#ARCsFloatOn- How Bloggers Can Help

All over the country, education budgets are being slashed, teachers are having their pay cut, and students are struggling.  Classroom libraries, which tend to be teacher-funded (out of teachers’ own pockets), are certainly suffering.  However, research shows that classroom libraries are vital – they encourage students to read more!  We need to do everything we can to encourage students to become lifelong readers.  But it takes a village to raise a reader. :)

As a blogger/reviewer, I am extremely lucky.  I have access to review copies and ARCs, which are all donated to my classroom library.  The books are reviewed by me (most of them), then passed on.  My students, all members of Goodreads, then share their thoughts on Goodreads, so the authors and books receive more word-of-mouth advertising.  Inevitably, some students end up purchasing a copy (e-book or paper) because they want their own copy.  It’s a win-win situation.

My students love review copies, but ARCs are even more magical.  Nothing hooks a reluctant reader like the promise of reading a book before the rest of the world has access to it.  That, plus the knowledge that they can then share their thoughts on Goodreads is the best motivator I have!  So many bloggers have ARCs collecting dust on their shelves, or end up tossing them into the trash because they plan to purchase the hardcover when it is released.  Recycle those ARCs and get them into the hands of kids and teens!

But we need bloggers! I have over 200 teachers, with more signing up everyday, looking to partner with bloggers/reviewers.  The teachers are divided by age level. I have early elementary looking for picture books and early readers, middle grade teachers, and high school teachers looking for YA and adult books.  How can you help? Sign up and become a book fairy!  Tell me what type of ARCs or review books you are looking to “float on” to students and teachers.  Teachers have volunteered to pay for shipping via USPS flat rate mail.  None of the teachers are picky- they will take any books you are able to stuff into the flat rate box!

How does it work?  You sign up via the Googledocs form.  I then pair you with a teacher looking for books in the category you place yourself in.  You will be contacted with the contact info for a teacher or two.  At that point, you can email the teacher(s) and set up shipping payment via Paypal, check, or anything else you are comfortable with.  Then, you mail out your books and somewhere, students are very, very happy!  The books you send are up to you- ARCs, review copies, anything you have.  Classroom libraries are in need and YOU can help.  Plus, you get to clean off your bookshelves and make room for new books!

It’s easy.  I’ve already mailed off about 10 packages to teachers in elementary school and middle school, clearing my shelves of the books not appropriate for my current grade level.  It’s a fantastic feeling, knowing how those students light up when their classroom teacher brings in a box of brand new books.  Don’t you want to be a part of that magic, too?

Questions?  Comment here, or contact me on Twitter @thereadingzone.  And please- pass on the word to other bloggers/reviewers!

 

*#ARCsFloatOn is endorsed by many of the major publishers!  They are happy to see ARCs getting into the hands of students. :)  ARCs can not be cataloged in a library, but classroom libraries are a-ok.  The ARCs don’t last long (a season or so) and most teachers then end up purchasing a hardcover copy.  Again, a win-win for publishers and students alike.

Sad News for the YA World

Back in January, author L.K. Madigan posted a heartbreaking entry on her blog.  After surviving breast cancer many years ago, she was recently diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.  I watched a friend’s father fight pancreatic cancer and my heart broke for Lisa, her husband, and her son.  Pancreatic cancer is an awful, awful disease.

Today, I learned that Lisa lost her battle with cancer.  My heart is broken and I can’t imagine how her family is coping.  I did not know Lisa, but I felt like I did because I read her wonderful books and followed her blog.

Tonight, please hug your loved ones.

Cure Pancreatic Cancer

 

 

 

Buy Lisa’s books-

Morris Award Winner Flash Burnout

The Mermaid’s Mirror

Share a Story, Shape a Future Blog Tour 2011

I can not believe it has been a year since the last Share a Story, Shape a Future literacy blog tour!

Vital Information:
When: March 7- 11, 2011 (M-F)
Where: Here and all over the blogosphere
Who: Blogging teachers, librarians, literacy passionistas, and YOU
Why: To share ideas and celebrate literacy in all forms
How: Through blog posts, Facebook, and Twitter

We have been working behind the scenes since last summer to pull together another fantastic week of posts.  What do you have to look forward to this year?

From the blog:

We have framed out our daily topics and here is what we’ll be talking about
  • The Power of a Book – From the literal power of owning a book and a good story to the intangible power that comes with knowing how to read.
  • The Gift of Reading – Whether you’re looking for a book to excite a reader, want to help someone learn to read or celebrate the “gift” … it’s covered.
  • Unwrapping Literacy 2.0 – With all of the talk of digital literacy, e-readers, etc. What does “literacy” look like in this new century?
  • Love of Reading v. Homework – Do they have to be at odds? We’ll talk about ways to help readers at home and at school.
  • The Gift that Keeps on Giving – To wrap up the week we’ll be remembering “that moment” when we realized we were a reader or writer and how to celebrate it with others. Lots(!) of interviews this day.

Here at my blog, I will be co-hosting Friday and the theme is “Literacy: The Gift that Keeps on Giving”.  A great group of authors have volunteered to share their stories about the gift of reading- both giving the gift and receiving it.  It’s going to be a fantastic day!

I will also be participating on Thursday, which focuses on keeping school from interfering with the gift of literacy.  Here on my blog, I will be gathering a group of authors who will be sharing how they use writer’s notebooks.  The authors have been kind enough to share photos from their notebooks and ideas for using them.  Writer’s notebooks are a fantastic, low-stress way to get kids writing for fun and I look forward to sharing them with more people.

It’s going to be a great week!  Make sure you check out the entire tour!

Shine by Lauren Myracle

This book is important. It is a book that teens need to read. So do teachers, parents, administrators, and anyone else who works with teens. It’s not an easy book to read- not by any stretch. I found myself repulsed at times, horrified by the actions of some characters. Yet it’s realistic. There are adults who will hate this book, who will call it all sorts of names and demand that it be taken off the shelf. But we must not let that happen. Shine is too important, and I hope it is able to change the way teens think and act.

Cat is damaged. Something happened to her a few years ago, and she has buried the event. However, she knows the ugly is still there and it still changed her. After the incident, she pulled away from her friends and family. She is angry at her family for not protecting her and she hopes that by pulling away from her friends she can heal. Unfortunately, all she did was become a loner.

Now, how (former) best friend, Patrick, has been beaten almost-to-death, the victim of a hate crime. Cat knows that someone in their small town almost killed Patrick and she is determined to find out who it was. Patrick’s sexuality is no secret to the rest of the town, and there is very little acceptance for LGBT people. I hesitate to tell you anymore, but just know that you need to read this book.

Lauren Myracle has crafted a gut-wrenching, heartbreaking, reality-checking book. It’s graphic. It’s horrifying. And yet- it’s real. Cat lives in a small town and the people she loves are small-minded. The regularly use derogatory terms around Patrick. Heck, even his friends mock him for being gay. But how many of our teens experience the same thing every day of their lives? How many teens laugh alongside their friends and don’t realize the damage they are doing?

One of my favorite characters in Shine is Robert, a supporting character’s tween brother. Myracle does a fantastic job showing the reader how kids and tweens learn to bully, how derogatory terms become a part of their vernacular even when they don’t fully understand the implications of those words. Then those kids grow up to be teenagers and adults who share their views with their own children. It’s a vicious cycle, and Myracle is trying to show teens that it needs to be stopped.

There will be some readers who are angry about the ending. Know right now that the issues at the heart of the book don’t get wrapped up in a nice little bow. But does life ever end that way? Myracle keeps this book realistic through and through. She is dedicated to changing the culture of hate that flows through so many cliques, high schools, and this country as a whole.

Shine is important. It begs to be shared with teens and to be discussed. I can’t see it being read aloud in school (language, drug references, etc), but high school literature circles and book clubs are the perfect playground for for this book. As teachers and librarians, we need to get books like Shine into the hands of our readers. They have the power to change the world and this book is one that might help get them started.

*ARC provided courtesy of the publisher

My iPhone and Reading

Last week I finally upgraded my #dumbphone to a #fancyphone!  It’s been a long time coming, but I waited (im)patiently for the iPhone to come to Verizon.  I am a Mac girl through and through.  Finally, my time has arrived!

Having my iPhone with me all the time has made for a lot more reading time.  I carry my iPad with me a lot, but not back and forth to school because my computer is with me then.  So that meant I was sometimes out of luck when I got stuck waiting somewhere without a book.  But I never travel without my cell phone, and over the past week I have been pulling it out constantly to read.  I am reading more over lunch, during breaks, waiting in line at the bank, and anywhere else I find myself waiting.  It is so convenient!

Have you found yourself reading more now that it’s so easy to carry a lot of books with you at one time?

 

 

(No worries- I am still a paper girl through and through.  I am not going all pro e-reader here.  I just like the convenience of having a back-up book with me at all times, on my phone.)

Happy Cybils Day!

Today is the day!  The Cybils Awards have been awarded. I am so happy with all of the judges’ choices.  Head on over to the Cybils’ blog to see which books took the top prize. :)

 

Cybils Winners!

Calamity Jack by Shannon and Dean Hale

I loved Shannon and Dean Hale’s (and the incomparable Dean Hale- no-relation’s illustrations) Rapunzel’s Revenge. See my review here.
Calamity Jack is the rip-roaring sequel to the first graphic novel and is so.much.fun! Tweens will gobble this one up, as it appeals to boys and girls. A retelling of “Jack and the Beanstalk”, the Hales have rewritten the story with a steampunk twist. This time Jack takes the reins, and he and Rapunzel are headed back to his hometown to settle a few financial issues.  But when they get there Jack learns that a few things have changed since he ran away.  The “giant” tycoons have taken over and the city is dirty, gritty, and full of thieves.  Have no fear, though- Jack and Rapunzel are here to save the day!

Hand this one to graphic novel lovers, fairy tale retelling lovers, and adventure lovers.  The illustrations are gorgeous, the dialogue will have you laughing out loud, and the story is perfect.  Highly recommended for middle school libraries!

*review copy courtesy of the publisher

Please Ignore Vera Dietz by A.S. King

When Please Ignore Vera Dietz by A.S. King won a Printz Honor back in January, I was mad at myself because it was on my TBR-pile and I hadn’t picked it up yet. So I reshuffled the pile and made sure I got to it that week. Boy, am I glad I did!  A worthy-winner, it’s the perfect combination of literary and teen appeal.

Vera Dietz would really like to be invisible.  She is perfectly content going through life without anyone noticing her.  But since the death of her ex-best friend Charlie, that’s been a lot harder to do.  See, Vera knows what happened to Charlie that night.  But can she bring herself to clear his name?  Can she forgive him enough to do that? Part mystery, part coming-of-age, all amazing- this is a book you must read.  No summary can do it justice.

I really loved how King crafted Please Ignore Vera Dietz.  The story is told from a variety of perspectives- the living, the dead, even inanimate objects.  Everything weaves together into a web of intrigue, keeping the reader on the edge of their seat.  At the same time, the mystery is not overbearing.

Teens will love Vera and I think most will identify with her in some way. She is sarcastic, quirky, angry, smart, full of love, at times full of hate, and  just… real.  She jumps off the page and it feels like she is telling you her story while sitting next to you.   You can’t help but root for her (and her dad, whom I loved).  I even found myself rooting for Charlie by the end, despite his numerous issues.

A worthy book of the Printz sticker.  Get this one in the hands of your high school readers ASAP!

*review copy courtesy of publisher

E-readers in Their Bookbags (and Purses, and Gym Bags, and Lockers)

Over the past two years, I have seen more of my students carrying e-readers, so the most recent NYTimes article  “E-Readers Catch Younger Eyes and Go in Backpacks” did not surprise me.  Last year, as a sixth grade teacher, I had 1-2 students in each class who asked permission to use their e-readers during independent reading (Kindles and Nooks).  They always caused a buzz the first time they came in, with other students (and even teachers!) crowding around, oohing and ahhing.  After that, they were just another format in the classroom.

This year in high school, I started the year with about 6% of my class using e-readers (mostly Kindles).  After Christmas vacation, I had an even larger percentage using Kindles, iPads, and Nooks.  I think I am up to around 10-12% of my class using e-readers.  I do notice more of my students reading the classics offered for free download, but that could also be a result of my 40 Book Reading Challenge, which requires that they read 3 canon classics.  However, the e-readers make it easier for my students to access the classics.  And this might be crazy, but I also think my students download the classics because a lot of them lack covers or consist of solid color covers.  There is not “judging a book by its cover” because it doesn’t really have one.  Thus, they go into the book without any preconceived notions about it being boring.  Not for nothing, but so many of the classics have atrocious covers that do not attract modern teen readers.  E-readers take that out of the equation!

I am also seeing them read new books, downloading recommendations from friends and books that I booktalk in class.  They also pass the e-readers around, letting friends borrow them to read books.

I’m still a holdout.  I use my iPad to carry books on vacation, but otherwise I stick to paper copies.  I can’t put e-copies in my classroom library.  :)  However, I am a fan of anything that gets kids reading, so keep buying your kids those e-readers!  And publishers, make your newest YA and middle grade titles available as e-books.  If you sell it, they will buy it!

 

Between Shades of Grey by Ruta Sepetys

Between Shades of Gray won’t be available in stores until March 22nd, but I want to make sure it is on your radar.  Preorder your copy today, because this is a book you do not want to miss.  It’s a heart-wrenching book about a part of history I am ashamed to admit I knew nothing about. Absolutely fantastic. It’s also a debut novel, which just stuns me.

The story chronicles a Lithuanian family’s deportation by the Soviets during World War II and I could not put it down.  It’s making the rounds in my classroom now and getting rave reviews from my students.  Set in 1941, it reads like a memoir.  I am ashamed to admit that I had no idea about any of the history that Sepetys focuses on in the book.  When Stalin decided to annex Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia and parts of Finland, he gathered all possible dissenters, had them labeled thieves and prostitutes, and sentenced them to 25 years hard labor in Siberia.  Fifteen-year old Lina’s father is one of these dissenters and their entire family is shipped to Siberia in cattle cars, with no idea where they are going or why.  Their father is separated from them, and Lina uses her love of art to stay connected to him.

This book will open your eyes.  It will break your heart.  It will also send your heart soaring.  Lina is strong and full of life, and her struggles to understand what is going on around her, to understand how humanity can act this way, will tear you apart.  Sepetys is a gifted writer, and I was flagging quote after quote.  We’d been trying to touch the sky from the bottom of the ocean. I realized that if we boosted one another, maybe we’d get a little closer.” (quote taken from ARC).  Gorgeous, right?  That is only a small sample of the gift Rupa Sepetys has given us with this story.  She describe the hardships endured by these people, in gruesome and heart-breaking detail, yet she also highlights their strength of spirit and the love that blooms in their hearts, despite their situation.

Harrowing, heartbreaking, and important.  This is a must-read.  I have read many WWII and Holocaust novels in my time, and Between Shades of Gray needs to be on the canon list.  The Soviet genocide of the Baltic states has been left out of history books for far too long.  Rupa Sepetys has made an important contribution to YA literature (and it also has strong crossover appeal for the adult market).  Highly recommended for teen and adult readers.

*ARC received as a gift from another reader.

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