Tuesday, January 20, 2015

SOL - Reading Cycles

In a recent Choice Literacy Big Fresh newsletter, Jen Schwanke talked about how her reading has cycled depending on where she was in life. When I read that, it was as if she had read my mind.

As some of you are aware, I have had some sad and difficult times since just after Thanksgiving. But with getting ready for Christmas, helping organize a funeral for my mom, and having family surrounding us through Dec. 28, I wasn't great, but I was managing.

Then, one by one, my family left. My oldest daughter flew back to DC. My youngest daughter headed  down to the Sugar Bowl. My dad went back to his house. My husband went back to work.  And the grief enveloped me because I was all alone with no buffers. That's when I landed on the word "courage" for my OLW this year; I was going to need courage just to get up some mornings.

I needed a plan of escapism to accompany my courage; how could I escape the sadness that threatened to overwhelm at times? That's when I remembered the piece Jen had written. She was right; we need different types of reading depending on life's circumstances.  In this phase of my life, I needed books that would allow me to escape.

Enter my good friend, Katherine Sokolowski, who had mailed me an ARC of a book by Ally Carter titled All Fall Down. This will be the first in a series titled Embassy Row. It was an easy read and I forgot about being sad for awhile. Just like students, when I find an author I like, I want to know what else they have written. As it turned out, Ally Carter has a series called The Gallagher Girls and another called The Heist series. Both looked intriguing and better yet, almost the entire Gallagher Girls series was available on my public library's Overdrive. I downloaded the series to my Kindle and away I went!

For a week, I read for big chunks of the day. The Gallagher Girls is not a tough series. I think middle school girls, and maybe high school girls, might enjoy it. It is about a spy school for girls and speaks to the power of girls and how they can do so many things when they put their minds to it, especially with the support of their friends. The adventures of these girls across 6 books allowed me to escape, and for that I was grateful.

This weekend, I have discovered another new author to me, Terri DuLong. She has written many fictional stories about an island in Florida, Cedar Key.  Though you don't necessarily need to read them in order, each story has intertwined the characters from all of the stories. I have found my new escape series - plots and characters are predictable, happy endings, not a lot of thinking on my part.

In order to have courage this year, I do believe I will have to be kind to myself, and one way I plan to do that is by escaping form time to time with my books and stories and characters.  

Thanks to the wonderful ladies at Two Writing Teachers for hosting Slice of Life Tuesday. You should head on over to read other slices for this week.

Monday, January 19, 2015

#IMWAYR - Dog Breath

As a literacy coach, I have the good fortune to work in many classrooms alongside teachers, and while doing that, get to see a wide variety of mentor texts used with students.  One of the books I read recently was purchased after I saw a teacher use it as a mentor text for her narrative writing unit.

Dog Breath: the Horrible Trouble with Hally Tosis has been around since 1994, but I had just never seen it. As I watched a 3rd grade teacher read it with her students, I found myself guffawing (I was way past laughing!) as the story unfolded.

The teacher who used this book used it as mentor for how narratives can have problems and solutions and story arcs. It worked beautifully for this as students could clearly identify the issue of the story: the dog, Hally Tosis (you have to love that play on words!), has incredibly bad breath which presents a real problem for his owners.

But this book could be used for so many more reasons which makes it a wonderful mentor. The idioms and language (play on words) would provide great conversation:
  • The dog with bad breath had the name, Hally Tosis.
  • When the children, trying to solve the problem, took him to see "breathtaking views."
  • They also tried to take him to a movie that advertised it would "leave you breathless."
  • Then the roller coaster that advertised "You'll lose your breath on our roller coaster."
  • "But that idea stunk too."
  • The last line of the story: "Because life without Hally Tosis just wouldn't make any scents!"
All sorts of fun to be had with words!!

Thanks to Jen for hosting the kidlit version of It's Monday, What Are You Reading? Head on over to her blog to see some other wonderful titles.

Friday, January 2, 2015

My #OLW for 2015

I actually had to go back and research what word I used for my #OLW this past year; I think that speaks to the fact that the word didn't find me, but rather I went looking for it. I could make up a post about how it truly guided my life this year, but it would be false, so I'm not even bothering.

This year, my word absolutely found me: COURAGE.

Many of you know this, but my mom died this past month - Dec. 13, to be precise. It came on the heels of the painful loss our friends had. It has been a difficult holiday season in many respects for my family and me.

But a friend who had recently lost a parent reached out and introduced me to an author I didn't know with this article. Glennon Doyle Melton's article spoke to me in important ways; ways that are helping me survive the grief of this past month. "Courage Today." That was something I could wake up each morning and try to live by. One day at a time. This was manageable, at least most days. Others were meant to be grieving with naps, tears, or total lethargy.

I truly wasn't going to participate in #OLW this year; it felt like one more thing on a plate I was barely balancing as it was. But there was that word - COURAGE - that I have been saying to myself each morning. Give me courage today. It was calling my name and I had to respond.

So COURAGE is the word that will guide me this year because it is currently helping me get through the day emotionally.

But, I think the longer-lasting impact of COURAGE will be important in my life as well, especially as I approach a new decade of life this year.

Courage to take even more chances professionally.
Courage to push my body to try new things athletically.
Courage to embrace all the small moments of life.
Courage to share the hard stuff; not just the good.
Courage to reach out and help others less fortunate than me.
Courage to embrace my new decade and all the wonderful it will bring.