I find myself drawn to readers in public places as if we share a common bond. We wild readers, freed from school reading demands, gloriously indulge our reading habits, proudly carrying books wherever we go and brazenly reading in front of other people. Needing pictures of children reading for my upcoming book and discovering that I took few pictures of my students actually reading in my classroom this year (hey, I was teaching, not snapping photos); I sent an e-mail to my former students asking for pictures of them reading in the wild. I received several charming photos of adolescent ...


Wandering the aisles of my local Barnes & Noble, I approach a table bearing the sign “Summer Getaway Favorites.” Thumbing through the stacks of paperbacks and new hardcover releases, I see the usual summer fare—fast-paced thrillers from favorite authors like Janet Evanovich and Lee Child, weepy beach blanket reads, and thick historical epics. Summer runs on a different schedule; we savor the slower pace of vacations and the longer days. Juicy like peaches, heart-pounding like theme park roller coasters, lazy like panting dogs, summer books represent everything we appreciate about this time of year. After selecting a few delectable titles, ...


I just finished reading Airman by Eoin Colfer, and today’s obsession is flying. I spent an hour on the Internet investigating the invention of kites, balloons, gliders, and airplanes. It is clear that Colfer researched early flying machines and the brave, crazy men who dared to build and fly them. After reading this adventure, I know that the invention of the gas-powered engine was a pivotal link in creating a working plane, and that balsa wood and canvas make a good, light frame for one, but let’s face it, I did not pick up this book because I ...


School ends in four days and I am working with my departing students to set reading goals for the summer. Discussing “summer reading slump,” when students’ reading levels decline over the summer because they don’t read, I share with my students the advice of researcher, Jimmy S. Kim, who recommends that children read four or five books over the summer to maintain their end-of-school-year reading levels. I urge each child to make lists of at least five books they plan to read over the summer break, frequently loaning books to sweeten the deal. After all, our class library books ...


On May 1st, the Department of Education released the preliminary results of Reading First, the federal program which provides grants for initiatives which improve the reading achievement of at-risk elementary school children. The initial findings of the DOE study indicate that students participating in Reading First perform no better on reading achievement tests than their peers in other instructional programs. Instead of re-addressing the flawed premise on which Reading First was built, the 2000 Report of the National Reading Panel: Teaching Children to Read, policymakers ask for more money to fund this failing federal program and beg us all to ...


Click, click. My classroom is silent except for the scratching of pencils and that horrid noise. Click, click. My students are half way through a practice test for the state reading assessment. Click, click. One boy in the corner is methodically pushing the lid on and off a highlighter while he works. Click, click. This incessant hearbeat beneath the floorboards of my classroom is driving me mad. Click, click. I silently approach my tormentor, and look at his test. Click, click. A sea of neon alien blood flows across his paper; it appears that he is marking every other line ...


Powerful thunderstorms ripped through North Texas on Wednesday night. Built on the site of an old tree farm, my subdivision was decimated, with countless old growth trees torn apart by gale force winds and tossed onto cars, roofs, and streets. Uprooted during the storm, my neighbor’s thirty-foot maple fell into our yard, killing one of our oak trees, and dragging the utility pole and power lines for our block down with it. Without power for three days, we searched for something to do when our little house became a dark cave by eight pm each night. Laughing at me ...


Readers of this blog know that I promote reading a wide range of materials in the classroom, and believe that all sorts of books are inroads to meeting curriculum goals. I believe that students, under the guidance of informed librarians and teachers, should choose their own reading materials. This philosophy is the cornerstone of my teaching, and one of my secrets for motivating young readers. While I have been waving my banner of free choice reading around, the Texas State Board of Education has debated mandates that effectively take those decisions away from my students and me. Irony--It’s what’s...


It has rained all day. You glass-half-empty types might gnash your teeth over a day of Spring Break wasted, but I have always seen rainy days as an excuse to read. I would like nothing more right now than to curl up in my rabbit-hole, channel my inner Alice, and fall into a book, but I can’t. I am supposed to be writing, writing, writing... It seems that unleashing my reading zealotry here at Teacher Magazine has attracted some notice. After several gee-I-am-in-over-my-head meetings, I have secured a contract from Jossey-Bass Publishing, a division of Wiley, to write a ...


As both the language arts and social studies teacher for my group of 60, I am charged with covering a great deal of content. While studying Europe, it is required that students examine World War II. My students already learned a lot about this war last year. Looking for ways to make this unit fresh and interesting, I chose to conduct a book study. Students picked a book on World War II from our vast class library, and focused their reading on the background of the characters, how each became involved in the conflict, and the short-term and long-term consequences ...


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