Friday, August 19, 2011

Who Else?

For the sake of transparency, I will admit that I seldom read books for adults.  Because of my desire to always be ready to match a child with a book, or have the perfect text for a focus lesson, or discover the next great read aloud, my reading diet leans heavily toward picture books and chapter books for kids. 

However, upon the insistent urging of a friend, I have read a few grown up books this summer, the latest being The School of Essential Ingredients by Erica Bauermeister.

I was so enamored with the exquisite writing in the following excerpt that I read it three times:

Lillian had been four years old when her father left them, and her mother, stunned, had slid into books like a seal into water.  Lillian had watched her mother submerge and disappear, sensing instinctively even at her young age the impersonal nature of a choice made simply for survival, and adapting to the niche she would now inhabit, as a watcher from the shore of her mother’s ocean. (page 7)

Did your jaw drop open like mine did?  Ordinary words, carefully selected and combined, created such a powerful image that I had to pause for a moment in reverent awe. 

My reading comprehension is often interrupted with punctuated bursts of  “Oh my gosh, I can’t wait to share this with ______.” or “Who else needs to know about this book?” It is a rare occasion that I get together with Joan and Gail that I don’t have a book in hand….which is typically thrust at them with the demand, “You have to read this” before visiting and work can commence.  I read the above passage out loud to Joan and she immediately downloaded the rest of it on her Kindle.

Do you find the same thing to be true in your reading life?  Do you and your friends and colleagues swap terrific titles?  Are you always thinking about whom else needs to know about the book you are currently in love with? 

I want to create that same fervor and passion amongst my students.  I don’t think I give them enough time to talk with each other about what they are reading. I don’t think I’ve modeled explicitly enough, ending book talks with words like,  “Rachel, I thought of you when I was reading this because you love horses and mysteries too.  Would you like to put it in your book box next?”  I want to create a culture where students readily think about and offer answers to the following: Who else would love this author?  Who else needs to read this because they love learning about…?  Who else should read this series because they love being scared…or they love books that make them laugh?  If I really allow them to get to know each other as a community of readers, they’ll easily be able to identify and answer the “Who Else?”

On a side note…I jotted a quick note to Erika Bauereister, telling her how amazing the book was and got the following reply.  

Dear Lori,

Thank you so much for your letter.  I love the idea of you reading, reading, reading, so you'll always know the right book for your students.  When my kids were younger, I was the "book lady" for their classrooms.  Every month I would bring in five new books, which I would present and then leave for the classroom library.  Such fun -- I felt like Santa Claus 12 times a year...

I am also glad that you took a break to read a book just for you, too, and that it was mine :)

All the best,

Now, wouldn’t you love to have a parent helper like that? 

(cross posted at

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

August 10 for 10: Picture Book Event

We Are in a Book! is just one of the many books we read by the brilliant Mo Willems.  I hope I get to hug him in person one day and thank him for the endearing and engaging books that emergent and reluctant readers will read over and over.  Genius!

Silver Seeds by Paul Paolilli is stunningly beautiful and a must when we study and write poetry. 

My Lucky Day is the one I start with when we do a Keiko Kasza author study.  It's a fun read aloud, funny, and a lot to think about in terms of what is truly happening with this tricky little pig.

The Ok Book By Amy Krouse Rosenthal is one we read early in the year.  We are all good at some things, and ok at most...and that's ok.

Night of the Veggie Monster by George McClements makes me laugh!  This poor kid hates peas so much that if even one touches his tongue he turns into a veggie monster.  Having gotten in trouble for spitting mine into a napkin and the toilet when I was young, I can relate.        

 Chicken Butt by Erica S. Perl is a guilty pleasure since I wasn’t allowed to say “butt” when I was growing up.  My students feel the same.  Jacob read it at least a hundred times before relinquishing it to a friends book box.

Walk On! By Marla Frazee is a must in our room because we can all relate to the struggle of trying to learn something new.  It is a book for all ages, because the steps we follow as we move towards new goals are very much the same as this adorable baby takes.

Superhero ABC by Bob McLeod is fun and wacky and imaginative.  Each unusual hero has skills to match their designated letter.  Bubble-Man not only blows bubbles at bad guys…but he’s bald.    

Pickle-Chiffon Pie by Jolly Roger Bradfield is a silly kid pleaser with a really sweet message.

Four Feet, Two Sandals by Karen Lynn Williams is a must since our school is so diverse.  Life in a refugee camp and the desire to come to America is very real for some of our students.  In this book, two girls find a way to share one pair of sandals.