Sunday, June 28, 2015

Greetings and Salutations! (With apologies to Charlotte and E.B. White)

The first chapter book I read was Little House in the Big Woods.  My big sister was reading it to me, but she got home from school a couple hours later than my kindergarten class let out, and I couldn't wait to find out what would happen next.  With no TV in my home (and no other screens available way back then), reading was my escape and entertainment.  I still read to be entertained, although I don't mind thinking a bit too, as long as the story is good.  My favorite genres include mystery (adult), fantasy (YA), and anything with rich characterization and a compelling plot.

My superpower is that I am an unusually fast reader, and as with all superpowers, this is both a blessing and a curse.  The blessing part is obvious--MORE BOOKS!!--and the curse is that since I only spend a few hours with most books, I don't have the greatest memory for them.  As a kid, I re-read constantly, so I am very familiar with the books I loved then, but as an adult, I often find myself saying, "Oooh, I loved that book!  Can't really remember what it was about, but I know it was good!"  Joining Goodreads in 2008 helped with that problem, and I've obsessively tracked all my reading since then.  

I've been a teacher since 1992, and until 3 years ago I worked with English Language Learners.  My students were often verbally proficient in English, but struggled with literacy.  I shared a lot of great books with students over the years, both sophisticated picture books such as Grandfather's Journey and How We Crossed the West: The Adventure of Lewis and Clark, and novels we read together, such as Holes and Nightjohn.  We talked about our reading, we made connections, and we analyzed.  I did a great job at making age-appropriate texts accessible and enjoyable  to students who had language barriers, but I didn't learn much about how to actually take a 13 year old reading at a 2nd grade level and help them improve.  

In 2012 I was moved into teaching language arts.  I teach 7th and 8th graders, and many of my students do not self-identify as readers.  Okay, most of them say they hate reading.  Once I got over my bewilderment (You hate reading?  Are you against breathing too?), I buckled down and read Atwell and Miller and Beers and Tovani and Wilhelm and even went back to Trelease.  I talked with colleagues within the department who were doing great things with kids.  I leapt into the 40 Book Challenge with my department last year, loved some aspects of it, fell on my face a lot, and am eager to revise and renew my approach this summer.   

The most recent book I finished was Jinx, by the improbably and delightfully named Sage Blackwood.  Just like Laura and Mary so long ago, Jinx, Elfwyn, and Reven caught and held my imagination, taking me to a place I've never been.  I hope to find other readers to share the journeys with.


  1. Hi Wendy,
    My name is Michele, and I work with your sister, Liz. She is soooooooooo amazing in everything she does: online, elearning, dancing, team building and all that. She sent this link because she knows my love of YA.
    I have a couple of titles to add to the list. I tutor a lot of middle schoolers, so I am seeking excellent texts to help them get outside of themselves, build skills, and reader identity. I teach Adult Ed. for the college and use a wide variety of texts there as well. I find that the newer YA pieces are excellent and so thoughtful in pulling in topics that kids worry about. I am going to order some of the titles that you have listed below that I do not have. All my students love Counting by Sevens and Rain Reigns which I do not see on your list. I look forward to popping in on your blog.

    Does My Head Look Big in This by Randa Abdel-Farrah about a girl's decision to wear a hajib or not.
    When the Emperor Was Divine by Julie Otsuka - about 5 points of view of the Japanese internment
    Hot Zone by Richard Preston -- ebola story based on early even in US Army lab
    Inside Out and Back Again byThanhha Lai-- a poetry based novel of a events of Vietnam and the war
    Small as an Elephant by Jennifer Richard Jacobson -bipolar mom abandons son at a campsite and his journey/resolve to find her

    1. Thanks, Michele, for the great titles! I've read Small as an Elephant based on a student's recommendation, and bought but haven't read Inside Out and Back Again. Never heard of Rain Reigns, so I'll have to look for that!


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