I’ve never been a big nonfiction fan. I always wanted stories over just the facts. I was among the top readers for the library’s summer reading program, but I balked at requirements to read a book in each of the 100′s for the Dewey Decimal section. I can remember the librarian in the children’s room begging me to try some nonfiction. I finally compromised by agreeing to read some of them. The 200′s weren’t too bad because I could fill up on Greek and Roman and Norse mythology. I also didn’t mind reading from the biography section–Dorothea Dix and Clara Barton and Sacajawea and Stonewall Jackson were favorites.
I first discovered that nonfiction–real nonfiction from the other numbers–could be fascinating when I worked as a page in that same library during high school. I was no dummy. The nonfiction shelves were much easier to keep in order because there were many fewer people browsing and placing books on random shelves. Being the bookworm that I was, I couldn’t help peeking between the covers of the books I was supposed to be shelving, especially on slow nights. Was I surprised when I wanted to keep reading some of them enough to check out and take home. I could learn about anything–not just the boring stuff in my school textbooks.
Now that I am teaching, my bookshelves are still heavy on the stories, but my nonfiction collection is growing. With the CCSS emphasis on nonfiction, I’m looking for those books that will open my students to the possibilities that I found hiding among the nonfiction stacks long ago. Thankfully there are some incredible writers creating fascinating books on a multitude of topics.
I’m also discovering that there isn’t nearly as large a divide between facts and story as I once thought. Yes, informational text is structured differently. I particularly noticed the structure while listening to The Tipping Point. I wasn’t sure how well I would be able to follow an informational text while listening, but Gladwell offered clear transitions to keep from getting lost. I also noticed that in this informational text, story held it all together. I remember most the stories that illustrated the principles. Why was Paul Revere’s ride to warn of the British invasion more successful than Richard Dawes’s ride the same night? What made Sesame Street and Blue’s Clues so successful? How did New York City reduce crime so dramatically?
It was these and other stories that Gladwell wove throughout the book that helped me understand and remember the concepts. I’ve also noticed that story plays an impoortant role in most of the nonfiction that I’ve read and enjoyed, not just in the typical narrative nonfiiction. Whoever claims that narrative is unimportant in today’s reading and writing demands must not be reading much quality nonfiction.
I’m taking part in the Slice of Life Challenge sponsored by Ruth and Stacey over at Two Writing Teachers. I hope to write every day for the month of March and then continue weekly each Tuesday. Join in yourself or head over to check out what’s happening with other slices. If you’re taking part in the SOL, leave a link to your post. I’d love to read it.
It’s the new year, and I’m not much for making resolutions. I do like dreaming of the possibilities a new year can bring, especially when I think of all the good books out there waiting for me to discover them.
A conversation over on Twitter has got me thinking about some of those books that I might be missing out on because I get stuck reading my favorites. If you look at the shelves in my classroom, it’s easy to tell what my favorite genres are: fantasy and science fiction, historical fiction, realistic fiction. Those shelves are overflowing with books. It’s also easy too tell what my bookgaps are. Those are the shelves that look empty and lonely: graphic novels, sports and adventure stories, horror, and almost all nonfiction except for memoir. I’ve gotten better at reading outside my comfort zone (and if nothing else is available, I will read just about anything), but I could definitely push myself.
Some of these bookgaps have been longstanding. I can remember the children’s librarian from my hometown trying to convince me to read some nonfiction as part of the summer reading program. I may have read the most books that summer, but I definitely didn’t read the most variety. I finally gave in on nonfiction by reading a couple of biographies and lots of mythology. Fortunately, I’ve since discovered some nonfiction books that I actually enjoyed. I suspect the nonfiction writing is getting better!
Last year I did set a goal of reading 200 books. Much to my surprise, I made it! I can still remember when Paul Hankins started the Centurians group on Facebook. I didn’t know if I could read 100 books that year (and my husband thought I was nuts to consider it), but I did it.
Rather than increase (or even set) a number of books for a reading goal this year, I want to explore some different possibilities. Some of these explore possibilities of what I want to read. Others explore ways I can share what I read.
Read more books to fill in my bookgaps: graphic novels and nonfiction especially
Read some of the classics I missed. Can you believe I’ve never read Catcher in the Rye?
Add more book trailers to my blog and share them with my classes.
Do more book talks in class!
Keep searching to put the right book in the hands of the right student at the right time. I want every student in my classes to find the book that speaks to them.
Develop my PLN on Twitter. I’ve been listening in on great conversations. Now it’s time to speak up and join in the conversations.
What possibilities would you like to explore through the coming year? Are there bookgaps in your reading life waiting for you to explore? Are you all about the numbers? What is your book number?
Remember all those pictures I took in the library? Here’s the video of all of you with you with your favorite books. Confession: I stole this idea from the Nerdy Book Club. I sent my photo there, too, so check it out as well. Enjoy, and Happpy Reading over Christmas
As Thanksgiving approaches this week, I am grateful for many things. All of my students are taking time this week to reflect on some part of life they are thankful for as well. Definitely take time to browse through their posts by clicking on a class period under the Blogroll on the right. Meanwhile, here are the things I appreciate about each of my five language arts classes.
I am thankful for the exuberance my 2nd period class brings. They have been reading lots of books and currently hold both the highest number of books read and the highest average per student. Olivia M explains her book obsession. I have loved reading their poems and memoirs. Check out this poem by John W and memoir by Brooke P. I love when they get excited about books and start passing them around. Carrly I and Allison G have read Played by Dana Davidson. Kelsey C and Macey B have been passing back and forth the mermaid books by Tera Lynn Childs. What good books will they discover next?
I am thankful for the peacefulness that fills my third period. All that quiet produces some good thinking and reading and writing. Just check out what Caleb P has to say about This Dark Endeavor by Kenneth Oppel. Many share a love of Sarah Dessen books. Isn’t that right, Ashley P, Krystal W, and Raechel M. Who is going to be the first to follow her on Twitter? Carlee L wrote about the book everyone’s reading–The Pull of Gravity by Gae Polisner–and the author even dropped by! I can’t even list all the students tearing through The Hunger Games series. Trenton wrote about my current favorite nonfiction book, How They Croaked.
I am thankful fifth period gets me off to a good start after lunch. They are reading some good books in this class. They even said they would buy me books from the book fair for Christmas! I can’t wait to open those presents! They have been writing great blog posts. Kameron D writes about the drawbacks of fame. Brooke M writes about the high cost of dropping out of school. Henry S gives excellent reasons why we should all read. You can also discover some great memoirs (like this one by Katy C) and poems. James S captures the chaos of the hallways during passing period, and Brooke V paints of picture of where she’s from.
I am thankful my sixth period keeps me on my toes looking for good books. Don’t let them fool you. They may say they hate reading, but they have taken the lead in both total number of books and the highest average of books read per student in my afternoon classes! Much of that is due to their love of graphic novels, especially Mal and Chad. Coming soon will be an awesome blog post with contributions from some new fans. They’ve also been writing some awesome blog posts. Check out what Ally H says about giving fame second thoughts. Haley H wrote about the cost of high school drop outs. If you need some good reasons to read, check out what Logan E and Tylor B advise. I’ve also enjoyed their memoirs (like this one by Katie H) and poems (like these by Kourtney G and Austin M).
I am thankful to end my day with my seventh period class. They make me laugh, especially when they diagram sentences on the desk. They are also discovering which books and authors they like. You wouldn’t believe how any books they’ve read! I’m not sure they can, either. I love reading what they post on their blogs. Klayton B and Haley G wrote awesome poems. Kasen R’s and Shawn V’s memoirs were definitely memorable. Austin K and Diana B give contrasting views of fame. Mckenzie R gives some good reasons for reading.
Your library card is a key that unlocks the world for you. Did you know that your library card allows you to
check out books and DVDs for FREE from the library?
check out books from any library on the Evergreen system?
download audiobooks to listen to for FREE on your iPod or other mp3 player?
download FREE ebooks to read on your Nook or Kindle?
downlaod FREE music to listen to?
That’s not all! During the month of September–National Library Card Month–our library is offering some pretty sweet giveaways. There are goody bags for anyone who gets their first library card. (It’s FREE, too!) All you need to do to get a library card is meet one of the following criteria:
Be a resident of Jennings County (bring something with your name and address on it)
Pay property taxes in Jennings County (probably not an issue for most 8th graders) OR
Have a valid card from a reciprocal library
Don’t feel left out if you already have your library card. There are goodies for you, too! If you use your library card to check out a book or something else, download free music or audiobooks, or check out the new ebooks available at the library, you are entered into a drawing for a Nook tablet or a $50 or $25 gift card from Barnes and Noble.
If you want to check out any of the ebooks and audiobooks, you will need to install the free Overdrive software. You can download the app from the app store for iPhone, iPod, iPad, or Droid. You can also download it onto your computer and transfer over if you have an older device. There’s a link on the library webpage that takes you to Overdrive. Just follow the directions on the screen for your computer or device.
What are you waiting for? Become a proud library card holder like me!
I want to introduce you to one of my favorite writers–the amazing John Green. One of the highlights of my summer was meeting John (very briefly) at a book signing at Indy Reads Books. John and his brother Hank have a YouTube channel, Vlog Brothers, where the share their excitement about life, learning, books and anything else they think of. They even let the rest of us listen in. I love this open letter to students from John. I hope you enjoy it, too.
If you want to learn even more, check out their other channels below.
Every year I compare success in reading to success in sports. What does it take to succeed in any sport? Talent and ability, yes, but also hard work and dedication to practice. The same is true for reading. It takes practice–lots and lots of reading–to get better. All that reading has many payoffs. Not only do readers get better at reading, but they also increase their vocabulary and improve their writing. In this age of over-emphasis on test-scores, independent reading is still shown to have a positive impact.
Now LeBron James gives me this gift: video of him reading everywhere!
Which of these books have you read? Which do you want to read? What books would you recommend for James to read next?
It is definitely time to bring back the tradition of Fun on a Friday tradition–usually a book trailer or other literary related video that I’ve discovered in my wanderings over the internet. Since I’m resurrecting a long-dormant tradition, you get two videos today!
It seems libraries (along with many other public services) have come under attack as costing too much. These two videos deal with the cost to society if we lose our libraries, whether public libraries or school libraries. I shudder to think what the world would be like without libraries. I have confession to make. I don’t go to the library as often as I (or my daughter) would like. I’m trying to read my way through the boxes of books in my house. I also have trouble rounding up the books and returning them on time. Those overdue fines add up fast!
Even so, I can’t imagine not having a library card. Visiting the library and getting my very own card is one of the first things I do when I move to a new community. I even talked my way into a library card in the town where I worked for the summer at camp!
First up is Daniel Handler (better known as Lemony Snicket) performing the song “Without Libraries” at the San Francisco Public Library. Thanks to The Hub for sharing this video in blogging about the Printz reception at ALA.
Next is a video that made the rounds of Facebook and Twitter. I love how it reframes the question in the public discourse.
During Spring Break, I went to Washington, DC. One of my favorite places that we visited was the Library of Congress. This library–actually encompassing several buildings–is definitely the ultimate library. I could have happily spent days roaming through its rooms, but I didn’t.
The Library of Congress holds millions of artifacts. In addition to books, you can browse photographs, videos, audio recordings, and manuscripts of all kinds.
This is the mission of the Library of Congress:
“The Library’s mission is to support the Congress in fulfilling its constitutional duties and to further the progress of knowledge and creativity for the benefit of the American people.”
I’m not sure how much time members of Congress actually spend in the Library, but I’m glad this place is collecting, preserving, and sharing knowledge for our benefit. They even share it on their website. Here are just a few of the things you can explore:
Some of the photograph collections include cartoons, the Civil War (want to impress your history teachers?), and baseball cards.
At the Center for the Book, you can read classic books online, watch author webcasts (Stephen King, Stephanie Meyer, RL Stine, Katherine Patterson, Neil Gaiman and many more) , or enter the writing contest Letters about Literature.
You can relive the history of our country through Chronicling America, which shares newspapers from 100 years ago.
The National Jukebox lets you listen to streaming audio of recorded sounds from our nation’s history–at least from the time of audio recordings! ”The Gems from the Jukebox” includes a little bit of everything: opera, ragtime, Hawaiian music, comedy routines and more.
Just walking into the building is enough to make my jaw drop. The walls and ceilings are covered with mosaics and paintings:
Here’s a closeup of one of the ceiling mosaics:
In case we forgot where we were, it was inscribed right on the walls:
I love the quotes that fill the walls. I got a tee-shirt with my favorite quote from Thomas Jefferson: ”I cannot live without books.” I agree, Thomas!
These last two pictures aren’t from the Library of Congress, but I wanted to share them. This stack of books is four stories tall! It is in the Lincoln Center for Education and Leadership right across from Ford’s Theater. That’s a lot of books about Abraham Lincoln.
Finally, a trip to Washington, DC, has to include a trip to at least one Smithsonian. We visited two: the America History Museum (I love the dresses of the First Ladies) and the Air and Space Museum. This is me with my hero–Amelia Earhart–or at least with one of her planes.