When we talk with educators about their summers we hear anticipation of June-July-August joys: time to sleep in, time for vacationing, and time for eating lunch and using the restroom on a normal, independent schedule. But we also hear the ecstatic cry of “Time to read!” Yes, it’s that time that we can sit down and get lost in a book, completely uninterrupted by bells. Our Choice Literacy contributors have some thoughts about what you may want to place on your personal and professional “to read” stacks in this two-part series.
Franki Sibberson, fourth-grade teacher and author of The Joy of Planning, recommends Assessment in Perspective: Focusing on the Readers Behind the Numbers by Clare Landrigan and Tammy Mulligan. She says, “This book would make a great summer read because of its strong message of the true purpose of assessment. Tammy and Clare have figured out how to help teachers stay grounded with good literacy practice through this time of high stakes testing. This is a brilliant book that you'll want to talk with others about.”
Gail Boushey and Joan Moser (aka "The Sisters") and authors of The Daily Five and The CAFE Book, echo Franki’s recommendation for Assessment in Perspective adding, “Clare and Tammy helped us wade through the myriad of assessments available and taught us the power of purposefully matching assessments to children. We love their respectful approach to assessments that may be mandated and the power of looking for the good in each of those assessments.”
In addition they say The False Prince: Book 1 of the Ascendance Trilogy by Jennifer Nielsen had them clinging to the edge of their Kindles at the first sentence:
"If I had to do it all over again, I would not have chosen this life. Then again, I'm not sure I ever had a choice."
“Jennifer Nielsen has deliciously crafted a YA book filled with twists and turns as well as fabulously fleshed-out characters. We loved the protagonist of the book, who is an unreliable character that hides more than he reveals. He kept us enthralled and had us guessing all the way to the end. This is the first book in the Ascendance Trilogy but let us forewarn you, after tearing through book one and book two we were positively crestfallen to discover book three isn't out yet!”
Jane Kise author of Differentiated Coaching, suggests Literacy With an Attitude: Educating Working-Class Children in Their Own Self-Interest by Patrick J. Finn. She says, “It's a good reminder of the very difficult work teachers engage in every day, yet there is hope within its pages. And, on a similar theme but somewhat more of a ‘beach read’ is Pat Conroy's The Water Is Wide, about his year as a teacher on a Carolina island. These books are a comforting antidote to the constant mantras of ‘do more with less’ and ‘all children can learn,’ when in fact many children indeed need more if they are to succeed.”
Heather Rader, literacy coach and author of Side By Side, suggests Let's Explore Diabetes with Owls by David Sedaris. “If you have a Sedaris sense of humor, this book will have you quoting his bizarre exaggerations and perfectly worded lines to your friends. Some reviewers say it’s ‘classic Sedaris’ while others complain ‘it’s not his funniest stuff.’ Either way this book was great because it meant more Sedaris for me. On the more serious side I would recommend Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead by Sheryl Sandberg for both men and women. Sandberg takes a close look at the subtle and not-so-subtle issues of inequality for women in leadership positions and has advice for what needs to happen. We must sit at the table and lean in.”
Mandy Robek teaches kindergarten, blogs at Enjoy and Embrace Learning and likes Kathy Cassidy's new book, Connected from the Start Global Learning in the Primary Grades. She says, “This book has smart advice about reasons why we need to guide our early learners in sharing their learning and how to do it. This book will urge you to create larger learning communities and help children begin creating their digital footprint. Another great summer read would be Summer of Firefly Memories by Joan Gable. The setting is soothing. The journey that reconnects sisters tugged at my heart, while I appreciated the short burst of things that lead to big gifts of understanding for the characters. Just a fun read and break from daily life.”
Jennifer Schwanke is a happy principal trying to balance all the demands of a busy life, which is why The Happiness Project: Or, Why I Spent a Year Trying to Sing in the Morning, Clean My Closets, Fight Right, Read Aristotle, and Generally Have More Fun by Gretchen Rubin caught her eye. She says, “Reading the Happiness Project literally changed my thinking. I have learned to be more mindful of seeking true happiness and staying focused on living a happy life. On a professional level, I truly enjoyed Make Just One Change: Teach Students to Ask Their Own Questions. When students are taught to ask important questions, they gain better understanding of content, gain confidence, become self-starters, are more engaged, and take ownership of their learning. The authors argue that formulating one's own questions is ‘the single most essential skill for learning.’ It's a great book for pondering with colleagues!”
Colby Sharp teaches fourth grade and blogs at Sharpread. He says, “The cohort of fourth-grade readers that I say goodbye to in June are a lot different from the new fourth-grade readers I welcome in September. I find that reading Franki Sibberson and Karen Szymusiak's Still Learning to Read every couple of years reminds me of what my new readers might need from me in the fall. Helping some of my fourth graders see that there is more to life than video games, isn't always the easiest battle. Thankfully, Jennifer and Matthew Holm tackle this subject in their latest edition of their Squish graphic novel series. In Squish #5: Game On! Squish learns the importance of a balanced life.”