Let’s Talk About Books: Book Talks in the Classroom

Getting our students or children to read is often challenging in this multi-media world.  Yet, I’ve found, that even my reluctant readers are interested in a good story.  The thing is- they’re lazy.  Not all of them, but many of them, and the idea of having to sift through books to find one that interests them doesn’t sound like fun.  Or, they don’t find what they want in the first 3-5 books and they give up.  Many of us have AWESOME classroom or school libraries.  We’ve taken time to collect books, buy books, and organize our books only to have our shelves sit there unused.  This is a waste!  Books are not for decoration, they are to be read!

YA

If you’re like me you have a hard time passing up a good deal on a book or a new book so your library is ever growing.  What I like to do when I get new books that I am adding to my shelves is do a brief Book Talk about them.  I often use this as filler right at the end of class.  I show the students the book and give a brief (no spoilers) synopsis.  I tell them, much like I do on this blog, who I think will be most interested by the book.  I relate it to other books or movies I think they may have read/seen and enjoyed.  I let kids thumb through it.  I answer questions.  I am EXTREMELY excited and animated when I discuss the books.  I GUSH about how much I loved it and why.  And almost always the books are immediately checked out.

I also do something similar when a student asks me for a recommendation or when the class finishes a book that they overall enjoyed.  I suggest several other options for their next read.  I find out what they like and are interested in and make suggestions off of that.  I don’t worry about reading level too much because I’ve found that if they really are interested they will find a way.  I also suggest audio books for some of my lower level readers.

Your excitement can and will rub off on your students.  Use it to your advantage.  Get our children reading so they can become lifelong learners.

What about you?  Do you do book talks?  How do you let students know about new books on your shelves?  Or ones that just aren’t getting the attention they deserve?  What works for you and your students/children?  Let me know in the comments.

A Love Letter for the Rest of Us

Happy Valentine’s Day everyone!  In honor of today I’m bringing you a very special Guest Blog Post from Kate Scott the author of the recently released Counting to D.  Check out my review HERE after enjoying her insights!

A Love Letter for the Rest of Us

By Kate Scott

The first year we were married, my husband gave me the best Valentine’s gift ever: a bouquet of flours. He bought mini bags of all different kinds of flour (whole wheat, cornmeal, cake, barley, etc.) and arranged them in a very artistic display. Since I’m dyslexic, he figured I wouldn’t know the difference between flours and flowers, and the flours had the added bonus of being tasty later.

Yeah, I know. My husband is adorable. And I also know, sometimes, a bouquet of flours is actually better than a bouquet of flowers. Even if I can’t spell either one.

This year, I decided to give a Valentine’s gift of my own. Not just to my husband, but to all the people in the world who can’t distinguish a flour from a flower. That gift is my book, Counting to D, a young adult novel that has a sweet “floury” romance.

The main character, Sam, is dyslexic. She’s a brilliant young woman who can barely read. Her life is a mess, but it’s still her life. She experiences all the thoughts, fears, and emotions that teenagers face—including love.

The relationship between Sam and Nate was so much fun for me to write because they are the type of people I always want to be around. If I were a student at Kennedy High School, I’d want to be best friends with Sam and Nate, which is funny because they’re both outsiders. But even if neither of them knows exactly where they fit in, they still fit together.

Counting to D is not a cheesy romance about perfect, beautiful people finding their “happy ever after.” It’s a book about real teens with real issues, who depend on each other and are stronger as a result. That’s what love is. Not just on Valentine’s Day, but every day.

So if you can’t tell the difference between a flour and a flower, Counting to D is my love letter to you. If you love to read, but tend to struggle with talking to real live people, Counting to D is for you, too. Counting to D is for all the real teens, and former teens, who fail to conform to stereotypes and aren’t quite sure where they belong as a result.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

While Counting to D is not available at Hallmark, you can buy it at Amazon or Barnes & Noble.

How Fast do You Read?

ereader test
Source: Staples eReader Department

Take this neat test on Staples and find out!  I was 3% faster than the average person.  I think I’m faster on paper than on the computer though- anyone else?

Counting to D- Kate Scott (ARC)

Counting to D

I was lucky enough to receive an ARC of Counting to D by Kate Scott.  This book, which is set to be released on the 11th of February, was a fun read.

The main character, Sam, is a teenage girl with Dyslexia.  She is also highly gifted in math and has far above average listening comprehension skills.  While the focus of the book is on how Sam navigates through her school work with her learning difference the story also looks at many other difficulties that teenagers face.  There is a bit of a love story, different friendships, and sub plots on mental illness as well.  What I really liked most about this book is it makes you think about people you know and the challenges they might face that you don’t even know about it.  It is not preachy but helps students realize that different isn’t necessarily bad, and special ed doesn’t mean stupid.

This book is a very easy read and isn’t demonstrative of many different literary techniques so I would be unlikely to use it as a whole class read.  However, I would absolutely have it on bookshelf and encourage students to read it.  It would be a great book to have students read and then conduct a research project based on it.  I think the interest level of the book would be 8th grade and higher due to some frank discussion of sex- though I think that was done exceedingly well!

Added bonus: If you have Amazon Prime you can borrow this book from the Kindle Owners Library FOR FREE!!  Check it out!

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The Maze Runner- James Dashner

The Maze Runner (Book 1)

Review:  

I read this on my Kindle over the summer because 1. it was a lendable title, and 2. several of my students were reading it last school year.  This story was quite a bit different from the other stories I’ve read.  This is a very male centered book which I think is good because I have a harder time getting my boys interested in reading than my girls.  There is however a female character that enters part way through.  There is a survivalist element, a dystopian element, and it has a science fiction element.  It could be compared to Lord of the Flies.  

I probably wouldn’t teach this as a classroom read due to the fact that I didn’t notice any major literary elements (though there are some).  I would however, and did, have it in my classroom level.  I think this book would be appropriate for grades 6 and up.  It is probably a little young for upper high school but some might like it.  This is also the first in a series, and I believe is being made into a movie, so getting a student hooked on this might lead them into reading more and more!

The Lowdown: (from Scholastic.com)

Interest Level: 7th Grade

Grade Level: 5th Grade

Teaching Resources: SRC, AR

AWARDS:

2009 Kid’s Indie Next List “Inspired Recommendations for Kids from Indie Booksellers”
2009 Kirkus Reviews Best Young Adult Books
ALA Best Books for Young Adults
Kentucky Bluegrass Award
ALA Quick Pick for Reluctant Readers
Charlotte Zolotow Award
Tennessee Volunteer State Book Award
Young Adult Services Division, School Library Journal Author Award
New Hampshire Great Stone Face Children’s Book Award
Florida Sunshine State Book Award
Texas Lone Star Reading List

Beauty Queens- Libba Bray

Beauty Queens

Review:

This was one of the books I downloaded onto my Kindle to read while on vacation this summer.  It was by far my FAVORITE summer read.  I   found this book to be laugh out loud hilarious and ended up reading excerpts aloud to my parents while we were on a 12 hour car trip.

The story follows a group of teen beauty queens who have been stranded on a desert island.  The cast of characters is incredible.  Girly girls, pretty boys, gay, straight, transgender, black, white, and more.  The references to current pop culture are abundant and cleverly done.  Bray examines our cultural norms in such a way that we can laugh at ourselves.

This book is definitely a book for females.  There are some strong discussions about sexuality that are extremely well done, though may make some young people who have not yet started to explore that area of themselves uncomfortable.  For that reason, and for many of the references I think this book is best suited for older high school students, and even first or second year college students.  I would be comfortable having it in my classroom.

This really makes me want to go back and read Going Bovine, Bray’s Printz winning novel that I never finished.

The Lowdown: (from Scholastic.com)

Interest Level: 9th grade

Grade Level: 5.3

AWARDS:

A 2011 Los Angeles Times Book Prize Finalist in Young Adult Literature

2012 Audie Award Winner for Best Narration by the Author

2012 Audie Award Nomination for Best Teen Audiobook

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