Student-Centered Book Bins

Recently as part of our online summer book club to discuss Reading to Make a Difference: Using Literature to Help Students Think Deeply, Speak Freely, and Take Action, Mary Howard reminded us about the importance of honoring student voice. Mary suggested that we invite our students to participate in the decision making when sorting and generating labels for the book bins.  Second grade teacher, Daniel Hoilett reflected on this notion as he recalled his first year teaching and how he inadvertently created opportunities for his students to organize their classroom library.

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post from “Reading to Make a Difference” Facebook Group

When school started Daniel enthusiastically introduced his new group of second graders to their classroom library. He introduced the books through book talks and

modeled how some of the books might be organized. He then invited the students to examine commonalities across books, sort them into like categories to create book bins, and create a label for the collections of text. By inviting students into the sorting and organization process, students have a greater sense of ownership over the collection. They will know where the books are kept and will have greater access to books. This will reduce time spent “shopping” for books and will increase time spent reading. After all, research shows us that access to books, choice in book selection, and time spent reading are key predictors of overall success in reading (Allington & Gabriel, 2012).

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Books written by Mo Willems
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Books featuring non-humans
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Mystery books
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Books labeled “Loving You!”
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Books labeled “Young Kids Saving the World”

We love all the labels these kids came up with, but our favorite is “Young Kids Saving the World.” What a powerful way for students to see how other children can take action to make the world a better place. Perhaps these books will serve as doorways (Bishop, 1990) for these young readers and inspire them to make a difference in the world.

Consider following Daniel’s lead, how might that play out in your classroom?  What if you brought in several empty boxes or laundry baskets and filled them with the books from your classroom library?  What if your students spent a morning getting familiar and sorting the books into sets that are meaningful and accessible to them? What if?

First Day Read Alouds

Recently I spent a few hours in a second grade teacher’s classroom to sort a sample of his classroom library and evaluate the books for diversity and inclusivity. We chose a sampling of his classroom library collection to make the activity more manageable. This led to some eye opening revelations about who is included and who is excluded from his classroom library. As he sorted books, we had some interesting conversations about the activity and the role of diverse books (more about this in a future post). He commented about how valuable this exercise was to help him pay closer attention to the books he selects and how those books serve as mirrors and windows (Bishop, 1990) for his students.

“So why then do we read the same book year after year on the first day of school?” – 2nd grade teacher

First Day Jitters by Julie Danneberg has been a favorite first day read aloud for many teachers. In fact, his entire grade level team reads it on the first day. I even read it aloud to my undergrads as we begin each semester. While we still love that book, this post features 10 suggested first day read alouds featuring diverse characters and perspectives. 

The call to diversify our classroom libraries has gained recent attention over the last few years. With our nation’s population becoming increasingly diverse, it is essential that the books we read aloud and make available for our children to read independently allow them to see reflections of themselves. Yet our classroom libraries often over represent the dominant culture and fail to provide adequate mirrors for BIPOC (Black Indigenous People/Person(s) of Color) resulting in perpetuating the single story (Adichie, 2009). 

For more book suggestions as well as instructional ideas, see chapter 1 “Discovering Our Own Identities” in our book, Reading to Make a Difference (Laminack & Kelly, 2019).       

Reading with PRIDE

PRIDE–”the quality or state of being proud…a reasonable or justifiable self-respect…” (Merriam Webster app)

June is designated as PRIDE month, a time when members of the LBGTQ+ community and our families and allies come together to celebrate our common humanity.  It is a time to stand up with others, to remind the nation everything that makes any one of us human is present in each of us in the human family. It is a time to celebrate our successes and the continued struggle for equal rights for all people. It is also a time to remember and respect those who came before, especially those in the 1969 Stonewall uprising in Greenwich Village.   

Pride, “a reasonable or justifiable self-respect” should be the birthright of every human being. Pride is our human birthright. Elizabeth, an openly gay preservice teacher shares her story and hopes to erase stigma about the LGBTQ+ community to make the classroom a safe space for teachers and students.

My name is Elizabeth. I am a 21-year-old education major in South Carolina. I came out the summer before college and was met with very mixed responses. I was terrified of being rejected by friends and extended family and how my sexuality would affect a future career in education. Of course, my close friends and parents continued to love me unconditionally, but valued church members took it upon themselves to fill me in on “the perverse direction my life was taking.” I was verbally abused face to face in the sanctuary of my church.  Bigotry and hatred runs rampant in my hometown and these fears follow me every time I return. I also experienced more abuse online where people do not have to look me in the eye.

In the flurry of emotions I turned to literature to reassure me that my life is just different, not wrong. I discovered many books and resources including LGBTQIA+ families. Yet, many of the books claiming to support and cherish gay readers held messages of homophobia and hatred. A small number of children’s books portray happy LGBTQIA+ families and individuals, yet even fewer of them are included in school and classroom libraries. It is important for books written by authors like Lesléa Newman to be accessible in classrooms so children know at an early age that  they can be exactly who they are without any fear or shame.

My story is not as harrowing as my some of my peers in the queer community, but my heartbreak is just as real. I will be a fantastic teacher because of my identity, not despite it. Being gay has taught me to be an advocate for myself and for all people, especially those who are marginalized. We as educators must present our students with a safe space, a space free of fear within our classroom walls, a space where they can learn how to be their most authentic selves. Especially in a world where it is slowly becoming easier to be proud of your identity, I will strive to cultivate my classroom community with love and respect, and pride.

Perhaps what makes Elizabeth’s story so poignant is that it brings an issue out of the shadows and into the light. Her story helps us to recognize how powerful literature can be in the life of a young person.  The idea that “the right book at the right time can open doors to possibility for a better world.” (Laminack and Kelly, 2019) is at the heart of her story. At the age of 21 she can name books from her youth that opened doors to self-respect, to pride in her own existence.  Yet, her comment that many books she thought would be helpful actually “held messages of homophobia and hatred…” clearly makes the case that we need books that serve as mirrors, windows, and doors for our LBGTQ+ students. These books would also open the windows and doors to cisgender classmates as well.

According to the book, Reading the Rainbow: LGBTQ-Inclusive Literacy Instruction in the Elementary Classroom, there are an estimated 6 million people with one or more LGBTQ+ parents (Gates, 2014) and at least 30,000 of these children are school age (Adams & Persinger, 2013). To create more inclusive classrooms, we can begin by avoiding heteronormative language and practices such as calling children ‘boys and girls’, referring to parents as ‘room moms’, or hosting events such as ‘donuts for dads’. In our book, Reading to Make a Difference: Using Literature to Help Students Think Deeply, Speak Freely, and Take Action, we share how Jennie Robinette transforms the traditional Q and U wedding in her kindergarten class by inviting any students to participate regardless of gender. In addition Jennie invited parents, including same-sex parents to come and tell the stories of their own weddings.  This sent a message that anyone can be married and love each other. Students celebrated by creating “Love is love” signs.

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From Reading to Make a Difference: Using Literature to Help Students Think Deeply, Speak Freely, and Take Action by Laminack & Kelly (Heinemann)

Entry points to becoming LGBTQ+ inclusive may include connecting with diverse families in your classroom and school community, responding to instances of taunting, teasing and full on bullying, and discussing current events and children’s literature (Ryan & Hermann-Wilmarth, 2018). For instance, to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the Stonewall Uprising, children could read Rob Sanders new book, Stonewall: A Building. An Uprising. A Revolution. With last year being the fortieth anniversary of the gay pride flag, students could read Pride: The Story of Harvey Milk and the Rainbow Flag. See below for a list of other recommended literature.

         

Suggested Books:

10,000 Dresses by Marcus Ewert

A Church for All by Gayle E. Pitman

A Day in the Life of Marlon Bundo by Marlon Bundo with Jill Twist

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz

Buffering by Hannah Hart

And Tango Makes Three by J. Richardson and P. Parnell

Donovan’s Big Day by Lesléa Newman

Families, Families, Families by Suzanne Lang

George by Alex Gino

Heather Has Two Mommies by Lesléa Newman

I Am Jazz by Jessica Herthel and Jazz Jennings

In Our Mother’s House by Patricia Polacco

Introducing Teddy by Jessica Walton

Jacob’s New Dress by Sarah Hoffman and Ian Hoffman

Julian is a Mermaid by Jessica Love

King and King by Linda de Haan and Stern Nijland

Mommy, Mama, and Me by Lesléa Newman

My Princess Boy by C. Kilodavis

Neither by Airlie Anderson

One of a Kind, Like Me by Laurin Mayeno

Pride the Story of Harvey Milk and the Rainbow Flag by Rob Sanders

Red: A Crayon’s Story by Michael Hall

Sparkle Boy by Lesléa Newman

Stella Brings the Family by Miriam B. Schiffer

Want to Play Trucks? By Ann Stott

Worm Loves Worm by J. J. Austrian

Additional Resources:

Supporting LGBTQ Students in Elementary School

Arthur’s Gay Teacher and Other Stories School Won’t Tell

Putting Read-Alouds to Work for LGBTQ-Inclusive, Critically Literate Classrooms (by Caitlyn L. Ryan & Jill M. Hermann-Wilmarth)

Building Diverse Collections of Children’s Literature to Expand Windows and Mirrors for Youth  (from the NCTE LGBTQ Advisory Committee)

We Love that Teachers are Speaking Up for LGBTQ Students (Teaching Tolerance)

17 LGBTQ-Friendly Books to Read to Your Kid in Honor of Pride

Podcast series by Kate and Maggie Roberts

Lee and Low LGBTQ+ Children’s Books Webinar

25 YA Novels That You Need To Read During Pride Month

To read more about valuing all identities through the use of children’s literature and rich discussion, check out our new book, Reading to Make a Difference: Using Literature to Help Students Speak Freely, Think Deeply, and Take Action.

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Scroll down using this link to the Heinemann blog to watch a video with Katie and Lester as they discuss how exploring identity allows us to connect with others.

Why Students Need Books with Muslim Characters

In light of the mass shooting at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand and the ongoing hate crimes experienced by Muslims in our own country, this month’s blog post focuses on the importance of inclusion of Muslim characters in literature.

According to NCTE’s position statement on anti-racism to support teaching and learning, educators have a responsibility to actively identify and respond to acts of racism and discrimination and promote cultural diversity and inclusion to “eradicate racism, bias, and prejudice in spaces of teaching and learning” (2018). We believe that literature can serve as a window to learn about unfamiliar people, places, and experiences and can help to deepen the reader’s ability to value all humans. “According to Scholastic’s biennial Kids & Family Reading Report, 88 percent of parents believe that reading fiction and nonfiction is a good way for their kids to better understand the world and three out of four kids agree.”

In this month’s post, we invite guest blogger, Johnna Malici, principal and fifth grade language arts teacher at As-Sabeel Academy, an Islamic elementary and middle school in Greenville, South Carolina, to share why students need books with muslim characters.

Why Students Need Books with Muslim Characters 

About three years ago, our then sixth grade class was on a field trip to see a play at a local performing arts center along with hundreds of other students from neighboring schools.   That day, as it turns out, would not be remembered as a fun outing with classmates.  Instead, the students would be scarred by the memory of what it can mean to be part of a vilified minority group in America.

By the end of the school day, we learned all the details.  It started even before the performance began.  A group of students from another school began harassing our female students, who are identifiably Muslim by virtue of wearing the headscarf (hijab).   “Are we gonna die today?” “Do you have bombs?” they taunted.  Our students ignored the abuse, thinking it would stop if they didn’t respond.  However, it only continued during the show when the harassers began pulling at our girls’ hijabs.  Because teachers from both our school and the other school were seated at the other end of their respective rows, no adult was present to witness the abuse.  Unsure of how to handle such a situation, our students told the teacher only upon returning to school, unable to hide their emotions as they described what had happened.

I wish I could say that these kinds of experiences are rare in the American Muslim community.  But unfortunately, they have become rather common.  And, to be frank, this instance was rather benign compared with the abuse and violence that some Muslims are subjected to.  To be a Muslim youth in America means to experience regular doses of micro-aggressions, at a minimum.

See the source imageYou may be wondering what this has to do with children’s books.  In my mind, the connection is clear.  In this climate of “fear of the other” on the one hand, and “fear to be myself” on the other, books are important.  For non-Muslim students, books offer the possibility of “meeting” a Muslim.  Upon meeting a character like Amina from Amina’s Voice by Hena Khan, for example, readers will relate to her struggle to overcome stage fright and to navigate middle school friendships.  They will relate to her desire to want to blend in.  They will experience the sadness and grief alongside her when her mosque is vandalized.  In short, they will begin to see Amina as a human, and they will begin to empathize with her hopes and struggles.  Through the book, the feared other becomes much less scary and a lot more like themselves.

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For Muslim students, books can offer support, comfort, and validation.  Imagine how rare an occasion it is for a Muslim student to “see” him or herself in a text.  Though books featuring Muslim characters have definitely been increasing in recent years, they are still few in number.  As a teacher or librarian, you have the power to choose a book that will validate the very students who, day in and day out, experience attacks (big and small) on their identity.  Imagine how your Muslim student would feel when you choose to read aloud Wishtree by Katherine Applegate.  My teacher chose a book about a character like me!  Through Samar, the Muslim student will see that s/he is not alone; there are other Muslim kids out there who experience negativities at school and in their community.  But s/he will also see that, just like Samar, there are friends ready to help, notably the teacher who chose to read this book.

Yes, books are important.  But, teachers and librarians are important, too.  How many school libraries offer books featuring Muslim characters?  Even more importantly, how many teachers are choosing these books for read alouds and novel studies in their classrooms?  How would that field trip three years ago have been different had those students “met” a Muslim previously?  As educators, we have a critical role to play in creating a culture where marginalized students, be they Muslim, Latinx, African American (or of any other marginalized identity), feel they are a valued part of the society, and where majority students are compelled to understand and empathize with the other.  Books can help us with this mission.

For more reading:

To learn more about Johnna’s work with her fifth grade students and a list of suggested books, check out our new book, Reading to Make a Difference: Using Literature to Help Students Think Deeply, Speak Freely, and Take Action.

Reading to Make a Difference

 

It’s A BOOK! Reading to Make a Difference

We are thrilled to announce the birth of our new book, “Reading to Make a Difference: Using Literature to Help Students Speak Freely, Think Deeply, and Take Action”. We hope you’ll join us in celebrating our book birthday today,  March 21st, 2019. 

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During one of our writing retreats while discussing an article Katie was working on, we found ourselves looking out of the kitchen window reflecting on the notion of books as mirrors, windows, and doors. This conversation along with our concern about events in the world around us such as white supremacists marching in Charlottesville, high profile individuals mocking people with disabilities, the killing of black males at the hands of police officers, hate crimes against the LBGTQ+, Jewish, and Muslim communities, and the treatment of refugees and speakers of other languages led us to write this book. We believe that books can become bridges to help us explore the unfamiliar, gain new perspective, deepen our appreciation of our diverse and pluralistic society, and inspire us to take action and serve as change agents. Through examining our own identity and the identities of others, we can begin to celebrate our differences and our similarities as we work toward becoming advocates for equity.

The phrase “books as mirrors, windows, and doors” has seen new interest on social media, in presentations and panels at conferences we attend, and among the many educators we work with. This concept originated from the work of Dr. Rudine Sims Bishop, professor emerita from Ohio State University.  In 1990, Dr. Bishop wrote an essay entitled, “Mirrors, Windows, and Sliding Glass Doors”. In this essay she explains why it is necessary to use multicultural literature where all children can see themselves reflected in the text they read as well as the need for books to serve as windows to explore the unfamiliar. Books as sliding glass doors allow us to open ourselves and enter into our diverse and pluralistic world. We must open the door.  We agree with Michelle Obama who writes, “maybe then we can fear less… make fewer wrong assumptions… [and] let go of biases and stereotypes that unnecessarily divide us” (2018).

This project is grounded in Katie’s early dissertation work and research interests in critical literacy and Lester’s passion for children’s literature and the often underestimated power of reading aloud to children. Critical literacy explores how to move from passive to active reading where the reader critically analyzes the text by: 1) questioning what is included and excluded, 2) disrupting the commonplace, 3) examining the author’s intent, and 4) exploring the role of power and positioning in text and how that serves to normalize the dominant perspective while disenfranchising others (Lewison, Flint, & VanSluys, 2002; Luke & Freebody, 1999; McLaughlin & DeVoogd, 2010; Vasquez, 2004; Vasquez, 2010). In her TED Talk, “Can a Children’s Book Change the World?”, author, Linda Sue Park responds that although the book can not change the world, readers of the books can.

In Reading to Make a Difference we show how children are moved and inspired to become change agents after reading collections of text. Many examples of ways that children can take action in the world around them are included in the book along with several lists of suggested children’s literature.  

Cultivating a Love of Reading

The month of February surrounds us with reminders of love. Red roses, heart-shaped cards for our loved ones, and sweet candy heart conversations. Hopefully we think about love all of the time. Love is what drives us and gets us through difficult times. Love surrounds us when we celebrate triumphs and joy in our lives. Love connects us and warms our hearts. In this post, we celebrate the love of reading and ways to cultivate a love of reading in the classroom to inspire readers of all ages.

Screen Shot 2019-02-09 at 11.11.28 AMHow can we fall in love if we never meet? Access to the just right book can make all of the difference. We must fill our classroom libraries with books featuring diverse topics, genres, characters, and lived experiences. It’s also helpful to organize the books in some type of systematic way to help readers find and select a potential mate. Bins of books organized around favorite topics and authors rather than levels removes any shame associated with reading levels and matches what real readers do when shopping for books. Showcase favorite books through book talks and book shares and by propping them on display.

Screen Shot 2019-02-09 at 11.46.15 AMSpeed dating with books (or book tastings for younger students) is a fun way to expose children to different books in a short amount of time. Have children sit down at a table featuring a selection of books. Give them approximately one minute to browse the front and back cover, read the inside jacket, and skim and scan the text and illustrations. Encourage them to consider which book they’d like to take on a second date. During the second date, they sit down and begin reading the text, getting to know it better.

Screen Shot 2019-02-09 at 11.46.23 AMFinding ‘just right books’ is more than matching readers with a level. Compatibility is more than a score or a percentile ranking. Consider your true love. What attracted you? What kept you engaged? Learning what you find appealing can build a lifetime relationship with reading.

Screen Shot 2019-02-09 at 11.46.28 AMIt’s ok to abandon books. If you begin reading a book and you are just “not feeling it” be honest, consider and reflect about why this is not working.  That will help you recognize what you don’t like and will help you find a better mate in the future.

Screen Shot 2019-02-09 at 11.46.34 AMBooks can evoke feelings, changes in our thinking and behavior, and spark us to take action in some way.  When you fall in love at first sight, take a moment to reflect on why. Come to know yourself as a reader and learn to manage your selections for future reads.

Screen Shot 2019-02-09 at 11.46.40 AMKatie tends to read fiction, historical fiction, memoir and nonfiction. Other than when Harry Potter and the Hunger Games series was popular, rarely did she read fantasy or dystopian novels. As she shares about the books she loves reading, she realized she rarely recommended fantasy or science fiction books. This is most likely because she personally doesn’t read those genres as often. We must be cautious when selecting books for our class libraries that we don’t fall into the trap of only including books that we love. We must also guard against “showing favoritism” for certain genres as we book talk new titles and promote new options for our students.  Consider your students’ interests and build your classroom libraries so that a wide variety of genres are represented. Consider conducting an inventory of your library. How many books do you have that fall under different genres? Graphic novels, biography, fantasy, memoir, poetry, science fiction, etc.

Screen Shot 2019-02-09 at 12.02.26 PMFalling in love with an author or illustrator or topic is one of the joys of being a reader.  Help your students find their match with a spotlight on an author or an author study. Assembling a text set to explore topics of interest is an effective way to introduce a variety of authors, text formats, and genres connected to a topic of interest.

Screen Shot 2019-02-09 at 12.02.33 PMAs a young reader Lester loved the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew. The beloved Boxcar Children series held an element of mystery that drew him in.  He later read every Agatha Christie novel he could find in either the school library or the public library.  Not every reader will be wooed by a good mystery, but for those who are lead them to series such as, Encyclopedia Brown, Nate The Great, and The Magic Treehouse.

Screen Shot 2019-02-09 at 12.02.38 PMSometimes we meet characters in books that stay with us. We can’t shake them.  Lily from Lily’s Purple Plastic Purse.  India Opal from Because of Winn-Dixie.  Scout from To Kill a Mockingbird.  Henry, Jesse, Violet, and Benny from The Boxcar Children.  Salva Dut from A Long Walk to Water. Ivan from The One and Only Ivan. Auggie from Wonder.  Falling for a character gives us various ways for viewing challenges and obstacles in life.

Screen Shot 2019-02-09 at 12.02.11 PMNonfiction offers readers the opportunity to delve into a topic and weigh information in a search for truth.  As students become more facile as critical thinkers and readers they learn to question the texts they read and to search out various perspectives on an issue.  As you collect titles for your classroom library consider offering a range of perspectives on the topics in your curriculum.

Screen Shot 2019-02-09 at 12.02.03 PMReading aloud is an essential part of our reading instruction.  As you plan for read aloud experiences do so with intention. Make your selections with the same care your give to choosing manipulative for a math lesson and the perfect Valentine’s card for a loved one.  Think through the purpose of each read aloud experience and match the selection to the intention.

Screen Shot 2019-02-09 at 12.02.16 PMCommunication is critical in relationships. While reading may seem like an isolated experience at least during the reading process, reading should be a social act. When we talk about what we are reading with others, we deepen our understanding, develop new perspectives, and form connections.

Screen Shot 2019-02-09 at 12.02.21 PMGood books leave us wanting more. They move us. We laugh, we cry, we turn pages in suspense. We are changed by our time with them. Good books spark the love for reading and inspires us as lifelong readers.

Students from Anna Doyle’s class (@DoylesDivers) in Greenville, SC challenge us to share the love of reading using the hashtag #ForTheLoveOfReading. 

Some of Our Favorite Professional Resources to Cultivate the Love of Reading:

Book Love by Penny Kittle

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The Book Whisperer by Donalyn Miller

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The Ultimate Read Aloud Resource by Lester Laminack

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Conversations by Regie Routman

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Readicide by Kelly Gallagher

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No More Reading for Junk: Best Practices for Motivating Readers by Barbara A. Marinak and Linda Gambrell

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Pernille Ripp’s Blog https://pernillesripp.com/

Nerdy Book Club Blog https://nerdybookclub.wordpress.com/

Ringing in the New Year with Reading Resolutions and Recommendations

Each year around this time it seems that we all begin to examine ourselves, revisiting our lives over the past year,  and pondering what’s possible in the new year. We reflect, make great plans, and proclaim our resolutions for the coming year.  We are looking forward to the new year, 365 days of fresh pages. In this blog post, we revisit favorite books from the past year and focus our attention on books we plan to read (or reread) to enrich both our professional and personal lives.  We aim to make 2019 a year of growth with a return to some of the texts that shaped our thinking and devote time to new texts that have captured our attention. 

Each of us has our own ways of finding new reads.  Like many of you we return to favorite authors, look for new titles in a favorite genre, do the one-click purchase of a book just reviewed on NPR, or find ourselves standing at the checkout counter with books in hand just because we decided to step inside an independent bookstore–you know, just for a look around.  Then there are friends we’ve come to trust about books and when they give a book a thumbs-up we find ourselves adding it to the lists we keep on GoodReads or in the back of our notebooks. We’ve come to trust recommendations by Penny Kittle, Colby Sharp, Donalyn Miller, Teri Lesene, Mr. Schu, Laura Robb, Kylene Beers, Mary Howard, Pernille Ripp, and Brian Kissel. Here are some of our favorites from 2018:

Lester’s 2018 favorites:

Jesmyn Ward Sing, Unburied, Sing (because Penny Kittle made me believe I’d be missing out if I didn’t.  She was right.  I could not stop reading.)

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James Baldwin Go Tell it on the Mountain (because we need to revisit his voice and contributions.)

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S.E. Hinton The Outsiders (because my work is more focused on picture books this is one that I never read and needed to. I was moved to tears.)

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Parker J. Palmer On the Brink of Everything (because I admire his contemplative life and writing.  If you are of a “certain age” you will find this book filled with sage insights that will give you pause.)

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Phillip Hoose The Boys Who Challenged Hitler (Penny Kittle mentioned this book in several groups and each time I made note of it. I found the history behind this book fascinating and was compelled to read it. On a long flight I did the one-click thing and it appeared on my i-Pad.  I read the flight away.)

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Harriet Ann Jacobs Incidents of a Slave Girl Written by Herself (I heard so much about this book from so many sources that I had to read it.  Now I hope you will.)

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Kylene Beers and Bob Probst Disrupting Thinking (because they are wicked smart and articulate.  I read everything they write and I am never disappointed.)

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Lori Duron Raising My Rainbow (because I think we need to hear more from the parents of LGBTQ children.)

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Elizabeth Acevedo The Poet X  (because it was on the tongue of everyone at NCTE 2018 and it was in the stack of books submitted for an awards committee I am serving on.  It is a powerful story with some stunning lines.)

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Marcella Pixley Ready to Fall (because Marcella is an amazing MG ELA teacher, a most talented writer and weaver of story, and a dear friend.)

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Barbara O’Connor Wonderland (just because Barbara wrote it. Period.  And I read Wish earlier in 2018.  You’ll want to read it also.)

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Nikki Grimes One Last Word (I’m on a mission to read everything she has written.)

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Nikki Grimes Between the Lines

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Nikki Grimes Garvey’s Choice

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Nikki Grimes Words with Wings

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Wiley Cash The Last Ballad (Southern fiction is one of my favorite genres and this one is rife with the history of organizing the unions at the textile mills of NC and SC. This is a true story of one white woman who lost her life in the effort to integrate the union.)

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Amy Hollingsworth The Simple Faith of Mister Rogers (because Fred Rogers is my hero. This is written in segments that make it easy to read it small moments.  When you reach the end you’ll have a deeper understanding of the man, his faith, and the love and ministry behind his show.)

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Katie’s 2018 favorites:

Bryan Stevenson Just Mercy (This book was recommended by Penny Kittle when she spoke at Furman. This book opened my eyes to the broken justice system. In 2018, the author’s organization, the Equal Justice Initiative, opened the National Memorial for Peace and Justice in Montgomery, Alabama as a reminder of America’s history of racial inequality. I hope to be able to visit the memorial and museum in 2019.)

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Christina Baker Kline Orphan Train (I found this fascinating novel about an orphaned Irish immigrant child sent by train to live in the midwest while browsing in an airport. I loved the story so much I finished it by the time I arrived to my destination.)

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Mariana Souto-Manning, Carmen Lugo Llerena, Jessica Martell, Abigail Salas-Maguire, Alicia Arce-Boardman No More Culturally Irrelevant Teaching  (This short and easy to read book packs a powerful message for all educators. And Lester agrees.) 

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Tara Westover Educated (because it was on Obama’s reading list so I knew it would be good!  I was not disappointed.)

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Trevor Noah Born a Crime: Stories From a South African Childhood (This eye-opening and touching story of Trevor Noah’s childhood in South Africa brought me to tears and made me laugh.)

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Sara Ahmed Being the Change: Lessons and Strategies to Teach Social Comprehension (because the topic of this book is connected to the theme of our new book also published by Heinemann and I love to learn from other educators. I later attended a packed session at NCTE led by Sara and her colleagues and left inspired and renewed to continue this important work focused on social justice and anti-bias teaching.)

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David Sedaris Me Talk Pretty One Day (Looking to add some humor into my otherwise mostly serious reading stack, Brian Kissel suggested I read anything by David Sedaris and he did not disappoint.)

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Jacqueline Woodson Harbor Me (because I saw it on the shelf at M. Judson’s Bookstore in Greenville, SC and had to have it because I love everything written by this author.)

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Nic Stone Dear Martin (Recommended by the ProjectLIT Community, this seemed like a good follow up to my 2017 favorite book, The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas. Plus I had the honor of listening to Nic Stone speak when we both presented at NerdCampGA!)

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Robin DiAngelo White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism (Recommended by Travis Crowder, this book helps me as I continue to seek support of others as we work through difficult conversations related to race.)

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Lester’s 2019 Book Stack:

Frank Smith Essays into Literacy (because this collection of essays helped fine tune my thinking about literacy instruction.)

Rudine Sims Bishop Free Within Ourselves: The Development of African American Children’s Literature (because Rudine’s work was the first I read on the need for diverse books and I want to return to this title now with greater insight and appreciation.)

Ralph Fletcher What a Writer Needs (first edition) (Ralph has been a mentor and has become a friend.  This is the one book on writing that I would hold onto if I could keep only one.  I want to revisit all the notes I scribbled in the margins long ago and discover how my understanding has developed over time.)

Don Holdaway The Foundations of Literacy (the influence of Holdaway upon my understandings of early literacy development and instruction was remarkable. Rereading him now would be refreshing)

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie Americanah (I was totally inspired by her keynote at NCTE 2018 in Houston.)

Cornelius Minor We Got This (well, first off, I just adore the guy.  I’ve watched his work blossom since our first meeting at Teachers College in a summer institute years ago.  And, well, everyone is reading this.)

Donalyn Miller and Colby Sharp Game Changer! (because these two know books about as well as anyone I know and they are at the point of impact.)

Anne Lamott Almost Everything (because I love her work.)

Maxwell King The Good Neighbor: The Life and Work of Fred Rogers (because I so admire Mr. Rogers)

Michelle Obama Becoming (because she is an admirable human being, a great First Lady, and it was recommended by Glenis Redmond.)

Henri J. Nouwen The Way of the Heart (inspired by reading Amy Hollingsworth The Simple Faith of Mister Rogers.)

 

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Katie’s 2019 Book Stack:

Michelle Obama Becoming (because I find her incredibly inspiring and miss seeing her as our First Lady.)

Cornelius Minor We Got This. (because Cornelius Minor is as authentic as they come and a true inspiration.)

Matthew Kay Not Light, But Fire (recommended by Shawna Coppola in a Facebook Live video. Social media can be so powerful!)

Joan Williams White Working Class (This book was recommended by Brian Kissel at NCTE during one of our late night chats about everything under the sun including how to make sense about what is happening in the current political landscape.)

Michelle Alexander The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness (This book has been on my to-read list for awhile. After reading Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson, I was inspired to learn more about the role of race and the criminal justice system. It was also recommended by my dear friend, Lindsay Yearta.)

Eve L. Ewing Ghosts in the Schoolyard (recommended by Jacqueline Woodson on Twitter so duh, I must read it! Plus I watched the author’s interview on The Daily Show with Trevor Noah where she discusses the need to break down structural racism particularly in the context of the schools in Chicago’s south side.)

Zora Neale Hurston Barracoon: The Story of the “Last Black Cargo” (My mom gave me this book for Christmas. She thought I might like it since Michelle Obama was also reading it. A few days later, I saw Brian Kissel tweeted it as one of his top ten favorite reads of 2018.)

Sharon Draper Blended (As an educator, I like to stay current with the children’s books being published. This middle grade novel is a story of a young girl dealing with the complexities of a blended family. This book seems relatable for many children as the main character explores her racial identity and her place in the world and perhaps a way for other readers to expand their notion of identity and to empathize with others.)

 

Ringing in the New Year with Reading Resolutions

Now you know which books left a great impression on us in 2018 and you know which titles have captured our attention for the next year of reading.  If you’d like to share, we would love to hear your 2019 Reading Resolutions in the comments section.

2018 has been a busy and productive year for us and we are very proud to announce the forthcoming publication of our new book, Reading to Make a Difference: Using Literature to Help Students Speak Freely, Think Deeply, and Take Action. It will be available from Heinemann in March 2019.  We hope you’ll add us to your 2019 Reading Resolutions and make plans to join us on Dr. Mary Howard’s #G2Great Twitter chat on March 21 at 8:30pm EST to chat about this work.  

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Join us! Reading to Make a Difference Summer Book Club

Summer is a great time for us to relax, renew, and refresh our bodies and minds. Many of us will tackle our book stacks including personal and professional reads as we reflect and think about ideas for our learning communities in the fall.

We are thrilled to host a summer book club to discuss our new book, Reading to Make a Difference. At the beginning of each week (schedule below) we will post questions on our Reading to Make a Difference Facebook Page using Q1., Q.2., etc. for each question. You can reply to those questions directly as well as start your own threaded conversations. With a slow chat format you can jump in and out of the conversation throughout the week at your leisure.

We are looking forward to the discussion around how to bring diverse and inclusive literature into our classrooms in meaningful ways to foster critical consciousness and action. We hope you’ll join in the conversation!

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Happy reading!
Lester and Katie