Monday, October 9, 2017

Making Writer's Workshop Come Alive!

A New PERC Workshop for Teachers

By Popular Request
Syd Korsunsky is returning to the Pembina Valley.
Register by November 30th.
Contact a PERC representative for more info.

Long Way Down

I received a galley of this book from NetGalley. The hardcover edition is to be released on October 24, 2017.

From Amazon:

An ode to Put the Damn Guns Down, this is National Book Award finalist and New York Times bestseller Jason Reynolds’s fiercely stunning novel that takes place in sixty potent seconds—the time it takes a kid to decide whether or not he’s going to murder the guy who killed his brother.

A cannon. A strap.
A piece. A biscuit.
A burner. A heater.
A chopper. A gat.
A hammer
A tool
for RULE

Or, you can call it a gun.

What did I love about this book?

  •  Jason Reynolds's prose. Who can deliver free verse with such meaning?
  •  I love the cover of this book. Although I read it as an ebook from NetGalley I love the look of the black and white cover displaying old-style round elevator buttons against a scratched and soiled wall.
  •  I love the pages that appear to be the scuffed paint of the elevator walls.
  •  I love the sparsity of words on the page.
  •  I love the chapters told as a trip in the elevator.
  •  I love the ending!

Who can turn your thinking around in 200 pages the way Jason Reynolds can?
Will's brother Shawn was murdered and Will believes he must avenge the death. Like all of Jason Reynolds' novels, the characters are wonderful and the story is never simple.

The novel is longlisted for the National Book Award for Young People's Literature.

I will buy this book so I can read it again in hard copy.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Feedback from Literacy in the 21st Century - Annual PERC Workshop

We had another successful workshop in April. We appreciate the feedback from our participants and it helps determine our agenda for the next workshop.  Here is what the exit slips revealed.

Do you have any ideas for topics or presenters for future PERC workshops?
·         Indigenous perspectives
·         Keeping the connection between school and public libraries – reading buddies program, schools identifying and helping to connect this to public library programming especially through the summer
·         How can schools / school libraries and public libraries support each other?
·         ILL’s and FILL
·         PLS (Public Library Services)
·         Information literacy (internet searching)
·         How to organize your library (Dewey; genre; colour code?)
·         How to “genre-fy”
·         Making effective book displays
·         Would love to hear Sally Bender speak again!
·         More authors! He was very interesting – love learning about writing process
·         Publisher? How does a book get published?
·         Other resources available to us – MB Ed. Lib. was great!
·         Makerspace lady was very informative as well!
·         Follet
·         Publishers
·         More authors – Carol Matas (Wpg)
·         I really enjoyed the Makerspace presentation and would love to learn more
·         More information about picture books and how to give book talks
·         Writer’s Workshop for Middle Years
·         Presenter that PERC had about 7 years ago with an emphasis on writing – Syd Korsunsky (from Winnipeg)
·         aSuggested speaker- Brenda Mutcher - Making a priority to visit the public library twice a year and to do a scavenger hunt within the library, and how she encourages the kids to read and belong to the summer reading program
·         Teachers encouraging students to visit public libraries throughout the year and teach kids that a public library is a “safe” place you can go if needed
·         Literacy strategies
·         Library specific Makerspaces

Other Comments:
·         Love “Sal’s Addiction”!
·         Love it when you do the book recommendations
·         Very good day – thank you!
·         I like hearing about what you guys are up to but don’t have the time to join committees.  Please keep keeping our schools in the loop J
·         Thanks so much for all your work in planning today’s session.  It has been packed with great content! Thanks! 
·         Only consideration might be to have session at a location that has wifi access for devices other than cell phones so we can check into resource online in networking time.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

The Young Adults' Choices List from ILA

What Is the Young Adults’ Choices List? The Young Adults’ Choices project began in 1986, funded by a special grant given to the International Literacy Association. Since 1987, the Young Adults' Choices project has developed an annual list of new books that will encourage adolescents to read. The books are selected by the readers themselves, so they are bound to be popular with middle and secondary school students. The reading list is a trusted source of book recommendations, used by adolescents, their parents, teachers, and librarians.

Find the book list here

What would you like to read? 

I am adding Canadian Teresa Toten's latest novel Beware That Girl to my To Be Read (TBR) list. The novel is compared to We Were Liars  and Gone Girl. The main character is considerd book smart, street-smart, and a masterful liar. 

One of my favourite books from this past several months is Ruta Sepetys' Salt to the Sea, an historical fiction novel set in WW II inspired by a true tragedy, the sinking of the Wilhelm Gustoff.

Told from three characters' points of view, it is a story of courage, trust, and strength. Sepetys' novel is a great read for teens and adults.

I recently gave the book to a friend who really likes historical fiction as a birthday gift, but I asked for it to be returned to passed on to more readers. I definitely recommend it to my student readers!

If you have not read her other novel Between Shades of Gray, be sure to do so. It is also historical fiction about a Lithuanian girl who is forced to leave her country with her family. See the comment from The Washington Post reviewer:

"Few books are beautifully written, fewer still are important; this novel is both."--The Washington Post

I bought Jeff Zentner`s The Serpent King this winter because I heard so much about it. I didn`t get a chance to read it before I offered it in the annual PERC book draw. 

This novel is also told from the point of view of three different characters. The small town setting appeals to me, and at least one of the characters can`t wait to escape, a not uncommon feeling for teens in rural areas.

Donalyn Miller reviewed it as, Òne of the best YA books I`ve read all year. Beautiful writing. Unforgettable characters.

Zentner has a new novel out in 2017, Goodbye Days, the story of one teen`s life after the death of his friends. Carver sent a text to his three friends and it was the last thing they saw before a horrible crash.

I predict Jeff Zentner will be a popular author to follow.

You will find many more great books on the Young Adults` Choices List. Check them out and leave a comment on ones you have read or may like to read.

You might also like to check out the Collaborating Teachers group on Goodreads. It is Manitoba teachers, librarians, and interested readers (like me!) who share the books we and our students are reading. Some may be on the ILA Choices Reading lists.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Choices Book Lists

I am finding many book lists in my emails, other blog posts, and on Twitter these days. I am always interested to see new lists and especially to see if I have read books on other people's lists! I will share some of these lists with you.

As the Provincial Co-ordinator for the International Literacy Association, I am very interested in the Choices lists they publish each year. There are three different lists. Check out this link and you will see that there are Children's Choices, Young Adults' Choices and Teachers' Choices. There are 30 books in the Young Adults' and Teachers' lists and 100 books in the Children's list. The lists are the suggestions of children, young adults and teachers, librarians and reading specialists!

I will highlight the Children's Choices in today's blog post. The lists provides details about the book including author, illustrator, publisher, and a quick synopsis of the book. A picture of the front cover of some of the titles is provided and a printable pdf file of all of the titles is also available. The book list is also divided into books for Beginning Readers, Young Readers, and Advanced Readers (categorized by age).

Book Raymie Nightingale by Kate DiCamilloBook Booked by Kwame AlexanderA few of the titles I have read included Raymie Nightingale by Kate DiCamillo and Booked by Kwame Alexander.

I want to read Kevin Henkes' When Spring Comes and The Thank You Book by Mo Willems.

What do you wnat to read?

Book The Thank You Book (an Elephant And Piggie Book) by Mo Willems

Book When Spring Comes by Kevin Henkes

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Books for Teaching Empathy for Middle Years

My colleague and friend, Amanda Rheault, shared a list of books to teach empathy she makes available to her grade six students at Carman Elementary School.

The list is from TeachThought and you can find the list here with lovely covers to make them easy to identify and a brief description of the book. I know you will have read many of them! But I am excited because there are many that I have not read. I am going to get started on some of them beginning with The Boy on the Wooden Box,  a memoir by Leon Leyson, because Amanda recommended it.

Book The Boy on the Wooden Box: How the Impossible Became Possible . . . on Schindler's List by Leon Leyson
This, the only memoir published by a former Schindler’s list child, perfectly captures the innocence of a small boy who goes through the unthinkable. Leon Leyson (born Leib Lezjon) was only ten years old when the Nazis invaded Poland and his family was forced to relocate to the Krakow ghetto. With incredible luck, perseverance, and grit, Leyson was able to survive the sadism of the Nazis, including that of the demonic Amon Goeth, commandant of Plaszow, the concentration camp outside Krakow.

The list would be a great link to share with your students. I can see a Math lesson as the students survey the class to determine what they have read and then preparing spreadsheets and charts to showcase the results.  I would be curious to know which of the books has been read by the most students.

Amanda used the empathy theme for a book of the month study. Students completed their weekly check-in questions (character development, conflict, predictions,etc). Then they took the place of the main character in the book. They explained what they would have done/felt/said in the place of the main character. They then re-wrote the back cover and recreated the book cover to fit themselves into the picture and write up. 

Thank you Amanda for sharing your learning with us.

Literacy in the 21st Century Book Draws

Participants are always happy to choose a book from our table to take home from the workshop. Check out the books available this year.

Book Optimists Die First by Susin NielsenBook The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
Title Author
Because of Mr. Terupt Rob Buyea MG
Viola Desmond Jody Nyasha Warner PB
A Child of Books Oliver Jeffers PB
Darkest Dark Chris  PB
I Am Not a Number Jenny Kay Dupuis PB
Blackthorn Key Kevin Sands MG
Be Light Like a Bird Monika Schroder MG, YA
Short Holly Goldberg Sloan MG, YA
Last Shot David Skuy MG, YA
Holding Up the Universe Jennifer Niven YA
Optimists Die 1st Susin Nielsen YA
When I Was the Greatest Jason Reynolds YA
Carve the Mark Veronica Roth YA
Girl in Pieces Kathleen Glasgow YAYA
Maybe a Fox Kathi Appelt & Allison McGhee MG
Elijah of Buxton Cristopher Paul Curtis MG
Moose Goose Animals on the  Geraldo Valerio PB
Minrs Kevin Sylvester MG
The Night Gardener Jonathan Auxier MG, YA
Dog Man Unleashed Dav Pilkey MG
We were Liars e. lockhart YA
Dumplin Julie Murphy YA
Inquisitors Tale Adam Gidwitz MG
PAX Sarah Pennypacker MG
Word of Mouse James Paterson MG
Towers Falling Jewel Parker Rhodes MG, YA
When We Were Alone David A. Robertson PB
Little Boy from Jamaica Pearlene and Devon Clunis  PB
Missing Melanie Florence YA
Dog Man Unleashed Dav Pilkey MG
Holding Up the Universe Jennifer Niven YA
Missing Nimama Melanie Florence PB
Since You've Been Gone Morgan Matson YA
Happy Dreamer Peter Reynolds PB
Du Iz Tak Carson Ellis PB
Funny Bones Duncan Tonatiuh PB
Pancho Rabbit Duncan Tonatiuh PB
Flying Lessons & Other Stories Ellen Oh MG, YA
Weekends with Max and Dad Linda Urban EY, MG
The Last Fifth Grade of Emerson Elementary Laura Shovan MG 
The Hate You Give Angie Thomas YA
The Serpent King Jeff Zentner YA
The Girl Who Drank the Moon Kelly Barnhill MG

Book When We Were Alone by David Alexander Robertson   Book Viola Desmond Wont Be Budged by Jody Nyasha Warner

Literacy in the 21st Century

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Let's Share our Canadian Authors and Books with the Global Read Aloud

Have you participated in the Global Read Aloud? GRA was created in 2010 on the premise of one book to connect the world. Classes connect with other classrooms to read the same book at the same time and to talk about their reading, to do similar assignments, and to learn more about where they live. Some teachers prefer to connect with just one other classroom, others prefer to connect with many classrooms. I have noticed that many connections last throughout the year. You can find out more about GRA on their website here. You can also find GRA on Facebook.

You will find the book choices from 2016 on the website. GRA chooses an author study for picture books and Lauren Castillo, an illustrator, was selected. She is well-known as an illustrator, but is also author of Nana in the City.

At the middle grades you could choose between Roald Dahl's The BFG or PAX by Sarah Pennypacker (illustrated by Canadian Jon Klassen).

At the high school level the choices were All American Boys by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely or Orbiting Jupiter by Gary Schmidt. There is also a French version of GRA here.

You might even consider participating in the next event in the fall of 2017.  At this time, books are being suggested for the various levels and Pernille Ripp has asked for more suggestions from non-American authors and for more diversity.

The purpose of my blog post today is to ask for your help. Let's share our Canadian voice to the Global Read Aloud. Submit your ideas for your favourite Canadian authors or books here.

Who would you suggest? Please add suggestions to the comments section. I am sure we will find more great Canadian authors and illustrators by posting our ideas.  Be sure to make your suggestions to GRA#17 as well using the link just above.

Here are some of my suggestions:

Marie Louise Gay - Stella and Sam and so much more
Melanie Watt - Chester and Scaredy Squirrel plus her recent Bug in a Vacuum

Deborah Ellis - What book would you choose?
Kenneth Oppel - The Nest
Eric Walters - Choose a book
Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch - Making Bombs for Hitler or Stolen Child

Who are your favourite Canadian authors and favourite Canadian books?

Join GRA#17 and connect your class to others. Learn about their area and discover similarities and differences.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Books with Shiny Stickers

The first hour of my day was filled with excitement this morning! The American Library Association Announced its Youth Media Awards this morning and I tuned in to the live feed. I am always curious to learn the winners of the Newbery and Caldecott awards, but the other awards are also very special.

Last year's winners Last Stop on Market Street by Matt de la Pena and illustrated by Christian Robinson  and Finding Winnie by Lindsay Mattick and illustrated by Sophie Blackall are two of my favourite books. I was especially happy to see a picture book win the Newbery which is usually given to a chapter book. Winnie's hometown connection to Winnipeg also makes the book special. See my post from January, 2016.

I have been following Pernille Ripp, Carrie Gelson and Colby Sharp as their grade seven and grade three classrooms made their mock Caldecott and Newbery selections. I found I had similar tastes to their lists. I have added a number of potential winners to my own collection including Ada's Violin: The Story of the Recycled Orchestra of Paraguay by Susan Hood, illustrated by Sally Wern Comport; Penguin Problems by Jory John, illustrated by Lane Smith; School's First Day of School by Adam Rex and Christian Robinson ; They All Saw a Cat by Brendan Wenzel; We Found a Hat by Jon Klassen and several more.

You may notice that I didn't do very well in determining the winner! But I have enjoyed adding some really great books to my collection.
I have also added to my YA and middle years collection including The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner. I was quite thrilled to have an almost instant reply to my tweet congratulating him on his Morris Award given to a debut book by a first-time author.

Another debut author that I add to my must read list is Nicola Yoon. She was honoured for The Sun is Also a Star receiving the Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe for New Talent Author award and a Michael L Printz honor for excellence in literature for young adults.

I am a Jason Reynolds fan and immediately purchase his books as soon as they are available. Reynolds won two awards today for As Brave as You--the Coretta Scott King(author) honor book and the Schneider Family Book Award for Ghost. Ghost also won the Odyssey Honor book award for the audiobook.

[Drumroll please} The winners for the Newbery and Caldecott medals are:

Newbery Medal

Author Kelly Barnhill

Caldecott Medal

Author and illustrator Javaka Steptoe

The book that won the most awards was March Book 3 by John Lewis and Andrew Aydin, artist Nate Powell. March Book 3 is the last in a trilogy about American civil rights activism. Awards included the Coretta Scott King award for best children's book by an African-American and the Michael L. Printz Award for excellence in children's literature.  It also won the YALSA award for excellence in non-fiction for young adults. The Robert F. Sibert Informational book award for children was the fourth award.

Sarah Dessen and Rick Riordan also received recognition at the American Library Association Youth Media awards. Check out all the winners here.

Check out the #alayma hashtag on Twitter.

I have to give credit to Mr @olby Sharp for my article title today. He tweeted this morning:

Today is about celebrating books that win shiny stickers. Every other day is about celebrating ALL the great books written for kids.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

2017 What's Hot in Literacy?

The International Literacy Association releases the results of a annual survey of literacy leaders from 89 countries and territories. You can find more information about the survey on the ILA website.

The two key findings that stood out most for me were Early Literacy and Teacher Professional Learning and Development. According to the survey, early literacy is both hot and important. The respondents found it extremely important, but it was only a hot topic for 54% of the people surveyed. I can see similarities in our province. We know early literacy is very important, but it doesn't seem to get the attention it deserves from government.  Some of our communities have excellent programs for preschool children, but families have to take advantage of the opportunity to make use of them. As we approach Family Literacy Day on January 27th, think about how you can support early literacy in your community.

Teacher professional learning and development is extremely important according to the survey, but it was only rated as 47% hot. Our reading councils, like most educators, are very cognizant of the "one-shot" workshop woes, but dollars are scarce for longer term training sessions.  We know administrators must carefully consider what PD to support.  The move to Professional Learning Communities (PLCs) is an effort to improve our professional practice through collaborative learning. Don't miss the opportunity to connect with other literacy leaders at the 4th Adolescent Literacy Summit on April 12-13 in Winnipeg. Check out the Summit website for more information.

Parent engagement and access to books and content had the largest gap between what's hot and what's important. Are these topics you or your colleagues are talking about? How do we ensure our students have access to literacy materials? Are there Free Little Libraries (or some form of them) in your community? Does your school library provide access for families over the summer? What has your school done to make literacy connections with parents? Have you tried a whole school novel, one that all students and parents read?

The survey data provides material for some interesting conversations. Share your ideas!

Monday, January 9, 2017

Let's Grow Readers

If you wish further information, please call Lisa at Elm Creek School 204.436-2354
or email

Looking Back and Forward

The end of one year and the beginning of another is always a good time to look back and reflect and also to look forward to the year ahead. When you look at your "reading year," what were your successes? What were your challenges? How will 2017 be different for you?

If I reflect on some of my successes last year, I would include these:    
  • I spent more time in classrooms sharing books with students in 2016! Thanks to invites from friends, I was able to chat with middle years students about their reading preferences and to share some of my favourites. I hope to continue in 2017.
  • I read a lot of books! I have developed a real love for picture books, middle years books, and young adult literature. I actually will more often choose to read "children's" books rather than "adult" books.  I do not like the terms used to describe books as being for children or for adults. I know I read "adult" books long before I was an adult and referring to picture books as "children's" books prevents far too many people from reading really great books. Definitely come to the 4th Adolescent Literacy Summit in  April to hear Pernille Ripp speak about how she uses picture books in her middle years classroom. 
  • Being able to see literacy growth in children teaches us a lot about how we can develop literacy skills. I am fortunate to have grandchildren for my hands-on research. My five-year-old granddaughter shares her picture books with me, often calling to remind Grandma to bring back a book as she wants to read it again! Although she doesn't officially read yet (starts K in 2017), I wanted to introduce her to non-fiction so I bought her the National Geographic Little Kids First Big Book of Dinosaurs. By summer she had several more non-fiction titles and she explained to me she was now very "sciency" so I could buy more science books. I bought Chris Hadfield's The Darkest Dark  and Ada Twist Scientist because Grandma still loves picture books! Watching a child develop literacy skills makes me pay much closer attention to tips and tools to develop listening, reading and comprehension skills.    

I had many new experiences related to literacy this year as well. Let me share some with you:
  • I expanded my Twitter world. I have been tweeting for a few years, but in the past year and a half I have really developed a PLN through Twitter. I now often have conversations with authors and I know authors want comments on their books. I have received book plates, bookmarks, free books, and book bags from authors I have met through Twitter. I especially enjoyed meeting Jon Klassen @burstofbeaden in Winnipeg in December. Twitter  is my social media of choice!
  • In July, I officially became the Provincial Co-ordinator for the International Literacy Association in Manitoba.  Full of trepidation, knowing I would never fill the shoes of my predecessor Carol Hryniuk-Adamov, I traveled to Boston to the ILA Convention along with a number of other Manitoba participants. What an experience! The conference was mind-boggling--if you have an opportunity to attend, GO! But it was also intimidating to see such big names in literacy, to meet some idols, and to recognize how lacking I really was to fulfill the role of Co-ordinator. However, I am determined to simply do the best that I can and to trust the wisdom provided by my predecessor and others. Meeting and working with literacy leaders--teachers, reading specialists, authors--has been inspiring and fulfilling and I hope to learn more from many of you in the next years of my three-year term.
  • Another foray I have made to increase my knowledge base concerning literacy is listening to podcasts and webinars. Jennifer Serravello, Donalyn Miller, Penny Kittle, Kylene Beers, Jennifer Gonzalez, Jon Spencer, Colby Sharp and Travis Jonker are my teachers and I have learned so much from them! I participate in School Library Journal webinars which led me to Canadian publishers that I was unaware of and a number of great Canadian books. I learned about Kate Messner's writing process as she answered student questions in a Google Hangout. Mo Willems’ and Jason Reynolds’ interviews on The Yarn podcast are not to be missed. Dav Pilkey has a great interview on Scholastic's blog. Students should hear from these authors! I love the audio or video presentations as I can listen and watch anytime that suits me. I register ahead of time for the webinars and then get the link, but being a participant in real time is also cool.
Image result for theyarnpodcast   
  • The last item I want to share with you involves FaceBook. I used FB as a personal connection with friends and family, but I have discovered really useful conversations and information can be found on it if you follow sites such as Notice and Note Book Club, Global Read Aloud, National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE). I especially love it when I see my MB literacy friends recommending strategies or book titles on these sites 
I hope you take some time to look back at your year in reading and consider your successes and how you might challenge yourself to meet some new goals for your classroom or your own children. Even if you don't take time to list them, let your reflections guide you as you plan for the upcoming term. We are growing readers !

I would appreciate your conversation on Twitter @percreads or @barblepp or by leaving comments on this blog. Don’t forget to follow  ILA online or @ILAToday and save the date for ILA2017 in Orlando, FL July 15-17th.

(An edited version of this blog post was provided to @RCGW for their newsletter.)