Best Book I Have Not Read

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

You know it’s been too long August 9, 2014

Filed under: book clubs,reluctant readers,school,Teachers,young adult — bestbookihavenotread @ 11:51 am
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when you can’t figure out how to post on your blog

you can’t remember the title of the last children or YA book you’ve read

you’ve only been to your favorite children’s bookstore once in 6 months


Somehow I find a reference

to a couple of women

who were written about in Reading Today

and summarized on Marshall Memo

who have a blog

and the most awesome ideas ever!
and now I want to be just like them

which means…

I need to come out of the world of district administration for at least a little while each week

and read more books

and talk to more kids

and get them as excited about reading as I am reading about their brilliant ideas.

Check out Crazy Reading Ladies at their blog or on Twitter!



Post in Progress…continued from yesterday… June 25, 2009

Filed under: Calkins,reading,reading workshop,reluctant readers — bestbookihavenotread @ 8:36 am
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 I am embracing the idea put forth by Lucy Calkins in The Art of Teaching Reading regarding independent reading-(Oops-you can tell I got distracted during writing. The reference to Calkins’ Chapter 17-September in a 2-8 Grade Reading Workshop: Reading with Stamina and Comprehension)-One of the sections is titled “Reading Easy Books with Understanding”. Calkins recommends that “every teacher of reading starts the year by steadfastly directing children toward reading a lot of easy book, and reading these books fluently and smoothly, with clear comprehension, and at a good pace” (p. 339). Calkins states that this is a TEMPORARY goal-I loved this section! It so clearly puts in words what I have known about students, but had a hard time explaining to parents who fret about their fourth grader loving Babymouse or insisting that they are ready to reading Twilight at the beginning of fourth grade.  Often parents’ sense of self is so tied to their child being a good reader that they have a hard time seeing the trees in the forest. This has continued to be a big issue every year I taught fourth grade.

Calkins also has a great section in this chapter about how often students use their desire to be a good reader by picking books to “read” that showcase their future selves, rather than their current reading selves. “Teaching children to read books they can understand with ease will have dramatic payoffs, so this is an especially effective lesson for the September of a reading workshop”. September also is when teachers should do everything possible to make sure that students are reading for “longer and longer stretches of time each day, and that they are making time for reading, and they begin, continue through, and complete books at a good pace. These are not small goals“.

Other really smart subsections of this chapter are:

Reading a Lot of Books with Stamina

Reading with Fluency

Reading with Friends

Celebrating Reading

Reading in a Way That Allows Us to Retell

Holding Readers Accountable to the Text

The last couple years teaching fourth grade I started the year with a read-aloud of The Field Journal (The Spiderwick Chronicles Book #1) by Holly Black and Tony DiTerlizzi. It was always a huge hit and has always gotten everyone from my most reluctant reader to the gifted students and everyone in between hooked on the series. For some it is the first book they have been excited about reading, for others they can read the whole series of five in a week.  The common thread-all students were excited about reading, reading with stamina, and reading with friends (I must have been channeling Lucy Calkins without knowing it 🙂 ) . My classroom library collection included four copies of the first three books in the series and two or three of the other three. (It was tough springing for the same book, but I did find used copies very inexpensively on E-bay that I supplemented my collection).  

These two reasons are why I picked collections of “easy” books for classroom libraries that I knew did not already have Babymouse, 39 Clues, Diary of Wimpy Kid, and books that tie into a series such as Warriors or Septimus Heap.  

When I visited schools is New York City during my Spring Break, one of the principals had a “Book Club” where he would personally deliver a copy of a selected book to every classroom in the building, do a little book talk, and invite students to read the book and join him for a celebration. I’m sure you can guess how popular the program was! Students waited eagerly for their chance to read the principal’s book club book. He also did a GREAT job of selecting books that were hot off the presses or were part of a series. This is an idea worth emulating!


Piper Reed Give-away April 10, 2009

Filed under: authors,books,reluctant readers,series — bestbookihavenotread @ 5:14 am
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But you can win an advance copy now!
Details at Kimberly’s blog:




My fourth grade daughter loves Piper Reed and has entered her name in the drawing. Piper is a great character and I used her to hook my daughter in third grade (using an audiobook of the first book) when she was unsuccessfully picking just-right books for herself. I give Piper Reed some of the credit for helping me turn that corner with my daughter from reluctant reader to book-lover. Look for an interview with the author soon!




The Girl Who Could Fly January 25, 2009

girl-could-flyThe Girl Who Could Fly by first-time author, Victoria Forester, is a great book! I really enjoyed the first fifty pages, but  LOVED the next 250ish pages.  

The book was completely different than I anticipated from when I started reading and I LOVE a book that can surprise me! The cover shows a girl in an old-fashioned nightgown and the names of the characters reinforce the idea that the book is set in an “old-fashioned” time or at the least a very rural area.  I’m not implying that the cover or inside flap are misleading, but they don’t give away any of what had me reading compulsively. The school (its name!!), the headmistress, the classmates, the quote the book starts with, etc. make for compelling reading!

I’m torn between wanting to write about it and just telling you that you need to read this book! 

I really enjoyed the character Letitia Hellion who instantly brings to mind  Mrs. Colter from The Golden Compass, (watch out Philip Pullman!). The beauty and smarts that cover up a deviousness you can’t even begin to imagine exists makes Dr. Hellion a character with depth and facets that you’ll just have to read to appreciate.  

I was also reminded of the movie War Games(80s review here) that I  enjoyed when I was in high school. It starred a young Matthew Broderick and Ally Sheedy and just looking at the review on-line brought back all kinds of 80s nostalgia that I didn’t even know that  I had. 16 Candles, Breakfast Club, dreamalittle421 Jump Street, oh my. 

Well, no matter what happy reading and viewing memories The Girl Who Could Fly brings back for me, you’ll need to read this and find your own. I’m very happy this will be a sixth grade read-aloud, but want to give to every intermediate teacher I know as well as wanting to recommend it to countless young readers. Must. Behave. And. Not. Ruin. A. Potential. Read-aloud.


Alvin Ho: Allergic to Girls, School, and Other Scary Things December 28, 2008


“If there were no school, my troubles would blast away, just like that. I would dig holes all day. I would play catch with my gunggung. I would watch cooking shows. I would keep an eye on things. It would be fantastic!” 

                                                     back book cover Alvin Ho 

Alvin Ho: Allergic to Girls, School, and Other Scary Things by Lenore Look and illustrated by LeUyen Pham is a fantastic book. I picked it up this fall at Cover to Cover and it had been slid to the middle section of my TBR (To Be Read) stack before NCTE. A couple of recent blog posts reminded me I had the book and was once again drawn in by the cover illustrations and title. I went and dug it up right away. 

It is a fast and easy read. I loved it and could think of so many students that this would have been (and will be) the perfect book for. The illustration style and storyline will appeal to those who are stuck in a Wimpy Kid rut.  Boys finally have a voice. I love the main character of Alvin and how the book is narrated from his point of view.  I love that there is book for those transitional/reluctant MALE readers that has an engaging and sympathetic character similar to Clementine and Ivy and Bean.

My six year old son saw me reading this book and was also drawn in by the illustrations on the cover. He thought the title was very funny. He begged me to read it to him while we waited for my daughter’s basketball game to start. He liked it so much, he was pretty sure I could keep reading it to him even after the game had started.

Alvin’s “desk buddy” Sophie (aka. Flea) is also a very likable character. Her eye patch and longer leg are treated as badges of honor, not something to make fun of.  She sticks up for Alvin and through her loyalty, he is able to learn an important lesson about himself and about friendship. 

His Performance Anxiety Disorder which turns his voice completely silent as soon as he gets off the bus, his costume as Firecracker Man, his swearing in “Shakespearean” at his therapist, his loss of his father’s childhood toy, all these things and more make Alvin Ho one of the most likable characters for the second to fifth grade crowd I have seen in a long time. 

I can hardly wait to get my hands on the second installment, Alvin Ho: Allergic to Camping, Hiking, and Other Natural Disasters (due out June 23, 2009) will go back and read the Ruby Lu books that I am not familiar with yet.


Series for inbetween (tween) female readers November 10, 2008

Filed under: books,reluctant readers,school — bestbookihavenotread @ 8:07 pm
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Here are a couple of newer books that have come out that are great for that transitional girl reader. (Transitional can mean many things-here I am talking about the move from being “primary” to “intermediate”)  She has grown out of Magic Tree House, wants a thicker chapter book and maybe still needs to have the support of some pictures. My daughter fell into this category. Starting in first grade, it was difficult for her to be able to identify what was a “Just-right” book for herself. She would inevitably pick a book that was too hard! It might even be a great book-just not for her! She would start, but very soon get frustrated and abandon the book, and then pick another one-also too hard!

This went on until just recently and she would not listen to  any book recommendations I would give her, much less reason! It drove her crazy that we would be at the public library and a student or parent would come up to me and ask for help finding a book. It would drive her even crazier that I would stop and do it.

I can’t help myself-I am a book-pusher! If I can match a kid with THE book that will help them fall in love with reading, I am going to do it-no matter the time or place (within reason of course). 

On the other hand, it drove me crazy that I could help kids all week find books they would love and my daughter would treat my suggestions like something the dog did in the yard. I would occasionally have luck getting her to listen to a book on CD as a way of introducing new authors or characters, but even that was iffy sometimes.  She wanted to prove she could read and in her mind that meant thick chapter books-Harry Potter size books, not skinny book like Poppleton, Henry and Mudge, or Mercy Watson?

How about Ramona?   “Nope”

How about the nice Scholastic fairy series? “Not interested”

How about Magic Tree House? “MOM!”

How about…You fill in the blank, I suggested it. Somehow we have moved past that stage (thank goodness!) and Maggie’s teacher this year is surprised to find she was so reluctant in the past. The other day I caught her walking the hallway from one class to the other reading a book while walking. She didn’t even notice me standing by her classroom door. I wanted to do a jig seeing her so engrossed in reading her book, but I just smiled to myself, and moved on. Oh Happy Day!