Classroom Libraries/Book Love

One of the most important aspects in getting students to read is to surround them with material that will inspire them to read. When I moved to the high school from teaching elementary, I left apexels-photo-590493.jpeg classroom library that I had built from the ground up. Unfortunately, now I’m in the process of doing it again.

There were a few things in Sara Anderson’s blogs that I found really helpful. The first one coincides with me trying to rebuild a classroom library. It is awfully expensive to try to furnish all the books myself so I really enjoyed her idea about having a budget to start with. I can definitely see where this would be a good idea. It would prevent what would inevitably be “buyer’s remorse” or more appropriately “husband’s remorse!”. Also, I really loved her suggestion of letting students know they can donate books they are done with to the class library. Adding the personal stickers of dedication is a great idea! What a way to honor those who give!

She’s absolutely correct that you need to have a classroom library so students have easy access to books. Especially books that you can talk to them about and recommend to them. This year, my second group of sophomores are at a time when the library is closed. This has created a huge issue with independent reading because they don’t have access to the library, and my classroom library is so sparse. We have SSR on most Fridays, and this class is continually full of students with nothing to read. I’m hoping that I will be able to avoid this in the future by building my class library. It was also refreshing to hear from her that she also struggles with a checkout system. This was always an issue in my elementary classroom. It’s just one of those issues that you keep working at and tweaking as you go.

Chapter 3 in Book Love really got me thinking for next year. I enjoyed reading about the way she sets the goals in her classroom. I remember reading this over the summer, and I really don’t know why I didn’t try it this year, but it is something I really want to do for next year. I’ve always known what I want my Independent reading to look like in my room, and I know that my overall goal is two-fold; get kids reading and increase reading stamina. But I will admit that I haven’t used good goal setting in my classes. Her weekly tracking sheets seem like something that could be easily incorporated into my classes. Kittle also states in her chapter 3 that two important things need to be used if we really want kids to grow: a to-be-read-next list and reading conferences. I already use conferences, but I definitely want to use the to-be-read-next list.

Kittle also mentions in chapter 4 that we have to provide a wide variety of books for students to read. This is absolutely true if we want to maintain interest for everyone. Every student has a different need; what they may need at the time, is not what we may need or even like. I thought her idea of having a parent/student letter to inform parents about the fact that it’s impossible to know everything in all the books that are available was a great idea. It would help cover yourself in the event that a parent doesn’t agree with some of the material that is available.

Overall, both readings this week reinforce that in order to develop life long readers, we need to make sure that students are surrounded by books. We also need to give students the time to make those special connections with books. Reading should be enjoyable and does not always need to be the “hard” reading. Reading first and foremost needs to be enjoyable!

Works Cited:

Kittle, Penny. Book love: developing depth, stamina, and passion in adolescent readers.         Heinemann, 2013.



Reading Response ~ It’s Monday!!

Independent Study ~ by Joelle Charbonneau

This week one of the books that I finished was Independent Study by Joelle Charbonneau. This is the second book in her Testing series and the first book that my book club chose to read.

This book starts where the last one left off….the main character, Cia (Malencia) Vale, has passed “The Testing” and is now enrolled in the University. She has no memory of her time spent during the testing, but thanks to her brother Zeen’s transmitter, which she used to record the happenings during The Testing before her memory of the events were erased; she has reason to believe that something sinister happened.

Life at the University starts out well, just as one would expect. When time comes for the students to be chosen for their specific studies, Cia is chosen to work for the Government. It is not an assignment she is excited about, but she takes it like she does with everything; she will put her all into it. During this time, an older mentor student, Ian, tell Cia that they will soon be choosing candidates for internships. Cia hears what he’s saying: Either you make it or you’re eliminated (dead). During this time, Cia happens upon a building where students whom don’t make it are taken for “reassignment”. There she witnesses what really happens to the students who fail.

Again, Cia and others from the University are put through tests that require them to either survive or die. In the end, Cia and her group make it and become interns. While interning at the Government building, Cia discovers that there are two rebel factions that are trying to put an end to The Testing; one by peaceful means, the other planning on war. Cia is recruited to try to help uncover the truth of what happens during The Testing. Together with her boyfriend, Tomas, and a new ally, Raffe, Cia sets out to help bring down The Testing and its creator, Dr. Barnes.

I  enjoyed this second book from The Testing series. Cia is a strong female protagonist that one is easily drawn to. Again, if you like reading Dystopian genre, this series is another excellent example. One of the largest surprises in this novel is how you are never able to fully trust any of the characters. Just when you think you understand a character, something happens. I think any student who loves reading Dystopian genre would find themselves drawn to The Testing series.

Shatter Me ~ by Tahereh Mafi

The second book I finished this week was the book Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi. This is the first book in her Shatter Me series; the latest to be released Mashatter merch 2018 titled Restore Me.

The first thing you notice when you begin the book, are the numbers (digit form) that are being used and the fact that there are words and sentences that have been struck through, as if they were not meant to be said. As we read, we begin to find that the numbers are associated to the length of time the main character has been locked up and how long it has been since any human contact. We also learn that this is a world that has been changed by some cataclysmic event.

Shatter Me is told from the first person point of view of its main character, Juliette Ferrars. She is being held because she possesses the ability to paralyze or kill people by touch. Soon, she is accompanied in the cell by a boy named Adam Kent. From Juliette’s thoughts, we learn that Adam was a childhood classmate, one of the only people that was ever nice to her. She recognizes Adam, but Adam doesn’t seem to recognize her.

We then learn that Juliette is actually being held by a group called the Reestablishment and their leader’s 19-year old son, Aaron Warner. Warner plans to use Juliette as a weapon in their war to take over the world. Juliette then finds out that Adam is also a soldier for the Reestablishment and was in charge of watching over her. This in turn, tears Juliette apart, until it is revealed that Adam actually is in love with Juliette and had himself “planted” into her cell to help her escape. Adam has actually been in love with Juliette since they were kids. We also discover that Adam can touch Juliette without anything happening to him.

Juliette and Adam escape from the Reestablishment and find themselves back at Adam’s house with Adam’s younger brother, James. During this time, a soldier from the Reestablishment shows up by the name of Kenji. He says he knows of a safe place for them to hide; weary, Juliette and Adam agree just as Warner and his group find them.

Juliette and Adam are caught, with Warner shooting Adam. Warner then proceeds to tell Juliette that he actually loves her, is also able to touch her, and they would be perfect together. Juliette ends up shooting Warner and escaping to find Kenji, who has Adam and James, and takes Juliette to an underground fortress.

Here we learn that Kenji is actually part of the Rebellion, an army lead by a man named Castle, who is preparing to overthrow the Reestablishment. Castle, along with many of the other members have “gifts” similar to Juliette’s. Juliette finally finds a place she feels she belongs and this is where the books ends…

I really enjoyed this book. I picked it as my YA romance novel, even though it was another dystopian novel. I was first afraid it would be like the other dystopian novels, but the way this one is written and structured really captured my attention. As I said earlier, one of the first things you notice are the words/sentences that have been struck out. These are the thoughts and emotions that Juliette tries to hide and in using this, it allows the reader to really understand her inner thoughts. Another structure that I really enjoyed were the short chapters. It made the book seem like such a quick read; more so than when author’s use long chapters. I have just discovered this about myself as a reader; I enjoy when chapters are shorter. I think this book would be appealing to anyone that enjoys a romance or dystopian novel. It does contain more romance than Hunger Games or The Testing; therefore I see this as appealing more to a female audience than male. I can’t wait to read the rest of the series to see where it goes.


Book Banning and Self-Censorship

“Fear and control” these are two of the main reasons for censorship according to the article “Facing the Issues: Challenges, Censorship, and Reflection through Dialogue” (Lent 62). pexels-photo-207636.jpeg

I think that fear and control perfectly describe what happens where censorship occurs. Because we read something that makes us uncomfortable (fear) we try to then ‘control’ the situation. This is especially true when it comes to our teens. A lot of times we try to shelter our teens from things that are out there in the world. But I think that this can have a negative effect. A lot of the books that are “censored” are books that maybe a teen would be able to safely navigate through to help find answers to questions they otherwise couldn’t.

I found it interesting in “A Dirty Little Secret: Self-Censorship” when they talked about how easy it is for people to censor books for anything. Any little thing nowadays, can be used as a catalyst for censorship. I can’t imagine how hard it is for authors and publishers. I especially found it interesting when the publisher for Carolyn Mackler asked her to change the title of her book The Bitches to Rhymes with Witches (qtd. in Whelan) and it still received opposition because now it might be about witchcraft! That’s crazy!

The article though, did get me thinking about myself, and that yes, I am also guilty of self-censorship. As I’ve Tweeted, I am pretty comfortable reading mostly anything, but am I comfortable enough to put any YA literature on my class bookshelf? The truthful answer to that unfortunately is no. There are very few titles that I can think of that I, myself, would object to having on my shelf; but there are titles that I would be worried would be called into question by parents and administration alike. Therefore, I am guilty of the “fear” part of censorship; fear of backlash.

I think there are many types of books that not only my students, but other students would benefit from reading. Many of these books could give them insights into what others are going through, and maybe at the same time, create more empathy in the world. I would like to think that if a student read Positive: A Memoir by Paige Rawl for instance, they would be less biased against people with HIV and much less likely to bully.

It would be great if you could have all types of books for students to choose from on your shelves. You could give each student their own choice as to what they wish to read and what avenues they wish to travel. Unfortunately, this just isn’t the case.






Reading Response~It’s Monday!

Positive: A Memoir by Paige Rawl with Ali Benjamin

“Maybe being broken helps you become a better person” (Rawl and Benjamin 162).

positiveThis week was devoted to reading a YA non-fiction book called Positive: A Memoir by Paige Rawl. It’s a story about Paige, whom was born with HIV and her struggles with bullying, depression, suicide, and resiliency. Paige was born into this world unknowingly affected with HIV. It wasn’t until her third birthday when her mother was diagnosed with HIV that Paige was found to also be infected. Paige tells a beautiful story of a loving mother that would do anything for the daughter she loves and the fight against bullying once her status is discovered.

Paige was never aware of the stigma that her condition came with. As long as she could remember, doctors, hospitals, and medication were all the norms in her life. So when she finally makes it to middle school (which she was so excited for), she has no idea that telling her “best friend” about her HIV diagnosis would set off a chain reaction of events. Once the bullying began, the once extremely self-assured young girl endures isolation and bullying (not only from other students but from teachers and coaches as well). In one part, Paige tells about her soccer coach who tells Paige and her mom that the team can use Paige’s HIV status as an advantage; the other teams will be too afraid to touch her and Paige can score all the points (Rawl and Benjamin 120). In the end, Paige learns to love herself again and is able to be a voice for others as she and her mother take a stand against the prejudices that she had to endure.

This is such a wonderfully written book that is split into four parts: Beginning, bullyingStumbling, Falling, and Becoming. Throughout each section, she peppers her stories with flashbacks of her family and facts about HIV. This is one of the most emotional books I have read, and it is so beautifully written. I cannot say enough about this book and its positive message, especially for teens. The book also has a section devoted to helpful information on HIV/AIDS and bullying. I think this should be a required reading for all teens, because it does show what bullying can do to a person and how each and every person, no matter their differences, deserve to be in a safe environment.

Works Cited:
Rawl, Paige, and Ali Benjamin. Positive: A Memoir. Harper Collins, 2014.