Summer: Beach Balls, Best Friends, and Books

As I was sitting on my couch this afternoon, it suddenly hit me: I only have 2 weeks left of my sophomore year of college. After I got done panicking (I have a lot of schoolwork that still needs to be completed), I realized that this means that summer is right around the corner. Ahhh, summer. Warm weather, country music, lake days, family, friends, and movie marathons are calling my name (along with 40+ hours of work a week, but I’m choosing to ignore that as of right now). When I think back on this past semester, I realize that this class was my bright light. When I was feeling stressed or bogged down, I was able to drop everything and read for hours on end because “it’s homework.” Now that the class is ending, it’s time to start making some plans for summer. What will I read? What will I do to challenge and better myself? How do I keep finding great books to continue reading?

My YA TBR List

My TBR list is so full I doubt I’ll have any problem finding books this summer. The further we went on in the semester, the more the books started to pile up and the list began to expand. I have so many great classmates that recommended books, I just couldn’t say no! As I searched through YALSA and read blogs, I continued to find more books that I just couldn’t turn away from. Here are just a few that I’m excited to read:

  • I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson
  • Lost in Love (City Love, #2) by Susane Colassanti
  • The Love That Split the World by Emily Henry
  • Infinite in Between by Carolyn Mackler
  • Gabi, a Girl in Pieces by Isabel Quintero
  • Carry On by Rainbow Rowell
  • When Reason Breaks by Cindy Rodriquez
  • … and many, many more!

When, Where, and How

This summer, I plan on packing up and going back home. I have definitely struggled with this decision throughout the semester; Curtis is a lovely town, but there is not a lot to do as far as activities. Also, many of my friends will not be going home this summer. However, this will free up my schedule to read a lot of books- tons, I hope. (Once again, I’m going to ignore the fact that I’m working full time this summer. Ignorance is bliss, right?) My free time this summer will be spent with the friends that are close to my home town, family, and reading. I tend to read right before I go to bed and sometimes right when I wake up in the morning. In the summer, I have been known to escape outside at dusk with my book or even take a book to the lake and read by the water. I like to read while I relax, so anywhere that I can achieve that feeling is perfect for me. This is exactly why I am positive that reading will continue to remain a habit for me. I went home last summer, and I basically followed the same routine each day: wake up, go to work, eat lunch, work, come home, exercise, shower, eat, watch TV, read, sleep, repeat. I have no doubt that this is exactly how my summer will look again, and I’m okay with that frankly. Reading will allow me to relax after long days at work.

Finding the Right Books & Challenging Myself

Honestly, looking at my TBR list just excites me. I think that I have a fantastic list of books to read as well as add to. In order to continue to find terrific books, I plan on keeping up to date with new releases and lists on YALSA as well as frequently visiting my local library and school library (perks of having a dad who is also the superintendent). I am passionate about continuing to find new and great books. By keeping up online and (hopefully!) still viewing tweets from my classmates about great books, I believe that I will be able to continue along the same path that I’m on right now.

Challenging myself and my reading life is incredibly important to me. I feel like I’ve really opened up my reading life to new and diverse genres this semester, and it’s important to me that I continue doing this. I’m going to try to do the #bookaday challenge this summer. I’m excited to begin this. I think that it will really challenge me and keep me reading, which is my main goal for the summer.

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(Image: commons.wikimedia.org)

The fact that this is my final blog post for this class is astonishing. Where did the semester go? It amazes me that summer is literally right around the corner and we are talking about our summer reading plans. YA Lit class, thank you for all of your feedback, recommendations, and encouragement throughout the entire semester. I appreciate it all so much and have truly loved learning along with you. This has been a class that I enjoyed and  can’t wait to continue with in the summer. I hope that between all of the hours put in at work you all have a summer filled with beach balls, best friends, and books.

-RG

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Book Love: A Textbook With a Cape

Do you remember the first hero that you ever had? The first person that I ever looked up to was without a doubt my Uncle Brian. He was awesome and made the best alfredo sausage pizza known to mankind. Although he never actually wore one, I pictured him wearing a cape and saving the world (or just saving me from eating gross food). Of course, as I’ve grown, I have found different heroes in different areas of my life, including those found in my studies for my future career. Throughout this semester, I’ve had the privilege of reading Book Love by Penny Kittle. Her ideas have inspired me and made me think outside of the box. For this, I will be forever grateful (as will my future students, I’m sure).

Nurturing Every Student- Chapter 8

I loved this chapter wholeheartedly. A fear of mine is that I won’t be able to accommodate every student that I have. What if I don’t know what they like to read? How do I fuel a student’s desire to read if I don’t know how to help them? I want to have my classroom function as a community, so how do I accomplish this while still letting every student be an individual reader?

Kittle’s writing reassured me. Through community notebooks and quarter-by-quarter reflections, I will be able to see my students grow as readers. Choice is huge to everyone (as discussed in previous posts), so we shouldn’t be afraid to give it to our students. One student reflected on their past reading by saying “without choice, I would be continuing my trend from years past and not reading at all” (131). Students must be able to discuss books with others within the community (classroom) because, as Kittle says, “drawing connections… is so much deeper than studying one book in isolation” (122). Kids want to talk about books that they have read. They want to share their passion with others. One way to share the passion is through the Big Idea Books notebooks that talk about themes. These will be great for future students to look through and find new books to read.

One thing that I always loved about literature is that it allows us all to be flexible in the way that we view things. There isn’t always one particular answer or way to look at something. This is why I love Kittle’s teaching strategy so much. By allowing students to choose their own books, we are allowing them to follow their passion once they find it. This can be seen clearly in the students’ reflections on their reading. One student commented that her life “gained depth.. book after book page after page” (131). That’s the feeling that I want my students to reach.

Not only have I lived the lives of a dozen or so different people, I have opened the door to a great reading habit, enabling me to become hundreds of more people with the turn of a page… I have officially become a reader, not just a  “this is my assigned book this month, what chapters am I reading tonight” reader.

Creating a School-Wide Reading Community-Chapter 9

Standardized tests fail us; if this wasn’t clear before, it certainly is after reading. Teachers and school districts are often judged based on the scores that are received by students in their classes. These tests give a false knowledge on what students are actually able to do as readers. Standardized tests don’t measure the student as an individual, which is what is most important to me. Classroom teachers can measure this improvement. The goal should always be to have students finding a pure joy for reading that will follow them throughout their lives:

We want students to love reading and read for the rest of their lives. There is nothing in a standardized test that measures this or lets us know whether we’re close to reaching that goal.

Summer reading matters, just as my individual reading life does. I have to constantly keep reading to find new materials to share with my students. I need to dive further into different genres so that I can recommend them to diverse readers. I must continue to become a lifelong reader if I want my students to do the same. If I want my students to become voracious readers, I must show them my passion; this is important because “you can’t catch a cold or a love of books from someone who has neither,” as said by Jim Trelease (158). By embodying the values I want to pass onto my students, I will be more successful.

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(Photo: Amazon.com)

As I finished the last 2 chapters of Book Love, I felt a sense of both triumph and sadness. The ideas within this book have reshaped my personal ideas as to what my future classroom and the practices that I establish will look like. To me, Penny Kittle is a complete rock star, and I love to read her work. She has inspired me to look differently at classroom practices; through her work, I have grown as a future educator of literature. The wisdom imparted through this textbook will stick with me as I continue forward in my studies. It, much like my uncle, has an invisible cape. Penny Kittle, thank you for showing me what an education hero looks like.

We can change the story of reading.

We have to.

Every child. Every year. Every classroom.

Book love-pass it on.

-RG

The Power of Choice

When I was young, I was taught the power of choice. I got to choose what I wore to school and what I watched before bed (Full House, in case you were wondering). As I grew up, I got to choose what sports and school organizations I was a part of. I was able to choose how I filled my spare time after I finished my homework each day. I got to choose where I went to college, and I am still making choices today (such as binge watching CSI:NY and not doing laundry). The point of all of this is that my choices allowed me to take responsibility and fully love what I am doing because I got to choose it. Why, then, shouldn’t we let our students choose?

This week, I got to read a lot of wonderful articles that centered on how we can get students to read more. Or, maybe more truthfully, to read at all. It’s no secret that students today don’t read the assigned materials; it’s just way easier to simply SparkNote the book that they were told to read. How do we get our students to read more? How do we truly motivate our kids to read for a deeper meaning and not just read to get through an assignment?

I think that it should be every teacher’s mission to get his or her students to read more and deeper. Teachers want each and every student to be an effective reader that can hone their skills and develop them further. The main question is how do we make this happen? Although this is something that will need to be worked at, I believe that it is possible. According to Phyllis S. Hunter’s article, Raising Students Who Want to Read, “one of the main stumbling blocks that can prevent children from becoming skilled readers is a lack of motivation.” Her article, along with the others, really got me thinking about ways that we can get students to become motivated to read more and enjoy it. After reading, my main thought was that we must let them choose.

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(Image: pixabay.com)

Growing up, I loved to read. I read voraciously and excitedly; I simply couldn’t get enough of books. I would read during class after I finished my assignment and while walking across town to get home (I don’t really recommend this one. I definitely almost got hit a few times). Yes, I really did read a ton; but I read this much because these books were ones that I was able to choose. They weren’t assigned to me, and I didn’t read them because I had to. I read them because I loved to read. I loved to get into the minds of all of my characters and really walk in their shoes for a bit. I read my assigned readings, but I wasn’t passionate about them. I read them to get through the classes. This is something that I believe absolutely must change in our schools today.

By allowing our students the choice of books that they read, we are motivating them to read. I don’t know about you, but I always feel more inclined to read a book of my choice than one that has been assigned to me. All teachers want their students to be effective readers; the more that we can get students to read, the further they can progress in the future:

Effective readers aren’t just people who’ve learned how to read. They’re students who are motivated to read, because they’ve discovered that reading is fun, informative, and interesting. Motivated readers want to read. And the more they read, the more they can develop their skills. If there are signs of reading difficulty, we can intervene to get students back on track.

Let’s allow our students to choose. Let’s allow them to grow and learn. Let’s allow them to surround themselves in a reading utopia like the one that Jim Bailey discusses in his article. More than anything, let’s allow them to fall in love with books again, because books provide so much more than 10 points on an AR quiz.

More than anything, I want all students to have opportunities to rise above the norm, and maybe, just maybe, we will see many more students, not just our struggling ones, immersed in books they love, and thinking about their reading in ways we’ve never imagined. Their engagement will improve. Their growth will astound us. They will develop as critical thinkers, accomplished writers, and as empathetic individuals ready to take on the challenges of college and their world.

-RG

Say Yes to YALSA

Word of caution: if you already have an enormous ‘To Be Read’ list, avoid YALSA at all costs. You will only find more wonderful books that you feel obligated to add and read.

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(Image: Flickr.com)

Before this semester, I had never even heard of YALSA. YALSA works to advocate for teens and libraries around the nation. Through my research, I found out that it is a national association of people dedicated to build up our libraries “to engage, serve and empower teens.” YALSA not only advocates for the rights of teen readers; they also do research, train librarians and library workers, and give $150,000 to libraries every year. This association provides numerous lists that categorize books for readers to read.

Teens are not simply ‘older children’-they have reached a developmental stage that requires a different strategic approach in order to effectively understand, connect with and serve them. In addition, the needs and developmental abilities of younger teens ages 13 to 15 vary from those of older teens ages 16 to 18. YALSA helps libraries increase their outreach to teens and serve them better.

-YALSA answering the question “Why Focus on Teens?”

 

Let’s get one thing straight: book lists are dangerous. For example, today I thought I would spend some time looking through book lists and blogs for this class. “Some time” turned into hours. During this time, my TBR list exploded. Honestly, it did. (Good thing that I have this summer to catch up!) I found myself anxiously reading through the lists and feeling delighted when I saw books that I had previously read listed on them or found a great book to read (16 of these, to be exact). Book lists are excellent tools for readers to explore. By reading lists, book lovers everywhere are able to access both new and old books that could pique their interest. I explored the YALSA website and blog, the Hub. I looked through the 2014-16 lists of Best Fiction for Young Adults, Quick Picks for Reluctant Young Adult Readers, and the Teens’ Top Ten lists. The Hub, YALSA’s blog, had even more lists to explore. This site provided lists of books that covered topics in wide ranges, from substance abuse to Fairy Tale Retellings with Fierce Female Characters. The lists were numerous and thought out. There is truly a list for any type of book that you could be thinking of. If you didn’t get enough lists on those sites, be sure to look up Teen Services Underground, and be prepared to be amazed. Lists upon lists upon lists! It’s a reader’s dream. 🙂

 

As for me, I’ll continue to use this resource for quite some time I’m sure. I will access the “Quick Pick” list for readers in my class that need a boost on their reading and will encourage students to peruse through the site. I will utilize the lists to find books for classroom book talks. Anything that I can find that will help my students will be something that I will hold on to. YALSA is a great resource that will open doors for students for years to come; what more could you want, except maybe a tweet back? If you need me this summer, you’ll find me reading.

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-RG