Sunday, October 9, 2016

Missouri "Pirate" Principal Impacts NY Student

Reading Recommendations Cross State Lines

Dear Readers,

I am always looking for YA book recommendations. For any of you who work with Middle School students, you probably know it can be difficult to find just right books for that age group. Some of the books are too elementary and others are too mature. Let's be honest, particularly in 7th and 8th grade, their social life is more important than anything else. We need to recognize that, accept that and love them for who they are. Reading is not always at the top of their priority list.

Connecting readers to books takes time, patience and knowledge. Once the school year begins, my reading time is almost 100% devoted to young adult literature. Building relationships is near and dear to my heart, so I integrate getting to know the whole child as much as possible into instruction. Getting to know my students personally and reading YA Lit on a regular basis helps me to be a coach in building their reading lives. They begin to trust and respect my recommendations. Additionally, I never have just one, I can usually recommend at least 4-5. I love sitting in front of my classroom library and just pulling books off to share with students. My biggest reward is when they cannot decide so I encourage them to take 2 or 3 and bring back what they do not want yet.

Twitter has been invaluable in connecting me to other educators who also live and breathe literacy. I frequently take recommendations from people and ultimately many of those books end up in my personal library. The #Read4Fun Voxer group and Sunday night chat have been incredible resources, just as an example. Thank you to all of you who have helped build up choices that I now offer students.

Beth Houf

One principal I would like to recognize is Beth Houf (@BethHouf) an amazing middle school principal at Fulton Middle School in Missouri.

Whatcha Reading?

Beth has created a broadcast called "Whatcha Reading?" and in it she highlights books that she would personally recommend to students. Luckily, I was fortunate to be tagged in her pilot episode and was introduced to a book titled eleven by Tom Rogers. 

Of course I ran out to the library, had it reserved and read it as soon as it came in. I promptly bought it for my classroom library. When I buy new books, I introduce them to my students so they can see what additions I am making.

One of my students was having a difficult time settling on a book. He chose his initial independent reading book and asked to abandon it because a book another student was reading seemed to spark his interest. I always allow students to abandon books if they can tell me why. This student chose to read Fuzzy Mud

Knowing he would finish that quickly, I recommended a graphic novel to him called The Lost Boy. As he was finishing that, one of the books I showed him, to think about as his next read, was eleven. 

This past Friday, he arrived at school early so I invited him up to my room to help me do some classroom jobs and it was the perfect time to discuss books. I recommended War Child to him as an option.  To my surprise, he kept going back to eleven, remember that book you showed me about 9/11?  He was really caught between the two. I encouraged him to take them both and decide. In addition, we are reading A Long Walk to Water

I was ecstatic when he left my room with three books in his bag that morning! When we take the time to get to know our students, really get to know them, we help build their reading lives. I was so incredibly proud of him for settling into books that seemed to interest him. A sincere and heart felt thank you to Beth for introducing that title to me and ultimately reaching a reader in my classroom in New York State. 

Check out that video clip here: Whatcha Reading: The Pilot 

Ironically, I shared a text I was reading called I Will Always Write Back and it ended up on her second broadcast! I was absolutely thrilled as it is one of my new favorites from the summer.

Check out that video clip here: Whatcha Reading? Sept 6th Edition 

I am reading.........

Beth also inspired me to post the following outside my door. 

I saw an example of her staff members doing this and modified it so my entire 7th grade Language & Literature class has a "sign". 

I wanted a way to display our reading lives and Beth's signs inspired me to make these.

I then created a bulletin board for us to build our reading lives as a classroom community. 

I love that we have a space to consistently update our current reads, while also having a space to see our reading loves grow throughout the year. Another sincere thank you to Beth for your inspiring ideas.

Please check out her blog, The Principal's Page" here: The Principal's Page 

May everyone be inspired to promote literacy and help build our students' reading lives.