I am an upper elementary teacher who loves reading and sharing books with my students and fellow educators.
The last two and a half weeks have been hectic, to say the least, but are settling down a bit as we start our second week with kids at the school that I left my former school for at the very last minute! In the packing up of one classroom and trying to make my new room a welcoming space for my students on a very short time frame, I got a chance to see some of my old favorites and snag a few classics I have never gotten around to reading. I probably don't need to add old books to the ever-growing TBR pile I have at home, but it seems some addictions are just never satisfied.
I finished How to Outrun A Crocodile When Your Shoes are Untied by Jess Keating last night and know that my students will love this story not only because of the quirky zoo-life aspect and a famous grandfather, but also because of how true-to-life Keating's portrayal of the awkward and self-conscious stage the main character is. They will be able to relate to her experiences as a kid, if not as a someone who gets rides to school with camels!
On the audio-front, I finished Treasure Hunters by James Patterson and Chris Grabenstein. While I am sure that many of my kids will enjoy the story, it just isn't my favorite style of writing. I enjoyed Grabenstein's Escape from Mr. Lemoncello's Library much more!
Before that, I enjoyed a little YA adventure with Maureen Johnson's 13 Little Blue Envelopes and The Last Little Blue Envelope. While they were a fun jaunt through Europe and I enjoyed the trip, I do think that they are a little old for my 6th graders - nothing terribly inappropriate (some drinking, references to pot smoking) but the experiences the author is having just seem to me to be too far out of reach for my kids to really understand the stories.
Tonight is CeCe Bell's El Deafo so that I can get it in the mail tomorrow! And I have started listening to Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater because my 12 year old son wants to read it and I want to make sure he will still be sweet and innocent if he does! ;) Now that I am a little more settled in my new classroom, I also need to start in on some of the PD reading that didn't get finished this summer!
What are you reading?
Marcus is one of the very few librarians in the vast St. Paul Public school district and an owner of Addendum and what all of us as teachers want when we walk into a bookstore. My arms were soon overflowing with good new books and my heart with his kind words. We discussed the state of reading instruction and swapped book recommendations, and our discussion continued via twitter after I left, and eventually basically came down to: How Do We Change The World (more or less).
Sometimes when we connect on twitter through #nerdybookclub, #bookaday, #complitchat, #bproots, #titletalk, #nctechat, #cyberpd, and others, we feel like the majority. We are a community of believers. We have all read The Book Whisperer, Readicide, Book Love, and others. We have transformed our teaching, filled our classroom with books we have bought at garage sales and off the new releases shelf, given students choice and voice, and read like crazy to catch up on the latest and greatest books to share with our kids. We don't gather to convince each other, but to share ideas, titles, and successes. It can feel like this is a mindshift that has become the standard, the way reading looks in classrooms everywhere. Visit schools, attend a traditional conference, talk with a librarian, and realize it is not.
So, how do we change the world? My answer is model and hope. Education is a field of fads, of new programs, of the latest and greatest. Some of it is, and some of it isn't. The changes that I have seen and experienced that are most effective are those that are led by passionate educators learning, questioning, and trying new things. Very few of us who are teaching reading based on reading real books with choice started this way. My first year moving down to elementary with my one college literacy methods class to draw on, I used the basal. I hated it, but had no other ideas. Another teacher suggested Daily 5, so I tried that the next year, and read The Book Whisperer sometime that fall. This last year was my third year and I used the Units of Study from Lucy Calkins. It was a process, it didn't happen overnight and we can't expect that it will for others, when they see the light. So how do they see that light?
I think the way that we affect the teachers around us is to make it impossible for them to ignore the successes we are having using real book, choice-based literacy. We don't have to preach it and talk their ear off until they switch their lunch time. We can keep our doors open, let our reading and writing communities spill out into the hallways. We can be the class that reads while waiting for the assembly to start and during that awkward 4 minutes in the hallway between reading to the first graders and music. We can talk about the books we are reading - the children's books, the MG and YA books. We can share "Today I am Reading:" as a teacher, as students, as readers. We can invite other classes into our rooms to read with us and let them hear and see the way we live books.
And then we hope. We hope they see and hear how our kids love to read and talk about their reading. We hope that they change just one thing this year. We hope we see them at the next garage sale grabbing all the good books. We hope that they come and ask if they can borrow our ragged (and signed, because we are nerds!) copy of The Book Whisperer. We hope. And if it isn't this year, we keep doing it next year.
Next time he loads my arms full of new books for my kids, and we sit down over a cup of coffee, Marcus and I probably won’t be discussing a major shift that has happened in the reading kids are doing in the schools we see. But, we might be able to talk about the small rays of hope, the teacher who asked him to order The Book Whisperer, the secretary who responded to my email with the book she is reading. The little signs that our successes are being noticed, that what we do makes a difference, that we are changing the world every time we get a good book into a kid’s hands. That we have reason to hope.