Pat Conroy’s Response to Censorship

Pat Conroy, the author of The Prince of Tides: A Novel, recently discovered (EDIT:  Apparently this is from 2007) that a group of parents in West Virginia are attempting to ban the teaching of two of his novels. He wrote an amazing letter to the Editor of the Charleston Gazette. The letter sings the praises of English teachers and is a MUST READ!

 I have yet to meet an English teacher who assigned a book to damage a kid. They take an unutterable joy in opening up the known world to their students, but they are dishonored and unpraised because of the scandalous paychecks they receive. In my travels around this country, I have discovered that America hates its teachers, and I could not tell you why.

Continue reading the letter here.

Perfect Game or What I Learned from Reading

I’m not a baseball fan.  In fact, you could say I am the exact opposite.  If you wanted to somehow put me to sleep, stick me in front of a TV with a baseball game on.  I’m more of a soccer, basketball, Olympics girl.  Fast. Aggressive.  High-scoring.  That’s how I like my sports.

However, I read an inordinate number of baseball books because I teach in a baseball town.  Every year, at least half of my boys are baseball players.  They love to read books about baseball, baseball players, and baseball history.  So this past year I read (and loved) Alan Gratz’s The Brooklyn Nine. At the end of the book, Gratz includes an afterword with historical information pertaining to each story in the book.  It was there that I learned there have only been 17 perfect games in MLB history.

Today, I opened my computer to read the headline Buehrle tosses first MLB perfect game in 5 years.  Before I read the article, I immediately thought to myself, “Wow!  Now there have been 18 perfect games!  How cool would it be to actually pitch one of those 18 games in the last 100 years?”  Not exactly what you’d expect from someone who has never watched an entire baseball game all the way through, huh?  More importantly, not what you would expect from the the girl who spent the one season she played softball making daisy chains in the outfield.  

Before reading Gratz’s book I never would have known this information.  I probably would not have even clicked on the link and read the article.  But because I read The Brooklyn Nine I was interested in the story.  Reading that book led me to read the article from Sports Illustrated today.  And now I know that there have only been 5 pitchers in MLB history to throw a perfect game and a no-hitter.  Isn’t that exactly what we want our students to do?  Read, build schema, and then go out to read and learn more?

And this can happen with any book.  I’ve seen students go out and research synesthesia after reading Wendy Mass’s A Mango-Shaped Space. Students who read Cryptid Hunters read non-fiction about cryptozoology. So on and so forth.

There are no bad books.  Sometimes I have parents who think that sports books are a waste of time.  Or horror.  Or humorous books.  Or magazines.  It goes one and on.  But here’s the magic of reading: fiction leads to reading more non-fiction-whether it is non-fiction books, articles on the internet, magazines, or any other informational reading on a specific subject.  It’s just as likely that readers of non-fiction will seek out fiction books on similar subjects, or more informational texts (in a variety of genres) about the same subject.  Reading begets more reading.  There’s no more organic way to get kids to read than to just allow them to read what they want and to continue reading what they enjoy!

Even better?  All that reading builds up background knowledge and schema.  Students with more schema do better on standardized testing because they have the necessary background knowledge.  More importantly, students with a large array of schema will connect to more books, more subjects in school, more teachers, and more people.  They are more well-rounded..

Diary of a Wimpy Kid 4!

Big news! Tomorrow, Abrams Books will reveal the cover, color, and title of the newest Diary of a Wimpy Kid book!  Be sure to visit www.wimpykid.com to view a special presentation by Jeff Kinney tomorrow.

 

I know my students and my youngest sister have been making bets for months about the color of the cover.  Anyone want to throw out a guess?

Borders Takes Aim at Teens

If you’ve been reading my blog long then you know my list of woes when it comes to Borders (my local shop, at least).   From booksellers refusing to sell specific books to my students to the store not carrying highly popular books and never offering to special order them for customers.  Plus, I can NEVER find anything in that store because the middle grade books are divided into ridiculous categories.  However, I am excited to hear that the company is creating a new teen section.  

The Borders Ink shops, which will stock graphic novels, fantasy and young-adult titles together, are expected to be available in 80% to 90% of the 513 superstores Borders operates nationwide by the end of August. Some have already opened in Michigan.

There is a picture in the Wall Street Journal and it looks great!  Kids loving having a space of their own so I think this will be a big hit.  I don’t love the fact that they will be selling “toys”, too (reminds me of the Scholastic book clubs and their non-book items), but anything related to reading and making reading cool works for me!

I’ll be sure to check out the new section when my local store gets one.  What about you?

Keeping Me Busy!


Dublin

Originally uploaded by thereadingzone

Dublin has been keeping me very, very busy this summer! Here are a few of his latest pictures (almost ten weeks old!)

I’m using fd’s Flickr Toys and loving it. Lots of great uses in the classroom, too!

2008-2009 Class Book Lists (Read-alouds)

Each year I keep track of the books my class reads together.  This year we read some great ones!  This year on my year-end survey I asked my students to tell me their favorite read-aloud.   Below is a list of the books we read and some of the students’ comments.

 

Read-alouds:

Flying Solo by Ralph Fletcher- This was the first book we read together (in my homeroom). We read it aloud during the first week of school and it was one of our favorites for the year! A great way to start off the school year, with the story of a class that has no substitute when their teacher is home sick.

 

Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt (Whole-class Novel)- A gorgeous story and well-known as the greatest children’s book ever written.  One of my favorites each year.

 

The Underneath by Kathi Appelt- This was the first book we read together as part of our unofficial mock Newbery. I first read The Underneath over the summer and I knew I had to read it to my class. It took a few days for them to get into the story, but within the first week they loved it! This is a difficult but beautiful story- my students needed scaffolding but it was worth it. Plus, Kathi is awesome and corresponded with my class over the course of the school year. They were THRILLED!

 

Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson- The second book we read for our mock Newbery, this was a huge hit. My students learned about the Revolutionary War in 5th grade, but Anderson presents a whole different perspective. The novel taught my students a lot and they enjoyed it. Most of them were begging for the sequel at the end of the year and are annoyed it’s not out yet!

 

Diamond Willow by Helen Frost- The final book we read as part of our mock Newbery. I read this aloud while presenting it on the document camera, which worked great. You can read more about this 21st-century read-aloud here.    For many of my students, this was their first verse novel and many of them turned to verse novels again and again for the rest of the year.

 

The Giver by Lois Lowry (Whole class Novel)- This is my favorite dystopian novel for young adults, and one of the first I remember reading in school.  Another book that takes some scaffolding, I love teaching it every year.

 

Drums, Girls, And Dangerous Pie by Jordan Sonnenblick- We read this as a companion to our Valentine’s Day charity work each year.  While gathering donations for the children’s cancer ward, this novel is the perfect companion.   Sonnenblick has crafted a gorgeous story of a young boy whose family is touched by cancer. It also made us laugh out loud a lot!  

 

The Journey That Saved Curious George : The True Wartime Escape of Margret and H.A. Rey by Louise Borden- This was a new book for me this year and the anchor of our non-fiction unit of study. I loved presenting a new side of the familiar Curious George tales my students know and love while growing up. And our read-aloud even inspired one student to further research H.A. Rey and his wife Margret for her National History Day presentation!  (It was also a great lead-in to our Holocaust unit).

 

The Devil’s Arithmetic  by Jane Yolen- This is the anchor of our Holocaust study and this year I read it aloud instead of as a whole class novel. This year’s class enjoyed the read aloud while working with other WWII novels/non-fiction in book clubs.  Yolen’s haunting story of a girl who does not want to remember is a powerful testament of the strength and courage of those who were persecuted during the Holocaust.

 

The Lightning Thief (Percy Jackson and the Olympians, Book 1) by Rick Riordan- Definitely oneof my classes’ favorites! A great adventure story that infuses regular kid problems, Greek mythology, and tons of adventure! A must-read!  I’d say close to 25% of my students began reading the rest of the series before school ended for the year!

 

 

A few comments from my students:

“My favorite read-aloud this year was The Lightning Thief  because I found out that I like mythology.”

“My favorite read-aloud was Drums, Girls, And Dangerous Pie  because it was funny.”

“My favorite read-aloud was Drums, Girls, And Dangerous Pie  because I really felt for Jeffrey and Steven!”

“I loved The Devil’s Arithmetic .  It taught me a lot about the Holocaust that I didn’t know.”

Diamond Willow was my favorite because it was emotional and reminded me of my relationship with my own dog”.

“My favorite book this year was Chains because it told a great story.”

“My favorite was Chains because it leave a cliffhanger at the end.  It has lots of action.  It made me want Ms. M. to read more.”

“I really liked Flying Solo .  It was so funny.”

The Underneath was my favorite read-aloud this year.  I just loved it!”

There were many more comments- every book resonated with a specific student.  That’s why I make sure to share a variety of genres, authors, themes, and books with each class!

Cirque du Freak Movie News!

I had a handful of students who looked for updates on the Cirque du Freak movie on a weekly basis this past year.  I was thrilled when I read the following this morning:

Universal Picturs has announced that the film formerly titled Cirque du Freak has now been renamed The Vampire’s Assistant and will be released on October 23. Source

 

Finally!  A release date!  The last date my students were able to find had the movie pushed back to February 2010.  They will be thrilled to hear it is coming out in a few short months.  And it’s a perfect for Halloween.  Plus, the cast is awesome- John C. Reilly, Jane Krakowski, Michael Cerveris, Salma Hayek, and Patrick Fugit.  

A new synopsis for the movie was also released:

The Vampire’s Assistant tells the frightening tale of a boy who unknowingly breaks a 200-year-old truce between two warring factions of vampires. Pulled into a fantastic life of misunderstood sideshow freaks and grotesque creatures of the night, one teen will vanish from
the safety of a boring existence and fulfill his destiny in a place drawn from nightmares.

14-year-old Darren (Chris Massoglia) was like most kids in his suburban neighborhood. He hung out with his best friend, got decent grades and usually stayed out of trouble. But when he and his buddy stumble upon a traveling freak show, things begin to change inside Darren. That’s the exact moment when a vampire named Larten Crepsley (John C. Reilly) turns him into something, well, blood thirsty.

 

 


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