Sunday, November 11, 2018

The Vision of an Extraordinary Educator

Raising Student Voice: Speaking Out for Equity and Justice

“Our students’ voices matter. Their voices matter in our schools, our communities, and beyond. As teachers, we want our students to discover their own voices. We want them to know the power of their voices. We want them to know the power of others’ voices, and we want them to know the power of their collective voices. Most important, we want to help them discover how their voices might impact our world and to be empowered to use their voices to speak out for equity and justice.

“Stories can help our students discover and clarify their own voices. Stories can help us to know our world better. Stories can help us to understand our world and the people in it. Authors, teachers, and librarians work to ensure that every child has books, digital texts, and other media in which they see themselves. They also work so that students have books that can help them understand others. Our students deserve stories that impact who they are and who they can become. They deserve stories that help them understand people and situations that are different from their own. They deserve stories that help them build confidence and empathy. They deserve books that validate their world as well as books that challenge their views. And most important, they deserve to tell their own stories.

“When we meet in Houston, Texas, in November 2018, it is my hope that we will focus on the ways literacy creates change and the ways in which our students can raise their voices to impact their communities. NCTE members create spaces for students to sound their voices. In 2018, we’ll come together in Houston to celebrate our students’ voices and the impact they make in the world.”

--Program Chair Franki Sibberson

Some of the featured speakers who will be at #NCTE18:

More convention information here.

The blog's been quiet this fall, but when you see this convention that Franki's been planning, you will understand why she's gone missing. It's so...Franki! The focus on student voice, the importance of equity and justice, the diversity of the featured speakers, the innovation of the "Build Your Stack" sessions. 

Me? A bit of a rocky start to the school year and 300+ books read for the Huck Award since the middle of August.

We're both eager to be back. But first we're going to soak in the words of these (and other) amazing speakers, have joyous reunions with friends we only see once or twice a year, and do work that we love almost as much as the work we do in our classrooms.

Please join me in celebrating an extraordinary educator, my co-blogger and friend, Franki Sibberson, who will assume the presidency of the National Council of Teachers of English at the 2018 NCTE Annual Convention. A fifth grade classroom teacher with the vision, passion, and energy to lead at the national level. 

Friday, October 19, 2018

Poetry Friday -- Ode to Parent Conferences

Unsplash photo via Chandler Cruttenden

Ode to Parent Conferences

Conferences, you exhaust me.
I spend hours getting ready for you,
gathering work samples,
reviewing notes,
finding the positives amongst the goals to work on.

Conferences, you feed me.
The hours I spend talking with families,
sharing stories,
comparing notes...
you help me find more than enough positives to carry on.

©Mary Lee Hahn, 2018

Brenda has the Poetry Friday roundup at Friendly Fairy Tales.

Friday, October 12, 2018

Poetry Friday -- Autumn Cadenza

Unsplash photo by NordWood Themes

Autumn Cadenza

Oak leaves drift down, a brown rustle.
Crickets are hushed.
Only sound --
plop --
acorns bonk roof.
Winter is here
when they

©Mary Lee Hahn, 2018

This poem is a Zeno, a form invented by J. Patrick Lewis. It has 10 lines with a syllable count that goes 8, 4, 2, 1, 4, 2, 1, 4, 2, 1. The single syllable words rhyme.

I've seen several Zenos in the Poetry Friday Roundup recently, and I thought I'd give it a try. I was inspired by the acorns falling, and I found my rhyming words first. The temperature dropped from the 80s to a morning temperature today in the 40s. On my early morning walk today, the silence was a bit shocking -- no crickets! I'm sure we'll have some more warm weather, but winter has served notice -- she's on her way!

Laura Purdie Salas has the Poetry Friday Roundup this week at Writing the World for Kids.

Thursday, October 04, 2018

Poetry Friday -- The Poetry of US (mine)

Click to enlarge 

Click to enlarge

I'm tickled pink and proud as punch! I also can't wait to dig into the book and read all the poems...but the boxes of books for the Charlotte Huck Award keep coming and coming, so my reading life will not be my own until after NCTE! I'll try to make it around to the roundup this week, but I can't make any promises. :-(

Speaking of the roundup, Tabatha is hosting at The Opposite of Indifference.

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Poetry Friday -- Choosing Teams

Flickr Creative Commons photo by VirtualEyeSee

Choosing Teams

There are owls in the neighborhood now.
Two barred owls wondering,

“Who cooks for you?”

They wake us in the middle of the night.
We worry about the littlest skunk.

The one with white angel wings.

The silent puff of scent who cleans up dropped seed
beneath our bird feeders each dusk.

We are simply spectators in this backyard drama.

Is it bad form to cheer equally
for predator and for prey?

©Mary Lee Hahn, 2018

Howdy! It's good to be back!

I wrote this poem in response to Naomi Shihab Nye's challenge in her Spotlight on Today's Little Ditty. It contains a question I don't need to answer.

Jone has this week's Poetry Friday roundup at Deowriter.

Friday, September 07, 2018

A Good Problem

I'm on the Charlotte Huck Award (for Outstanding Fiction for Children) committee. This is what my basement book shelf looks like:

Several HUGE boxes have already been eliminated, weeded, and donated. Those boxes in front of the shelves and peeking from the bottom right corner are TBR. Total books received so far: +/- 300.

Then this happened yesterday:

I still need to catch up on reading through last week's roundup, but needless to say, I'll be reading books instead of Poetry Friday posts this weekend! Then next weekend is the annual Casting for Recovery Ohio retreat, so I'll be part of the team who pampers the 14 breast cancer survivors with an all expenses paid weekend wellness retreat...where they also learn fly fishing! I've written multiple posts labeled "Casting for Recovery," but this is my favorite.

See you in a couple of weeks! Happy Poetry! Happy Fridays!

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Poetry Friday -- Teaching


I teach,
I watch.
They fall,
I catch.

I lift,
they soar.
I brood,
they hatch.

They spread,
I gather.
I pair,
I match.

I teach,
I watch.
They fall,
I catch.

©Mary Lee Hahn, 2012

An oldie goldie from (how can that be possible?) SIX years ago!

Robyn has the Poetry Friday roundup this week at Life on the Deckle Edge.

Another Must-Read...

...although I feel slightly ridiculous because the contrast between this and the book Franki posted about earlier this week contrastful. But I'm going with it.

You MUST read...

My review from Goodreads:

Don't you dare put this in your (class) library without reading it first. Don't get stuck on the knock-knock jokes thinking they are ridiculous childish humor until you see what Pilkey does with them as a plot device. Think hard about the message he gives about a bad character wanting to change. And if you don't tear up when you read p. 216-223, then you just don't even have a heart.

Dav Pilkey is flat out brilliant. I've believed that since the first Captain Underpants books, and I'm not changing my story even though he made me cry at NERD camp.

Read. This. Book.
Read. This. Series.

Sunday, August 26, 2018

So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo: A MUST-READ!

The book So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo was recommended to me by a few friends early last spring. I bought it, put it on my shelf and didn't get time to read it until another friend strongly recommended it to me again this summer.  I decided on the audiobook version which I highly recommend. The narrator is fabulous and listening to it in the car gave me chunks of reading at a time with time between to think and reflect. This book took me a bit of time to read--about 6 weeks. And I am so glad I didn't rush it.

This book is one I'd like to buy for everyone I know.  For my husband, my children, my friends and anyone I know who has been thinking about our role in changing things in. our world.  It is packed with information and stories that have helped me better understand issues of race and oppression. The author is incredible at sharing her understanding and she is very aware of the misconceptions and arguments people have about several of the subtopics. I so appreciated her honesty and directness. She is very clear and firm throughout the book and she gave me, as a reader,  knowledge and understanding that changed who I am and helped me realize what I could do differently on a day-to-day basis.  The Table of Contents helps to show some of the things she addresses and some questions that she answers:

This book is written for people who want to do a better job at understanding and acting when it comes to oppression--I don't think you'd pick this book up if you weren't committed to new learning.  I expected to learn from this book, but I really didn't expect for it to include as much as it did or to explain things with such depth. I felt like every 15 minute spurt required that I really stop, dig into my own biases, understandings, and actions, and figure out what each segment meant for me personally.  I liked the combination of information, stories from the author's life and the clear ways that she showed how things that may seem like "small things" are really very big things. This book really helped me better understand the systematic part of systematic racism and oppression.  It also put the few things that I did understand in a context that helped me see it differently I guess.

Ijeoma Oluo also focuses on action and helps us to see what we can and should do in our every day lives to make a difference---to act instead of merely work to understand.  I have read several other articles by the author since finishing this book and I'd buy anything she writes from now on.  She is one of those people that I'd love to hear speak sometime so I will definitely keep an eye on the events page of her website.

This is a must read for sure. So much to think and talk about. I am anxious for others I know to read it so that we can talk through some of the ideas.

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Poetry Friday -- More

The More You Love

The more you love,
the harder you work.

The harder you work,
the more you accomplish.

The more you accomplish,
the greater the expectations.

The greater the expectations,
the more epic the fail.

The more you fail,
the harder you work.

The harder you work,
the more you love.

©Mary Lee Hahn, 2018

(I think this poem might work as a reverso!)

It's the end of the first full week of school, and these first eight days have been filled with love, hard work, and a little bit of fail (not epic...not just yet). Good thing there's always a tomorrow and a next week. We pick ourselves up and try again!

Margaret has the Poetry Friday roundup at Reflections on the Teche.

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Making Time and Place for Nonfiction: Bat Citizens by Rob Laidlaw

I love discovering great new nonfiction books, especially when a great new book leads me to an author who is new-to-me. Last week I picked up Bat Citizens: Defending the Ninjas of the Night.

First of all, when I think about topics that might engage kids who don't typically read nonfiction, bats seems like a great topic.  And not only is this book about bats but the focus is on the importance of bats in our ecosystems. It is packed with information but it is also packed with information that is connected to a bigger topic which I think is important.

The layout of the pages are inviting. Lots of text on each page along with great photos and supporting facts.  Although there is a lot of text on the page, the font makes it accessible.  There are many supports for readers--a Table of Contents, Headings and Subheadings, captions, a glossary, an index and more. The book is about 48 pages long which seems a perfect length for readers who are moving to longer nonfiction.

My favorite feature of the book is the "Bat Citizen" feature.  Author Rob Laidlaw highlights 10+ bat activists--young people who are doing something to protect and help bats in some way. This is a great feature as it not only highlights kids who are making a difference, it will also help us expand our definition of the word "citizen".

Many of the Bat Citizens are part of the "Bat Squad" and the many resources for kids/by kids on the Bat Conservation International website. Lots of great resources that I'll need to explore more and so much of this connects to our life science unit of study.

As I mentioned early in the post, I immediately checked out the author--Rob Laidlaw-- after I fell in love with this book and he has so many other books that I think my students would enjoy.  He is passionate about protecting animals and shares his knowledge in a way that is perfect for middle grade students. Each book focuses on a topic such as Animal Captivity or Animal Parades. I am considering reading one of these as a read aloud and I am definitely going to check all of his other books out soon. I imagine many will be added to our classroom library and these may be the books that hook some of my students on nonfiction reading.

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Yet Another Lesson From a Bike Ride

The other Lessons From Bike Rides are here

I walked up to the door of the health club and saw the sign: Pool Closed for Repairs. There went my Sunday and Wednesday swims for the next 10 days.

As I turned around and headed back to the car, I was thankful for the nice weather. I would take a bike ride instead of swimming.

The Nigerian writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (she'll be a featured speaker at NCTE this year--SO excited!!) warned of the danger of a single story in her TED talk. What I realized in that moment when I turned away from a swim and toward a bike ride is the danger of a single EXERCISE story. We should always make sure we have options. Otherwise, if there is a time when we can't do THIS, we will have no THAT to turn to.

The bigger lesson is about diversification. It is good to have lots of <that> in my life so when <this> isn't possible, I've got plenty of options.

Friday, August 17, 2018

Poetry Friday -- Bright Wings

Bright Wings: An Illustrated Anthology of Poems About Birds
edited by Billy Collins
illustrated by David Allen Sibley
Columbia University Press, 2010

So much to love about this little book. Poems collected by Billy Collins. (The man has good taste!) Illustrations by David Sibley. (Gorgeous.) Birds.

Here's one of my favorites -- The Crows Start Demanding Royalties by Lucia Perillo.

Click to enlarge.

Christy has the bird-themed Poetry Friday Roundup at Wondering and Wandering.

Friday, August 10, 2018

Picture Book 10 for 10 -- David Wiesner

I had the opportunity to hear David Wiesner speak at the Whole Language Umbrella conference this past summer, and when I saw that he has ten picture books, it just seemed like a ready-made 10 for 10!

But there's more than that. His message about picture book design and his mission to "show as much visually as possible with as little text as possible" resonated because my first read aloud will be a graphic novel (via Kindle on the big screen). I decided that along with the work we'll do with the visuals in the read aloud, a beginning-of-the-year mini-unit spent closely studying David Wiesner's picture books will be time well spent, as well as an inviting entry point for all readers. We can dig into the way he represents multiple realities and the world off the page (The Three Little Pigs and Flotsam are great ones for that). We can study beginnings and endings. And we can look at the ways he sets up patterns and breaks them. (I'm sure there will be more -- I want to remain open to what my students find interesting and want to study). I'm hoping to see the benefits of this work echoing not just through reading workshop for the rest of the year, but also in our narrative writing unit in writing workshop.











Big thanks to Cathy Mere and Mandy Robek for cooking up this fabulous yearly event! Check out all the posts on the Google+ community. Open a tab for your public library and hide your credit card!!

Thursday, August 09, 2018

Poetry Friday

New Again

The world is layered.
Just when you think you understand
a split appears
a layer pulls back
is shrugged off
and the world is new again.

©Mary Lee Hahn, 2018

Molly has this week's Poetry Friday Roundup at Nix the Comfort Zone.

Wednesday, August 08, 2018

PSA and Praise

If you've tried to comment here at A Year of Reading and have been frustrated when your comment disappeared before you submitted it,

or if you read our note about how long our blog kept loading and in order for your comment not to get lost you should stop the load before commenting (what a hassle),

or if you tried to access our archives by using the turn-down triangles and got...nothing...

I want you to know that OUR BLOG IS FIXED!


Here's how it got fixed and the PSA and praise.

First, I spent time googling these problems. Then, I spent time searching Blogger help forums. Finally, in frustration, I tweeted Blogger. And @irsahindesigns answered. He answered, he stayed with me until every problem was resolved, and he didn't judge me (at least not in public) when one of the problems was a complete and total forehead slap of a user error.

Your blog loads for almost a minute each time you open it? Look for third party plugins or widgets. In our case, it was the SiteMeter plugin I added in 2006 (and which we haven't used for years).

Your archives don't work? Remove the widget and then put it back in.

There's a whole lot about Twitter that's a hot mess right now, and I'm not advocating that you use Twitter to find the solution to life's every problem. But in this case, it worked. Here's to @irsahindesigns, and here's to the proof that Twitter can make the world...or at least our a little better!

Tuesday, August 07, 2018

Another Lesson From a Bike Ride

It was my longest bike ride so far this summer. We went all the way from home to beyond the Scioto Mile downtown, to the Scioto Audubon Metropark. About 25 miles round trip. I felt strong almost all the way, but I knew that when we turned off the bike path at the Broadmeadows bridge over the Olentangy River, what would remain was a long grueling uphill ride to home.

As we approached the Broadmeadows bridge, I talked to myself. "You've got this! Push through! Finish strong!"

I probably could have made it all the way home without walking. But it also occurred to me that "finish strong" doesn't have to mean "finish without taking a break." Perhaps my finish could be stronger and more satisfying if I got off my bike, stretched a bit, walked a bit, and had a drink of water before I attacked that final hill.

I took a break. And then I really did finish strong. Stronger than if I had tried to slog through without resting.

And there's the lesson. This school year, when it all gets to be too much and what comes next is a grueling uphill climb, let's remember to take a break so that we can get to the top of every hill still feeling strong.

Thursday, August 02, 2018

Poetry Friday -- The Roundup is HERE!

Unsplash photo by Joshua Earle

Life On Top

Make a mess
Make a life

Life is sweet
Life is bitter

Bitter end
Bitter pill to swallow

Swallow it whole
Swallow your pride

Pride before a fall
Pride that bursts

Bursts of anger
Bursts of joy

Joy in a bundle
Joy mixed with tears

Tears your heart out
Tears it to pieces

Pieces of pie
Pieces of writing

Writing on the wall
Writing it off

Off the cuff
Off balance

Balance and checks
Balance the books

Books we rewrite
Books a flight

Flight of wine
Flight of fancy

Fancy that
Fancy up

Up my spine
Up in the air

Air your grievance
Air it out good

Good grief
Good as gold

Gold standard
Gold can't stay

Stay put
Stay ahead

Ahead of time
Ahead of the game

Game changer
Game over

Over easy
Over the top

Top heavy
Top flight


©Mary Lee Hahn, 2018

I was cleaning up my computer desktop this week and found a link I'd saved for the Blitz Poem poetic form. Perhaps you were the one who shared a Blitz Poem and piqued my interest enough to cause me to save that link. At any rate, what good are summer mornings if we don't spend an hour or two playing around with words?!

This poem was made possible by The Free Dictionary, which has a tab for idioms. I also needed an exhaustive list of prepositions to craft my title. Because the title comes from the 3rd and 47th lines of the poem, I revised the last ten lines four times because I couldn't find a preposition I liked that linked life with blood, back, or easy. And I sure wasn't going to go all the way back and change line 3!

This seems like a form that might be fun for my fifth graders. I was pretty intentional at the beginning, but much of the drafting of the middle involved putting down the first phrases that came to mind. I'm not sure the poem makes a ton of sense when taken as a whole (and I did complicate things by playing free and easy with the tears/tears homograph), but the spiraling way the words and phrases are connected...even the way the poem reads if you just look at the first words of each line...there is a satisfactory feel to it...if only during the writing!

(Here's a bonus poem, also created from idioms!)

The Poetry Friday roundup is here this week, and I'll roundup "old school" since I have time. Leave your links in the comments and I'll add them as they come in.


It's winter down under, and Sally Murphy has written a snuggly ruggy poem.

Molly Hogan shares her poem swap goodies from Linda B.

Robyn Hood Black has some quick newsletter news for interested subscribers.

Michelle Kogan shares art and writing from her recent trip to Door County, WI.

More summer poem swap bounty shared by Linda Mitchell.

At Random Noodling, Diane Mayr has Statue of Liberty cherita postcards, and at Kurious Kitty, a poem from the anthology Forgotten Women.

The Poetry Princesses wrote sestinas this month.
Laura Purdie Salas self-identified hers as "morose."
Sara Lewis Holmes starts with Oscar Wilde's Miss Prism and goes deep from there.
Tricia Stohr Hunt was the Princess who issued the sestina challenge this month.
Tanita Davis' sestina is combative (her word, not mine...but I do believe hers should be SHOUTED)

Laura Shovan has a 100 Thousand Poets for Change challenge for all of us.

Myra Garces Bacsal is featuring a new book-length poem by Jason Reynolds.

Linda Baie shares selections from a book of poetry by Robert Newton Peck.

Jane Whittingham, the Raincity Librarian, writes about an author visit she did for her debut picture book.

Matt Forrest Esenwine shares a dramatic ocean haiku today.

Brenda Harsham contemplates philosophy in her tanka.

Jan Godown Annino has enough goodness packed into her post to last us all of August!

Erin Mauger wrote a poem for the Rosellas that visit her Australian yard. (Any other North Americans who wish they had some Rosellas in their yard?!?!)

Heidi Mordhorst takes us to a "London-proper narrow lane" to a poetry event celebrating youth poets.

Poet Aimee Nezhukumatathil (yes, I used copy/paste :-) is featured by Tabatha at The Opposite of Indifference.

Ruth shares a back-to-school poem by William Stafford.

Margaret Simon wrote a found poem using photos of signs in Boston.

Irene Latham is reinventing August. (Good luck with that!)

Reading the James Stevenson poem Maureen Nosal shares will give you a feeling of synchronicity, if you just read Irene's poems! (I LOVE when Poetry Friday does that!!)

Steve Peterson used Seamus Heaney's "Postscript" as the inspiration for his contemplation of the Iowa summer.

Kay McGriff captures the sounds and spirit of New Orleans jazz perfectly in her poem.

Little Willow shares a poem with a great twist at the end.

Christie Wyman has a bird song mnemonics poem and a challenge for us for August 17, when she'll be hosting the Poetry Friday Roundup -- she's asking that we all share a bird poem that week. Sounds like fun! Remember when we did Billy Collins, or when we did mac-n-cheese?

Donna Smith gave a blitz a go! Yay, Donna!!

Liz Steinglass got Poetry Swap goodies from Irene.

Dani Burtsfield has the final stop on the Bayou Song blog tour. She has poems parallel to Margaret's, but that are set in Montana instead of Louisiana.

Carol Varsalona wrote a delightful summer poem to inspire us to submit our creative work to her newest digital gallery.

Tara Smith honors James Baldwin in her post.

Jone MacCulloch has a hummingbird haiga for us this week.

Ramona was inspired by Laura Shovan to collect rhyming picture books to read aloud on September 29th!

A trip to the American Museum of Natural history got Catherine Flynn thinking about dinosaurs.

Using the prompt from Amy LV's book POEMS ARE TEACHERS "If you could bring someone from this time period to life, what would you ask?", Mandy Robek brings to life Lizzy Murphy in her poem.


Wednesday, August 01, 2018

GREAT MORNING! Poems for School Leaders to Read Aloud

GREAT MORNING! Poems for School Leaders to Read Aloud
by Sylvia Vardell & Janet Wong
PomeloBooks, 2018

Sylvia Vardell and Janet Wong are force for good in the world of poetry for children. First they brought us the Poetry Friday Anthologies, then the Poetry Friday Power Books, and now GREAT MORNING.

Thanks to former US Poet Laureate Billy Collins, high schools have had Poetry 180 for years now. The time was right for poetry to come to the announcements in elementary schools. Vardell and Wong gathered 50+ poets for a total of 75 poems, one poem and topic for each of the 36 weeks of the school year, and connected poems for each of the weeks.

Let's break down the goodness of this book bit by bit using the title as our guide:

GREAT MORNING! -- Not just good...GREAT! And what will make it great? POETRY!!

Poems for School Leaders -- Another part of the GREAT in this book is the inclusion of school leaders in this literacy ritual. These school leaders are probably adult administrators, and probably usually men. How great would it be to have these men reading and enjoying poetry as a role model for the whole school?!? Of course, these school leaders might also be the safety and service team students who perform the video announcements ever day. The poems in this book are accessible for these young school leaders to read with expression and energy.

to Read Aloud -- How about it, School Leaders (especially administrators)? Here's an opportunity to read aloud to the entire student body at least once a week! It's a short text! It's fun! You know you want to up your game to from School Leader to Literacy Leader. This book will help you to achieve that goal.

If you are a teacher or a literacy coach, this would make a most awesome beginning of the year gift for your favorite School Leader. I can't wait to see the look on the face of mine when I present him with a copy of this book!

(Truth in advertising--I have a poem in this book, so that's the other exciting reason why I can't wait to share it with my School Leader!!)

Monday, July 30, 2018

Troublemakers: Lessons in Freedom from Young Children at School by Carla Shalaby

I read a lot professionally and there are so many professional books I love--so many books that have become part of who I am as a teacher. So many that have helped me think about things in new ways. I love so many of the books I have read and am thankful to everyone who writes them.

There are a few books that have changed me, that have become part of my heart. These are books I go back to often--to reenvision the time I spend with children.  This week, I read Troublemakers: Lessons in Freedom from Young Children in School by Carla Shalaby.  This is one of the most powerful and important books I have read in a very long time.  As I started the book, I knew that it was a book that would change me.  Early in the book, I felt similar to the way I felt when I read Lessons from a Child by Lucy Calkins and Choice Words by Peter Johnston. I couldn't be the same teacher after reading these books.  Once you see children through the lens of these educators, you can't not change the way you are in the classroom. Troublemakers is that kind of a book.

I don't remember where I first heard about this book. It may have been mentioned in a conference session or I may have seen it first on social media. I do know that I ordered it immediately once I heard about it.  I knew this was a book I wanted to read after I read the first line about it on Amazon ("In this dazzling debut, Carla Shalaby, a former elementary school teacher, explores the everyday lives of four young 'troublemakers', challenging the ways we identify and understand so-called problem children")

I've always been interested in identity and agency in young children. This book is written as four separate case studies. Carla Shalaby helps us know (and love) 4 children deeply--as learners, yes--but also as people.  Four very young children who are already labeled as "troublemakers" at school.  And she chooses children who are in classrooms with strong teachers who are committed to each individual child in their care. She helps us know each child and she invites us to look at each child through a new lens--a lens that can help us learn from them--a lens that can help us see the structural issues in our classrooms and schools that make school a difficult place for these children.  Through these children, she helps us to think about freedom, compliance and power.  These four incredible children help us see our classrooms in new ways.

As with any teacher, I've had children who have not "fit in" to the structures of school.  Students who cause trouble.  Students who I feel that I have failed. For me, reading this book was an exercise of hope, of study and of reflection. It pushed me to think in ways I hadn't thought before and it helped me to realize new ways to think about the children in our schools.   I learned different things from each of the four children in this book.  Each child helped me reflect about some piece of my relationship with children that I hadn't explored. Carla Shalaby pushes a bit beyond the case studies during the last third of the book and I have to admit that this part of the book was a little painful to read--it required true and honest reflection.  The reflection required in her conclusion meant I had to acknowledge things that were hard to admit, even to myself. I thought of children who I failed and what I could have done differently-what part I played in the "troublemaker" narrative.  But with that reflection, the author offers us hope. Not only hope--she reminded me of the power that we, as teachers have to make change, to make things right for our children, to move beyond the mandates and the constraints and to be change makers.

I have underlined more in this book than I did not underline. Every sentence Carla Shalaby writes is powerful.  And her writing is quite magical in itself. This is one of those books I am not letting out of my sight because I keep dipping back in after my first read-- to think a bit more deeply about one part or another. I ordered a few extra copies because I want everyone I know to read this book, yet I can't hand over my copy as I know I will continue to revisit it for a very long time.

I am not sure how else to describe this book except to say that it is a must read for every teacher or parent.  I know this blog post does not do the book justice and I am hoping to think more about it with visuals on Instagram and Twitter over the next several weeks. I have so much more thinking to do around Shalaby's words. In the meantime, I recommend that you get your hands on this book as fast as you can and that you put it on the top of your stack. But don't read the book quickly--give yourself time with the book as it is life-changing.

I can't thank the author enough for writing this book.  This book is one that has the power to change things-- to make a difference in our schools and in our world. It is a true gift to us and to our children.

*In case you want to read some more about the book:
A Page About the Book at The New Press
An Interview with Carla Shalaby
A Blog Post by Jessica at Crawling Out of the Classroom
Follow Carla Shalaby on Twitter

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Poetry Friday

photo via Unsplash by Stan Mart!n!

When the Moon is One Day From Full

and the kitchen counter is crowded
with jars containing caterpillars
and chrysalises,
it is nearly impossible to resist
the words

©Mary Lee Hahn, 2018

Catherine has the Poetry Friday roundup this week at Reading to the Core.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Making Time and Space for Nonfiction--Some NF Books to Add to Our Classroom Library

I have worked for the past several years to add new nonfiction to the classroom library. But I definitely need more that will engage readers so I have been reading lots of nonfiction this summer. As I think about the Mock Orbis Pictus Award that we'll be participating in this fall, I am thinking carefully about the 2018 titles I add. These are four new nonfiction books I'll be adding this year.

What Do You Do With a Voice Like That? by Chris Barton is a picture book biography about Congresswoman Barbara Jordan. This is an incredible biography for several reasons.  The writing makes the story very engaging for readers who don't know. Barbara Jordan. The focus on her work and the power her voice had works well and the illustrations are unbelievable.  I was happy to get an advanced copy of this one and have already preordered a copy---due out in late September.  

The Mushroom Fan Club by Elise Gravel is a fun look at mushrooms. This book is packed with information and it has a light touch in terms of tone--there is lots of humor in the text and the illustrations. This book is part field guide so readers can use it to identify mushrooms they find--and the author makes mushroom hunting sound like great fun!

Book of Bones: 10 Record-Breaking Animals by Gabrielle Balkan is a book I picked up at a new-to-me children's bookstore--The Children's Bookstore-on our visit to Baltimore for Whole Language Umbrella Conference.  I love this book and didn't realize until after I bought it that it is by the author of a book-The 50 States- that was very popular in our classroom last year.  I love the unique way this author organizes ideas, uses visuals and writes in such an engaging way.   This book has lots of great information--I love the organization, the leads for each section and the writing.

Undocumented: A Worker's Fight by Duncan Tonatiuh is another one I'll add to the library.  I ordered it weeks ago. I haven't seen it yet but I love every book that Duncan Tonatiuh has written and so have my students.  Preorder it soon!

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Being the Change -- #cyberpd Week 3

The #cyberPD book this year is Being the Change: Lessons and Strategies to Teach Social Comprehension.

The last chunk we read was chapters 5 ("Finding Humanity in Ourselves and Others") and 6 ("Facing Crisis Together").

My response in the first week was gratitude for the opportunity to build another classroom community through the art of teaching. In the second week, books I was reading aligned with the concepts in Being the Change.

One book stands out at the connection to this last chunk:

Harbor Me
by Jacqueline Woodson
Nancy Paulsen Books (August 28, 2018)

(my review on Goodreads)
Amazing book.
So beautifully written.
So needed for this country, our classrooms, our children, all our citizens RIGHT NOW.
So powerful...the power of talk, of getting to know others ("Others").
So honest about race and privilege and ability (dis- and otherwise) and family and grief and loss and prison and immigration. It's all there, but it's not too much. Because it really is all there, all the time.

Friday, July 20, 2018

Poetry Friday -- Gobsmacked

I never tire of the wonder of caterpillars becoming butterflies. That's why I've planted two kinds of milkweed and hope with all my heart that someday the monarchs who have started visiting will lay eggs. That's why I planted both raised beds with just enough basil for occasional pesto for us and a small forest of dill and fennel for the black swallowtails. That's why I keep bringing in a few caterpillars each time they appear and raise them to butterflyhood.

This morning's gift from the universe was being present for the moment when a caterpillar who had anchored to a dill stem shrugged off its caterpillar skin to reveal the chrysalis that had formed underneath.

How often do we get to witness a miracle?

My two pages of notes will eventually become a poem (or poems), but until then, here's a reposting of a septercet I wrote in 2016 for Jane Yolen's challenge on Today's Little Ditty.

Heidi has the Poetry Friday roundup today at My Juicy Little Universe. (I'm SO feeling the title of her blog in my heart right now!)

Everyday Miracle

Watching caterpillars morph
from worm into chrysalis
never grows old. Starting small

(teeny-tiny, truth be told)
they adopt a growth mindset --
after egg, it's grow, grow, grow.

They change caterpillar clothes
as they thicken and lengthen.
Then comes the ultimate change --

undigested food is purged,
silk belt is spun, anchoring
caterpillar, who lets go

and leans into the process.
Unseen to observing eyes,
parts that were caterpillar

shuffle, shift, reorganize.
What once began as all crawl
will become fluttering flight.

©Mary Lee Hahn, 2016