced to different books every single class, and I think book talks will make the world of difference to middle school and high school students.

Chapter six was about reading conferences. Although the word “conference” seems intimidating, her conferences are extremely low-stakes. She simply walks around and has a conversation with students about what they’re reading. Common questions are “What are you reading?” “Why did you chose it? “How do you find good books?” “What’s on your to-read-next list?” “What authors are your favorites?”

What I thought was most interesting from this chapter was when she talked to a student about a Stephen King novel that she hadn’t read. She said, “It isn’t my imagination. Park sits up taller. There is something powerful about giving students the authority to teach us” (86). She wouldn’t know if what he describes to her is correct or not, but he is so excited about having the chance to share a story with her. I find that really incredible.