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.


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.

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.