Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Summer Reading

Oh the days in summer allows us educators to press the pause button and to enjoy and get caught up with what's new in Children's Literature. I'm sure many of you will feel identify when I say that during the year, I get to hear a lot about great books but sometimes finding time is an issue. So, I keep a list of those titles so during Summer Time I can finally get to them.

Lulu and the Brontosaurus (Junior Library Guild Selection (Atheneum))One of the titles that has been on my "Get to it already!" list was Lulu and the Brontosaurus by Judith Viorst. Let me just say that all the positive things I read about this book, it is absolutely true. I can NOT wait to share this book with my students next year. I will definitely be put to wonderful use not only as a read aloud but hopefully for what I hope it can become one of our mentor texts in Writing Workshop. But first let me just tell you a little bit about the story. Someone is telling and writing this story about Lulu and her wish for a pet brontosaurus. This narrator have a conversation with the audience (you, the reader) about some of her/his choices when writing this book.  As this narrator tells her/his story, we get  to meet Lulu, a young girl whose parents always gave her anything she asks. Since she is an only child, her family feels so happy to have her and they want to give her everything! Lulu is used to hearing the word YES. On the few occasions, Lulu gets to hear the word NO from her parents she made sure she screamed and threw a tantrum. As a result, her parents always gave in with her demands.
One day Lulu, decides to ask for a pet brontosaurus! Yes, out of all the animals she could have as a pet, she chose a dinosaur. Well at this point, once again, the narrator is telling us (the readers) why she chose that pet. This time Lulu's parents are standing firm on their answer NO! So Lulu decides to take matters in her own hands, and so the adventures begin!
This book is just so perfect for elementary students because it provides a great story line, a wonderful lesson, interesting characters, intriguing choices (as to which the narrator explains his/her choices) and each chapter is short enough to keep younger children at focus.
The story provides three different endings and the narrator does a fantastic job explaining her/his choices for rewriting then endings. (Talk about powerful lessons rights here!)
Honestly, I can't wait to listen and learn from my students' reactions to this book.

Princess Posey and the Perfect Present: Book 2Another early chapter book is Princess Posey and the Perfect Present by Stephanie Greene . A year ago, I wrote about the first book in this series entitled Princess Posey and the First Grade Parade. Princess Posey and the First Grade Parade: Book 1You can read the review right here.  In this sequel, Posey continues to be the adorable girl she is but this time she gets in a bit of a problem. Posey LOVES her teacher, she loves her so so much that when it is her teacher's birthday, Posey thought this would be the best way to show her teacher how much she cares. Posey even had an idea of a unique present that would make her teacher's heart even happier. But when Posey realizes that her idea of a birthday gift is not an original, she is totally disappointment, angry at her best friend, and sad for letting it get to her. Pose would need to make a decision about all this. Keep on reading to find out how this adorable first grader still manages to find the perfect present and learn a bit more about herself.

Zapato Power: Freddie Ramos Takes Off (Book 1)Next chapter book is actually a book in the series. Last year, we werer introduced to Freddie Ramos in Zapato Power: Freddie Ramos Takes Off (Book 1). First, it's important to know that Freddie is an only child who lives with his mom. They're both very close to another, especially since his father passed away. They're very good at taking care of one another. One day, Freddie receives a special box from Mr. Vaslov which contained the most amazing purple shoes. You're probably wondering, what are some amazing about it? Well, these are just not your regular shoes, these are Zapato (shoes in Spanish) with extra power. It makes Freddie zooms from one place to another in no time. All Freddie wants to do is help people. These shoes allow him to not only do that but also get himself into some great adventures.
In book number 2 and number 3 Freddie keeps helping people either stay out of trouble or solve their problems. Zapato Power: Freddie Ramos Springs into Action (Book 2)But in book number 2 Freddie Ramos Springs into Action, Mr. Vaslov is able to improve Zapato Powers by adding the coolest bracelet that Freddie has ever seen. Now the possibilities are endless and Freddie keeps improving his skills of helping people out in no time.
Zapato Power: Freddie Ramos Zooms to the Rescue (Book 3)In book number 3, Freddie Ramos Zooms to the Rescue, the newest addition to Freddie's all improved powers is an awesome pair of goggles. Except that this time, this present is not from Mr. Vaslov. So,who's it from? Not only there is a purple squirrel that needs help, but now the goggles come from somewhere but Freddie has not clue from where. What I love about this series is that Freddie is a lovable character. He worries about his mom's being, he takes such a good care of her. He also likes to help people out and is always on the lookout for new adventures. Children will love it and boys will feel great seeing more boys as main characters. I think these series would be a wonderful read aloud addition to any classrooms.

This is what summer time is all about for me. It's about staying current with children's literature, it's about  finding new books to fall in love with next year. I love introducing my students to the latest literature. I want their knowledge to keep on expanding throughout the years and it is my duty to make sure that happens.

Happy Summer Reading! Enjoy the journey!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

We Are America

 We Are America: A Tribute from the HeartWe are America: A Tribute from the Heart by Walter Dean Myers. WOW. Get ready to have the chills as you read this book. It is like riding a roller coaster of emotions to watch a country goes through the roller coaster ride in history. Moments of pain, anguish, fear, pride, contemplation, doubt and back to pride all add up to make the history of ONE nation. Combining the gift of words from Walter Dean Myers and the talents of Christopher Myer's paintings and you have a book that you would definitely want to read and reread.
I don't think my review can do justice to this book. So my invitation is for you to open this book and immersed yourself in a book that traces the complexity and beauty of its people and the events that marked this nation.
I'll leave you with a poem to just get you curious enough to pick up this book...a sneak peek like I like to call it.

We are America
The land of the free
Wealthy beyond belief
and not wealthy
the land of equal opportunity
and not equal
The land of justice
and injustice

To each child a freedom dream
To each soul the sweet taste of liberty
to each heart give the promise
of America

To my dear America, I'll be celebrating 10 years of living in this beautiful country this July. I'm forever thankful for the people I've met, the places I've been, and the lives of children I was able to touch. Thank you.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Our End of the Year Reading Celebration!

Ohio was very luck to have Debbie Miller here for a workshop that The Literacy Connection has organized it a couple of months ago. In her latest book Teaching with Intention, Debbie reminds all of us to make sure that our educational practices in the room reflects our teaching beliefs. This book is so powerful and it should be not only read by every educator but also should be LIVED by. What I mean is the following...if an educator has a strong foundation in his or her philosophies and beliefs of teaching and learning, then the classroom should reflect that. Every practice we do, every instructional decision we make, every thing we ask our students to do has to come from a belief, a foundation. Otherwise, our teaching is totally disconnected and we're just asking our students to do random things that we don't understand WHY.

One of my personal beliefs in teaching and learning is that I believe the influence the family has in their child's education. Therefore, I see them as partners in education. We both want and are working toward the same common goal: a child's learning. We want them to be strong readers and writers so they can lead in the future. Regardless of whether the families can speak or read in English (since I work with ELLs), their role and influence is priceless. I CAN'T raise their child as readers by myself. They spend about 8 hours of the day at school, but they also spend the rest of their hours at home. Therefore, our duties should be combined and strengthened by working together.
I'm blessed beyond words. The ESL families are so dedicated into Education. Our attendance to parent-teacher conferences is 100%. They listened to their children read, they take them to the library, they are ACTIVE in their education and language has never been a barrier because we both BELIEVE in the same practices.
This slideshow was from our last event of the year A Family Reading Celebration where I invited our families to just come over and listen to their child read a story to THEM. The roles were reversed and now the children were providing the story time. It was an amazing afternoon. There was support, commitment, enjoy, and a common bond for reading. Each child took ownership of the evening by being in charge of reading their favorite books and poems. They thought carefully which books to share with their families for that night, and they were working intentionally on their fluency. This was a chance for them to show their families how far they've come. And they surely did. A strong of readers and writers were born this year at Beechwood Elementary. I hope you enjoy the slideshow. Enjoy the journey!

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Saturday, June 4, 2011


48 Hour Book Challenge
Oh what an awesome Saturday! There is so much I love about this day. For me, it is day #2 of Mother Reader's amazing event 48 Hour Book Challenge.  So to kick off this day, the Central Ohio bloggers got together for our annual Breakfast at Northstar and then a group trip to the one and only Cover to Cover Bookstore. Seeing all these amazing bloggers is just always a treat. Such a great time. Plus we get to witness Bill (from Literate Lives) enjoy his granola like no one. Traditions. It is all about traditions.
The Book of AwesomeSo today after our great get together, I got all comfortable to continue reading The Book of Awesome by Neil Pasricha. What a great up-lifting, positive yet humorous book. Like I mentioned yesterday, it is not the cheesy, oh too-much sunshine kind of book. The author (and may I just say male's sense of humor is always amusing!) keeps it entertaining yet realistic. In a world that moves so fast every day, it is just AWESOME to slow down once in a while and start noticing the things that make us smile. I truly enjoyed it.
Fatty Legs: A True Story Next in my pile was Fatty Legs: A True Story written by Christy Jordan Fenton and Margaret Pokiak-Fenton.  I must admit not having any background knowledge on the Inuvialuit, the aboriginal people of the western Arctic. There condition of living, their struggles for survival was all new to me as I read the story of this girl: Olemaun Pokiak. In the area called Aklavik, there were the only schools that the children could attend. Every time Olemaun would mention to her father her wish of learning how to read and get an education, the conversation ended abruptly. However, she was a determined little girl, and she kept on insisting. In those schools, they had the key to the future: reading and she wanted more than anything else to receive that possibility. Even though she know that going to that school meant a five day trip to that place and not seeing her parents for a whole year. Still, Olemaun was determined to go. What no one knew was that the nuns running that school had other business in mind. During those two years she spent there, she learned the meaning of struggle, cold, abuse, bully, and humiliation. A compelling story that the author decided to finally share with a bigger audience after many years of silence.
Dear Bully: Seventy Authors Tell Their StoriesThe next book in my pile was an ARC I received this morning at Cover to Cover. Dear Bully 70 Authors Tell Their Stories will be available in August, 2011. What an amazing and intense book! In this book you'll find famous authors like  Jon Scieszka, Lauren Oliver, Lisa Yee, Amy Reed, Mo Willems, among so many others. The book is divided into sections: Dear Bully, Just Kidding, Survival, Regret, Thank you, Friends, Insight, Speak, Write It and It Gets Better. Each writer chose his own format to talk about a personal experience with bullying or bullies. Some of them chose to write a letter to them, others choose a free verse poems, and even illustrations. The stories are not easy to read because they are personal stories. These kinds of things happen to people, young adults, children all the time. Each author reflects on their journey some providing insight, others words of encouragement, and others advocating for victims to speak up. What a valuable resource for middle school and high school since so many students go through situations like this and would be able to relate, and gain perspective on things.
One of the lines that I've read in the book stick with me. They are from Heather Brewer who at one point in high school considered suicide due to bullying. But soon realizes that it is NOT the solution. She reflects, "Bullying is a horrible thing. It sticks with you forever. It poisons you. But only if you let it. See, there's a secret that no one ever tells you when they're filling your head that this" will build character" or just completely go away  when you're an adult. You have the power to decide what hurts you and what doesn't, what sticks with you, and you use as a fuel to pull yourself out of the muck."

Beautifully said. Kept it real!

I started my 48 hour book challenge on Friday at 7:00am which means my time ends tomorrow at 7am. However, we all know that the passionate readers we all are, we will continue our journey of discovering books, learning from each other and sharing our knowledge with the world. Mother Reader, thanks for bringing all of us a bit closer through this challenge. Even though there are so many bloggers I have not personally met (yet), there is a strong community in this blogging world. We are all very supportive. Thank you to everyone that visit my blog and left words of encouragement and kept the cheering going.
I'll keep on reading but I need some picture books and poetry in my life. But I'll share with you my findings on that next week. For all the ones that still have another adventurous reading day tomorrow, I say...Enjoy the journey!

Friday, June 3, 2011

48 Hour-Reading Challenge

48 Hour Book Challenge

Oh I love that Mother Reader organizes this big blogger event every year. 48 Hours dedicated to reading (yes, you may insert the occasional eating and sleeping in here). This event brings Central Ohio bloggers together for our annual breakfast at NorthStar and then our visit to our favorite local bookstore: Cover to Cover. This year will be no exception. Tomorrow we get together to make it an amazing morning. Just like we know how to do it!

Of course, it almost seems that every year that I participate in this fabulous literacy event, there seems like another big personal event happens that same weekend. This year, my dear friend Roxana is getting married in Dayton. So, here comes a road trip, fancy dress, high heels, and books in my packing bag. Although I couldn't read as much as I could, I still enjoy and mostly, LOVE this annual event. So, Mother Reader: thank you for the opportunity.
I will like to start my reading pile with a book that touched a spot in me. I felt like the first time I read this book, I read it too fast. I needed to go back, re-read, mark some poems and pages that I would like to keep for future reference. This 2nd reading allowed me to do that and here is an much updated review of this book. I saw my students in this story, I saw the struggle, the pain and the desire to learn and to be part of society that all immigrants like myself go through.
Inside Out and Back AgainInside Out and Back by Thanhha Lai again describes the story in free verse of a girl whose family is faced with a decision to make. This decision brings a reaction of events some of which are bound to happen, and others are just life experiences. Meet and her family who patiently waits for the father to come back home from the Vietnam War. But after waiting and waiting for years, hope starts to fade and the family is left with no option but to leave Saigon. This journey represents that if their father ever comes would he find his family? But little by little people are leaving taking ONE item with them. The long journey to American in the ship is harder than what they imagine. The food is starting to scarce and with this anxiety, anger, and frustration arises among the travelers in the Ship. 
Once they FINALLy arrived in America, the 2nd part of this journey began. Now   and her family is being adopted by an American family and their lives as an immigrant began. Their divided world: the new one where they try to adapt and the home culture that they try to preserve. As Ha tries to learn English in school she realizes that is not only the language she will be struggling to understand but also her classmates who make fun of her and even bully her. 
One particular poem in the book caught my attention as she describes how her teacher makes her feel at school...

Feel Dumb

Misssss Ssscott
points to me
then to the letters 
of the English Alphabet.

I say
A B C and so on. 

She tells the class
to clap.

I frown.

MiSSS SScott
points to the numbers
along the wall.

I count up to twenty.

THe class claps
on its own.

I'm furious
unable to explain
I already learned
and how to purify
river water.

So this is
what dumb
feels like.

I hate, hate, hate it. 

After reading this poem, it is almost mandatory to have a moment of reflection. A moment where  I quietly ask myself, "Did I ever unintentionally made a student feel like this?" I hope the answer is NO because I do understand that when you're learning the language you got to start somewhere. But along the way, the integrity of the learner must be at the front.
I highly recommend this book for many reasons but mainly for understanding and awareness. 

The Percy Jackson and the Olympians: Lightning Thief: The Graphic Novel (Percy Jackson & the Olympians)The next book in my pile was a graphic novel. I must confess that I have a particular fascination for this genre. I just love everything about it. Looking at the detailed illustrations, the coloring of the drawings, the way an author, illustrator and colorist all work together to create a sensational book. I love to pay attention at how sounds are created in a graphic novel. The whole process is just very intriguing to me.  This time I read the Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan. Some of you might already be familiar with this book but I'll still share a bit about it. Percy Jackson's life is a puzzle, even for himself. His world is made up of mythological monsters and also the Gods of Mount Olympus. Not very common for a typical 12 year old to be surrounded in this world. But this is HIS world and he is about to discover some things that will not make sense and others that will only help him answer some of this questions. Problem is the poor child is trying to figure out his world and purpose as he is accused of stealing Zeus's master lighting bolt.'s up to him to return it to the proper master. But it is in this journey that he will answer his questions, doubts, and will get to know so much more of WHO he is. 

The Book of AwesomeThe third book in my pile is one that I have NOT finished yet but I can already tell you that I'm LOVING the positive yet humorous approach The Awesome Book. It is not one of those cheesy optimistic book. It is an OPTIMISTIC one BUT the author makes it so much more entertaining to read it as he adds details and descriptors to each scenario. This book will definitely be my companion this evening. But I'm taking a pause in order to support our 50th Anniversary of Columbus Arts Festival. My friends know that I support all the summer festivals in Columbus because that is ONE of the many things that make this city an amazing one! 
Happy Reading Journey my friends. I hope you are your books are having an awesome one on one time!

Ready, Set, Go!

48 Hour Book Challenge

All I can say is Mother Reader...what an awesome annual tradition you had started! Central Ohio Bloggers are SO ready for this! Let the reading begin. Enjoy the journey!