Tag Archives: MSBA

“Fall” In Love With Books

This past week our Maine Literacy Council held its annual Fall Book Bonanza. We wanted to share some of the best new titles for the 2015 school year with teaCQQ--BGWwAEflm9chers and librarians in Maine.  Trying to decide which books made the cut was tough.  There are SO many amazing kidlit offerings and we each had our favorites.  So rather than  offer more in depth book talks with a few titles, we wanted to share a larger harvest of books this autumn.

We decided that a good way to match readers with books was to offer speed dating with titles!  As with speed dating people, where the purpose is to increase your pool of potential “likes” by meeting a large number of people in short bursts, we wanted participants to meet a large number of books, in hopes that they will leave with a lot of potential “matches”.

We started with the Maine Student Book Award nominees for the upcoming school year.  Diana Marc-Aurele from the MSBA brought a copy of each title on display for participants to “meet” personally. She shared the MSBAs awesome website with resources for teachers and readers to preview, review,  and document the books they read. One of my favorite resources are the book trailers compiled in a LiveBinder page.

IMG_1430We shared The Chickadee Award nominee’s for this year.  Ten picture books will be voted on by over 20,000 Maine school children between March 1 and April 1 next spring.  The goal (as stated on their website) is for children to develop an appreciation of outstanding writing and illustration in current children’s picture books through participation in the program.

We shared the book nominees for this year’s GLOBAL READ ALOUD. Pernille Ripp’s amazing project brings kids and books together all over the world, and allows them opportunities to connect with other readers.  This year’s GIMG_1442RA begins October 5th, but don’t worry if you miss that date, it continues on through the month of October.

Then we put on our blitz of kidlit titles.  Organizing by genre, we tried to highlight K-2, 3-5, 6-8, 9-12 grade spans, but we were careful to note that these were only some rough guidelines.  Many books cross over into nearly every age or grade span, depending on its purpose.  We also put graphic novels into a category, but reminded participants that graphic novels are not a genre, they are a format.  We shared nonfiction, historical fiction, fantasy, and realistic fiction graphic novels from primary grades up through high school and beyond.

We wrapped up with some of the newest titles in professional books for literacy and instruction from Stenhouse (59 Reasons to Write, Worth Writing About, The Construction Zone, and Readers Front and Center), Heinemann (I AM Reading, Writers ARE Readers,  Learning from Classmates: Using Students’ Writing as Mentor Texts, The Unstoppable Writing Teacher, as well as Learn Like a Pirate and The Doodle Revolution.

You can see our entire presentation HERE.

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We didn’t want to just share titles with participants, we wanted to share actual books.  So aside from raffling off some amazing professional books from Stenhouse and Heinemann we offered lots of gently used, formerly loved books for participants to adopt! One of my goals as a literacy coach is to get books into the hands of kids-either directly or through their teachers and classroom libraries.   I collect discards and unwanteds and find them new homes!  I offer tips for repurposing some older books that might not be “loved” any longer:

  • Create new covers with student artwork or photos
  • Allow students to annotate close reading evidence/strategies right in the book
  • Create “Little Free Libraries” in the community
  • Cut out the text, paste it into blank booklets and let students illustrate (visualize).
  • Cut out the illustrations, past it into blank booklets and let students write!
  • Create “CUT UP” poetry in which students clip text and reassemble into new ideas and meanings.


What ideas can you think of for re-using adopted books?

What’s On My Book Radar?

The Thing About Jellyfish

I’ve heard so much about this book, I couldn’t wait to get it and read it, and I wasn’t disappointed! Suzy Swanson becomes obsessed with jellyfish when her friend Franny drowns with no explanation. Suzy is determined to find out if jellyfish had something to do with her friends death and discovers how interconnected all life truly is. Beautifully written with compassion and everything you’d ever want to know about jellyfish! Recommend 6th grade and up.



When given the choice between being right or being kind, choose kind.”-Wayne Dyer

For anyone who read the brilliant novel Wonder by R.J. Palacio, this precept is very familiar. It is one of my very favorite (of many) that Auggie’s teacher, Mr. Browne, shared with his students. Choosing kindness is just that, a choice, but it is also a principal to live by. After enough practice it becomes a habit, and habits become so ingrained that we sometimes don’t even notice.

But we do not need to wait for a situation to arise in which we are given the choice between being right or kind, we can live our life in search of opportunities to “Find Kind”. We can look for instances in which our acts of kindness would lift another person, benefit our community, or build the type of world in which we want to live.

To Find Kind, we just need to have empathy and an awareness of the struggles and challenges that those around us face.

I saw an amazing example of this precept this week. Some of us teachers were posting on Facebook about our frustration that an amazing education conference/retreat was taking place right here in our state (Maine) this summer and that the cost made it too prohibitive for any of us to attend. We were vexed by the notion of being ‘so close and yet so far’. Someone noticed that conversation and took it as an opportunity to FIND KIND!

Cynthia Lord, Maine author of Rules, Touch Blue, Half a Chance, and the Hot Rod Hamster series empathized with the frustration expressed, but moved beyond empathy to action. She responded in her own Facebook post that in part read,

I was sorry to read that some of my teacher friends would love to go to this event right in our own backyard, but it’s out of reach.

Another thing that I know about Maine is that people help each other. As a writer, I’ve been very fortunate this year. I just sold two more early readers and I figure what better way to celebrate that than to celebrate my state’s teachers who actually teach reading and writing.

This year, my family can afford this. So my husband and I want to send one of you to this amazing conference.”

From her own hard-earned money, Cynthia chose a teacher at random (from those who responded to her post) and paid for the registration and lodging for this teacher. All Cynthia asked was that this teacher share what she learned with the other teachers who also wanted to go.  Cynthia asked her to meet either online,  at a coffee shop, or in some other way to spread some of her new knowledge and learning. In that way, even more teachers and students would benefit from this act of kindness.

Needless to say, all of us were overwhelmed with Cynthia’s generosity and altruism. She went out of her way to find a way to show kindness to a group of teachers. Her husband, equally chose to be kind, to people he had never met. They weren’t asked for a donation or help…they created an opportunity for kindness. She did something as unexpected as it was generous to FIND KIND. Even those who weren’t ‘picked’ to attend the conference were changed by this act. I felt ‘lifted’ by knowing that I live in a state with such caring and compassionate people. The comments by others displayed genuine happiness for the teacher who was selected and not jealousy or resentment at missing out. I felt more hopeful and optimistic about people and life.

I didn’t write this post to encourage people to ask authors or celebrities or others to help them out. On the contrary, I wrote it to encourage people to find opportunities to offer kindness where it isn’t being solicited. To FIND KIND, you just need to notice, to observe, to listen, to care. To FIND KIND doesn’t require money either. Sure, money can help in a lot of ways, but so can a kind note, a home cooked meal, a ride to an appointment, a piece of chocolate! Random acts of kindness create ripples in our world. Many ripples can combine to create a wave.   Look around you, who do you know that could use a little ripple? Who do you know that is good at creating ripples? Your noticing and responding will help create a wave.

What will you do to contribute to a wave of kindness in your world?

How will you, FIND KIND?

What’s on my Book Radar?

Last month the Maine Student Book Award winners were chosen by students all across Maine.  Here are the top 10 and the number of votes they received.

1. Wonder                                 713
2. Cardboard                           433
3. The One and Only Ivan  365
4. One for the Murphys      308
5. The False Prince                233
6. Earthling!                            156
7. The Ghost of Graylock   139
8. Ungifted                               138
9. Capture the Flag               125
10. Island of Thieves            114

Students had to have read at least 3 of the nominated books in order to vote.  I was able to read 20 of the 40 titles.  There were 4 of the top 10 I missed, but rather than reveal them, I will quietly put them on my book radar and get them read by summer’s end. I’m happy to say I have a good start on next year’s nominees!!

MSBA Book Nominees 2014-2015

Welcome to My Reading Life

I wasn’t going to blog this week.  Whatever nasty virus that has been making the late winter circuit finally caught up with me.  I was out of school for two days, and my workload kept piling up.  It would  have taken something pretty special to inspire me to carve out some time for my blog this week.  That something special walked over to my desk yesterday afternoon.

At the end of the day, I was back at my desk in my glassed-in cubicle at school.  In walked one of the most timid 4th graders, looking a little nervous, as though she was afraid to bother me.

“Do you have a book recommendation?” she breathed.  So quiet was her voice I couldn’t quite make out the words.  “Do you have any book recommendations?” she repeated.  Now, I have met kids in hallways and classrooms all year long inquiring as to what they were reading and recommending books on the fly.  Kiley was the first to come to me and ask on her own.  I had several books in mind I knew she would love.  Cynthia Lord’s Half a Chance and Natalie Lloyd’s A Snicker of Magic were two of my recent favorites, that I was confident Kiley would dive right into.  Unfortunately neither were there at my desk, having been loaned out to others.

I asked Kiley if she’d like to read one of my new books that I hadn’t yet read and then tell me her review of the book.  I had a signed copy of The Waffler by Gail Donovan.  I told her that it was just announced as a nominee on the list for next  year’s MSBAs  (Maine Student Book Award) We read the book jacket together and she eagerly nodded her head notifying me that she’d like to try it. As she left, I found myself smiling.  I felt honored that she thought I  knew her well enough as a reader to recommend a book that she’d enjoy.

Well, that good feeling got even better today when Kiley walked over to my room after lunch   “I’ve got a book recommendation for you.”  she beamed.  From behind her back she pulled out a paper back and handed it to me.  “My mom got me this at the book fair.”  I looked down at a copy of The Power of Poppy Pendle by Natasha Lowe.  She looked so happy as I flipped through the book.

“Have you already read all of this?” I asked her.

“Mmm hmmm.  I read it as soon as I got it.”

“So you think I’ll like this one?”  Nod.  “Then I definitely have to read this.”  I asked her if I could keep it for the weekend  since I didn’t think I could finish it in one night.

“Yeah, sure!”  she smiled at me.    I thanked her profusely as she headed back to class. “Oh, and I’m half way through The Waffler.   It’s good!”

Now my pile of must-reads, gotta-reads, need-to-reads,  should-reads and wanna-reads is massive, but  you can bet I am carving time out of my weekend to read The Power of Poppy Pendle.  Not because I can’t wait to see the power Poppy is imbued with, but because of the power steeped in that gesture by Kiley and my eagerness to talk with her about it next week.

She saw reading as a way to connect with others. She recognized that reading experiences can be shared.  She had confidence in herself as a reader to make recommendations to others-even teachers.  She welcomed me into her reading life  and she knew she was welcome in mine.

That kind of medicine got me feeling pretty good again!