It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? #imwayr 6/11/18

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On the blog:

In reading:

educated

Educated is not the kind of book I usually read. It’s harrowing, for one, and tells a survival story so strange and so unique to the author’s family and situation that it’s hard to know what might be learned from her experience. I understand why extreme stories like this appeal to many readers, but I generally like gentler books and books that have a broader relevance. But I also like well-written books, and Educated is beautifully written. I had to stop time and again just to reread Westover’s perfectly crafted sentences. There is such attention to craft and detail throughout. Even though the story is often too much to sit with comfortably, the rich descriptions of her family’s mountain in Idaho and her careful character development kept me reading.

cats of kittyville

I have the ultimate treat planned for myself for my birthday this year: a day spent volunteering at the Best Friends Sanctuary in Utah. I’ve always wanted to visit but never thought I’d be anywhere near Kanab, Utah. It turns out to be not that far of a detour off an upcoming road trip, and the timing worked out just perfectly to spend my birthday with 1,600 animals! (Seven hundred cats!! 700 cats!!) I’ve been reading up on Best Friends so I’ll have heartwarming stories to inspire my human companions who aren’t perhaps as enthusiastic as I am about this little side trip. The Cats of Kittyville describes the sanctuary’s work with cats and shares inspirational stories of individual cats and what they had to overcome to become healthy, socialized, and adoptable. There are lots of photos. Of course I LOVED it!

power of reading

As part of my prep for a new course I’ll be teaching in the fall on The Theory and Practice of Teaching Reading, I reread Stephen Krashen’s The Power of Reading: Insights from the Research. It manages to be both dense with research (reviewing dozens of studies from across the global) and a quick and easy read. Thankfully, the research powerfully supports what our common sense should already confirm: “free voluntary reading is the only way to develop adequate levels of reading comprehension, writing stule, vocabulary, grammar, and spelling.” Krashen’s research identifies several keys to building literacy, all of which will be comfortably familiar to workshop teachers: “a print-rich environment,” a quiet, comfortable space to read, access to books, read-alouds, experience reading, models who read, time to read, and encouragement to do “light reading” that’s pleasurable.

all the animals where I live

Are children going to love All the Animals Where I Live as much as I do? I don’t know, and I wish I could kid-test this one with a crowd. My son did glance over my shoulder a couple of times when I was reading and said, “I love the art.” That’s a good sign. What I love about Philip Stead’s picture books is that I can’t tell if they were written in 1948 or 1978 or 2018. They somehow belong to all eras. I love how associative this one is, how one memory or observation carries him to the text, and how deeply grounded the book is in observations from daily life.

word collector

Another winner from Peter Reynolds. The Word Collector is one I need to own so that I can share it with my classes each semester.

don't blink

A clever and funny interactive bedtime story where the reader is promised they can skip bedtime if they can just get through this story without blinking.

splotch

I love Gianna Marino’s picture books, but I have to confess that I didn’t quite understand Splotch at the very end. The illustrations and humor are strong, however, and if your young readers can handle the fish going belly-up at the beginning of the story and the mom repeatedly lying to/tricking her child, this might be a funny one to share.

following papas song

Such a variety of tone in Marino’s picture books. The lovely Following Papa’s Song couldn’t be more different from Splotch. Here, we have heartwarming comfort as fathre and son whales travel together and explore the ocean. Little Blue gets lost but finds his way by listening for his father’s song.

beyond the pond

Beautiful artwork and a strong story about exploration, curiosity, and imagination.

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20 thoughts on “It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? #imwayr 6/11/18

  1. Ugh! My library doesn’t have All the Animals Where I Live, which is strange since I live in Ann Arbor, where the Steads used to live. I might just have to buy this one because I’m so intrigued by your review. I agree that Phil’s work is timeless.

    • Can you suggest purchases? My library will purchase up to 50 books per patron every year! I use all 50 of my allotted suggestions for increasing their holdings of diverse books. Stead’s books don’t always entirely work for me, but this one really, really did.

  2. I MUST get Don’t Blink. Sounds adorable (and maybe helpful for a little girl who always seems to make it through night-night storytime with sooo much energy). And I hope you have a wonderful time at Best Friends Sanctuary in Utah! I had never even heard of it, before. Wow.

    • I’m really excited about the trip, though my son keeps talking about all the pit bulls he’s going to adopt so I hope he doesn’t fall in love with a dog. Don’t Blink is super adorable and the perfect choice for your little one!

  3. I have not shared the new Stead book with kids, even though I have it. I often find I don’t “get” or enjoy his books until I hear him talk about them more. I really thought it was random… I had too many other books to read to kids to get to this one…. But, I could be wrong about them!

    • There are a couple of his books that I really don’t get at all, though I know others really like them. But this one really worked for me for some reason. Might have just been my mood as I was reading. Or maybe I’m finally realizing that I have to change my expectations for what a picture book is going to do when I read his books. I feel like he is always pushing the boundaries of the format and trying to do something new.

    • I was intentionally reading very slowly, but then it was due back at the library and had a million holds on it, so I had to speed up and devour the last half in a day. It was tough! So well written, though.

  4. Thank you for reminding me of Stephen Krashen’s book – I think I have my personal copy, which I should remember to use with my own teaching this August semester. 🙂 I’ve been meaning to find Educated, since it fits our current reading theme. Love memoirs, even the harrowing ones.

    • Then I think you’ll love Educated! I had hoped to use sections of Krashen’s book in one of my Methods courses in the fall, but it doesn’t quite fit what I had envisioned for the course. Will definitely book talk it, though, and make sure students know about it.

  5. Like you, I am not a huge fan of harrowing books, but after reading your remarks here, I went to see if my library has a copy. It does and there are already 357 holds on 53 books!
    I wish more administrators would read Krashen’s work.
    I love cats too. I had a beautiful black cat when I was young, but somewhere after childbearing became allergic and now they trigger asthma attacks. It is very sad. I hope you have a fabulous birthday and enjoy the kitties for me too.

    • I, too, wish more administrators would read Krashen’s work. I wish I had known about it when I was a high school teacher and my principal–in a meeting about improving reading test scores–told me to stop “wasting class time” with free voluntary reading. (I ignored him of course.) I feel so bad for people with cat allergies–I consider that a life-threatening disability, LOL. I am quite sure that people who are allergic get along perfectly fine without cats, but I am truly not sure I could live without them any more. My four feral kittens (who are no longer feral, of course, so I should probably stop calling them that!) provide 90% of the joy I experience in a day! I’m watching the two black ones wrestle right now, and it’s hard to tell where one ends and the other begins!

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