Best Book I Have Not Read

Writing, Reading, Teaching, Life, Attempting to Balance it All

Why the silence?…. May 31, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — bestbookihavenotread @ 7:43 pm

Decided two Saturdays ago to put the house on the market (I know! When all you see is terrible national news about the housing market?!), met with realtor one Saturday ago, put sign up yesterday. 

Added a whole new layer of craziness to the whole end of the school year experience-

Kick-off Summer Reading Event last week a success. Love Tim Bowers and J. Patrick Lewis. 

REALLY wanting to start reading the summer reading list! Maybe next weekend.

ALMOST finishing mulching after three dumploads.

Finished painting…

Four make-up days for the hurricane days of last September…

then the rest of the school year after children begins (Summer Too!)


Chris Soentpiet Interview courtesy of Maggie, fourth grade May 20, 2009

Filed under: author visit,authors,autographing — bestbookihavenotread @ 3:40 pm
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1. How long does it take you to make all the pictures for one book?

1 year

2. What was your favorite book that you illustrated?
Jin Woo

3. What was your favorite book that you read when you were little?
Where the Sidewalks End

4. Who was your favorite teacher you had in school?

4th Grade-Mrs. Miles-I didn’t speak English because I had just been adopted. Everyday she would go to the art supply cupboard and get me a nice piece of art paper to draw on.

5. What was your first book you illustrated?

Around Town

By 5th grade he knew he wanted to be an artist

He has taught kindergarten in NYC-

He thought he wanted to be a teacher in the arts.


My Brother Martin

Christine King Farris was introducing him to a conference of 800 teachers in San Diego

She came up and said, “I have an idea for a book.”

“Okay, what is it?”

“I want to write a book about my brother.”

“Who is your brother?”

“Martin Luther King”

“You mean like the one the holiday is named after?”

6 years later her agent contacted him!


His wife has written 3 books with him. She wants it to be a hobby, not a career for her. She serves as his agent

My mom first saw him at OSU Children’s Literature Conference

He has a new poetry book coming out next year.

He has a little boy-CJ-Christopher Junior-17 month old

His room is decorated with Something Beautiful drawings

He lives in NYC in a Studio-warehouse. It has 3 floors: 2 floors office/studi0, 1 floor home


Fourth Annual 48 Hour Book Challenge May 16, 2009

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As the planning of a Summer Reading Kick-Off Event (flyers go home Monday electronically to families) and the dreaming of reading books under a shade tree merge, it’s the perfect time to plan on taking part of the Fourth Annual 48 Hour Book Challenge (Check it at Mother Reader).

I’ve started my stack with The Mysterious Benedict Society by and Pizza, Pigs, and Poetry by Jack Prelutsky and am looking forward to a get-together during those 48 hours with the Central Ohio KidLit Bloggers


Chris Soentpiet May 14, 2009

Filed under: author visit,illustrator — bestbookihavenotread @ 12:46 am
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IMG_2069My daughter asked Chris Soentpiet some great questions and he was very generous in sharing his answers and other personal stories with the group that had dinner with him this evening. I know we are both really looking forward to seeing his presentation tomorrow. 

My daughter’s favorite book:
My Brother Martin: A Sister Remembers Growing Up with the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. by Chrisine King Farris

My favorite:
Silver Packages by Cynthia Rylant 

More to share later! Back to the last of crazy May to-do list!


Dinner with an Illustrator May 13, 2009

Filed under: author visit — bestbookihavenotread @ 3:50 pm

I’ve very excited to have the opportunity to have dinner with one of my favorite illustrators this evening. My daughter is going to go along and “interview” him for her blog. Needless to say, SHE is very excited as well. Here’s a hint-He illustrated a book by my favorite author Cynthia Rylant. 

Check back later to see who it is!


This Time of Year is Crazy at School!

Filed under: Uncategorized — bestbookihavenotread @ 3:44 pm

Field Trips

Mother’s Day Programs

Cinco  do Maya luncheon

Author Visits

Book Fairs

UOS Calendar Days-Professional Development leading

Literacy Coaching

Report Writing

Budget Finalizing

Test Results

Powerpoint Presenting

Method Students Interviewing

Summer Reading Kick-Off Planning

Talented and Gifted Parent Meeting

Graduation Partying

End of Year Decision Making

These are just a few of the things that are keeping me hopping these weeks of May. What’s keeping you hopping?


The Magic of Writing Workshop May 6, 2009

Filed under: Literacy coaching,writing workshop — bestbookihavenotread @ 6:46 pm
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In the life a curriculum coach, today was a magical day! 

Two of the teachers I work with had agreed to try out a new Unit of Study for Poetry in both Readers and Writer’s Workshop. While they are both using Calkins’ Units of Study in Writer’s Workshop for the second year, reading instruction has been a harder challenge for the grade level. I had given them a three week unit of reading and writing study based on one from the DPS website that starts by really immersing the students in poetry.  

Not only did a child’s poem give me goosebumps when it was read aloud (he wrote a poem for two voices), but I about cried when one of the teachers shared with me the poem she was inspired to write for her grandmothers using the techniques she’s learned from teaching the unit so far. How amazing is that? Writing Workshop really does allow all participants to grow in ways that can’t even be anticipated some days. 

Some of their comments I would have paid money to have on tape (Since I didn’t have a recorder I am paraphrasing from memory as best I can) for this blog:

“I’m amazed at how much more capable my students are than I realized. I didn’t realize how much we stifled them by only teaching them certain forms before. ”

“I keep talking about this unit all the time. I’m doing some of the best teaching I’ve ever done!”

“I am so much more involved in my students’ writing. I can hardly wait to meet with them to see the progress they’ve made from day to day.” 

“The kids told me it’s the first time they’ve like poetry.”

“Even my most struggling student has been able to be successful.  He’s shared in discussions and written an amazing poem for his mom.”

“The ninety minutes absolutely fly by!’

“You will love teaching this unit.”

After a week of slow boulder rolling up a steep mountain, it felt great to hear their comments today! 

They are also reading aloud Love That Dog by Sharon Creech and feel it is a great tie-in as the boy experiences poetry writing as well. 

If you’d are a fourth grade teacher and would like to try the poetry UOS, leave me a comment with your e-mail and I’ll send you a link.


A is for Art: An Abstract Alphabet May 5, 2009

Filed under: book reviews — bestbookihavenotread @ 6:42 pm

a-is-for-artA is for Art: An Abstract Alphabet by Stephen T. Johnson is a great new(er) book that I picked up as a gift for an art teacher friend. Having read it to my children, I now believe that art teachers and classroom teachers need to have this book. It could be a whole year’s worth of word study with the alliteration and vocabulary .


TCRWP Coaching Institute Reflections-six weeks later

What an amazing learning experience the TCRWP Institute was for me in so many ways! 

Almost anyone would benefit from attending a TC Institute as long as you had some background in reading/writing workshop. The only suggestion I would make is that I think they should record their sessions and put videos on-line, similar to Choice Literacy. Then they could have a subscription fee for those who can’t attend, but would like to view the staff development opportunities/professional learning.  

Here is a reflection I wrote a couple weeks about the Institute. State Testing weeks here in Ohio don’t put many people in very happy moods, which is where I was (smack in the middle of the dark place of testing) when I wrote this reflection.  I hope you, the reader will read more of what I’ve written in order to realize that I am not often so gloomy.

Reflection– April 2009

I learned so many positive things through my attendance at the Third Annual Literacy Leaders/Coaches Institute at Columbia University’s Teachers College Reading and Writing Project.  I met amazing people from around the country and world. I heard how so many schools are trying to work through similar problems as the district that I come from. I learned about the great work TCRWP is doing in regards to Reading Units of Study. I was able to personally witness the amazing possibilities that exist when a school district the size of NYC puts its resources and energy into a focused endeavor.

I was inspired to set up a “Mega Lab site” of my own for students and teachers. I was motivated to try yet again to open conversations among grade level colleagues about the benefits of having a shared curricular calendar. I’ve been motivated to read and learn more on my own since my return. I can’t get enough reading/learning to fill up all the possibilities about which I wonder.

I’ve also learned how far I still have to come in my own learning about the teaching of reading and writing and how much further we as a district still need to come. I’m trying to focus on the latter as a positive, but it is hard having what you have suspected for years come and hit you full-force in the face with its reality. As we had an opportunity to discuss at TC, this is a lonely position in the vastness of education.  Laurie Pessah and Lucy Calkins would say that we need to start by establishing our “non-negotiables”. That’s easier said than done in a district where teachers have always been allowed to do whatever they want as we are considered an “excellent” district by the state.  How do you counteract the mentality that we are successful just because a test(s) says we are when we don’t examine our practice on a regular basis? How do you convey that “good enough” is not really good enough? We owe it to our students and community to be so much better. Does that mean we have uncaring and unmotivated teachers? Quite the opposite. Our teachers and administrators work incredibly hard and want children to be successful.  It’s not unusual to find teachers in the buildings working all hours of the morning, night, weekends, and summers (and no they don’t get paid for those additional hours.)  But just as a person won’t ever truly learn to speak Spanish fluently if they aren’t made to speak aloud, teachers cannot be certain that we are truly doing what’s best for all students if we are not willing to examine our practices on a regular basis.  As TC stated, “One of the greatest gifts a school district has is the collective intelligence of all their teachers”. Good ideas are not meant to be hoarded. Can I really not accept responsibility for any other students than the ones in my own classroom? Can it be okay for me to have thousands of books for my students to read and enjoy if the teacher next door has one hundred that are not at a level that can be accessed by her students independently?  Yes, I bought them myself, but that is not the point right now.

For too long, some district have treated its teachers like American Idol contestants where some will get voted off and others will go on to win the adoration of the community, the accolades of their principal, and parents will wrestle with other parents wanting their students placed in one or two certain classrooms within a grade level. One of the greatest things that has come out of my participation with The Literacy Connection and Teachers College Reading and Writing Project workshops is the common conversations colleagues (both locally and nationally) and I can then have about raising the level of all students’ learning.  Our district has begun making those baby steps to being collegial colleagues

                   Definition of Collegial:

                             Collegiality is the relationship between colleagues. Colleagues are those explicitly united in a common purpose and respecting each                                          other’s abilities to work toward that purpose. Thus, the word collegiality can connote respect for another’s commitment to the common                                           purpose and ability to work toward it.

                                     Source Wikipedia

I see one of my greatest tasks to come is to continue the work to try to help district teachers, “explicitly unite in a common purpose and respect each other’s abilities to work toward that purpose”. When I am feeling positive, I realize that it is one drop of water at a time that made the Grand Canyon. Each drop towards reform I can make is progress. Some days my personal perfectionism and sense of obligation to our community make the progress of growing a Grand Canyon remarkably frustrating.  I can only continue to be the drips, hoping that the erosion of one layer will cause a landslide of progress underneath.  


Summer Reading Kick-Off Event May 4, 2009

I admit it. I am obsessed with getting kids to read, and not just read, but I want them hooked on reading like a junkie in an alley.  One of my school friends described me as a Book Geisha, but assured me that she meant that as a compliment.  Since it did make me laugh, I guess I’ll take it. 

Last year I became intrigued with the idea of planning for summer reading after reading an article by Franki Sibberson at Choice Literacy with my fourth graders. I have followed similar lines of thinking when it comes to planning for reading over the year or setting a reading goal for yourself at New Year’s. In many ways, a Book Challenge, is like a plan.

Since I don’t have a classroom this year, but I am still peddling books, I’ve decided on a Summer Reading Kick-Off Event for elementary and intermediate families (kindergarten through sixth grade), as well as inviting local preschool families.  

Here’s how I tried to recruit one friend to help with the event…

Hi R,

Thanks for the fast response. I think I’m looking for someone to bounce ideas off of/partner in crime (without the responsibility of planning the crime). I do have quite a few resources including book lists, tips, etc. but I almost have too much. I need to condense it to parent-friendly usable materials. The last week of May I am a Summer Reading Kick-Off here at GIS with an emphasis on planning for summer reading. I can’t have one at both schools because there isn’t enough of me to go around, but I want to the Family Reading Night/Summer Reading Kick-Off to be of interest to families from both schools. J. Patrick Lewis and Tim Bowers will do a brief intro of their new book First Dog and it will be for sale for autographing, along with an array of books that might make good “summer reading”. I’m even kicking around having choices of “sessions” (15-20 minutes) that are age-appropriate. I want to have book lists, but if 4 or 5 books are highlighted for each age group, I know kids are much more likely to read them versus selecting them off a list.  I’m not out to sell books to everyone, but want to provide a service.

I know how many parents really struggle to get their kids to read over the summer and isn’t not unusual at their age to be willing to try or do something because the “teacher said” versus giving mom or dad a hard time about the exact same thing. I want to give the parents the “teacher said” clout to help them keep their kids reading over the summer.  

I’m also kicking around having an event in August for those who participated in Summer Reading.

What do you think? Thanks for offering to help!

I’ve gone on to try to recruit: the elementary reading specialists to work on something for parents of pre-schoolers and incoming kindergartens; intermediate teachers to host parent-child book clubs; local librarians and I’m not done yet. 


Stay tuned as I firm up the details in the next week. It’s not too late to plan one for your school!