Reading Local

I bought two baby gifts this week. For any baby shower, I give books, local books, books written by friends. This time the new mothers, both former students of mine, received copies of Your Alien by Tammi Sauer and Extraordinary Jane by Hannah E. Harrison.

Your Alien is a sweet story, told in second person, about friendship and family.  This is one of my favorites from picture book superstar Tammi Sauer.

The sequel, Your Alien Returns, appeared in 2016. It’s as good as the first alien visitation.

Extraordinary Jane is, well, extraordinary. Harrison is not only a writer who can tell a complete and beautiful story in less than a hundred words, but her illustrations are lovely.

The board book isn’t as stunning as the original hardcover, but babies need books they can carry around…and chew on, if they wish. This story is one children will want to hear again and again, one they need to hear.

I often read aloud to my current students. Like the baby gifts, many of the books they hear are written by people I know.

You sure know a lot of writers, one of my kiddos said.

Well, yes, if you belong to SCBWI, Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, you do know a lot of writers. In Oklahoma, make that a lot of successful writers.  And illustrators.

Check out the work of Sauer and Harrison for yourself. And stay tuned. I plan to introduce you to more of my friends.

Junie B. Meets Pet Club

Thanks to First Book, my students received a copy of  Junie B. Jones Smells Something Fishy.  We read the book aloud before they took it home.  Junie B. is disappointed that she can’t bring her dog, Tickles, to the class pet fair.  Sure, she can bring a photo, but her friends are bringing real animals–birds, frogs, things in cages.  Julie B. needs a quick, small pet.

As we read, we composed a list of names for a pet earthworm. Worm Washington topped the list.  No, this does not give way the ending.

Every kid had a pet story to share.  As I listened, I thought of Gwendolyn Hooks’ easy reader series, Pet Club.

Next week they’ll read The Pet Club stories on their own or with a partner.


Reading the Sequoyah Nominees

I’ve read 11 of 15 books on the 2017 Sequoyah Master List for Grades 3-5, so far. My friend, Kami, and her granddaughter, Kynzee, have read them all. Kynzee and I may be in agreement on which book we favor to win.

The best literature being written today is for young readers. A good place to start sampling is with prize lists, including state award nominees.

Read and share some good series books, too. Many kids become readers because they fall in love with characters like Junie B. Jones or become fascinated by history and science with the likes of Magic Tree House, I Survived, and the Magic School Bus. These books are well written, funny, exciting, and hold a kid’s attention. Their formulae are comforting for young readers, too.

Reading is about making connections. Students who find things in common between books get more out of those books. Every connection is a new peg, every word a new link.

This year, my students are pairing I Survived the Bombing of Pearl Harbor by Lauren Tarshis with Gaijin by Matt Faulkner and Dash by Kirby Larson. Dash is a Sequoyah nominee. Gaijin is a graphic novel. These three books explore the bombing of Pearl Harbor, its aftermath, and its effects on people. Under the Blood-Red Sun by Graham Salisbury would be another good book here.

Books don’t have to be about the same topic to provide connections. I’ve often paired Keeping Room by Anna Myers with Fever 1793 by Laurie Halse Anderson. What they have in common are time and place, the late 1700s and the East Coast of the North American continent.

What are some of your favorite pairings for young people? Why?

What winners have you read lately? What do you recommend?

I can always add another book to my stack.

Reading and Writing and Teaching

If you want your children to be readers, they need to know that you read. This applies to teachers as well as parents.

Luckily for me, I teach in a school that values literacy for its own sake. We have a true rock-star librarian. Our principal regularly reads with groups of students during winter lunches. Students are allowed to take their food into the library for these events.

Our school participates in the Sequoyah Awards (Oklahoma’s children’s books award), and there are multiple copies of the books on the elementary Sequoyah list in the library. Teachers choose books to read to their classes. Students who read at least half of the 15 or 16 books on the list get to camp out in the library after the votes are cast.

We celebrate Dr. Seuss’s birthday. We read fall stories when we visit the Pumpkin Patch. We invite authors to visit our school, and before they come we read as many of their books as we can. We read for the sheer joy of reading.

As a reading teacher, I read so I know books that my students will love. As a writer, I read to know what’s already been done and to learn the craft of writing.  I read to sink into a good story.

I’ve read dozens of books in the past four years, perhaps hundreds. I was teaching college freshmen at Tulsa Community College when a friend talked me into returning to the public school classroom to teach reading. Full-time teaching didn’t stymie my reading, but it did slow down my blogging about books. What time I had to write was spent on stories, essays, and poetry, not on blogging. But…

I need to discuss books. Surely I can work a little book talk into my schedule. Surely.