At the end of every year, I take a tech sabbatical to recharge and reflect upon the year, as well as to be more present during our break. Part of my recharge process is to read! Here is what I have been reading during the second half of 2017.
See you in 2018. -Matt
Ghostly Echoes by William Ritter
I didn’t realize I was reading YA until this installment (and my wife telling me so). I guess that is a strong sign that good writing transcends age level or intended audience. In the 3rd book, we find out the backstory of Jenny’s murder, along with the reason why New Fiddleham experiences so many supernatural occurrences. It leaves the reader wanting to read #4 without feeling cheated out of a good story to be told now.
The Magician King by Lev Grossman
I listened to the audiobook version. Maybe that is why I slogged through it, listening only during long car trips and trying to stay on top of the many character threads. Still, the magic of Fillory and beyond plus the characters’ development, especially Quintin and Julia, made this an enjoyable read.
Mile 81 by Stephen King
A nice short story that encompasses many elements that are often present in Stephen King’s writing: memorable characters, excellent pacing, supernatural anthropomorphism (in this case, a man-eating car), and a barely credible ending. If you’ve never read anything by King and didn’t want to commit to a lengthy novel on your first read, check out Mile 81.
Still Writing: The Perils and Pleasures of a Creative Life by Dani Shapiro
In a similar vein to Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird, but wholly unique to Shapiro’s experiences and style. It’s part memoir, part writing guide, and fully enjoyable to read and reflect upon her ideas.
Simplifying Response to Intervention: Four Essential Guiding Principles by Austin Buffum, Mike Mattos, and Chris Weber
A helpful guide for schools and districts looking for guidance and templates on RtI. It’s pretty technical, but I did appreciate their consistent position to meet the needs of all students, regardless of an educator’s role.
On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century by Timothy Snyder
A very important book to better understand what is happening right now with *45 and the federal government. I read it in a couple of hours – a short text full of lessons from the past shared by a history professor from Yale. The first line encapsulates the text: “History does not repeat itself, but it does instruct.”
The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart
An excellent first entry into a series for middle-level readers. It reminded me of some other excellent mystery/thrillers such as The Westing Game and the Percy Jackson series, yet stands out as an original. This would be an excellent read aloud in a 5th/6th-grade classroom.
Food Rules: An Eater’s Manual by Michael Pollan
A nice summary of Michael Pollan’s work on our diets in the U.S. It’s a quick read, so it could also serve as a primer for delving into some of Pollan’s longer works (and I recommend all of them).
Becoming a Literacy Leader: Supporting Learning and Change by Jennifer Allen
This is for the 2nd edition…a very practical, honest resource about leading literacy efforts in an elementary school. You will find yourself going back into the text repeatedly, asking, “Where did I see that before?” An essential book for instructional coaches and any elementary school leader.
Textbook Amy Krouse Rosenthal by Amy Krouse Rosenthal
A very unique reading experience, not like any book I’ve read before. It is an interactive memoir, in which you are prompted write, send text messages….it’s really hard to explain in words (surprisingly). Just read it and enjoy!
Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan
I read this book on my very old yet functioning Kindle. It is the version with push buttons and no touchscreen. This choice seems appropriate for reading a novel about bibliophiles struggling to find a balance between the print and digital world.
It is actually my second read of this book, as I felt I missed important points from the first go round. I did. For example, there were multiple references to and subtle jokes regarding technology and media that I missed (or forget) from my first reading.
More importantly, I felt like I better appreciated this story having read it again in 2017 (vs. 2013). The story might be more relevant today than in the past. It’s a fun experience that has a lot to teach us about living and connecting in an informational age.
The Total Money Makeover: A Proven Plan for Financial Fitness by Dave Ramsey
A helpful resource for managing your family budget and saving for the future.
An Improbable School: Transforming How Teachers Teach and Students Learn by Paul Tweed and Liz Seubert
For schools looking to transform the way teachers teach and students learn, this is worth a read. The value system Wildlands School has developed guides their daily work.
Beyond Ecophobia: Reclaiming the Heart in Nature Education by David Sobel
A very important book in the environmental education canon. Using children’s developmental levels to prescribe the appropriate curriculum for learning about nature is the focus of this short text. It’s foundational and essential.
Magic and Loss: The Internet as Art by Virginia Heffernan
This was a challenging book to read, yet to rate or to review. It serves as part memoir, part dissertation, part manifesto around the focus for Heffernan’s work: The Internet. My favorite sections are when she pulls together all of her knowledge for new realizations. The book lags when describing life in the Ivy League. Otherwise, a careful and complete study of our online lives.
What I’m Thinking: Reading Engagement
Our school is slowly transitioning to more meaningful ways of assessing reading and writing in the classroom. For example, instead of only short quizzes and comprehension checks, we are exploring more qualitative and authentic measures of students’ reading lives.
A great way to do this is through reading journals/notebooks. These are different than reading logs, which ask students to read 20 minutes a night and have parents sign off that they completed this task.
A reading journal is a written history of what we read and what we thought about the reading experience. They reveal lots of information about a student’s reading life: reading habits, diversity of genre, comprehension in the context of a review, influence on peers’ reading habits, and willingness to explore more complex texts. If you look through my journal I share here via Goodreads, you’ll see that I am reading widely, although I could probably stand to include more fiction in my literary diet.
Just as important, I own my reading journal. No one is telling me what to read or how often. Conversely, a reading log is an act of compliance. Can you think of a better way to turn students off from reading? Study after study after study shows that unless students are engaged in the act of reading, comprehension and lifelong reading habits will likely be fleeting. I think a first step in changing how to teach reading is to be engaged readers ourselves. It’s hard to teach what we don’t practice.