World Literature That High School Students Actually Want to Read- Share a Story, Shape a Future 2012

I teach World Literature and I love the responsibility of introducing my students to literature from across time and across the world.  Along with the canon literature that I am required to cover, I try to bring in as much multicultural YA as I can, through booktalks, book trailers, displays, and read-alouds.  Over the past year I have been compiling a list of books that have caught the attention of my students and I am excited to share them today. This is by no means a complete list, as I focus on the areas of the world that my curriculum centers on.

Multicultural YA for Discerning Teen Reader

Building a Culture of Literacy at the Secondary Level – Share a Story, Shape a Future 2012

I have an obsession with reading.  Some might say that is an unhealthy obsession (my husband is reminding me that our house is a fire hazard), but I disagree.  I can’t imagine my life without reading, so I make it my mission to share that love with the students at my high school.

This year I’ve been working with one of my colleagues, the wonderful Michelle, to build a culture of literacy at our STEM-based schools.  While we are blessed to teach such gifted students, they can sometimes look at reading as a waste of time because they are drawn to math and science instead.  Together, we’ve been working to draw them back to reading and we are definitely seeing results! So what are we doing to build a culture of literacy among high school students?

  • Surround the students with books!

You can never, ever, ever have too many books.  And surrounding students with books will show them that you value books and literacy.  Eventually, they will wander over to the shelves and pick up a few books.  They will page through them.  They will start to read.  And they will find a book they enjoy.

One corner of my classroom library, back in September, before it became messy.

My school does not have a school library.  We are located on a college campus so we have access to their library, which is outstanding, but it’s outside of our building so I often miss the “easy access” of a school library.  I know a lot of teachers are in a similar situation because budgets being slashed so often equals losing the school librarian.  But you can still surround students with books!  Scholastic, library book sales, used book stores, and of course, #ARCsFloatOn can all help teachers build up a classroom library.

And remember, classroom libraries aren’t the only way to surround students with books.  Michelle recently started a book nook at her school, with parents donating books to a set of shelves in a busy area of the hallway.  This way, any student can borrow a book or browse the titles.  I love it and can’t wait to steal her idea!

  • Booktalks

Talk to your students about books and they will start reading.  Booktalks can be almost any advertisement for a book that you can come up with.  The most common booktalk is just standing in front of the students and telling them about a book, like a movie trailer but orally.  You can also show book trailers in class.  I like to post book trailers on our class Facebook page and in the past I have posted them on our Edmodo page, too.  You can also booktalk using posters, flyers in the bathroom, tweets, or any other method of communication.  The important part is sharing books in and out of the classroom!

  • Be a YA evangelist!

Yup, I am telling you to shout about YA from the rooftops!  I certainly do!  I’ve handed YA books to plenty of my colleagues.  Why?  Because it’s important for my students to see other teachers reading.  It’s one thing for them to see their English teacher reading- they expect that.  But it’s a whole different experience for them to see the Biology teacher reading a book they have also enjoyed.  Seeing their content area teachers reading YA has started a lot of conversations between students and teachers at my school.  How do I do it?  Easy!  My colleagues know that I read a lot so they started asking me for recommendations.  Soon I was handing out books like The Book Thief, Bumped, The Fault in Our Stars, and Revolution.

  • Book clubs

Earlier this year, Michelle and I were watching from the sidelines as our students grew more and more excited about the Hunger Games movie. We realized we wanted to capitalize on that excitement and use to grow a love of reading at our schools.  We decided to start a Hunger Games (re)Read Book Club.  The students were invited to re-read each book of the series, focusing on a single book each month, leading up to the movie.  We publicized the book club and started a discussion on our district Goodreads group.  So far, it’s been a huge success!  The students are reading and rereading the books, coming together to talk about them online and once per month in person.  Michelle and I recently co-wrote an article about our experiment for NJCTE’s journal and I will be sure to link to it when it is available.  But you can start a book club for any book!  Choose something popular and gather a group of students.  We meet at lunch once a month and we also carry on conversations online.  You could use Goodreads, Facebook, Edmodo, Moodle, or any other discussion board/software.  Mold the book club to fit you and your students!

  • Social reading
Kids love to talk.  For that matter, so do adults.  What better way to encourage reading than to let them talk about books?  Take some class time to allow your students to talk to each about the books they are reading.  Or if you don’t have the class time to spare, use online spaces and social media to talk about books.  Every Friday I post #fridayreads on my class Facebook page and a few students respond each week.  Even students who don’t respond get a taste of what their classmates are reading as the post pops up in their newsfeed.  You can do the same on Edmodo.
Look at the amazing Paul Hankins and his RAWINK Online!  His students are talking about reading and writing and interacting with YA authors.  Paul is my literacy hero, so be sure to check out his kids and his page.
There are so many ways to talk about reading with your students.  Give it a try and watch the books walk out of your room!

These are just a few of the ways that I try to build a culture of literacy among my high school students.  So far, I am seeing results.  More students are carrying around books, they are discussing them with each other, and they are making recommendations to their peers.  And all of these ideas can easily be implemented in any high school, middle school, or even college!  But I’d love to hear your ideas….what are you doing to build a culture of literacy at your school?

The Gift That Keeps on Giving #sas2011


Welcome to Friday’s edition of Share a Story, Shape a Future!  Today’s topic is The Gift That Keeps on Giving.

 

Literacy is a gift.  It can’t be wrapped, it doesn’t fit in a box, and it doesn’t look fancy.  But it’s the gift that fits every person, regardless of race, creed, sex, background.  Literacy is the gift that keeps on giving.  Here at Share a Story, Shape a Future, we want to make sure that every child is given this important gift.

As a teacher, I share the gift of literacy with my students every day, and it’s my favorite aspect of teaching.  As a high school teacher, I have a huge bookshelf in my room, and a rotating display of books on the edges of my whiteboards.  I also have a shelf in the front of my room devoted to new books and ARCs that I bring in.  Whenever I have time, I booktalk- whether to individuals, small groups, or the class as a whole. And this year I am trying something new- digital booktalks.  I have been posting book trailers on our class Edmodo page, and students reply to the entry if they are interested in the book.  It’s been a great way to booktalk even when I am unable to do so in class.  Plus, my kids are very tech-oriented so the trailers really meet them where they are.

There is no better feeling than seeing a child connect with a book for the first time.  Except maybe seeing them reconnect as a tween/teen.  Both moments are very special.  Recently, one of my seniors stopped me as she walked out of class on a Friday afternoon.  “Thank you for reminding me that I love to read”, she whispered as she handed back a stack of books she had borrowed over the course of the semester.  Needless to say, I spent the rest of the day beaming.

That was her gift to me. I think was the one who got the better end of the deal.  There is nothing like sharing reading and writing with kids.  Nothing like it in the world.

How can you give the gift that keeps giving?  It doesn’t take any life-changing ideas.  It just takes time.

Maybe you don’t enjoy reading fiction, but you start every morning with the newspaper.  Take a few minutes each morning and sit down together.  Point out articles your child will enjoy.  Fill out the crossword puzzle together.

Or maybe you love to end each night by journaling.  Children of any age can journal, too!

Love to read magazines? Get your child a magazine subscription.

The possibilities are endless.  But literacy truly is the gift that keeps on giving.  Below, a few authors share their own gifts.

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Writer’s With Stories to Tell

“One of the most exciting moments of my life as a parent was when my son Josh (my firstborn) learned to read, because I knew that a whole world was opening up for him. We’ve shared so many wonderful books over the years, but here I talk about one of the first books he read to me.”

 

 

 

The Gift of Reading: Guest Post from Pamela Voelkel

A special guest post from Pamela Voelkel

For me as a child in England, reading was a solitary pleasure. It took me where I wanted to be, which was away from my family. We didn’t have many books in the house, just a guide to window-dressing, an anthology of animal stories, a children’s atlas and a book of 365 stories sent over by my aunt in California (which gave me my lifelong obsession with galoshes, both the word and the overshoe concept).

My grandparents had a big old glass-fronted bookcase, filled with beautifully bound classics like Dickens, Jane Eyre, Vanity Fair, Moby Dick, Treasure Island, Little Women and the Angela Brazil schoolgirl stories. I ploughed manfully through them all, loving the feel of the books and the way the illustrations were called “plates”, and the gold type on their spines, even when I didn’t love the stories. After my grandparents died, the bookcase was sold and I cried for it. As surely as Professor Diggory’s wardrobe led to Narnia, that bookcase had been my door to another world. So I never associated reading with togetherness or cosiness; for me, it was about escape.

Then I grew up, got married, and had a baby who didn’t sleep for the first five years. Reading with him was the only thing that kept me sane, and soon we’d amassed a huge library of picture books, many of them about diggers and bulldozers. Two more children followed, girls this time, and the books acquired a pinker, more glittery tinge. But everyone agreed on the family favorites: The Owl Babies, The Runaway Beard, Dinosaur Bob, The Cats of Mrs Calamari, Arnie the Doughnut, and Mr Popper’s Penguins.

Bedtime reading was my favorite part of the day and I dreaded the time when the kids would grow out of it.
But guess what? At seventeen and fourteen, our oldest kids are still not too old for a book at bedtime. Sure, they often have too much homework or better things to do. But when we can, we prop up the pillows and read together as lovely lazy luxury.

Of course, my husband and son dive into Bernard Cornwell or Philip Reeve instead of books about diggers. Our older daughter has long abandoned fairytale princesses in favor of the harsh realities of Suzanne Collins and Laurie Halse Anderson. (Sometimes, if the realities are too uncomfortably harsh, we read them separately and talk about them at bedtime.) But the pleasures of reading aloud are the same as they always were.

And that’s been the revelation for me.

That no matter how frenzied the day nor how snarky the dinner conversation, books bring us together again. Today, instead of loving books for letting me escape as I did as a child, I love them for grounding me in the precious here and now. Books begin new conversations with my kids, they give us shared ground, and they open the way for sleepy confidences that would never be aired in the bright light of morning.

Pamela Voelkel is one half of the writing duo behind The Jaguar Stones, Book One: Middleworld and The Jaguar Stones, Book Two: The End of the World Club

Writer’s Notebooks: Literacy Outside of School #sas2011

Many children love to doodle, write stories, and decorate empty notebooks found laying around the house.  How can we capture this energy and help kids develop their literacy skills outside the classroom?  We know how important it is to read, and we’ve talked a lot about reading this week. But what about writing?

There is nothing better than a writer’s notebook!  Every child should have a notebook, that they can decorate, doodle in, write down their stories, and cherish.  This should not be something that is graded, checked by mom or dad, or made to be a burden in any way.  A writer’s notebook is a special place, and individual place.

A writer’s notebook isn’t a diary.  It isn’t a journal.  It’s something different.  Something special.  A writer’s notebook is a place to jot down ideas and sketches, to write stories and paste in ephemera.

And the best part?  Lots of published authors cherish their writer’s notebooks and use them daily!  Some of those authors have been kind enough to share a photo of their notebook(s) and a little bit about how they use them.  I hope they inspire you to start keeping a writer’s notebook, and to hand a writer’s notebook to a child in your life!

Courtney Sheinmel:

Like most authors I know, I write my books on a computer.  The problem is, some of my best ideas come at completely inconvenient times – like when I’m on the subway and nowhere near my computer, or when I’m in bed with all the lights turned out.  Late at night, so warm and snug under my down comforter, the last thing I want to do is turn on my computer.  I used to think, Well, this idea is so good there’s no way I’ll forget it.  I’ll just write it down later. And then, invariably, I’d forget my brilliant idea.  In the morning, all I’d remember is the fact that I’d had a brilliant idea, and it would leave me devastated that the book would have to exist without it.  So I started keeping a notebook by my bed, and carrying it  around with me when I left the house, small enough so it fit in my purse – the book under the BlackBerry in the picture is one that’s all filled up now.  My handwriting is especially messy in it, since so often the notes were jotted down in the middle of the night.  Now I’ve graduated from an old school notebook to something way more technological, i.e., the “notes” application on my BlackBerry (that’s why the BlackBerry is atop the notebook in the picture).  I’m completely addicted to the device, so it’s never too far away.  Not sure you can see it in the picture, but I have all sorts of categories, and I’ll type in whatever idea just popped into my head.  They’re certainly not all brilliant, but at least there never has to be another idea lost.

Megan McCafferty:

I did research for about a year before I began writing Bumped. I jotted down passages from relevant books in my black and white speckled composition notebook and ripped out dozens of articles and put them in this “IDEAS” folder. On the clipping titled, “16 & Pregnant: No Fairy-Tale Ending” I wrote,”What if society DID encourage sex? Why?” These are the questions that inspired the novel. The whole story can be traced back to that torn piece of newspaper.

Mitali Perkins:


I start the mornings with a good cup of coffee and a time of reading and reflection through journaling. My preference is a standard composition book and a good, fine-tip pen. I write only on one side of the paper, avoiding backs of pages, always in messy, free-flowing cursive. What do I write? Poetry, ideas for stories, prayers full of angst and anxiety, gratitude and celebration. My journal is supposed to be as private and safe as a fire escape, and one of the reasons I like to use that metaphor in my online life. Recently, however, my dog Zipper (with my son as scribe), violated that privacy to leave an interesting request (see photo).

Barbara Dee:

I have a blue 4X6 spiral notebook that I bring along most places, because you never know when you’ll have your next idea for a book! Here’s what I scrawled one day on a bumpy train ride into New York City: the inspiration for my new tween novel, TRAUMA QUEEN. On the upper left, you can see the names of the characters (the main character is Marigold, but apparently I was also considering Zinnia.) Below it is the plan for the first chapter, which is pretty faithful to what actually got written. On the right page, I’d started to work out Marigold’s/Zinnia’s mother, a performance artist in the Karen Finley mold who “teaches improv workshops-colleges.” After that it gets weird– I’ve written “thumb/bendy straw/ self-esteem.” Huh? I’m completely baffled by these scribbles. Maybe they reflect some idea about where I meant to go in Chapter Two, and the train arrived at Grand Central Station before I could flesh out my thoughts. That’s one of the hazards of writing on trains, I guess: you can lose things even when you write them in your notebook.

Jonathan Auxier:

The first is just my closed Journal. I’ve been using one type for the last ten years (Canson 7×10 field sketch) and same pen (pilot v7

clipped into the spine).  I’ve got about 25 of them now on a shelf.

The second picture is putting down an idea for a book character. I happened to tap
e some old paintings I found online in the corner (which I often do). This character — like many I draw — didn’t make the cut.
The third pic is an example of what I like to do when I read . I take down quotes, new vocab and images that struck me. These notes are all from Roald Dahl’s TALES OF THE UNEXPECTED.

 

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As you can see above, writer’s notebooks are differentiated and individual  Each person treats theirs differently, so there is no right or wrong way to use your writer’s notebook.  It is a great habit for kids to get into, and a great one for adults, too.  If you are interested in learning more about writer’s notebooks and getting some additional ideas, you must check out Ralph Fletcher’s A Writer’s Notebook: Unlocking the Writer Within You!
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Do you have a writer’s notebook?  I would love to see some photos in the comments!

Share a Story, Shape a Future 2011

It’s here, it’s here!!

This week is the annual Share a Story, Shape a Future Literacy Blog tour.  We have been hard at work behind the scenes and are so happy that it’s time to unveil the amazing week ahead.  Be sure to check back tomorrow for links to the posts for day 1.

What do you have to look forward to this week?  From the Share a Story, Shape a Future blog:

  • Author and TV personality Katie Davis (of Katie Davis’ Brain Burps) has an exclusive interview with Terry Doherty, founder of The Reading Tub. Look for her podcast early in the week.
  • Mrs. P. of MrsP.com has written an original story, will give us a demonstration of how her website is a portal to reading, AND is launching a new program. [Still a secret!]
  • Award-winning authors Tanita S. Davis and Mitali Perkins, and Hannah Ehrlich ofLee & Low Books join Terry Doherty in a roundtable discussion aboutmulticulturalism in books for children and teens.
  • Elizabeth DulembaSarah Mulhern (The Reading Zone), Donalyn Miller (The Book Whisperer), Franki Sibberson and Mary Lee Hahn (A Year of Reading), and their author and illustrator friends  will be talking about how they fell in love with reading, who gave them the gift of reading, becoming a write, and … well, we can’t tell you everything now, can we? Here are some of their friends: Sarah Darer Littman, Kathi Appelt, JP Voelkel, Paul W. Hankins, Terri Lesesne, Mitali Perkins,  Megan McCafferty,  Jess Leader, Jonathan Auxier, Courtney Sheinmel, Barbara Dee.

It’s going to be a fantastic week!!

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!

Share a Story-Shape a Future Discussion Questions

My response to Share a Book-Shape a Future’s question: “Do you have a favorite chapter book for reading with kids of different ages  (e.g., 4, 9, 13)? “

Share a Story - Shape a Future

I have two favorite read-alouds for my sixth-graders.  Two very different read-alouds!

Every year I love sharing Jordan Sonnenblick’s Drums, Girls, And Dangerous Pie with my classes. It’s an amazing story of of one family’s experience with childhood cancer. Sonnenblick is a former middle school teacher and he captures the middle school voice perfectly. My kids always laugh out loud while we are reading and beg to keep going. They also shed a tear or two when they make connections to their own experiences with cancer. We grow closer as a class while reading Drums, Girls, And Dangerous Pie. Plus, we always tie it into a a service project for the pediatric cancer ward of the local children’s oncology hospital.

Another favorite read-aloud is The Lightning Thief. Like Sonnenblick, Riordan is a former middle school teacher. The Lightning Thief is laugh-out-loud funny and appeals to girls and boys alike. Without fail, most of my students go on to read the rest of the series. But I am a sneaky teacher, because I love to use The Lightning Thief to expose my students to Greek mythology and critical essays/thoughts on literature. For the past few years I have used essays from Demigods and Monsters: Your Favorite Authors on Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson and the Olympians Series to expose my students to critical literary essays. Because they love Demigods and Monsters: Your Favorite Authors on Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson and the Olympians Series, they don’t fight me when it comes to the essays. Before they even realize it, they are Greek mythology experts and are able to write their own critical literary responses to novels. (See, I am sneaky!)

Because read-alouds are such an important part of my classroom culture, I could write about this topic for hours. In fact, I had a really hard time deciding on just two books to discuss in this entry. I have a list of 25 books I love to share with my students during read-alouds. Then I have thousands that I love to share during book talks. It’s a never-ending list!

What are some books you love sharing with your children?

Share A Story-Shape a Future: The Nonfiction Book Hook!

Share a Story - Shape a Future

Way back in the summer, when we started planning this year’s Share a Story-Shape a Future Blog Event, we knew that we wanted to spend a day focusing on nonfiction reading.  I immediately volunteered to host today’s event because nonfiction reading has been a personal focus for me this year.  Over the past five years I’ve noticed that my middle schoolers frequently pass over nonfiction books because they tend to see them as “research books” and not something to be read for pleasure.  This year I have made it a goal to include more nonfiction in my classroom and in my booktalks.

It’s working!  I’ve had more students than ever pick up nonfiction books- biographies, memoirs, informational books, literary nonfiction, and everything in between.  Access to nonfiction opens so many doors and today’s posters are here to help us find more doors and windows to open in the house of nonfiction reading with readers of all ages.

The Nonfiction Book Hook


Fiction or Nonfiction Reader at Imagination Soup

There are two kinds of people in this world.  Fiction and non-fiction.

Think about it.  Some of us naturally prefer reading fiction (me) while others naturally prefer non-fiction (husband, eldest daughter).   For those that are naturally inclined to non-fiction, they will read voraciously in that genre without needing much encouragement.   If you’re not a natural in non-fiction, you may need some help to child to engage with and enjoy non-fiction.  Let me give you some ideas.


Hooking Reluctant Middle Grade Readers (You Choose and Wicked History Series) at 26 Letters

Jessica takes a look at two series of nonfiction book that appeal to middle grade readers, especially reluctant nonfiction readers!


In the Classroom: A Smattering of Nonfiction at Educating Alice

A fourth grade teacher, Monica Edinger helps us look at nonfiction and its use in the classroom.


After Little House, what? at Kidlithistory

Melissa takes a look at a few series that are similiar to Little House (based on childhood memories, etc) but occur later in tieme and the different lessons they can teach.


Real World Reading with Preschoolers at Links to Literacy

In a recent Washington Post column, Jay Matthews brought to light the fact that middle and high school reading lists have very little nonfiction on them and that really bothered him.  His column made me think:  what if we began with our youngest learners?  What are some ways we can introduce nonfiction into the lives of preschoolers?


Sharing Nonfiction with New Readers at 5 Great Books-

The wonderful Anastasia Suen is here to help us hook new readers using nonfiction.  It can be intimidating to find good nonfiction that new readers actually want to read, but Anastasia is here to guide us.


Hook, Line, and Sinker: Pairing Nonfiction with Fiction to Reel in Readers at TheReadingZone-

One of the best ways I have managed to “hook” my students on nonfiction is to use their natural curiosity.  Many students have questions after reading a novel of any genre.  Don’t we all?  I know I have been caught more than once googling a topic that intrigued me in a novel.  We need to grab on to our students’ natural curiosity, sink our claws in, and guide them toward answers.  Forget the internet- the answers they seek can be found in nonfiction books!

Everyday Nonfiction Newspaper Reading at Teach Mama-

Newspaper reading can be a really useful–and sneaky!–tool for incorporating nonfiction reading into the lives of our emerging readers. Great idea, Amy!

Nonfiction for Early Readers- What’s a Parent to Do? at Maw Books Blog-

How do parents find nonfiction for early readers?  There are plenty of picture books out there, but how does a parent find a nonfiction book that is interesting, not over their child’s head, and fun?  Natasha shares the four most important thing she has learned.


Hook, Line, and Sinker: Pairing Nonfiction with Fiction to Reel in Readers

One of the best ways I have managed to “hook” my students on nonfiction is to use their natural curiosity.  Many students have questions after reading a novel of any genre.  Don’t we all?  I know I have been caught more than once googling a topic that intrigued me in a novel.  We need to grab on to our students’ natural curiosity, sink our claws in, and guide them toward answers.  Forget the internet- the answers they seek can be found in nonfiction books!

Share a Story - Shape a Future

I have a few favorite go-to pairs of fiction and nonfiction that I use with my students each year.

  • Fever 1793 by Laurie Halse Anderson and An American Plague: The True and Terrifying Story of the Yellow Fever Epidemic of 1793 by Jim Murphy- Fever 1793 is a hit with my students year in and year out.  Despite the fact that I struggle to get students to read and enjoy historical fiction, Laurie Halse Anderson has this magical ability to draw her readers into any story.  Because I teach in NJ, Fever 1793 always intrigues my students.  They come to me with many questions after reading and I always guide them towards Murphy’s book.  It has just the right amount of gross stuff, medical jargon, and cool facts.
  • The Music of Dolphins by Karen Hesse and Grayson by Lynne Cox-  Dolphins are the most popular animal in the world.  Ok, that might be an exaggeration but it sure feels like it when you teach middle school.  Any time you ask students to list their favorite animals, dolphins top the list.  It’s not surprise that Hesse’s book about a feral child raised by dolphins is popular with middle schoolers.  What I really love though, is guiding my students towards Lynne Cox’s Grayson.  When Cox was in high school she spent her early morning hours swimming in the Pacific.  It is here that she finds a lost baby gray whale and the most amazing day of her life occurs.  What dolphin-lover hasn’t dreamed of swimming with the giants of the ocean?  Cox actually lived it and still cites it as the most amazing experience of her life.
  • Mr. Popper’s Penguins by Richard Atwater and My Season with Penguins: An Antarctic Journal by Sophie Webb- Mr. Popper’s Penguins is a an absurd tale that my students this year are just eating up.  A few of them read it in fifth grade and have been booktalking it to their current classmates.  Those who already read Atwater’s silly story have been moving towards real life stories of penguins, like My Season with Penguins: An Antarctic Journal.  It’s so much fun to see and hear them learning about penguins while they realize all the myths they thought were true actually aren’t.
  • Shooting the Moon by Francis O’Roark Dowell, Every Soul A Star by Wendy Mass with Moon: Science, History, And Mystery andAlmost Astronauts: 13 Women Who Dared to Dream.- Space, space, space!  This year astronomy is a part of the science curriculum, so realistic fiction about space and astronomy has been growing more popular with my kids.  Hence, the nonfiction books about space are also flying off the shelves.
  • Hatchet by Gary Paulsen and Guts by Gary Paulsen- Hatchet is my go-to book for reluctant boy readers.  It never fails to grab at them and make them wish they could survive a plane crash in the wilderness.  Imagine their excitement when I tell them that Gary Paulsen is a read-life adventurer who has actually LIVED many of the stories he writes.  While their jaw is still on the floor, I calmly hand them Guts, the companion to Paulsen’s novel.

These are just a few of the nonfiction/fiction pairs I use with my students.  However, there are hundreds more out there.  Just know that corralling your child’s natural need to know more is a great way to introduce them to nonfiction reading for pleasure.  We want our students to read all genres for fun.  Instead of having them complete test prep pages of “everyday reading” selections, have them make nonfiction part of their everyday reading!

Please share some of your favorite pairs in the comments!

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