Tuesday, May 31, 2011

48 Hour Book Challenge Starts this Weekend!!

After being out of the loop for the past two weeks due to knee replacement surgery and great pain medications :), what better way to get back into the groove than Mother Reader's 48 Hour Book Challenge this weekend!!

It couldn't happen at a better time for me - I have 2 adult book club books I need to read (Little Bee and The Elegance of the Hedgehog), a large TBR pile of children's books that are calling my name, and some great professional books that were suggested at last Sunday's #titletalk on twitter. In addition, I will be joining the Central Ohio kidlit bloggers for breakfast and shopping at our favorite indie children's bookstore here in Columbus, Cover to Cover, on Saturday morning. I'm guaranteed to come home with another great pile of books!! I will be surrounded by books and loving every minute!

In addition to MotherReader's 48 Hour Challenge, Donalyn Miller (The Book Whisperer) has invited all interested to join her in the summer #bookaday challenge. Pretty simple stuff - try to complete any type of book each day of your summer. Then, if you'd like, post what you're reading on twitter so that all of us can gather more great titles.

The 48 Hour Challenge and the summer #bookaday challenge are reasons I love my kidlit PLN - we are always encouraging each other to expand our own reading in so many ways! So, even if you can't commit to 48 hours this weekend or a book a day for the entire summer, tackle what you can, and join in the fun!! Can't wait to hear about what you're reading!!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Picks From THE PIT: Lincoln School Style

I expanded THE PIT this week. Well not literally, but it feels like it. My sister Martha who teaches 3rd grade at Lincoln Elementary in Ashland, OH invited me up to read to the whole school. I've managed to get time to read to her classes over the years, but this was the first time I read to the whole school. They were celebrating their Right to Read Week and the theme was "Wild About Reading!" When she introduced me, Martha told the kids that's why they invited me, because I'm wild about reading and because I get a little wild when I read!
As some of you frequent readers know, my favorite part of being in the library is reading aloud in THE PIT and the kids at Bailey are a great audience. Well let me tell you, the kids at Lincoln make a fabulous audience too!
I started with Elephant and Piggie: I Broke My Trunk and it was awesome when the younger kids got "interactive" yelling "NO!" when Piggie asks Gerald, "Is that how you broke your trunk?"

I knew I was in for a good time and moved onto Interrupting Chicken. The Lincoln kids got into that one too, laughing at all the right places and joining me on "OUT JUMPED A LITTLE RED CHICKEN!"

Sunday Chutney's stuffy nose voice brought giggles and smiles and the ending always brings a laugh.We finished with Fandango Stew and the kids at Lincoln sang the refrain with me over and over and over. Martha told me that the next day the playground and hallways were filled with kids singing Fandango Stew. When I told my Bailey kids this story, first they sang the song and then they remembered that is exactly what happened for a week when I read it to them. It just confirms what we all know, kids are kids no matter where they live.
To make my day, 30 minutes, of reading more special there were two honored guests in the audience, my parents. It was a special thing for me to have them to hear me read to the kids. They've always been incredibly supportive of my sisters and me so I'm glad they got to be part of this extremely fun afternoon.
As I headed back home, I couldn't help smiling about the time. I love the kids faces and reactions to the stories. Just one more reminder of why we do what we do. Thanks Lincoln for inviting me, I hope we can do it again sometime!

Saturday, May 21, 2011

A Week's Progress

A week ago, I posted a picture of my stack of books to read. I've made some progress, not as much as I would have liked, but it's a busy time of year and I did my best. The picture above is the before and the one below is the after.
I've managed to finish three books of the stack. The first was Tumbleweed Skies by Valerie Sherrard. Set in the 1950s, Ellie is dropped off at with a grandmother she has never met until her father can get back on his financial feet. At first, grandma doesn't even want her and actually blames her for the death of her daughter who was Ellie's mother. Thanks to a gentle uncle who remembers his sister fondly Ellie is taken in. Although the grandmother never truly warms up to Ellie, the two learn to accept each other for who they are. Ellie learns about her mother and father's history and what it is to make and lose a friend. All in all it's a good story and well told in just 150 pages. Frequent readers know how much I like a short novel for our library, especially when it's as good as this one.

The second was Odd Girl In by Jo Whittemore. While it's not really my kind of book, I appreciate this one for the niche it will fill. I'm always looking for good tween literature that doesn't cross the line into inappropriate and this one does that. The Alexis "Alex" Evins lives with her dad and twin brothers and is always up to some sort of mischief. Their scientist mother is off doing research and doesn't play much of a role in the family's life, but does add some drama to the story. When Alex pulls a prank that burns the porch furniture of an elderly neighbor, her father enrolls all three kids in an after school program called Champs. This throws her into a tween love triangle with two over achieving girls competing over the same dreamy boy and putting Alex in the middle. Alex has never been very social and has never had time for the girl drama that is middle school, but now she must wade into uncharted waters and solve the mystery of friendship and mean girls. The story moves along, keeping the reader interested with twists that culminate in the final Champs assignment and obstacle course challenge. I'm pretty sure the fifth grade girls at Bailey are going to enjoy this one next year.

Finally I read Bird in a Box by Andrea Davis Pinkney, just let me say this about that...AWESOME! Set in the 1930s during the championship run of boxer Joe Louis the book follows the lives of three African American kids with very different stories. Hibernia, the daughter of a preacher, is blessed with an amazing voice and dreams of singing at the Savoy in Harlem. However, her father is a bit overprotective since her mother left them to follow her dream of being a nightclub singer and is never heard from again. Willie is an up and coming junior boxing champion with a drunk, abusive father. When tragedy strikes, ending his boxing career, he is sent away by his mother to the Mercy Home for Negro Orphans where he is nurtured by Lila the children's caretaker and befriended by Otis. Otis was orphaned in a tragic car accident and comforts himself by reciting riddles told to him by his deceased father. Even in the face of his sadness he keeps a positive outlook which helps those around him deal with their pain. The mood of the story and the time period are set through the use of old radios. One in the home of Hibernia and the other by Otis. The story is laced with actual radio calls of Joe Louis' fights on his way to becoming the first African American Heavyweight Champion. Bird in a Box is a touching, heartwarming story of people from different backgrounds coming together around a single historic event. In the author's notes Andrea Davis Pinkney explains the importance Joe Louis played in the African American community. In her story she makes it come alive. I'm placing this one on my Newbery list with Okay for Now and The Trouble With May Amelia.

And now back to the stack!

Monday, May 16, 2011

End of Year Celebrations

My year with my students comes to an end today, even though they have 9 more days of school left. I will be having knee replacement surgery Wednesday which means I've really been scrambling to finish all the end of the year stuff, plus get ready for a sub.

But in the middle of the craziness of progress reports, literacy data collection, and sub plans, I've had many moments of sheer joy as we've looked back at our lives as 5th grade readers and reflected upon that. I was amazed at some of the things my students noticed and observed about their own reading lives. They have become so thoughtful and reflective about their own reading identity.

I could wax on and on about their progress and what I've seen, but I thought it might be better if I just let them speak for themselves. Just click on the letter to enlarge it (if that doesn't work for you, let me know):

I'm so grateful that I got to spend this past year learning side by side with these talented readers. I wish them all the success in the world and hope that they continue to be life-long readers!!!!

Saturday, May 14, 2011

A List of Things

So it's been a while since I last posted, and I wish I had a really good excuse. You know... world travel, solving the energy crisis, writing the next great novel. But I don't. Oh I've been busy and it's been a good busy, just not Earth shattering busy. Here's the list:

Watching Steven play a LOT of volleyball.
These guys are good!
Weeding the fiction section of the library. There were some really bad books in there.
Creating a video to honor our school nurses.
Getting ready to go to June.
Moving Meredith home from her first year of college. Time flies it seems like we just took her!
Reading a little, not enough.
Setting up the second Museum of PIT Artifacts.
And there are probably more things to add to this list but that would make for a really long post. I just needed to put a few things down so everyone knows I'm not being lazy and slack. Now, with only 10 that's right 10 days of school left I've compiled a new list. A list of things I've wanted to get into for a while but haven't had time. That list looks like this.
So stop back and see how I'm doing. Summer reading time is just around the corner and I'm going to do a better job of writing about my reading.