ALA Youth Media Awards (Or, I Read the Newbery!)

While watching the ALA webcast live today, my class kept laughing at me.  I would call out my predictions as the awards were introduced- for the awards besides the Newbery because I shared those predictions with them on Friday.  Of course, I was wrong more than I was right- but the kids didn’t care.  They thought it was hysterical that I yelled “Mo Willems!” before the Geisel Award was announced, and I was right.  I was wrong about the Morris Award (I predicted Graceling would get it).  I predicted one of the Caldecott honors (A River of Words: The Story of William Carlos Williams), because I am a huge William Carlos Williams fan.  

 

And then we got to the big award- the Newbery.  The kids were on the edge of their seat.  And so was I!

2009 Newbery Award Winner:
The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman- I got this one in just under the wire! But I did love it. My review gives more information on my thoughts.

I do think this will be a popular winner.  It’s creepy, well-written, suspenseful, and oozing with kid appeal.  My students haven’t read it yet and I am contemplating making it a read-aloud in the coming weeks.  But I already know they will love it. I think the committee did a great job with this one!

 

2009 Newbery Honor Books:

The Underneath by Kathi Appelt- YES YES YES YES! I was so afraid this would get shut out because it seems to be a “love it or hate it” book. When the announcement was made, I literally jumped into the air and so did my students. We were so excited! For those who think this isn’t a kid-friendly book, I say fie on you! It makes kids think and treats them like adults. While my students might not have picked it up on their own, they loved it as a read-aloud. This book screams to be read-aloud and shared. Yay Kathi Appelt!

Savvy by Ingrid Law- I own this one. Does that count? I never made it a priority to finish reading it, but now I will. And another bonafide fantasy? Kudos to the committee!

After Tupac and D Foster by Jacqueline Woodson- I haven’t read this one, and I don’t own it. But I ordered it tonight.

The Surrender Tree: Poems of Cuba’s Struggle for Freedom by Margarite Engle- And this one came out of nowhere for me. I hadn’t seen it on any Mock Newbery lists. But isn’t that what makes the Newbery great? I can’t wait to pick it up!

 

I will admit, my class and I were shocked at the exclusion of Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson. That was a heavy favorite in my two classes. And I had more than a handful of students who were upset that Diamond Willow by Helen Frost was left out, too. But all in all, I am thrilled with the list!  And the reaction of my kids as The Underneath  was announced was absolutely priceless.  Talk about being engaged with their reading!  And when Gaiman’s book was announced as the winner, there was a chorus of, “You read that, Miss M.!”  and “Wow!  They decided it was eligible!” (we had talked about the eligibility issues in our Newbery unit).  

Congratulations to all of the winning authors today and the amazing committees!  

 

 

*And to complete my bragging, I read and loved The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks back in the spring. And I own The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation, Volume II: The Kingdom on the Waves, both Printz Honor Books. :)

 


Class Newbery Watching and Reaction

(Stay tuned for my personal reactions to the awards today).

At 10am, my students walked out of Spanish class and into the library.  The librarian and I had been trying to get the webcast to work and were at that point desperately watching the mouse move around the screen as our computer tech managed a quick installation from the other end, which would hopefully allow us to watch.  My cell phone kept buzzing as it received Tweets about the Alex Awards.

Right in time for the second award to be announced, the webcast worked!  We all gathered around the laptop, too afraid to set up the projector in case we interrupted the connection and dropped the announcements.  My phone continued buzzing, as my tweets were bout 30 seconds ahead of the announcements.  We were thrilled when Laurie Halse Anderson won the Edwards Award, excited when i predicted the Geisel and one Caldecott Honor, and on the edge of our seats for the Newbery announcements.

 

Below, our reaction to the announcement that The Underneath won an Honor!
cimg3374

(They almost immediately begged me to send a congratulatory email to Kathi Appelt, so I obviously obliged!)

 

cimg3375(Please laugh at my hysterically excited reaction to THE UNDERNEATH)

Welcome, Kelly Gallagher!

Kelly Gallagher, author of the upcoming Readicide: How Schools Are Killing Reading and What You Can Do About It (available to read online here), has been on a blog tour all week.  Today I am thrilled to introduce him here, at TheReadingZone!  For the past few days, Kelly has been answering questions posed by you, the readers.  I am thrilled to include his responses here!

From Ann- As a teacher, what can I do about programs like Accelerated Reader? How do I keep my job (as an untenured teacher) but still instill that passion for reading in my students?

 

The key word in the question is “untenured.”  :) The good news is that AR
allows students to read real books…and good books, too. The bad news is
that the love of reading is undermined by the dumb quizzes and the quest for
points. I would explore ways of using the books but reducing the quizzes and
point grubbing (See McQuillan’s study in Readicide). Read Alfie Kohn¹s
Punished By Rewards: The Trouble with Gold Stars, Incentive Plans, A’s, Praise, and Other Bribes—great book.

After you are tenured, close the door and do what you think is best for your
kids. Take a more active stance. Educate others on the long-term
de-motivation caused by  ³carrot² programs. Model, model, model. Surround
kids with great books.

 

From Clix- Oh! I’d want to know if he has a blog ;)

I don’t, but I do have a website, www.kellygallagher.org

 

From Lisa: I have been flipping through and reading over at The Tempered Radical. I guess my big question is how do we help them love reading AND do well on the test. Obviously we have to care about the test whether we actually care about it or not. : ) I have my own ideas on this subject, but would like to hear his.

If you turn students into readers, they will do fine on the tests. There is
a direct and strong correlation between time spent reading and performance
on mandated reading tests. Not surprisingly, students who do the most
reading are the students who score highest. Conversely, students who do the
least amount of reading frequently score the lowest. If we want our students
to score higher, they have to read more. Incidentally, I have not had a
single student in over 20 years of teaching who was a non-reader and who
also scored high on the verbal section of the SAT. Not one. On the other
hand, I can pretty much predict which of my students will score well on the
exam before they take it. You guessed it: the readers.

 

It seems that reward programs for reading are all the rage now- from AR (Accelerated Reader) to Scholastic’s Read 180. How does a teacher work with these mandated programs when the district is unable to purchase more than a few dozen tests? In other words, when students must complete reward programs but can only choose books from a small, preselected list (that often includes more classics than anything else!), how does a teacher continue “the good fight”?

 

The best thing about AR is that it gets kids to read good books. The worst
thing about AR is it ties all reading to a stupid reward system‹a system
that teaches students to read because they can earn points (instead of
reading because of the value of reading itself). I believe this harms young
readers. Many studies have shown that reward systems like AR actually
decrease reading motivation once the ³treatment² is finished.
If your administration forces you to use the program, try to get them to
change their minds. I think the first thing teachers can do is challenge the
school¹s decision to use the program. Ask to see justification‹studies that
indicate that there is a long-term benefit from using the program. Share the
McQuillan study (and others) cited in Readicide. Ask administrators what we
are really teaching kids about reading when we tie all their reading
activity to earning points from shallow multiple-choice assessments.
Worst case scenario: do everything possible to augment your classroom
library. In Reading Reasons I discuss a number of ways one can build a
classroom library without breaking the bank.


As soon as I hear back from Kelly, I will update with his responses.  But what do you think of Readicide: How Schools Are Killing Reading and What You Can Do About It? I have been recommending it to everyone I know and I think this is one of those books that will change the culture of our schools. It may start small, but people are going to be talking about this one! I absolutely agree with Kelly and his assessment of reading in our schools. See my review here.
Thanks goes out to Kelly Gallagher, as well to as the teachers who submitted questions. I appreciate Mr. Gallagher including TheReadingZone on his blog tour and wish him well as he continues his tour!

Cool New Blog

Today I stumbled on a cool new blog and wanted to pass it on.  Ink Splot 26 is put together by sixteen Scholastic staffers and is full of daily information on new books, new movies (based on books!), and interviews with celebrities and authors.  According to their info:

nk Splot 26 is your daily blog for info on the hottest titles, authors, and industry events around. Get the latest on books before they hit the big screen, and hear from celebs about their favorite reads! Soak up exclusives, gasp at spoilers, test your trivia, stream some video, and surf our Top Five Listings. And if you’ve got an opinion — we wanna hear it!

I’ve added them to my Google reader and love the information they post!  Keep an eye on them.  :)

Newbery Predictions 2009

When I first began blogging I was inspired by Franki and Mary over at A Year of Reading.  Like them, I wanted to be able to read the Newbery before it was announced.  Little did I know that this endeavor would lead me to the kidlitosphere and a broader blogging spectrum of reviews, middle school language arts, and teaching.  But deep down, I still compete with myself, trying to predict the Newbery winner.  So here is my annual list, my picks for 2009!

(In no particular order, as I feel these are all distinguished and could take home the medal or an honor).

Newbery 2009 Predictions:

  • The Underneath by Kathi Appelt- Distinguished? Check. Gorgeous? Check. Phenomenal writing? Check. Appelt’s book absolutely stunned me when I first read it. With an unassuming cover, I figured it was nothing more than another animal story. I could not have been more wrong. The Underneath was my first read-aloud of the year and my 6th graders were totally engrossed in the story. Check out my review here.

 

  • Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson-  Historical fiction that kids actually want to read?  What more could a teacher ask for!  When I first read Anderson’s latest middle grade novel, I knew I wanted to share it with my students.  We just finished reading it together a few days ago and they loved it.  Living in NJ, they had tons of connections to the battles mentioned and the Revolutionary War in general, so they loved the setting.  And Anderson’s meticulous research makes this novel even better.  Check out my review here.  

 

  • Diamond Willow by Helen Frost- If distinguished writing and a unique style are what the committee is looking for, then Diamond Willow is the Newbery winner for 2009. A phenomenal story and a style that I haven’t seen anywhere else! Another one that my students loved (and the one that seemed the most accessible to all levels of readers). Check out my review here.

 

  • The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman- For some reason, I never got around to this one. Then a few weeks ago I saw it at the library and decided to give it a try. Wow, am I glad I did! A creepy story that will keep readers on the edge of their seats. Check out my review here!

 

  • Tennyson by Lesley M.M. Blume- I know this is a title that hasn’t been mentioned on many prediction lists, but I am trying to be its personal champion! Tennyson is a lyrical, poetic story that is dark and gothic. I read it back in May and it’s still on my mind. I would be thrilled to see it take home a medal on Monday, because I think it so deserves one! Check out my review here.

 

I know where I will be on Monday morning.  My class and I will be listening to the announcements over the web, with my cell phone nearby (t0 receive the Tweets in case we have any technical problems!)  Regardless of who wins, there are a few authors across the country who will receive a life-changing call on Monday morning.  I can’t wait to find out who those authors are!

 

(And I still have more reading to do before Monday!  On my pile? Knucklehead: Tall Tales and Almost True Stories of Growing up Scieszka, The Porcupine Year, and Bird Lake Moon.

Diamond Willow Read-aloud

On Friday, both classes finished reading Diamond Willow . They loved it! When we came to the twist about Willow’s past, they literally gasped out loud. Below are a few of their final thoughts on the book:

 

“More books should do the bold words thing.  It’s so cool!  They tell you what the character is thinking deep down.”

“It must have been really hard to write a whole book using the right diamond shapes and making sure you had all the words for the bold parts.”

“This was my favorite book that we read all year.”

“This was an awesome book!  

 

There was more, but I was trying to jot down their thoughts while they were all very excited and talking about the end of the story.  Needless to day, we are now extremely excited for the awards announcement on Monday!  We even moved our assembly schedule around so that we can all head down to the library and listen live.  My afternoon class can’t be there for the live announcement, so we have sworn the morning class to secrecy and will replay the recording for the afternoon class (trying to preserve some of the excitement)!  I will be sure to post our reactions on Monday!

10th Anniversary of Speak/ Poetry Friday

This March, the 10th anniversary of Speak (10th Anniversary Edition) by Laurie Halse Anderson will be released.  I can’t believe it has been ten years since it was first published.  I remember reading Speak back in high school, when it was first published!  I keep meaning to reread it, but it never seems to make it to the top of my pile.  But this weekend I promise to get to it!  What has moved me to grab it once again?  Reading this poem, by Laurie Halse Anderson.  

Laurie wrote the first and last stanzas, but the rest of the poem is composed of lines from letters and emails that she has received from readers over the years.  It is extremely powerful.

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