Best Book I Have Not Read

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

NCTE Reflections and more January 4, 2015

I’ve been wanting to write for what feels like forever, but time keeps running out. This evening, as my children work on their homework, my husband coaches basketball, and the dishwasher, washing machine, and dryer are all full and running, I’m choosing to write.

That also means I’m choosing NOT to: read, knit, walk the dogs, answer e-mails, sweep, etc… Doing, not doing, it’s always a choice.

NCTE was a wonderful learning opportunity. The sessions, the learning, the reading, the BOOKS, the former and new professional colleagues I met and talked with, all of it. Such a great way to recharge the professional battery. Exhausting, but so great.

Listening to my professional heroes, such as Lucy CalkinsHearing new (to me) amazing speakers such as:

  • Sonia Nazario

Have you read Enrique’s Journey? No? Go buy it NOW and start reading. The timeliness of the book in relation to the national conversation about immigration could not be more perfect.

  • Marian Wright Edelberg-Children’s Defense Fund

“America, we have work to do. Our children can’t wait any longer!”

“If teaching is not a calling and a mission for you, go do something else!”

“The U.S. Government spends 3x more money per prisoner than per pupil.”

Seeing my graduate school advisor Dr. Evie Freeman and THE amazing Rudine Sims Bishop from the wonderful Children’s Literature program at The Ohio State University.

Sitting next to someone with a name tag from the Ouagadougou–not only knowing where it is, how to pronounce it, but having hosted students in a WAIASL (West African International Activities School League) athletic meet when we lived in Dakar, Senegal. Had colleagues at ISD who used to work at the school he is currently working in Burkina Faso.

Passing a friend from high school-we edited the High School Literary Magazine together-on the escalator bright and early in the morning–he lives on the west coast and is a professor of education

Having the opportunity to talk with current graduate students from Teachers College Reading and Writing Project, while waiting in line for an autograph from Christopher Paul Curtis.


In the past all the ARCs (Advanced Review Copies) and books that I’ve gotten from NCTE I would try to read and post a review. I would then pass them onto to teachers to have in their classrooms. I LOVE BOOKS! I LOVE READING!


This time, I have set aside four or five that I have a chance of getting read in the next month or two prior to their publishing date. Those I hope to read and blog about. All the others I have separated by age group and have started delivering to classrooms in the very poor county I work in.

Tonight I came home and cried. I told my family about the first classroom’s reaction. There are only two teachers who teach reading at this grade level. This fall when I first walked in with some books that my son had out-grown, I became recognizable to the students. Not just some other adult who is in and out of their classroom and building. The second time when I delivered a bigger bag of books from a Facebook friend’s hand-me-down donation, I became somewhat of a rock star in their minds. As I find books, buy books at Half-price books and auctions, or have books donated to me, I put them in the classrooms of students, the majority of whom have very few books of their own. At the beginning of the year, students from multiple classes were sharing the same book with different bookmarks marking their spots. No one could take the book home since so many students were all wanting to read it.

A couple of the students helped me carry the books in for their classroom and I was instantly surrounded by the students, exclaiming over the books-showing each other, showing their teacher, authors, series or titles they recognized. Once I explained that some of the books were autographed to their class and others were advanced review copies which meant THEY HAD NOT EVEN BEEN PUBLISHED YET and that THEY HAD THEM BEFORE ANYONE ELSE DID IN THE COUNTRY and that THEIR REVIEWS WOULD BE HELPFUL, the excitement went up even another notch!

That’s not what made me teary. A student came up to me and asked “Is there any way you could get Rick Riordan’s autograph? I’ve read all his Percy Jackson books and now am reading….”. He was SO earnest.I turned around and another boy, in a huge over-sized man sweatshirt, slightly dirty, known- but not for his reading habits, just as eagerly asked if I could try to find some graphic novels. He went on to tell me how he loves graphic novels but there aren’t very many in the school and he has read them all already.

Such small things.

So, @ArneDuncan, #imagineif, the money that has been spent of assessments, PARCC, and privatizing public education, was spent on helping children out of poverty.


Wow! It’s been forever October 11, 2014









The Literacy Connection


teachers spending a beautiful Saturday on their own free time inside

Columbus, Ohio

Jennifer Serravallo

The Literacy Teacher’s Playbook

Formative Instructional and Reading Instruction

Independent Reading



I can’t actually believe I remember my password.

Sitting at a table with former colleagues (So happy to see Lisa and Lori) and current colleagues (so happy that 2 last year became 4 this year)

book bloggers on site

Literacy Hero! Carol Price

Teachers’ College connectionf


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In case you don’t have spring break plans February 20, 2012

Filed under: TCRWP,Teachers College — bestbookihavenotread @ 2:59 pm
Tags: , ,

The Teachers College Reading and Writing Project

presents the

The 82nd Saturday Reunion

March 24, 2012
9:00 am – 3:00 pm

Join the entire TCRWP community as we open our doors to thousands of K-8 educators from around the world for more than 140 free workshops, keynotes and closings on state-of-the art methods in the teaching of reading, writing, performance assessments and the Common Core. The entire TCRWP staff will present on this day, including Lucy Calkins. Guest literacy leaders will present as well. Topics will include: argument writing, embedding historical fiction in nonfiction text sets, opinion writing for very young writers, managing workshop instruction, aligning instruction to the CCSS, using performance assessments and curriculum maps to ratchet up the level of teaching, state-of-the-art test prep, phonics, guided reading and more.

Major Speakers include:

Pam Muñoz Ryan, our opening keynote speaker, has written over thirty books for young people including the award-winning Esperanza Rising, as well as Riding Freedom, Paint the Wind, and The Dreamer. She is the recipient of the Civil and Human Rights Award from the NEA, of the Virginia Hamilton Award for Multicultural Literature, and of the Willa Cather Literacy Award for writing.

David Booth, an expert in children’s literature and drama, has keynoted TCRWP conferences and authored many of our favorite professional books including Reading Doesn’t Matter Anymore, The Literacy Principle, Guiding the Reading Process, and Even Hockey Players Read. He has been a literacy leader through his work as a classroom teacher, language arts consultant, keynote, speaker, and author, as well as a Scholar in Residence at the University of Toronto.

Sarah Weeks, our closing keynote speaker, is famous throughout the TCRWP community for her light-hearted speeches. She is the author of more than fifty picture books and novels including the bestselling novel, So B. It. Two of her most recent contributions are MAC AND CHEESE and PIE. Sarah is an adjunct faculty member at the New School and a founding member of ART, a traveling troupe of authors who perform readers’ theatre across the country.

Carl Anderson is the author of the acclaimed books: Assessing Writers and How’s it Going? A Practical Guide to Conferring with Student Writers. His latest project is a book series: Strategic Writing Conferences: Smart Conversations That Move Young Writers Forward.

Lucy Calkins is Founding Director of the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project, as well as the Robinson Professor of Children’s Literature at Teachers College. She is the author or co-author of over a score of books, including the Units of Study books for K-2 and 3-5 writing and for 3-5 reading, The Art of Teaching Reading, The Art of Teaching Writing and the upcoming Pathways to the Common Core.

Kathy Collins, author of Growing Readers: Units of Study in the Primary Classroom, and Reading for Real, teaches large group and advanced sections of TCRWP institutes.

Colleen Cruz, a senior staff developer at the Project, is the author of Independent Writing, of Reaching Struggling Writers, K-5 and of the young adult novel, Border Crossing, as well as co-author of Writing Fiction: Big Dreams, Tall Ambitions.

Mary Ehrenworth is Deputy Director for Middle Schools at the Project. She is co-author of The Power of Grammar, of two books in the Units of Study for Teaching Reading, Grades 3-5, and of the upcoming Pathways to the Common Core.

Amanda Hartman, Lead Coach at the Project, is co-author of Authors as Mentors, of The Conferring Handbook and of One-to-One: The Art of Conferring with Young Writers.

Laurie Pessah, Senior Deputy Director of the Project, is co-author of Nonfiction Writing: Procedures and Reports and of A Principal’s Guide to Leadership in the Teaching of Writing.

Jennifer Serravallo, a senior staff developer at the Project, is author of Independent Reading Assessment: Fiction, Teaching Reading in Small Groups, and co-author of Conferring with Readers.

Kathleen Tolan, Senior Deputy Director of the Project, is co-author of Building a Reading Life, Following Characters into Meaning, and Navigating Nonfiction in the Units of Study for Teaching Reading, Grades 3-5.

The Morning Keynote will be held at Riverside Church at 9:00 a.m.
490 Riverside Drive (between 120th and 122nd Streets)
The ensuing workshops will be held at Teachers College, 525 W.120th Street, NY 10027
No registration required. For more information, visit our website at:


Fall 2011 Read Alouds Recommended by TC October 17, 2011

Filed under: book reviews,TCRWP,Teachers College — bestbookihavenotread @ 7:09 pm
Spotlight Article
Fabulous Read Alouds for Fall 2011!
September 30, 2011 at 2:01pm

We are always on the lookout for wonderful read alouds and we just HAD to share this list with you. Here are a few titles to start the year with energy and pleasure! Gather your kids on the rug and enjoy these together!

And as always, if you have any great read alouds to share with us, please let us know! You can email us at

Some Funny and Feel-Good Books To Help Build Community


Zero by Kathryn Otoshi

Poor Zero thinks she has no value. She sees the other numbers as they count and wishes she could be like them, but hard as she tries to stretch and pull and change herself, she can only be Zero. Can the other numbers help her see her own special value?

Both primary and upper grades will have conversations around this book about the importance of staying true to yourself and what having value truly means. Don’t forget to look for Otoshi’s earlier title–One! Both are reads your class can’t miss!

Scaredy Squirrel Has a Birthday Party

Scaredy Squirrel series by Melanie Watt

Scaredy Squirrel is scared of pretty much everything! He fears germs, killer bees, bad dreams, seagulls–you name it– he’s afraid of it. Scaredy is always prepared for the worst and he always has an emergency kit and back-up plans ready for any situation. In each of these hysterical stories, he is forced to confront his fears and realize things aren’t always as bad as he thought. Your children will realize we all have fears and we can support each other to deal with them. The illustrations, also by Watt, are done in great detail and the inclusion of diagrams, lists, schedules, maps, etc. also make these books great mentor texts for a variety of genres!

How to Heal a Broken Wing

How to Heal a Broken Wing by Bob Graham

In a busy, crowded city, no one sees a hurt bird laying on the ground except for one small boy. With the help of his mother, the boy nurses the bird until he can see it soar free once more. The illustrations show the careful tending of the bird by the boy in heartrending detail.

The story will raise questions about one person’s ability to make a difference and keeping our eyes open to seeing more than just our own needs. “What kind of person is Will,” we might say, asking children to interpret the character of the boy. And then, “What would you have done if you had seen the bird? And what kind of person does that make you?” Upper grades can easily move from discussing the bird to the larger metaphor of social responsibility and just what the bird represents.

Disappearing Desmond

Disappearing Desmond by Anna Alter

Desmond is so shy, he likes to blend into the background and disappear. But when Gloria comes to school, she is determined to help him find his way into the spotlight. Can Desmond find the courage to become visible?

Here is a tale many students will relate to and the class can have conversations about how each of them can be more like a Gloria in the lives of others. How can they help to bring out the potential of others? And, once your students notice that there are others in the story who are disappearing even once Desmond himself is visible, the conversation can move to discussing and setting community goals.

Let’s Hear it for Nonfiction!

Nonfiction is not just for one unit–weaving nonfiction read alouds into your whole year is a great way to show the value of nonfiction–and help students raise their nonfiction reading skills! Try some of these to build community and a love of nonfiction in your classroom!

Kakapo Rescue: Saving the World’s Strangest Parrot

Kakapo Rescue: Saving the World’s Strangest Parrot by Sy Montgomery and Nic Bishop

This one has been on our list of great read alouds before, but we couldn’t help ourselves–we had to put it on this year’s, as well. That is, we think this is one your class can’t miss! Join New Zealand’s National Kakapo Recovery Team as they work on a remote island refuge off the coast of New Zealand to save the last of the kakapo. Through Nic Bishop’s incredible photographs, your students will witness first-hand the work and the passion of the fourteen humans trying to save the kakapo from extinction.

Conversations about the environment, extinction, the role of humans, the results of determination, etc. cannot help but unfold around this incredible tale. We think your students will be just as excited about it as we are!

Sonia Sotomayor: A Judge Grows in the Bronx/La juez que crecio en el Bronx

Biographies by Jonah Winter

Winter’s lively books tell the stories of people who achieved greatness and the obstacles they overcame to do so. He has written about Sandy Koufax, Sonia Sotomayor, Josephine Baker, Muhammad Ali, and President Obama, along with many others. Due to come out next year is a biography of Pablo Picasso and in October, Winter’s book of his own family history will be published. Each title is done with rich illustrations and each will help students discuss challenges and obstacles people face and the inner qualities that allow them to succeed. Strengthen your students’ narrative nonfiction reading!


TCRWP Fall Saturday Reunion October 9, 2011

Filed under: TCRWP,Teachers College — bestbookihavenotread @ 8:36 am

The Teachers College Reading & Writing Project

              presents the 


              9:00 am – 3:00 pm 


Join the entire Project Community as we open our doors to thousands of educators from New York City and

around the world for more than 140 free workshops, keynotes and closings throughout the day on state-of-the

art methods in the teaching of reading and writing for grades K-8. Special guest speakers and literacy leaders

from all over the country will join us to discuss such topics as: Aligning Instruction to the Common Core

Standards, Using Performance Assessments and Curriculum Maps to Ratchet up the Level of Our Teaching,

Helping Students Convey Ideas and Opinions Through Information/Argument Writing, Teaching Higher Level

Comprehension, Using Assessment to Inform Instruction, and dozens and dozens more…


The Morning Keynote will be held at Riverside Church at9:00 a.m. 

490 Riverside Drive (between 120th and 122nd Streets) , 525 W.120th Street, NY 10027

   The ensuing workshops will be held at Teachers College

No registration required.  For more information, visit our website at:

Naomi Shihab Nye, our opening keynote speaker and a beloved, award-

winning poet and author, has written books of poetry for adults and young readers,

picture books, essays, short stories, and YA fiction. Her numerous books of poetry

include: You and Yours, 19 Varieties of Gazelle: Poems of the Middle East, Fuel, 

This Same Sky, Red Suitcase, Hugging the Jukebox, and Honeybee. In 2010 she

was elected a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets.

Mo Willems, our closing keynote speaker is the well-known and much-loved

award-winning author and illustrator of a score of books including Knuffle Bunny, 

the Elephant and Piggie series, the Cat the Cat series, and the Pigeon series. Before

turning to write children’s books, he was a writer and animator for Sesame Street

where his work won six Emmy Awards.

Lucy Calkins is Founding Director of the Teachers College Reading and

Writing Project, as well as the Robinson Professor of Children’s Literature at

Teachers College. She is the author of the Units of Study books supporting K-2 and

3-5 writing and 3-5 reading. Her foundational texts also include The Art of 

Teaching Reading and The Art of Teaching Writing.

Katherine Bomer is a national literacy consultant, a former member of

TCRWP, and the author of Hidden Gems and Writing a Life. Along with Randy

Bomer she is the co-author of For a Better World.  

Kathy Collins is a former TCRWP staff member and the author of Growing 

Readers: Units of Study in the Primary Classroom, and Reading for Real.  She is a

frequent guest lecturer at national conferences.

Mary Ehrenworth is Deputy Director for Middle School of the Project.  She

is co-author of Tackling Complex Texts: Historical Fiction Book Clubs and 

Constructing Curriculum in Units of Study for Teaching Reading, co-author with

Vicki Vinton of The Power of Grammar, and author of Looking to Write.

Laurie Pessah, Senior Deputy Director of the Project, is co-author of

Nonfiction Writing: Procedures and Reports and A Principal’s Guide to 

Leadership in the Teacher of Writing 

Kathleen Tolan, Senior Deputy Director of the Project, is co-author with Lucy

Calkins of Building a Reading Life, Following Characters into Meaning, and

Navigating Nonfiction in the recently published Units of Study for Teaching 





Up in the middle of the night… September 27, 2011

Filed under: ALAN,bloggers,Calkins,meme,Mo Willems,NCTE,TCRWP,Teachers College — bestbookihavenotread @ 3:02 am

Not sleeping can have it’s advantages. After all, if I was sleeping, who knows when I would have had time to blog surf? Who know when I would have found A Year of Reading’s nice Versatile Blogger mention. Thank you Franki and Mary Lee. You’ve snapped me out of my writing funk.

Thank you to A Year of Reading for recognizing me!After accepting this honor there are some things the blogger is requested to do:
1. Thank the person (people) who nominated you and provide a link back to their blog.
2. Share 7 things about you.
3. Pass this award along to 15 other blogs that you have discovered.
So, here are 7 things about me:
1. I sometimes can’t sleep so I try to figure out what I want to do when I grow up. I still haven’t figured it out.
2. It’s hard to believe that I have 570 posts. If I could just learn to not over-analyze my own writing, I’d have lots more than that.
3. I was contemplating how to sell my husband the great idea of a weekend road trip to NYC to Teachers College in October for their reunion so I could see Mo Willems AND Lucy Calkins all in one day. Hmmm….
 4. I have a new dog, bringing us to three. He’s a rescue collie from Tri-State Collie rescue. Anything I know about collies is due to the reading I did when I was little. He is the best dog.
 5. I am so excited to attend NCTE/ALAN this November! It’s been too long!
6. My youngest child is in the grade that I taught for fifteen years.
7. I’m still always looking for the next best book!
Here is the first of 15 bloggers that I’m recognizing as Versatile Bloggers:
Others will be forth coming. I think I might be able to sleep!