Tag Archives: reading

Rereading Childhood Favorites

As an avid reader, I’ve been in love with books as long as I can remember. My reward for any good deed I did as a child was a trip to Hasting’s or Half Price Books where my parents would buy me a book (or two or three if I was convincing enough) of my choosing. Frequent visits to the public library were a staple in my summer life. The Scholastic Book Fair was one of the most exciting weeks of the school year, where I was given money and allowed to buy any book my heart desired. Anywhere I went, I carried a book, never wanting to waste a spare moment of time I could have been reading.

Needless to say, I amassed a long list of favorite books as a child, ones that I recommended frequently, sharing the joy they had brought me when I read them. By the time I got into chapter books early on in elementary school, I wasn’t a re-reader. Despite falling in love with different characters and series, I thought it more important to devour new titles rather than spend my time re-reading a book I’d already finished. However, as an adult, I fondly looked back on these childhood favorites and longed to read them again, in hopes of them taking me back to a simpler time, allowing me to experience the joy they once brought me.

Although what I’ve realized through this read down memory lane is that the good memories I have of reading these books as child don’t always translate into my adult reading life and preferences. Oftentimes these revisits leave me empty, wondering why I fell in love with the book in the first place, souring me on the title altogether. It’s a bit like your first love. You look back fondly on the relationship, reliving the highlights, romanticizing the person and wondering why you ever let them go. But when you see them again, you’re let down, doubting your memories and left wondering, What was I thinking?!

So, rather than slog through some of my childhood favorites just to come up short, I’d rather look back on them like an old love, savoring the memories and the good feelings they brought me. In my opinion, it’s better to maintain the illusion than shatter it.

Literacy Week was a Success!

Last week was my favorite week of the school year, hands-down! Literacy Week is just one of those weeks that’s full of excitement and joy, all centered around the love of reading and writing. What’s not to love about that?!?

Just like last year, I decided to dress up as a different book character each week. I then read to classes as the character. It was so much fun! Here were my outfits and books for this year:

Monday: Rainbow Fish

Tuesday: Pirates Don’t Change Diapers!


Wednesday: Ms. Frizzle from the Magic School Bus


Thursday: Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse


Friday: Max from Where the Wild Things Are

I mean…seriously, how can you not have a blast at work when you’re dressed up like this? However, it was difficult for other people to take me seriously in meetings. 😂

In addition to the character read alouds that I did, there were a few other teachers that dressed in character throughout the week and read to classes, which was fun for the students. Here’s a run-down of the weekly events that we had. Let me know in the comments if you want more information about any of the specific events. I’d be happy to share!

Monday:

  • Literacy Week Introduction
  • Poem in my Pocket began, where students wrote poems that they would carry around in their pockets all week to read to anyone who asked.
  • Cultural Storytellers from Australia
  • Treasure Hunt for lower primary
  • Door Decorating Contest began
  • DEAR Time daily

Tuesday:

  • Write Your Heart Out
  • Cultural Storyteller from Japan reading Kamishibai in both Japanese and English
  • Puppet show for upper primary
  • Book Fair
  • DEAR Time daily

Wednesday:

  • Pajama Day Read-in
  • Book Bites Bake Sale
  • Cultural Storyteller from Korea reading stories from Korea in both Korean and English
  • Indonesian Wayang Puppet Show (traditional shadow puppets) told in Bahasa Indonesia
  • Book Fair

Thursday:

  • Cultural Storyteller from Indonesia, who told a traditional Indonesian story in both English and Bahasa Indonesia
  • Puppet shows for lower primary, performed by Year 6 students
  • Spelling Bee for Years 3-6
  • Book Fair
  • DEAR Time daily
  • Door Decorating Contest Judging

Friday:

  • Book Character Dress Up Parade for the whole school
  • Cultural Storyteller from Pakistan who demonstrated oral storytelling of a Punjabi story, mostly told in English, with some Punjabi words mixed in
  • DEAR Time daily
  • Guess Who? Reveal, where students guessed who each teacher was based on the book they were holding in front of their face.
  • Battle of the Books, a book trivia game for Year 3-6 students

Coming back to reality this week has been hard, but the memories of last week are still with me. The students had so much fun, read lots of books, and enjoyed the variety of activities. I think the teachers did, too!

Do you do Literacy Week at your school? What is your favorite thing about Literacy Week?

My Last Ten Books

I’m a reader. Always have been, always will be. But just like anything, there are heavy seasons and there are light. I’m in a heavy season at the moment, devouring books quickly, picking up a new one as soon as (or before!) I finish the old one. Since January 1st, I’ve read 10 books.

Since this week is Literacy Week (My favorite week of the school year! More on that next week.), I figured I’d write about reading. I learned a unique strategy for a reader’s notebook entry from a colleague a while ago. It’s called “The Last Ten Books I’ve Read and What They Say About Me as a Reader.” Here we go.

This book was given to me by Michelle. Michelle and I always recommend books to one another, and any time I go home to visit, she always has a book or two to pass on to me. I really enjoyed this one due to the author’s voice; I loved the honest and quirky comments from Eleanor. Since realistic fiction is one of my go-to genres, this one fit in my wheelhouse. This book will be made into a movie soon, so I had to read it, as the book has to be read before watching the film. I would recommend this book to anyone who likes an unconventional love story.

Working in an international school has opened my eyes to many cultures and broadened my views of how children from different cultures interact with one another. I ordered this book from Amazon since I thought students at my school would connect to it, as it explored an Indian child’s start at a school in America. I enjoy reading Young Adult literature so that I can keep current with what students are into, plus it’s easier to recommend books to students if I’ve read them. This book was a quick read; I liked the short chapters that alternated between the two boys’ perspectives. I would recommend this for students in fourth to sixth grade and upper primary teachers.

Okay, can I just start by saying…I LOVE THIS BOOK! This one is another recommendation from a friend. Over the Christmas holiday, Shags texted me to tell me she was in the middle of a book that she just knew I would love. And boy, was she right! I picked up a copy at Half Price Books, but since I was reading another book, I had to wait a bit to start it. I began this book on the plane ride to Bangkok, where I attended a job fair for 4 days. Despite my busy schedule, I found time for reading. I couldn’t put it down, and finished it by the end of the trip. I love a good coming of age story, and if you do too, you will love this book. I also enjoyed the way the story was told through a mix of narrative and emails.

Three Young Adult books in a row…I’m sensing a pattern. But I just can’t resist! And this one has won so many awards that I had to give it a go. I enjoyed the unique storytelling style, told through poetry. The intense topics addressed in the book are made more intense by the word choice, line breaks, and lack of text. As I read this book, I made many connections to The Hate U Give, a book I read a couple of months prior. If you liked THUG, you’ll enjoy this one.

This is one I listened to rather than read, and I’m so glad I did! Hearing the author read her own memoir is so much better than reading it on my own. You get so much more from the tone of voice, inflection, and pacing than simply reading the words. On Audible this book is 19 hours, so it took me a few weeks of listening as I got ready for school in the morning, on my morning commute, and before I fell asleep. Memoir is another favorite genre. I think memoir speaks to my soul since I value storytelling so much. I enjoy hearing a person’s story, seeing how experiences in their life have shaped who they are. And Michelle Obama is someone who has done so much for women and girls in America. I would highly recommend this book, especially the audiobook.

This one ticks a few boxes. Realistic fiction (well…sorta realistic)/mystery, it’s soon to be a movie, and it’s told in a unique way, through a mix of emails, texts, letters, documents, and narrative. Once I picked this one up, I couldn’t put it down. I just had to know what happened to Bernadette! This one is now our Book Club book, thanks to my recommendation. I hope my friends like it as much as I did.

Something I struggle with is getting everything done on my to-do list. Spoiler alert- I never do! When I start working on a project, I can fly through it if I’m super into it, but if it’s something I’m not interested in, I can procrastinate and dread even starting it. I picked up this book to hopefully get some helpful tips for overcoming this issue. While some of the tips were things I already knew (and don’t do), many of them were new ideas to me and ones that I hope to put into practice soon. If you struggle with procrastination, I’d recommend reading this book.

I know what you’re thinking already. She totally jumped on the Marie Kondo bandwagon. Yeah, I admit it; I did. Michelle and Linner both recommended this book to me ages ago, so I downloaded it on Audible. I started it, but could never get into it. To be honest, I think it has more to do with the narrator than the content; she nearly put me to sleep anytime I listened. After a few failed attempts, I abandoned it. But after watching the Netflix series, Tidying Up with Marie Kondo, I tried out some of her lessons in my own house. I found that it made a big difference, so I gave the book another try. While I appreciate her methods and many of her tips, some of it is hokey to me. I don’t think I learned much more listening to the book than I did watching the show so I wouldn’t really recommend this book; just watch the series instead!

Yep, another Young Adult/Teen book. But in all fairness, I didn’t know it when I bought the book. I actually bought this one based on the cover. Once I started reading it, I fell in love with Finch and Violet, with their imperfect and complicated lives. It deals with heavy issues, such as suicide, so if you are looking for a light read, this isn’t it. But I really loved it, despite the heaviness.

After Milk and Honey, I was convinced that all Rupi Kaur’s other books would be a letdown. There’s no way she can write another book of poems as beautiful, I thought. Well, she proved me wrong! The Sun and her Flowers spoke to my soul in ways I didn’t know was possible. It’s definitely a book I’ll reread again and again. The passion, vulnerability, and honesty in her poems hits you in the face. If all poetry was like this, I’d read a lot more of it. I highly recommend it to anyone who appreciates good poetry that deals with real issues.

In addition to the books I’ve completed this year, I’m also in the middle of a few others- The Power of Inquiry by Kath Murdoch, Culture Map by Erin Meyer, and How to be a Travel Writer by Lonely Planet.

If you have any must-reads, please leave them in the comments.

A Reading Kinda Day #sol18

Today was a walk around, stop for a while to grab a bite to eat or drink, and read, read, read kind of day. It’s been a long time since I’ve truly gotten lost in a book and spent the majority of the day reading, and I’ve missed it! All too often, I’ll read in short spurts, distracted by technology or something else I have to do. Lately, my reading life has been in a slump, and while I’m always in the middle of a book or two, it’s taking me longer and longer to finish a book.

Today, as I read, I got swept up in the story. I found myself stopping for longer stretches, breaking out my book to read, tuning out the noise around me. And boy was there noise today! I heard cappuccino machines steaming, blenders whirring, spoons clinking, patrons gabbing, music blasting, fans spinning, motorbikes speeding, horns honking, drills drilling, and hawkers yelling. Somehow the noise took a backseat to the story, becoming the soft backdrop, rather than the main event.

I managed to read over half of my book, and I plan on reading more tonight before bed. Of course, reading is on my agenda tomorrow. Frankly, other than trying more delicious food, it’s the only thing on my agenda. By the way, I’m reading Turtles All The Way Down, John Green’s newest book.

Here are a few shots of my day, in between my reading sessions.

Lollipop Moment Thank You

Tonight, I re-watched Drew Dudley’s TED Talk entitled “Everyday Leadership.” In it, he talks about a girl who thanked him four years later for a moment that forever changed her life. She was scared about going to university, but when he came up to her wearing a goofy hat and passing out lollipops, she knew everything would be okay. She could do this.

In his talk, Drew asks, “How many of you guys have a lollipop moment, a moment where someone said or did something that you feel fundamentally made your life better?” He goes on to ask if we’ve told that person that they had an impact on our life. It got me thinking about people in my life who’ve been instrumental in a big way.

My lollipop moment was in 2006. I was beginning my third year as a teacher, in that shaky period where you feel like you sort of know what you’re doing, but you’re still second-guessing most of your decisions. I had spent my student teaching placement, as well as my first two years of full-time teaching, as a Grade 4 Math & Science teacher in a two-way split. Math was my jam. Always had been. I felt comfortable with numbers, with the one right answer aspect of it. Sure, there are many ways to get there, and I celebrated those, but at the end of the day, there’s only one right answer. Science was full of experiments, therefore it was equally exciting and engaging to teach (and for students to learn). I was comfortable in my niche, and I didn’t want it to to change.

Of course, as I’m sure you’ve predicted, it changed. With a reduction in students and staffing, my teaching partner was moved to a new campus. With no one to be my switch teacher, I was told I’d be a self-contained teacher. Gone were the days of teaching only Math and Science. I would now add Reading, Writing, and Social Studies to the mix. To say I was scared and upset would be an understatement. A major one. I was freaking out. I can’t teach reading and writing!!! I have never taught anyone to read! I have no idea how to even begin teaching someone to write! You’ve got the wrong person! I can’t do this! All those insecurities of not being good enough surfaced. To top it off, that year was the year that my district was embracing reading and writing workshop, a brand-new concept to all of us. No more basal. No more teaching stand-alone grammar lessons and form writing based on the 6 Traits. (Just to be clear, I despise basals and teaching writing and grammar inauthentically, but these new initiatives meant there was no one on my grade level to go to for help. It was new to them, too!)

During this freak-out moment, Debbie Johnson came to talk to me. Debbie had been teaching Grade 2, and while I knew her from seeing her around the building and in faculty meetings, we weren’t really acquainted and weren’t yet friends. But that year, Debbie had been appointed to the newly-created position of Literacy Coach on our campus. She approached me, trying to assuage my literacy fears. Her idea was simple. I didn’t know how to be a reading and writing teacher. She didn’t know how to be a Literacy Coach (she didn’t even have a job description!). But what she did know was how to teach reading and writing well. Really well, in fact. So she proposed a plan. She’d come in everyday and teach alongside me, mentoring me through this newness in which I suddenly found myself.

I’m not dumb, and I know a good thing when I see it. Through my tears, I took her up on her offer on the spot. Debbie and I began spending a lot of time together, planning, observing, teaching, assessing, reflecting, and crying (mostly me!). Using the gradual release of responsibility method, she held my hand as I launched reader’s and writer’s workshops in my classroom. She was in my room everyday for my entire afternoon (120 minutes) for at least a month. We used the First 20 Days by Fountas and Pinnell to guide us through reader’s workshop and Lucy Calkins’s Units of Study to establish writer’s workshop. She taught me how to teach guided reading, how to confer with my readers and writers, and how to take documentation on my students so that I knew them better as readers and writers. I learned to read and write alongside my students, using my writing and my struggles and triumphs as teaching tools.

Following that first month of hand-holding, Debbie and I met regularly to plan and reflect. She continued to observe and coach, and she remained that steady person I could rely on. I was in her office nearly everyday, sharing successes and failures, worrying over my abilities, talking about my kids, and problem-solving. We forged an unbreakable bond. What we had was why Literacy Coaches exist. They are there to help and guide, listen and offer advice, nudge, but not judge. Debbie was all of that– and more. Sometime during that year, Debbie became my friend, my confidant. She knew more about me (professionally and personally) than most people did. I could trust her completely. We shared secrets. We laughed. We gave each other books that the other just had to read.

That first year was hard work. I doubted myself. A lot. But you know what, I did it. Through the mini-lessons that flopped, the late nights spent planning, the tears shed, and the stress of planning and teaching 5 subjects everyday, I grew. I reflected often, refined my craft, and vowed to be better each and every day.

The biggest lesson Debbie taught me was that to be a good reading and writing teacher, I just had to be a reader and a writer. I already possessed those skills. In my free time, I was a reader and occasionally a writer. I thought like a reader and a writer. I was passionate about it. All I had to do was show it to my budding readers and writers. All I had to do was be myself, letting my love of literacy and my passion shine through. Most of the battle is getting your students to love reading and writing. Once you’ve done that, anything is possible. My beliefs around literacy are rooted in that authentic work of readers and writers. Reading and writing should be life work, not school work. And this is how I approached it with my students.

In 2006, Debbie Johnson was my lollipop moment. She met me where I was and coached me forward. In the years after, I went on to become a stellar literacy teacher, one whom teachers and administrators around the district came to observe. I was the teacher who ignited the writing flame in even the most stubborn of kids. The writing club I created for struggling writers was something every kid wanted to be a part of. In China, I created a Literacy Coach position and was a coach for 2 years, eventually becoming principal. I shared my passion of literacy with others, and I made a difference. Looking back, I’m not sure my life would have turned out this way had it not been for Debbie Johnson. So Debbie, from the bottom of my heart, I thank you.

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Everything, Everything

Today was day three of returning to work since the accident. Days one and two resulted in me leaving with an incredibly swollen foot and in intense pain, resulting in me crawling into bed to hoist my enlarged foot, wrapped in an ice pack, onto a mountain of pillows, while I took meds to stave off the pain. This weekend wasn’t much different. Other than my doctor’s visit and dinner with a friend on Saturday, I was either on the couch or in the bed, elevating my foot, wincing with pain whenever I hobbled around my tiny apartment on my crutches. Today, day three, was different. I was able to last for longer periods of time on my crutches, although I primarily used the wheelchair when I was in class, as it’s infinitely easier.

I had to leave at 1:00pm today to go pick up my work permit, and when I left I noticed my foot was swollen, but less than it was the other days. In the car, I asked how long it would take for us to get to the immigration office. One hour. Ugh…I should have brought my book. Oh, wait! I have the book Elissa gave me!

Earlier this morning, Elissa handed me a book she’d finished this weekend, saying she thought I’d like it. It’s a YA novel called Everything, Everything. Apparently they’re making it into a movie (Don’t they always?). I took it, but since I’m in the middle of another book, I wasn’t sure when I’d get to it. A two-hour round-trip ride downtown was the perfect time to dive into it. I was instantly sucked into the story. The fast-paced storyline and suspense kept me hooked.

After the immigration visit, I visited the massage parlor next to my apartment building, where they helped work out the kinks and knots that have taken up residence in my back and shoulders. From there, I walked home on my crutches…without getting winded! My foot was swollen, of course, but I wasn’t in pain. Nevertheless, I propped it up and continued to read more of my new book.

My stomach started grumbling around 5:30, and rather than ordering in again, I decided to venture out in a taxi to one of my favorite restaurants. Gingerly, I walked up the steps and across the uneven footpath. My dinner companion was none other than my new book. Between bites, I turned page after page, unable to stop. After dinner, I was surprisingly still not in pain, so I headed to Starbucks to get my favorite iced tea and continue reading. I ended up finishing my book! It’s been a long time since I’ve read a book in a day, and I loved the uninterrupted reading time.

Back at home now, I’ve elevated and iced my foot to reduce the incredible swelling, but I have to say there is minimal pain. I can even wiggle my toes and ankle a bit without it hurting, and there’s a hint of itchiness, which according to the doctor and my dad, means the road rash is starting to heal. Yay for small victories! I go back for another check-up tomorrow, so we’ll see how gnarly it looks under there. I’m hoping to see less red and more scabby bits. 🙂


Side Note: Everything, Everything reminded me of The Fault in Our Stars, and while I liked it, I would say The Fault in Our Stars is still much better. However, if you are into YA literature and looking for a quick, engaging read, I suggest this one.

9 Things on Day 9

As I was reading through some slices for some inspiration, I came across All Things Purple’s blog, where her slice was full of lists of her favorite things, 9 per list, in honor of the ninth day of slicing. I love lists, as anyone who follows my blog or knows me in real life knows, so this was right up my alley! 🙂

9 Everyday things I wouldn’t want to live without:

  1. Books! (actual books or ebooks)
  2. A device (laptop, iPad, or iPhone)
  3. Wifi connection
  4. Tea kettle
  5. Toothbrush/toothpaste
  6. Live plants
  7. Backpack
  8. Reusable water bottle (loving my Camelbak Eddy at the moment)
  9.  My writer’s notebook

9 Adventures I want to have before I die:

  1. Step on all 7 continents (before age 40!)…just 2 more (Antartica and South America)
  2. Take a year off and slow travel around the world
  3. Write a book…and publish it!
  4. Meet someone I want to share my life with
  5. See the Northern Lights and sleep in a glass igloo
  6. Spend at least one month living in Inle Lake, Myanmar, volunteering at a school or an orphanage, riding my bike every day
  7. Go on an African safari
  8. Take my parents to all my favorite places around the world
  9. Show up at the airport, buy a ticket, and fly some place I’ve never been, with absolutely no plans whatsoever

9 Pastimes I never tire of:

  1. Listening to music
  2. Writing
  3. Reading
  4. Talking about reading and writing
  5. Cooking
  6. Throwing parties
  7. Visiting new restaurants
  8. Planning for a new trip
  9. Talking to my friends and family

9 Treats I could eat everyday (if they weren’t unhealthy):

  1. Chai tea lattes, preferably iced and from Starbucks
  2. Goat cheese
  3. Mangos
  4. Homemade ravioli
  5. Brownies
  6. Chips & Queso
  7. Hot Shipley’s glazed donuts
  8. Mercato’s homemade ricotta and jam with buttery, toasted bread
  9. Pavlova

9 People I’d be lost without (Only 9?!?):

  1. My mom & dad (I know, this is more than one…)
  2. My brother, sister-in-law, niece, & nephew (this one, too…)
  3. Shaggers
  4. Michelle
  5. Linner
  6. Kathy
  7. Sarah
  8. Sally
  9. Callie

9 Places I want to visit:

  1. New Zealand
  2. South Africa
  3. India
  4. Russia
  5. The Maldives
  6. Iceland
  7. Spain
  8. Bhutan
  9. Chile

9 Words I believe hold magic:

  1. Savor
  2. Love
  3. Vulnerable
  4. Change
  5. Play
  6. Serendipity
  7. Authenticity
  8. Gratitude
  9. Delicious

9 Gestures that make me smile:

  1. Receiving a gift from someone who knows me well
  2. Hand-written notes
  3. People who go out of their way when you’re sick/injured
  4. Quality time
  5. Playing a board game with me
  6. Hilarious texts, particularly ones accompanied by poignant GIFs 🙂
  7. A good book recommendation
  8. An engaging conversation where no one looks at their phone
  9. Little kid hugs

9 Favorite songs (as of this blog post) (How can I pick just 9?!?):

Click here to listen to my favorite songs

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What are your favorite things?