Book Love ~ By Penny Kittle

I love reading Penny Kittle’s  Book Love! As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I had purchased this book two summers ago as I was trying to figure out the direction I wanted to go in my classrooms in regard to independent reading. I was completely hooked on this book after the first few pages! (And I will tell everyone that hasn’t read it before, you should re-read it again every year!)

I think the first thing that caught my eye when I read the book was when Kittle said that “…nonreaders would become committed, passionate readers given the right bpexels-photo-459514.jpegooks, time to read…” (Kittle 1). She goes on to talk about how students today do not get the chance to build their stamina for reading. This is so very true! I remember the first time I had started college and was told I needed to finish so many pages/books a week. I about had a complete meltdown! I was not ready for that type of reading. I want to make sure that my students will at least have a better chance at being prepared for college reading by time they leave my room.

Why do we, as teachers, sometimes expect that students should be able to read the classics and understand them when they haven’t had time to prepare for that type of reading? As Kittle states, “Reading only what is too hard and then telling them what it means is not making them better readers” (Kittle 7). This is completely defeating to the students and just helps to reinforce their thinking that reading is boring and something they cannot do. In this case, as she states, we end up doing more harm than good.

It would be really nice if all English teachers would/could buy into fostering the love of reading through guiding students to become avid readers by giving them choices in what they read. I think that is why this is such an important class, or, it is important for teachers to become aware of as many different YA books as possible. We need to be the advocates that help foster the love of reading in our students.

Works Cited:

Kittle, Penny. Book love: developing depth, stamina, and passion in adolescent readers.         Heinemann, 2013.
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Reading Response~It’s Monday!

 

poisoned apple

 

Poisoned Apples by Christine Heppermann

Last week I chose to read a poetry book titled Poisoned Apples by Christine Heppermann. This book contains 50 free-verse poems that are combined with elements of fairy-tales and delves into many of the pressures facing young female teens today. The poems examine such topics as domestic violence, eating disorders, sexuality, and self-harm,  In the poem “Spotless” the author intertwines the fairy-tale “Little Red Riding Hood” into the poem about (what I believe to be) self-injury. Other poems are easier to discern with titles such as “The Elves and the Anorexic”, “A Shape Magazine Fairy Tale”, and “Photoshopped Poem”. While weaving fairy-tale elements into the subject matter, Heppermann reveals the perception many adolescent females have about themselves.

When I first spotted this book, I was interested in reading it considering it was about issues facing adolescent females with a fairy-tale twist. And my thought was this might be a good book for my classroom library considering it’s a poetry book aimed at a female audience. I enjoy reading poetry and went in with an open mind. After the first few poems, I started having a hard time wanting to finish it. While I believe the structure with the integration of fairy-tales is clever, I had a hard time really enjoying it. I can’t really say that it was the writing, as poetry is the one genre that is open to interpretation. I believe my problem in reading the poems was that in my mind I kept thinking that some of these poems may not be appropriate for certain students to read, especially those dealing with personal issues of their own. This may be one of the few times that my age is starting to show. Although I am aware that these are issues that are prevalent in today’s society, I just felt that some of these poems may be taken as glorifying certain areas. I can definitely see that this would be a book that would be challenged if I was to incorporate it into my classroom library.

 

Works Cited:

Heppermann, Christine. Poisoned Apples. Harper Collins, 2014.

A (Reluctant) Reader’s Bill of Rights ~ A Reflection

“So Mrs. N., you really don’t care if I read Diary of a Wimpy Kid? What’s the catch?” this was the exact question I received last year from a sophomore student as I was reviewing my expectations on independent reading.

“No, I really don’t care if you read Diary of a Wimpy Kid, a magazine, comics, or anything else. I just want you to read.” The bewildered looks on their faces as I scanned the room were priceless. I couldpexels-photo-261874.jpeg almost see the gears turning in their brains as they tried to figure out what my aim of this was. “You see, I really just want you to read. Would I like for you to read chapter books that are on your grade level, yes. Do I think that all of you are capable of doing that, yes. Do I believe that realistically you all WILL do that, no. But do I believe that you all WILL read SOMETHING, yes.”

One thing about teenagers, they like to talk. Last year was my first year teaching high school English after teaching elementary for the previous twenty. So as I was in the process of moving my room over to the high school, I had many of my former students (now in high school) dropping by to visit. As they would visit, we would talk about their classes, what they liked/disliked, how they were doing, and so forth. When it came to talking about their English class experiences, the talk inevitable turned to independent reading. Independent reading was something they all were required to do. They would tell me that in one class, they would read independent books and then have to do written book reports or book reports and a project. In another class, they would have to read independent books, record pages read, and orally give reports. Many of these students would laugh and say, “You know, I never really read any of the books. I just write down pages and then read enough of a summary on-line to get by. The teachers never have a clue.”

After these conversations, I spent the summer that year trying to decide what I wanted to do in regard to independent reading. I knew the importance of reading, but I also knew the rebook whispereral importance of getting the students to LOVE to read, not just read to get by for a grade. Therefore that summer, I purchased and read Donalyn Miller’s book The Book Whisperer and Penny Kittle’s book Book Love (yes the same one that is required for this class). After reading these books, and researching all over the internet, I finally came to the conclusion that what I really just wanted was for them to read. Anything. Period.

“A (Reluctant) Reader’s Bill of Rights” is exactly the position I decided to take that year. As a reader, there are many times that I will start a book only to find I don’t like it and have to quit reading. I don’t always like to read adult books, in fact, I really enjoy reading YA literature. I enjoy reading children’s books as well. I’m not the speediest reader there ever was. I love to read newspapers (or in some instances – scan as my husband says, since I am known to miss articles he thinks are important). So if I, as an adult, have the right to do these various things when it comes to reading, why shouldn’t my students?

My philosophy on independent reading has since morphed into this: I want students to learn to enjoy reading. This is not going to happen if you limit them on what they can or cannot read. Not every reader is the same; some like novels others love comics. But what we want as teachers in the end is for students to learn and hopefully even, dare I say it, learn to love reading. For me, letting them read what they want, how they want, and at times when they want, is a winning situation. They are reading, maybe not my “cup of tea” material, but they are reading. We discuss, we “book chat” or “article” chat, we still reflect on their reading, but they are not feeling like it is a chore. And in the process, they may become more voracious readers in the end….maybe.

“Hey, I just finished Diary of a Wimpy Kid. I really liked listening to you talk about The Book Thief. Do you mind if I borrowed that book from you next?” …. My heart was full.

 

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Reading Response ~ It’s Monday!

 

Looking for Alaska by John Green

Last week I read the John Green novel Looking for Alaska. This novel follows the main character Miles Halter (Pudge) who transfers to a boarding school hoping to find what he calls his “Great Perhaps”. At the school, he becomes friends with four other characters: Alaska, Chip (General), Takumi, and Lara. Pudge becomes infatuated with Alaska, even though she has a boyfriend at the time, and at times, seems to be fighting her own demons within herself. After Alaska’s unexpected death, Pudge and his friends try to search for the truth in what happened during Alaska’s final moments, not only for her but also for themselves.

When I started this novel, I had great hopes. I had read a lot of great reviews on the book and had been wanting to read it for over a year. After I started the book, I have to say that it did take me quite a while to really get into it. It seemed at the beginning that this was just another predictable teenage novel with all the characters that one would expect to find: the boy searching for himself who falls for the unattainable girl, his friend who is a prankster and trouble-maker, the mysterious beautiful girl who has secrets, and the girl who the main character goes out with because he can’t get the girl of his dreams.

The story itself did seem to follow the predictable course, as half-way through, I had already guessed that Alaska would end up dying. I did enjoy the book although, I can’t say that this was my favorite. I do think that the book has a good message for teens especially at the end when Pudge writes his final paper about forgiveness and believing that in the end, we go somewhere even if we are not sure where that is.

The Testing by Joelle Charbonneau

I also read Joelle Charbonneau’s novel The Testing. This is a Dystopian novel set after the world has been decimated by what we presume were nuclear bombs. The book starts on what is called “Graduation Day”. Cia Vale is the main character who is hoping to be chosen for what is called “The Testing”. All that is known about “The Testing” is that it is something that is very prestigious. We quickly begin to realize that “The Testing” is not what it appears to be, especially when it is learned that Cia’s father also was chosen when he was younger and has no recollection of what happened besides some reoccurring “nightmares”. Throughout the story, we follow Cia as she navigates through the “tests” and learns that failing is not an option.

This book was recommended to me by my best friend two years ago as she had read it for an Adolescent Literature class she was taking at that time. I had bought the book  but never had time to read it. I was a huge fan of The Hunger Games and Divergent and was sure that I would also enjoy this series. It definitely didn’t disappoint. Even though it does follow in the same footsteps as the two other Dystopian series; a strong female protagonist with a male counterpart, I still was able to be transported into that world. It also has enough variation from the other two series as to not make you feel like you are just re-reading the same story. I do believe that anyone who enjoys Dystopian genre would enjoy this series just as much. It’s always nice to find a strong female lead that girls especially can read about.

 

Young Adult Literature

It’s no secret that today’s adolescents have many pressures pressing down on them from every side. Sopen bookome in an effort to either escape, look for answers, or validate that what they’re going through is normal, turn to literature. Because of this, it is no wonder that adolescent literature has become such a hot market.

According to the article A Brief History of Young Adult Literature, the first time books were directly marketed to teenagers was at the turn of the millennium. In the article they attributed this as a result of the baby boom of the 1992. While I do agree that having many more teens growing up during the millennium would correspond to the increased marketing of this age group, one also has to wonder if another correlation could be connected to the emergence of technology. Technology was just starting to grasp the American public and for the first time, teenagers were able to be connected in a way they had never before. Now more than ever, teens could see what others’ lives were like; and for good or bad, they could project that onto themselves. With this new information, teenagers were more now than ever in need of  connecting to themes that were present in YA Literature.

I know that there are people who believe that contemporary YA Literature is basically “junk” and that it has no other redeeming qualities besides pure entertainment. I do agree with Shannon Hale’s article The Young Adult Book Tropes that Ate the World when she says that those that criticize the themes of YA Literature are basically criticizing teenagers themselves. These books are written in a way that teens are able to relate them to their own lives. In some instances, these may be the only connection that a teen has to what is happening with them. These books can be the “hope” that shows the teenager that everything will turn out alright.

One thing that I really like about contemporary YA Literature is the fact that there is an abundance of genre to reach every teen if they are so inclined. I enjoyed reading the categories and sample books from the article Crash Course in YA Trends. I was surprised to see that as of 2015, there had been a decline in dystopian novels. I know from my own classroom, many of the students are still very much engaged in that particular genre. Also, I didn’t know that there were ‘retellings’ of classical novels. I remember one of my students reading Cinder by Marissa Meyer, but I did not have any idea that was a retelling of Cinderella.

I am excited to read different genre of YA Literature this year. I have to admit that the majority of YA books that I have read are either dystopian, fantasy, or supernatural. I don’t think I have ever read a non-fiction YA book. If I had to pick an area of expertise, I would have to pick dystopian. If only because it is the area that I am most familiar.

By reading all types of genre this semester, I feel  this is going to help me be able to better recommend books for my students and help me to better match books to students’ interests. Another thing I would like to be able to do is figure out how to get more of the reluctant readers engaged in reading. I have tried book talks, book trailers, passage read-alouds, and book speed-dating but still have some students who absolutely refuse to read a book. How do we reach those students?

 

 

 

Reading Response: Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys

Salt to the Sea

Summary:  Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys is an intriguing 2016 historical fiction novel set during World War II. Sepetys’s novel follows four individuals, whose paths cross and stories  intertwine, as they journey to escape Stalin’s Russian invasion during World War II.

Readers are introduced to four seemingly different characters: a fifteen year old pregnant Polish girl, a young Prussian soldier with a secret, a nurse whose guilt is tearing her apart, and finally a German soldier on the edge of sanity. With each chapter told from one of the four character’s points of view, readers are allowed to become enmeshed in each character’s lives. Their stories come full circle when the four are passengers on the ill-fated Wilhelm Gustloff; a German transport ship slated to carry German personnel to safety. The Wilhelm Gustloff became the deadliest maritime disaster in history.

Review: Salt to the Sea is one of those books that once you start reading, you cannot put down. Because of the books format, each chapter told from a different character’s point of view, it is an easy read that completely captures the readers’ attention.

One of the most fascinating aspects of the book is how well each of the characters’ stories are related. Sepetys was very thoughtful in how she slowly lets the reader find out the full story of each character in small snippets along the way. As with the character Emilia, the fifteen-year-old pregnant Polish girl, we do not find out the truth of her pregnancy until the end. Another fascinating aspect of the book is how Sepetys brought three historical events into the story: the Wilhelm Gustloff, the disappearance of the Amber Room, and Operation Hannibal. I found it interesting that the deadliest maritime disaster in history is one that most people have never heard about. I certainly had not!

I believe this story would appeal to most any reader, teen through adult, not just historical buffs. I have never been a fan of historical fiction, but this novel completely captured my attention and has made me want to read more. Salt to the Sea is one of those books that I truly did not want to end. It is a book that I will highly recommend to anyone.

 

 

 

5-Image Story: My Journey Through Books

 

A Legacy Handed Down

As far back as I can remember, I have always been surrounded by books. My immersion into reading can be traced back to my paternal grandfather, handed down to my father, and then finally, givpexels-photo-256273.jpegen to me. I cannot look back on memories of my grandfather or father without books and the love of reading being one of the most important factors. It was a rare occurrence to see either of these gentlemen without a book in their hands or one by their sides. When my grandfather passed away, he left not only a storage shed with over a thousand books and magazines as his legacy but also a rich love of reading to his son and granddaughter.

A Love Fostered and Almost Broken

Needless to say, my primary years were surrounded by books. By the time my early teen years came, I was an avid reader with a passion for all types of literature. I would pour through the bA Wrinkle in Timeoxes of books and magazines my grandfather had left. My father and I would read books together, discussing and dissecting various parts of the stories; these were some of the best times of my life.

By the time I was in eighth grade, I had my own small library in my room. Even though money was tight, my father had signed me up for a book club that allowed me to pick and purchase books on my own. One of the first books that I can remember purchasing was Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time. I fell in love with the story of Meg, Charles Wallace, Calvin, and the twins. As I sit here writing, I can still remember how it felt curled up under the covers and being transported with Mrs. Who, Mrs. Whatsit, and Mrs. Which to the various planets along their journey.     

Unfortunately, my passion for reading would soon take a hard hit as I began my high school years. These were the years of the required classics. All of a sudden I was being forced to read books that I had not picked for myself. I rebelled during thLord of the Fliese beginning of those years and would “skim” the required reading enough to hopefully be able answer any questions that may come my way. Most of my classmates were of the same mind-set, with of course, a few exceptions. Those few that did the required reading were inundated with questions about the passages by those of us who were trying to “squeak” by. I do remember, though, at one point during a class discussion, thinking to myself, “This book doesn’t really sound too bad.” Unfortunately, by time that realization hit, we were almost through the novel.

Two separate incidents luckily brought me full-circle back into the realm of literature. The first was the author Judy Blume. During my junior year, the school started what at that time was a pilot program aimed at independent reading. We were required to read everyday, after lunch, for thirty minutes. By this time, I had already fallen off the “book wagon”, and hadn’t read any books for pleasure since my middle school years. As luck would have it, my eldest sister had just read the book Forever… by Judy Blume and offered it to me for independent reading. It was such an intriguing book, one in which a teenage girl could relate. It became my path back to reading.

Forever

With my love for reading finally restored, it was a small, gray-haired lady with a larger- than-life personality that cemented my love for books. As I was browsing in the library towards the end of my junior year, I was startled by a hand touching my shoulder. Our school librarian was standing behind me and asked me to stop in her office when I had finished. During our meeting, she asked if I would be interested in helping out in the library. I didn’t know what to say, I was so excited! Not only would I be able to be in a place I felt the most comfortable, I would be able to continue on a journey that had started many, many years ago….with my grandfather.

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