Why do we read? 

in my previous post I committed to sharing my work. 

I’m going to be honest, that is a bit terrifying for me. 

This surprises some people, especially those who have met me or seen me present at a conference. 

I love sharing my work in person. Sharing it only in writing is a whole different experience for me. 

But I’m working on it. I’m doing it anyways. I’m working to embrace “not yet” and “in process”. 
Here is a Sketchnote from  part of my dissertation work. I appreciate any feedback or your own responses to the question, “WHY do we read?” 

Forward motion 

Two weeks ago, I presented my dissertation to my committee members. My husband, daughters, and some friends were there as well. I was more nervous than I expected, but I survived. I have revisions to work on over the summer, which is typical for a dissertation in my college. My advisor told me to put it away for a few weeks and not work on it. This feels both strange and liberating. 

 

Dissertation Defense “action” shot

 
Two days after that, I participated in the College of Education doctoral hooding ceremony. Again, my husband and daughters were there. My best friend of more than 20 years was there with her husband. My parents, sister, brother-in-law, niece & nephew completed the cheering section. It was emotional. It was hot. I felt anxious. The whole thing felt surreal. 

 

Looking Doctoral

 
This post is titled forward motion, although I did not move forward after these two events. I was exhausted, overwhelmed, unsure, shell-shocked, and a bit numb. Close friends who have gone through this process assured me that it wasn’t unusual to feel the way that I felt. My husband and daughters have continued to be oh-so-patient with me as I navigate my way through this fog. I’m beginning to feel human again. I’m beginning to feel like it’s ok to move forward. 

One thing I decided to do is to try something new. Something I’ve wanted to do but haven’t. Something that pushes me outside my comfort zone. I’ve decided to try Sketchnoting. I’ve done some versions of this in the past, but not necesarily with any sort of planning or intention. I’ve read about it in the past and decided read The Sketchnote Handbook: The Illustrated Guide to Visual Notetaking by Mike Rohde. Not only am I going to practice it, but I’m also going to share my sketchnotes here. 

Sharing my sketchnotes, along with writing on my blog again regularly, is inpsired by Austin Kleon’s book Show Your Work. I love his premise that being an artist, writer, creator, etc. is about so much more than any final product. That the work that we do needs to be made visible – even when it is work in progress. So I’m going to share more of my in progress work. Along with writing about teaching, reviewing books, and who knows what else. 

So here is my first sketchnote based on Carol Dweck’s TED talk The Power of Believing That You Can Improve about the concept of a growth mindset. And so I come out of the fog reminding myself of the importance and possibility of “not yet” and forward motion…

Sketchnote #1: 5.20.15 (created on an ipad with the app PAPER)

MRA 2015 Picturebook Presentation Slides & Booklist

Last week, I attended one of my favorite conferences – the Annual Michigan Reading Association Conference. On Sunday afternoon I presented a session titled “Examining Illustration/Text Relationships in Picturebooks for Classroom Selection and Discussion”.

Here is the link my powerpoint slides (posted on slideshare): 

One of the great things about presenting so close to home was that meant I could bring two large bags of picturebooks to the presentation for attendees to read and explore. Because it wasn’t possible for me to share everything that I brought, I created a list of everything I brought with me on google docs.

You can also copy and paste the following address to get to the booklist: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1Y2ycWRF0YI-H8w1NXmeF5dPWeDd7AWlfBwrteC3cIfk/edit?usp=sharing

Thank you to all who attended!

Engaged teacher, Engaged readers…

This is my 7th year teaching in Michigan State University’s Teacher Education Program. I have taught students at almost every phase of the program. Because Michigan State’s program is so large, I often don’t see or hear from my students after I’ve taught them. I think of many of them and wonder how they are doing, what literature they are sharing with their students, and how they are managing their first years of teaching. Today – I got to visit one of those students. It was so amazing for both of us. I looked at her and said, “Do you still have days when you can’t believe you are doing what you love?” She smiled widely and I said, “me too”.

Then, Ms. C lead me to the back of her classroom. “This is the first thing I want to show you.” I walked around a corner to see her classroom library. She told me about how she has built it up so far (books, shelves, book boxes, beanbags) that she has implemented student librarians (“we’re still working out some of those kinks”), and that she can’t wait to meet Donalyn Miller at MRA this year. She has used donors choose to fund numerous projects in her room and is always trying to add more books for her students.

I stayed in her classroom for almost an hour during their “read to self” time. I watched third grade children, some of whom are still learning English, select their own books and read. They read deeply and widely. They read non-fiction books about Penguins and tornados. They read Skippyjon Jones, Clifford, Little Critter, Junie B. Jones, and Froggie. They read picture books, chapter books, and graphic novels. They abandoned books when they needed to, and selected other ones instead. As their teacher walked around the room and conferred with students, I joined in asking them to share with me. Some read outloud to me, some showed me a favorite illustration, and another boy showed me a cookie recipe he copied from Clifford. They were so ENGAGED in reading. And this was after lunch and after recess on a warm day.

Then they each wrote a short “review” of one of the books they had read. Each card included the title, author, star rating, if the book was fiction or non-fiction, and 1-2 sentences about what they liked or what it was about. THEN they booktalked in pairs. Did I mention how engaged they were? How they were asking each other questions and asking to share with me?

It made me think about Donalyn’s newest book Reading in the Wild and her premise that we don’t just want students to read in our classes, we want them to keep reading afterwards. It doesn’t matter their age. This is what I hope for my own teacher education students; that they will be engaged readers in our classes together and then want to help their own students develop as not just competent readers, but also as engaged readers As I looked around the room, I saw that Ms. C had taken time to find a book of her own, sit down next to a student and read. She not only set up the environment, procedures, and instruction for her students – she herself was an engaged reader.

As Junie B would say, “It was a thing of beauty I tell you.”

Author Event Highlights: Veronica Roth & Phoebe North

Earlier this week, I took my eldest daughter to hear Veronica Roth (Divergent trilogy) & Phoebe North (Starglass) in conversation at one of our favorite independent bookstores – Schuler Books (@SchulerBooks). Here are some highlights:

It was amazing to see this many people in a small space (500 tickets all sold out!) because of excitement about books, reading, and authors. We talked with some people who had driven for more than 5 hours from Cincinnati, Ohio and heard of someone else who had come from Kentucky.

Seated tickets sold out in 14 minutes. This is standing room only crew...

Seated tickets sold out in 14 minutes. This is standing room only crew…

On their own characters:

Phoebe: I loved Tris. I loved that she is complicated and seemed like a real teenager. She was challenging sometimes to read but that’s what I liked about her.

Veronica (re. the relationship between Tris & Four): It was a rule for me that neither character would derive strength from the other

On “strong female characters”:

Veronica: Male characters get to be all of these different adjectives, and we think women characters should be the same thing.

Phoebe: I think it’s important to think about what we mean by strong. We can have physically strong, like Tris. But we can also have complex and real – that is strong too.

On anxiety and writing

Veronica: I find it problematic that in general if something is wrong with you “below the neck” that it’s acceptable to get help and go a doctor. But if something is “above the neck” like anxiety or depression, people are just supposed to suck it up. That’s wrong. These are things that can be about brain chemicals and it’s important to get help, from a doctor or counselor or therapist.

Phoebe: Therapy is like ‘leveling up’ in life instead of a video game.

On writing:

Veronica: It’s important to have people to work with that think differently than you do when sharing writing. It means that you have disagreements, but it also means it helps you think more deeply.

Phoebe: At the beginning I was I used to fly by the seat of my pants. I thought I should try to be more of a planner/plotter. Then I tried it, wrote 500 pages, and it was awful. Now I just do it the way that works for me.

Veronica: I have a different process for each book. I don’t know if I’ll ever have one process that works for every book. Sometimes you don’t have a process. Anything that helps you write is what you should do to write.

Thanks to Schuler Books for hosting. Whitney and the entire staff was amazing as always.
Thanks to Harper Collins – for every ticket sold at each of the events, they donated a new book to First Books.
Thanks to Veronica & Phoebe for coming to Lansing and sharing your time and selves with us. 

Schuler Books
website: http://www.schulerbooks.com/
twitter: @SchulerBooks

Phoebe North
website: http://www.phoebenorth.com/
twitter: @phoebenorth

Veronica Roth
website: http://www.veronicarothbooks.com/
twitter: @VeronicaRoth

 

Review: Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson

Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson

Words take my breath
Begging me to slowly reread
Savor each story

This is the review after I read it the first time. I was lent an ARC of this book from a #nerdybookclub friend and must pass it along to another reading friend. I can’t wait to get my own copy and read it again when it comes out in August. 

This is one of the most beautifully written books I’ve ever read. The poemic form helped me to slow down as I read. I read parts outloud. I reread. I want to reread it again. Put it on your list now and get it as soon as you can. Read it. Read it multiple times. 

Book Review: The Griffin and The Dinosaur

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I heard about this book from my good friend Donalyn at the Michigan Reading Association Conference. I’ve always admired Marc Aronson’s non-fiction books – the level of research and supporting information is always outstanding. This book continues in that tradition.

Chapter One introduces readers to young & curious Adrienne Mayor growing up on the prairies of South Dakota. The descriptions of Adrienne’s family history and childhood are brought to life with photographs, posters, and artwork. The book follows Adrienne’s curious mind and travels as she explores questions about how fossils might have inspired the Ancient Greek people to write about mythological creatures like the Griffin. Mayor’s instincts lead her to believe that perhaps there was a connection and that the griffin wasn’t just a myth.

Throughout the book, we are reminded of the importance of Mayor’s ability to notice and connect. She did it as a child on the prairie, and continued to explore and ask questions in the libraries of Greece, at archeological sites, and of professional archeaologists. Although not trained in either the classics or archeology, Mayor makes important discoveries. I appreciate that we experience the recursiveness of Mayor’s work. She would discover something in a book, go explore fossils or sites, discover something different that would send her back to books. Mayor’s understandings and discoveries did not happen in linear “straight line” but were at times messy and confusing. This made both Mayor and her work very real to me and also inspiring.

Using prints & sketches created by Mayor herself, along with photographs, maps, and gorgeous artwork by Chris Muller, this is a non-fiction book that is both interesting and visually appealing. A description by Aronson of his journey in meeting and working with Mayor provides helpful insight along with suggestions for further reading and a detailed glossary.

The notion that what has always been considered myth is actually based in scientific discovery by the ancients is fascinating. When I finished this book, it left me wanting to read more of Mayors work, but it also left me with a desire to be more curious.

The Griffin and The Dinosaur: How Adrienne Mayor Discovered a Fascinating Link Between Myth and Science
Written by Marc Aronson and Adrienne Mayor
Illustrations by Chris Muller
Published by National Geographic, 2014
ISBN: 978-1-4263-1108-6
Checked out from East Lansing Public Library

Genres/Subjects:
Nonfiction, informational, mythology, dinosaurs, women scientists, Ancient Greece, scientific method, archeology,