It’s Monday! What are you reading?: Week Eleven

This week I read “Deadline” by Chris Crutcher and that experience may have been the most I’ve have gotten into a book for a while. I also worked on a fantasy novel called “The Great
Hunt”, but I don’t think I’ll finish it. Fantasy is not really my thing, but I thought I would try it again, but I still don’t like the taste. No worries, “Deadline” left me with a variety of flavors.

We meet Ben Wolf the summer before his senior year of high school. A promising cross country star, Ben is little in size, but large in wit in a small town in Idaho. At his annual physical required by the high school athletics, the doctor discovers Ben’s blood has been captured by a terminal disease. Ben, being freshly eighteen, makes him swear to keep his confidentially agreement and not tell his family.

The Wolf family sound like a traditional one with two sons and two parents, yet, there are a couple of kinks present. Cody, Ben’s brother, is only eleven months young than Ben, putting them in the same grade in school. Unlike his “little big brother”, Cody is the quarterback and built like it, too. I was honestly expecting a rivalry between these characters, but they get along the whole book. Maybe it’s because they are the only ones who know what it is like to have their mother for a mother. Mrs. Wolf has a mental disorder that is never named, but in book club we agreed it is most likely bipolar disorder which she likes to add alcohol to. She has bouts of insanity and then will be MIA for periods of time. You can kinda see why Ben would be cautious of telling her her son is dying.

Anyway, ben decides if he only has approximately a year to live, he better do something great. First things first, forget running, he’s going out for football. Weighing in at 123 pounds, Ben, who has always been the brains in his brother’s skills, helps the team have a fabulous season. Off the field, he finds a new way to aggravate his history teacher daily, mainly with his obsession with Malcolm X. He also finally cashes the eye of the girl he’s been after for three years now, a monster volleyball star with who keeps her guard up.

We found out later why Dallas doesn’t open up to anyone, why the town drunk chooses to be drunk and how fragile life really is. Ben keeps his readers laughing, so much that you may just forget he is dying. Aside from the uber-confusing cover, “Deadline” has no flaws.

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Pinning YA Lit

I set out to see what the internet had to say about young adult literature and social media. Turns out, there’s a lot. I used Twitter, Pinterest, Facebook, Tumblr, Instagram, and blogs to research what the new frontier of the world-wide web.

It is important to relate the modern technologies and contemporary trends with literacy so teens can see how to relate their generation’s identity with literature. Keeping literature in books, journals and on paper will turn them off right at the sight – paper and ink are old school. But filtered images of books open to matching stationary on a window sill with a color coordinated cup of tea; blogs with story ideas flowing from keyboards in bedrooms of youthful thinkers all over the world; book recommendations flowing from every outlet and reviews only a few strokes and clicks away. These are the things that entice young adults. By understanding how to use social media to reinforce young adult literature, we can positively influence a maximum amount of readers and potential readers.

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I think my favorite social media in regard to ya lit is Pinterest. Come to think of it, there are very few things Pinterest isn’t good for. Anyway, searches on this website not only provide links for book recommendations of large varieties, but also can turn up maps of all sorts. Mind maps, discussion-guiding maps, which-books-to-read-when maps, maps from the places in our favorite books and so much more. Pinterest is also helpful because its contents can lead you to new websites, blogs and resources you would have never known existed otherwise. Another plus of this wonderful place is the beautiful sight that appears after typing “creative writing prompts” in the search bar. Before your eyes will be squares and squares of simple, intruding and applicable quotes. Even better, if you click a particularly sparking prompt, it may just take you to its home where it resides with so many of its equally fascinating family.

But what if you want to click on them all? No worries friend. After creating an account, which will lead you inevitably addicted fyi, you can make boards to ‘pin’ everything you want to remember into categories. I have already started pinning ideas for my future classroom including appearance, content and organization. I have another board dedicated to lesson plan ideas. I secretly believe Pinterest was made for teachers. However, even common people have fallen under its spell which will work to our advantage.

There is this phenomenal feature where multiple users can pin to the same board. If each class has its own board, the students can pin assignments they think they would enjoy and books they would like to read, sharing them with you, the instructor, and the class. I think this would be a good way to welcome students’ impute in their learning. Then you can find which were most liked (‘likes’ aren’t just for Facebook) and differentiate it to your school’s standards and class’ level.

It’s Monday! What are you reading?: Week 10

This week I read “Nothing but the Truth” and started “Deadline”.  The latter is for book club and I will finish it this week so you all have that delight to look forward to in next week’s blog. Don’t worry though cause “Nothing but the Truth” was pretty fabulous. AVI published this documentary novel and received the Newberry Honor Award for it. The coolest part, to me, was the format of the book. Instead of a prose format, the story is told through documents, as seen in the pictures.

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So this first book I’ve read like this and I liked it a lot. We have Philip Malloy, a sophomore in high school who refuses to go out for track despite his well-known abilities, or so it seems. He actually wouldn’t make the team due to his D in Miss Narwin’s English class. It isn’t that Philip is a poor or struggling student, he would rather just crack smart remarks and not try – something Miss Narwin knows. He thinks she is just out to get him. Even worse, the beginning of the quarter brings new homeroom assignments, placing Philip in her classroom twice a day.

In the Harrison School District, there is a strong tradition carried out at the beginning of each day, the playing of a recording of the nation anthem over the PA system. Last quarter, Philip hum/sang along with the Star Spangled Banner, but now Miss Narwin deems it a nuisance, a distraction, and send him out of the classroom three days in a row. After his three-day streak, the assistant principal suspends him. Philip is suspended from public school for singing the national anthem. His suspension begins on a Friday and by the time he returns on Tuesday, a national article has been published, bringing in telegrams and letters to the head staff and Miss Narwin with negative comments on how unpatriotic the actions were. (I can’t tell what year it takes place due to the whole telegram in New Hampshire thing.) The article circles through the Associated Press and is highlighted nationally. The only problem is the incredibly slanted angle it was written from.

Philip does not want the attention and Miss Narwin is receiving backlash from every direction. I can’t tell you what happens after he ends up transferring schools, or how he did, but I can tell you it made me gasp out loud wish there were more pages.

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Off the Page

 

Some of my best friends are books. My earliest friends were introduced to me by my parents’ voices, which were mysteriously calmer when they were influenced by the pages rather than my actions as a toddler. Growing up with a lot of brothers and sisters of so many ages, there weren’t a lot of activities we did together we all agreed on. Yet, when my dad grabbed “Hand Hand, Finger Thumb” of the shelf, the only arguments we had were about who got to sit where. Listening to my dad’s voice recite the same poem over and over – and getting to shout the chorus with him – brought us together no game of tag or house or train tracks did.

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I don’t particularly remember many of my elementary teachers reading out loud to us, but I do remember the librarian reading us a new picture book each week. It was so exciting to see what story we would get to hear that day because they always matched the season or holiday coming up. In middle school, we moved on from just being read to, to popcorning around the room. My classmates thought being read to was crazy. We weren’t little kids, we could do it ourselves, why didn’t the teachers trust us enough to let us read to ourselves? Once I got to high school, being read to was a pass to zone out while and hope that one nerd in the class would explain the plot to you at lunch. Unfortunately for my classmates, I let them wallow in their ignorance and kept the storyline to myself.

As I was reading “Book Love”, I kept thinking about the most important place, to me, where I have been read to my whole life; church. If reading out loud wasn’t the most efficient way to capture everyone’s attention and understanding, why would some of the oldest practices in the world still use it into 2017? I always found listening to the readings every week to be comforting and uniting. Everyone from my grandparents to my younger cousins sat in the pew together and listened to the same stories.

As a teacher, I definitely plan on reading out loud to my classes, for more than one reason. Not only is it a way to build a better relationship with my students, they will all get to learn at the same pace. Independent reading has an infinite number of advantages, but reading out loud lets everyone take in the information in unison and reassures they do, with an equal chance, free of distractions that may be present outside the classroom. My other reason? The way I see it, if I teach about six classes a day, and read each a different book, I can read six more books at a time than usual!!

It’s Monday! What are you reading?: Week Nine

Going home for spring break brought me back to my old bookshelf and I took advantage of it! I chose to reread The Daughters series, by Joannah Philbin. Now, you pop culture buffs may be wondering why that name sounds familiar. The author is the daughter of TV personality Regis Philbin. She took her experiences and wrote a four book series about teenage girls growing up together just like any other young adult novel, but these girls are all the daughters of someone famous. The leading novel is simply titled The Daughters and the following three The Daughters Break the Rules; …Take the Stage; …Join the Party.

The stories focus on Carina, the daughter of a billionaire and the expected CEO of his media company, Hudson, whose mom is a pop icon, and Lizzie, offspring of a supermodel. While Carina and Lizzie want nothing to do with their parents’ careers or to follow their footsteps, Hudson is working on her own album, but of a different genre. The girls bond through their understanding of life in the spotlight – whether they like it or not. Centered in New York City, each book is told from a third-party point of view, but with an inside look at a different leading character each novel. Each fourteen year old’s struggle is told throughout the books. In the fourth we meet a new daughter, Emma, the daughter of a state senator. As I reread the series with this class in mind, I saw how Emma and her family brought diversity to the group. The other three girl are all white and privileged by default, which Emma is, too, but the addition introduces political power and variety of race.

I don’t know if I would teach these books in a high school or middle school classroom, but I would recommend them to someone looking for a good read. While they aren’t too relatable for a college student who grew up in South Dakota, they are still entertaining because who isn’t just a little fascinated by the glamorous world of New York’s upper class?daughters

Why We Need Diverse Books

“At Rich in Color, we want to showcase a wide variety of multicultural books so that kids will be able to see themselves as more than just the sassy best friend, the very special lesson, or the extra in the background.” This was one of the most powerful statements I read this week. In our continuation of learning about the importance of diversity in young adult literature, I was able to see how the lack of diversity impacts people more directly, rather than just why it is necessary. I guess I had never really thought about how the non-white characters in my favorite stories all had something in common – they were not the main characters.

This got me thinking, why do we find books about people like us so much better? Yes, relating to the story makes it more enjoyable, but there are so many more things we can have in common with characters than race. We can be the outcasts, the children of divorce, the high schooler stuck in chemo at prom, the traveler lost in an international airport, or the face waiting for bouncing dots on a screen to become a message from a crush. Race does not discriminate against life. So why do we, meaning society, keep publishing white characters in these roles? Let me tell you, I could read a novel about an African American male who loves books, school and skateboarding and still be able to relate to him. It doesn’t take a mirror to relate to a character, it just takes a common interest or two.

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Courtesy CC

My other pondering was how we got to this position. Looking at history, we can see we are practically conditioned to live non-diverse lives, so of course it is going to show up in our reading. But the looking at the past fifty years of civil history in America, people are calling for a difference. Now it is time art follows life and shows readers the lives of all, not just the expected. How are we supposed to lead students to believe we are all equal regardless of race, sexuality, socioeconomic difference or any other assumption when they can read about are average white people? Everyone is important enough to be in a book. Historically, art was used to critique politics, not emphasize them, so let’s get back to revealing what is really going on, not reinforcing downfalls.

I believe what we read plays a huge part in our character. We need more diverse books so our youth can become more accepting and learn as much as they can about others.

It’s Monday! What are you reading?: Week Seven

This week I read the first part of Mrs. Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children and the entirety of Me, Earl and the Dying Girl. My book club is reading Mrs. Peregrine’s Home this week and so far I am having a little trouble getting into. The dark, fantasy-like story line is outside of my comfort zone for sure. The deep family ties holding the plot down are probably what is keeping a hold of me. Well, that and my group members, they would appreciate if I read the book all the way through.

Me, Earl and the Dying Girl was also a dark story, but in a completely different way. The main character, Greg, is your typical misfit. He’s not really especially weird, outstandingly awkward or noticeably there. He’s just… there. His best friend is an outspoken kid from a poor neighborhood and a disconnected family. Unlike Greg, Earl makes his presme-earl-dying-girlence known and doesn’t hold much back. Together, the two of them make movies. This is really the only thing the unlikely pair has in common. Their movies are just two kids running around with a video camera and a loose plot jotted down on a script. At one point Greg’s mom guilts him into reconnecting with a part-time childhood friend, Rachel, after it is discovered she has a form of Leukemia. After the three friends get to know each other, the boys decide to make a video for Rachel. The problem is, the video is collection of their classmates’ grievances and get-well wishes. These classmates didn’t say thing nice, or really anything at all, to Rachel while she was a student. Now that she’s hospitalized, hearing her peers say sappy sweet things to a lens when they wouldn’t even look at her in person doesn’t fend well. In the end, Rachel dies and Earl ends up furious at Greg. I know, that is super vague and disappointing, but I am going to let you read the book for yourself to find out what emotions create this compelling story.