Monday, June 25, 2012

Spelling Bees and Banned Books

I’m still sorting and organizing into my summer…finding all kinds of interesting tidbits of information as I weed files I’ve meant to get back to.  One of the cool-er finds is summarized comments from Middle School Teacher Librarian Eileen Godwin. She was enjoying the 2012 Scripps National Spelling Bee  and noticed a few things that we parents and teachers would do well to also notice:

The biographies of this year’s 278 participants included mention of favorite reading material. Titles were as diverse as the kids who read them. Everything from The Adventures of Super Diaper Baby to To Kill a Mockingbird, Harry Potter and The Hunger Games were mentioned. Some participants, such as this year’s winner, named “encyclopedias” or the Dictionary as favorite reads. However, of the 91 spellers that cited a specific book title, two-thirds of the titles were either once banned or challenged books.

Banned or challenged books? Hmmmmmmmm.  Is there a lesson here? Could it be that books, especially controversial reads, lead to super learning and growth? After all, not many of us have been spelling bee champs..what goes into the making of a spelling bee champ mind?

I’m the last person in the world to advocate letting kids read whatever they want whenever they want. Parents have a crucial role in guiding their children into good and appropriate reading. However, I think it’s worth noting that books that have crossed boundaries….those “no no’s” have a place for readers who are looking to grow their minds. At the very least, controversial books can make for great conversation starters with kids and adults. Why is this book controversial? Have you read it? Did it bother you? Offend you? Why would this author think this subject, idea, event important for us to read and think about?

For the most up to date list of challenged and banned books (prepare yourself for some surprises) see the American Library Association list:

Banned book week is celebrated September 30th – October 8th this year. Find a way to read a book that has it someone’s fire…see what happens. Maybe you'll become a better speller.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Books for Boys!

Its summer….and believe it or not I’m cleaning out school files. There’s just something about sorting, weeding and organizing that’s soothing and satisfying—doesn’t feel like work. I came across this wonderful list of great books for middle school boys. Thought I’d share it with hopes it will enhance summer reading for some of my friends.

 Young James Bond (series)
Bluford High
The Ranger’s Apprentice
Code Talker
Door of No Return
Disguised: A Wartime Memoir
Along the Tracks
Alex Rider
The Thief-Trilogy-Attolila
Trickster’s Choice and Trickster’s Queen
Call of the Wild
My Side of the Mountain
Julie of the Wolves
Here Lies the Librarian
The Teacher’s Funeral
Max Cassidy
Harry Potter
Leviathan Trilogy
The Boy Who Dared
Cirque Du Freak
Chronicles of Vladimir Todd
The Heist Society
Fallen Angels
Perfect Shot
First Shot
Hunger Games (series)
Cover Up
The Long Walk
Percy Jackson (series)
Lost Heroes
The Island (series)
The Cay
Child Called It
Maximum Ride (series)
The Outsiders
Sunrise Over Fallujah

…..and….don’t overlook the biography section for stories of athletes, military figures, musicians, racing greats…and more.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Teachers, A Tremendous Force for Good

Books to Remind Us of the Tremendous Force for Good We Call Teachers

 “The role of the teacher remains the highest calling of a free people. To the teacher, America entrusts her most precious resource, her children; and asks that they be face the rigors of individual participation in a democratic society.”
--Shirley Hufstedler First Secretary of US Department of Education—

The View from Saturday by E.L. Konigsburg

Helen’s Eyes: A Photo biography of Annie Sullivan, Helen Keller’s Teacher by Marfe Ferguson Delano

Miss Spitfire: Reaching Helen Keller by Sarah Elizabeth Miller

Tuesdays with Morrie: an Old Man, a Young Man and Life’s Greatest Lesson by Mitch Albom

My Teacher for President (picture book) by Kay Winters

My Great-Aunt Arizona (picture book) by Gloria Houston

All of the Above by Shelley Pearsall

The Wednesday Wars by Gary D. Schmidt

Thank you Mr. Falker (picture book) by Patricia Polacco

Junkyard Wonders (picture book) by Patricia Polacco

The Magic School Bus (picture book series) by Joanna Cole

Gloria Rising by Ann Cameron

Lily’s Purple Plastic Purse (picture book) by Kevin Henkes

Remembering Mrs. Rossi by Amy Hest

My Teacher Sleeps In School (picture book) by Lettie Weis

The Bridge to Cutter Gap (from the Christy series) by Catherine Marshall

Three Cups of Tea (chapter book) by Greg Mortensen
Listen to the Wind: The Story of Dr. Greg and Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortensen

Mr. Lincoln’s Way (picture book) by Patricia Polacco

There are so many wonderful teacher stories….please send me titles for ages 1-99 to add to the list.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Not for Babies Picture Books

Not for Babies Picture Books

These are beautifully illustrated picture books to be appreciated by those from age nine to ninety-nine.

The Sweetest Fig by Chris Van Allsburg – a perfect example of irony…and so funny!

John, Paul, George and Ben by Lane Smith – as in Hancock, Revere, Washington and Franklin. Fractured tales about the founding fathers that are funny if you know the real story. Each real story is included in the book so that readers won’t leave with a fractured understanding. Very tongue in cheek for the cheeky reader.

Gift Horse: A Lakota Story by S.D. Nelson -A beautiful book of the transition and celebration of a young Sioux boy as he enters manhood. Great illustrations and a meaningful history.

Name That Dog! Puppy Poems from A-Z by Peggy Archer. OK, this one could very well be for younger children. But, if you’re a dog lover, you’re not too old to enjoy.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Tolerance and Open-Minded

I love book talk days when I get to introduce great books to middle schoolers. The IBMYP Learner Trait for February is Tolerance and our school's Character Trait is Open-Minded. All of the books below are vehicles for discussing either because the traits are very obvious, or lacking in some way.  Today I took all ten books to classes and asked the students to pick five to talk about. It was fun stuff!

I was pleased that all five classes that I spoke to chose a mixture of fiction and non-fiction literature. Every single class chose the book Loser by Jerry Spinelli to discuss which I was least comfortable talking about. But, I let the book speak for itself by reading a chapter aloud.

I wish the book cover images came out in this as they do on the word document that I publish for students--I'll have to figure out how to make that happen. I haven't been spending much time working with this blog lately. No wondering why--just a busy lady.

Happy Reading.


February’s IB Learner Trait is tolerance and the Character Trait is open-minded

Fiction—read how tolerance and being open-minded are ideas in these stories


by Jerry Spinelli


The Rock and the River

by Kekla Magoon


The Best Bad Luck I Ever Had

by Kristen Levine



By Cynthia Lord


Pink and Say

by  Patricia Polacco


Non-Fiction—find tolerance and/or open-mindedness in these true stories

Why Do They Hate Me?
Young Lives Caught in War and Conflict

by Laurel Holliday


How They Croaked: The Awful Ends of the Awfully Famous

by Georgia Bragg
920 BRA

Chicken Soup for the Teenage Soul: The Real Deal

Edited by Jack Canfield

973.9 CAN
We Are the Many

by Doreen Rappaport

970 RAP

Stand Up for Your Rights

by World Book Encyclopedia

323 STA

Monday, January 9, 2012

Honesty and Principle -- finding both in Middle School Reading

January’s Character Trait is Honesty and our IB Trait is Principled

Fiction—read how honesty and being principled are ideas in these stories


by Carl Hiasson

8th grader Roy finds himself standing up to a not so smart bully and drawn to a wild kid named Mullet Fingers who is trying to save  Burrow Owls from being plowed under in a construction project. A funny story about animal rights, the environment and doing the right thing.
The Rock and the River

by Kekla Magoon

In Chicago 1968, Sam Childs has to choose between living by his parents principles of non-violence and his older brother’s new membership in the Black Panthers after seeing a friend beaten up by a police officer. GREAT READ

Waiting for Normal

by Leslie Connor

12 y.o. Addie’s mother and step-father have divorced. However, step father is the more stable parent. Addie finds herself navigating her own kind of normal as “Mommers” struggles with several not doing right by her daughter. Tough but immensely rich story


by Margaret Peterson Haddix

Three young women live through trying to bring positive change to the Triangle Shirtwaist Co. before fire strikes in 1911. Only one of them lives to tell their tale. A suspenseful historical read by a fantastic author.
Old Turtle and the Broken Truth
by  Douglas Wood

A story of legend, myth, questions of life. When truth falls to earth and breaks will people find it…if they do, will they try to hoard it or share it? Do we recognize truth in our own lives and world?

Non-Fiction—find honesty and/or being principled in these true stories

(from the People in the News series)

by David Schaffer
Biography of Bono—lead singer/lyricist for U2. Not your run-of-the-mill-rock star.

Zlata’s Diary: A Child’s Life in Sarajevo

by Zlata Filipovic
Zlata leads a charmed life until war comes to her city of Sarejeavo, Yugoslavia. Zlata journals her way through over a year of war.
Chicken Soup for the Soul of America

Edited by Jack Canfield
Full of true stories about how individuals and groups of people participated in positive, inspirational and helpful recovery after 9/11 attacks

A Picture Book of Sojourner Truth

by David Adler

Lovely biography in picture book format of a woman born into slavery but strong enough to survive and teach others why it’s wrong.

Migrant Mother: How a Photograph Define the Great Depression

by Don Nardo

Can taking photographs be a form of truth? If so, what do these photographs of migrant mothers teach us that we need to know?