Reflecting on Myself as a Reader: (Scary!)

I love to read.

With full credit going to this class, I am learning to be more open about what I read.  Yes, I will read anything someone recommends to me, and yes I usually love everything I read.  The problem is that I don’t usually stray from my personal reading list unless someone coaxes me away.  I’m not sure why, because as I’ve stated before, I usually enjoy what I read.  The problem is that I am one that follows a rhythm.  I like patterns and traditions and schedules and MY little book world.  But let me stop there.  I know it isn’t fair of me to deprive myself of these wonderful books I walk right passed.  But I am a sucker for classic literature from before my time.  I know, I know, I need to “get out of my comfort zone.”

So here goes. Being in a class that has required me to read specific books has made me open minded about books. (Cue the light bulb.)

When we read the books that hit deeper in the heart (“The Poet Slave of Cuba” is one I have  in mind) I learned that reading sad books is good for the soul.  Especially for children.  It sort of snaps you back into reality and reminds you (or me at least) of how blessed I am and how grateful we should all be.

Another thing that this class has taught me is to appreciate the illustrations more.  I love the upper elementary books because they are more detailed to read.  However, I am growing very fond of picture books.  The vast variety of styles is phenomenal.  Reading picture books, you will never get bored!!

This class has bettered me as a reader.

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading??

“The One and only Ivan” by Katherine Applegate.

This book won the Newbery Medal and I couldn’t agree more with it’s winnings.   I am so happy with the fact that this book won.  One of the aspects a book must have to meet the criteria to win the Newbery Medal is it must present information with organization and clarity.  The organization aspect of this book was unique but wonderful. I found it so easy to read and yet it was captivating.  Many children’s books are easy enough to read that they are boring to adults and it is often hard to stay interested.  “The One and Only Ivan” was written in a style that makes me think it is truly from the viewpoint of a gorilla.  It was choppy and each page was like a different story, but it was organized.  The way this book was written, the style, also fit true to the criteria by reaching the “appropriateness of style” requirement.

I know that I’ve spent this entire blog writing about style of the book, but I loved it, so I’m going to continue on.  The part of this book that was most effective to me was the style.  (Well, and the heartbreakingly beautiful plot).  The fact that this book was written from the eyes and hands and mind of a gorillas was stunning.  It felt real.  In a book of this style, that is what counts.  It could have easily felt like nonsense.  It could have felt like a silly cartoon book. But it didn’t.  At least to me, I felt like I was being told this story from Ivan himself. Katherine Applegate did a magnificent job of portraying this beautiful animal exactly how I would imagine them to think.

A round of applause for Kristina Applegate.  This book deserved every ounce of this award.

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading?

This last week, some of the books that we read were a little heavier than our fun and light-hearted picture books we previously read.  The one book that I read that was eye opening was “The Poet Slave of Cuba” by Margarita Engle.

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This book was a book of poems that told a story.  It was a really unique book.  The story bounces from the young boy to his  “mama”  (his owner) to his real mother and so on. The woman that he worked for doted him around and made him call her mama. He called her his ghost mama.  She makes him sing and perform for her friends.  I feel like this book would be eye opening to young kids.  Most times that we learn about slavery, it is from the eyes of an adult. I know that as a kid I would have been touched by the fact that it is from a young boy’s perspective.  How heartbreaking!

“The Wall: Growing Up Behind the Iron Curtain” by Peter Sis was another beautifully unique book.

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It was laced with maps and cartoon style writings.  It took a bit of time to fully read this book because it wasn’t just a simple story.  There were captions for the pictures and details on the map that kept you reading.  There were pages that had words spiraling around the pictures. This was a great read and would be fun for kids to read when they are able to focus very well.  Another hard hitting, heavy hearted story.

The third book that I read was “One Crazy Summer” by Rita Williams-Garcia.  Yet another eye opening book, even for children.  The three sisters must travel from New York to California alone to see their mother that doesn’t want them.  The girls have a horrifying experience with their mother as she doesn’t hide the fact that she doesn’t want them.

For my Golden Sower book, I read “Piggins” by Jane Yolen. I must applaud Jane Dyer’s illustrations. This book won in 1989 and the illustrations are creepy but fabulous.  Honest.  The illustrations are honest.  For instance, in many books about pigs, the pig is portrayed as cute and pink (because, duh, they are?) and smooth.  The latter is not true. Grown pigs are not smooth and sleek and shiny like illustrations. Jane Dyer demonstrated that.  Piggins, the serer, is lumpy,  bumpy, hairy, yet ( in my eyes at least) still cute. The illustrations for his book were true to each animal.  Bravo, Jane and Jane.

The last book I read was “A Boy and a Jaguar” by Alan Rabinowitz.  This is a story of a young boy that struggles to speak.  Throughout the book, he connects with animals.  He finds his voice when he connects with the animals. This story was beautiful and the illustrations were too.

Finding Time to Read

Just find time.

Reading can be many different things.  It can be a chore, an assignment, work, or a hobby.  I’ve always thought of reading as a hobby so I don’t have a problem finding time to read.  But I will admit, reading four hours worth of children’s’ books takes longer than you think.  I find it relaxing to read before I go to bed.  I take a trip to my public library and I can check out up to 30 books at a time. I grab an armful of children’s books and take them home.  I snuggle up with my pile of books and a cup of tea. The only thing that would be better would be if it was raining or snowing.

The one obstacle I have found in this class is that my public library is only open until 6.  I don’t get off until 4:30 and I have to stay late many times so I find myself rushing to the library to get what I need before they close, and become unorganized and walk out without what I went in for.

This class has given me a good excuse to be able to read more often.  And able to read such a variety of books. I have had so much fun learning some new repetitive authors.  I am starting to recognize authors and illustrators and it has become a “treasure hunt” to find common authors or illustrations.  I enjoy going back and reading books that remind me of my childhood and even older, but it is also interesting to read the books that are new.  Maybe it is because I am old fashioned or because reading new books makes me feel old, but I prefer older books ten to one over the newer ones.  Yes, the illustrations are more detailed but they are generic and remind me of computer made pictures.  Yes some of the stories are similar to ones I read as a kid, but they also don’t teach morals as much as they used to.

I love to read, I love this class, and I have learned so much by reading these books.

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading?

Be Nice to Spiders

For this week’s “It’s Monday!” assignment, I read the book “Be Nice to Spiders by Margaret Bloy Graham.

Disclaimer: I am a bug and spider lover!!

This book was my mother’s book when she was a child.   It is a sweet book that reminds me of how easy it is to convince people of pretty much anything.  The book is about a spider named Helen that makes the whole zoo happy because she eats all of the flies.  But naturally, the zoo keeper sees her as a “messy bug”.  Little did he know how much she was doing for his zoo.  At the end of the book, the zoo keeper realizes that the spider was doing him good and he quit destroying her webs and let her live freely.

This book takes me back to my childhood.  If you tell a child that a spider is beautiful and that they are good for our world, chances are they will not think lowly of spiders!! Yes, there are children that are afraid of spiders and will never change their minds.  But this is like so many different situations in our world.  What people don’t realize is that children are honest, they are kind and if they are taught to remain like that, then they will be kind and honest.  If you teach a child that this person is a bad person, or teach them that spiders are “gross” they are going to think it!!

This book teaches children that not everything is what it seem.  The scariest creatures are often the most helpful.  So be kind hearted and have an open mind.

The illustrations for this book are simple but I enjoyed them.  They are fitting for the era that it was written.

To be honest, I am not sure if many children today would enjoy this book as it is an older book.  It is an easy read and it is not long at all, so it could easily be read in one sitting.  I found it enjoyable and I know it would have been a book I enjoyed when I was a kid!

My take on “Creating Readers”

Reading is fun.

Donalyn Miller’s classroom sounds like a positive environment that I would like to be involved in.  I think that often times children get the idea that reading is not fun.  They often feel like it is “nerdy” or “lame”.  First of all, that makes me horribly sad.  Second, I feel like the right guidance and the right encouragement would teach students how fun reading is.  From the sounds of it, Miller is that kind of encourager.  It takes a special kind of personality to be able to read aloud to a class and engage most, if not all, students. I don’t think that some people realize how important it is to begin instilling good reading habits into children at a young age.  One thing that I can recall from my elementary school days is that looking back now, I don’t understand why teachers use reading as a punishment.  How frustrating is that? If you make something feel like punishment, it is going to become less and less enjoyable.  Miller makes sure to keep reading light and entertaining, instead of dull.

Donalyn Miller makes reading fun for students.  I would love to be able to be that teacher for at least one student.  I know and fully expect to have at least that one student who will defy me. Who will “hate” reading just because the rest of us like it.  And after reading Miller’s responses to some of the questions people had about stubborn students, I realize that being stubborn and obstinate may only be the beginning of this student’s problems.  People have a tendency (and I am guilty at times too) to shut out and give up on those obstinate students.  I have to remind myself that there is likely a problem deeper than just constant stubbornness.  Thanks to Donalyn Miller, my determination has been restored.