Category Archives: Kids Are Loving

#kal (Kids are Loving) Reading Ladder: Mighty Memoirs and the Women Who Write Them

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Image: Amazon

I used this article from The Guardian as today’s Notebook Time invitation. I wanted students to reflect on their reading that they’d done and the reading they want to do in this new year. Two themes emerged from their responses: a number of them want to read books from authors of color because they “want to know about their background” and their “history,” while many others want to increase their text complexity. They’ve reached that moment of reading where what they started reading in September is now too easy. They are now discerning enough to tell me what they want and need more of.

They want to up the ante!

Thus, I think I’ll spend some occasional blogs on Reading Ladders as part of #kidsareloving (#kal) where I create suggestions for a range of complexity that will help kids grow as readers. And, because it matters, I’ll make these Reading Ladders as diverse as I can make them because, well, #weneeddiversebooks and because my kids want them.Thing is, once I read Reading Ladders a couple of years ago, that’s all I think about in terms of making recommendations. I also am motivated to get these out there because I know that we tend to keep suggesting the same books because we don’t know any others.

I bet we have similar dreams of reading ladders for kids; we simply need to write them down and share them. Thus, please feel free to make suggestions and recommendations as we go.

I know, I titled this memoir, but I have had readers start with Does My Head Look Big in This? by Randa Abdel-fattah and then move up the ladder. This YA book does a fantastic job of giving us a narrator that is smart, spunky and trying to figure out life as a teenager. That she is Muslim is only one part of who Amal is. Her character development is well done and I’ve had Muslim students read it and remark that they found all sorts of similarities between themselves and the main character. Win!

My fellow Heinemann Fellow Kate Flowers recommended I read Shonda Rhimes’ Year of Yes: How to Dance it Out, Stand in the Sun, and Be Your Own Person. This was such a great recommendation! I loved it because as an introvert, Rhimes talked candidly and hilariously about what it means to step outside of ourselves and do what scares us. It also is a great parenting memoir, writing memoir…it’s everything. And I think kids would like it who are into reading about interesting people, or into Scandal, or anywhere in between.

The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl, Issa Rae. I can’t keep this book in my library. It just returned today and is on my Next List, but I know I might get bumped if a student has to have it RIGHT NOW. Issa Rae is hilarious and a model of what it means to keep showing up, working hard, having lots of gumption. She is all #blackgirlmagic and fills a void for those readers looking for stories about how to make it doing what you love. [BTW, the Fresh Air interview with Issa and Terry Gross is everything, too.I was particularly struck with how much of her story is about literacy!]

Is Everybody Hanging Out Without Me? Mindy Kaling: as hilarious as watching the Mindy show. Another one that is usually checked out all the time.

You Can’t Touch My Hair: And Other Things I Still Have to Explain, Phoebe Robinson. I know Robinson from her fantastic podcast, 2 Dope Queens. Her book sounds like it’s even more of what I love, tackling issues of race and popular culture while being hilarious. Yup. It can be done! (This one is on order).

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Source: Magic 95.9, Baltimore

Nine Years Under: Coming of Age in an Inner City Funeral Home, Sheri Booker. A coming-of-age memoir about a 15-year old girl who starts working at a funeral home for a summer job. From Amazon: “As families came together to bury one of their own, Booker was privy to their most intimate moments of grief and despair. But along with the sadness, Booker encountered moments of dark humor: brawls between mistresses and widows, and car crashes at McDonald’s with dead bodies in tow.” Seriously. You know you have a kid that will just LOVE this one!

I’m Judging You: The Do-Better Manual, Luvvie Ajayi. Luvvie has kept me sane while being one of the best critics about, well, everything. If you read this book, you should then immediately go to Luvvie’s home page and read everything she has ever written. You will laugh until you cry. She is that good.

Unabrow: Misadventures of a Late Bloomer, Una LaMarche. First, LaMarche has written some great YA titles that my kids love (i.e., Like No Other and Don’t Fail Me Now). Kids who’ve read her memoir have howled aloud in class during reading time, drawing all kinds of curious stares. That qualifies as a good book and one that’s kid-approved.

Whew! Reading Ladders grow and change all the time. Thus, if you have something that works here and keeps with the theme: memoir by a woman of color that is funny and either works with young readers or you think has the potential to work with young readers, then please leave it in the comments. Happy New Year!

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#kal Kids Are Loving #3: Books My Students are Currently Reading and Loving

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Image from New York Times

Welcome to the latest in the occasional series I call Kids Are Loving. Here, I briefly note books that my sophomores and seniors have loved. (Previous lists can be found here and here). [Note: My classes are comprised of mostly underserved young people (i.e., students of color, ones with learning challenges, boys, etc.) who usually have not had enough positive experiences with reading before starting my class.] Happy reading!

Humor

Zits: Chillax, Jerry Scott, Jim Borgman: This book has captured all types of kids. They say it’s funny and enjoy the comic strip aspect of the book (and even stop and sketch while they’re reading).

Fresh Off the Boat: A Memoir, Eddie Huang: Before it became a hit TV show, it was a book. This one resonates for students from a broad range: language learners, different races and ethnicities, etc. All say Eddie is irreverent and hilarious.

Swim the Fly, Don Calame (from Amazon):  three 15-year-old buddies make a pact to see a naked girl before the summer is over and in the process mire themselves in increasing trouble and constant humiliation. All three are on the summer swim team, and, in a desperate attempt to impress the superhot new girl, Matt agrees to swim the dreaded butterfly at championships, despite the fact that he can barely tread water. At the same time, he’s dealing with his horny grandpa, a sadistic swim instructor, and his pals’ wacky schemes to catch a glimpse of bare skin, which includes dressing up like girls and entering a women’s locker room. That would’ve worked if it weren’t for the accidental dose of laxative . . . well, you get the idea. My note: BOYS LOVE THIS BOOK.

Noggin, John Corley Whaley: (from Amazon): Five years ago, Travis Coates died at the age of 16 after a long, hard battle with leukemia. However, Travis was offered a chance to become the 17th test subject in a very unorthodox medical experiment, which involved cryogenically freezing his head and eventually bringing him back to life once science becomes more advanced. Science moves faster than either the doctors or Travis and his family ever imagined, and soon he is back with a healthy 16-year-old body thanks to a generous young donor. Kirby Heyborne fills Travis’s voice with a realistic mix of pain, confusion, and the joy of being given a second chance, as he highers and lowers his pitch and volume. He also tackles the many people in Travis’s life who had to grieve his loss and must now deal with his return from the dead—albeit with a different body.

Hodge Podge

World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War, Max Brooks: zombies, zombies, zombies. This book got passed around so often I purchased a few more copies. Kids found it spooky, amazing, and couldn’t put it down.

Gadget Girl: The Art of Being Invisible, Suzanne Kamata: I found this book while doing some reading for a chapter I’m writing on multicultural kid lit. Aiko, the 15-year old protagonist has cerebral palsy and creates Gadget Girl, a graphic novel featuring a fearless, creative heroine who solves problems through her ingenuity with kitchen gadgets. Aiko is biracial (Japanese and white), also. I’ve added this one to my classroom library because 1) there aren’t enough books about disability and 2) those books tend to not feature characters of color.

Everything, Everything, Nicola Yoon: A good-old love story that was in frequent rotation. The main character is a young woman in a bubble, content to live there until…Ollie, a cute boy, moves in next door. Things suddenly get WAY too complicated, in those ways that make you love teenage romance and identity development. There are lots of delicious sentences, too, in case you’re looking for mentor texts.

A Life in Motion: An Unlikely Ballerina, Misty Copeland: many students have been captivated by Misty Copeland’s story. They find her persistence and ultimate triumph inspirational and profound. That they can also find her on social media is an additional element that makes her life come alive for them.

And One to Grow On: A Great Read Aloud

Blackbird Fly, Erin Entrada Kelly. Kids love being read to. I need to remember that. I found this middle grade gem while doing some reading for the chapter I wrote. Essentially, it makes the reader cringe about middle school and all the reasons why it is a terrible place for many folks, particularly if that life resembles that of main character Apple, a Filipina American living in Louisiana. Yet, there is so much hope here and reminders about the power of parents, and music, and good friends. I read some excerpts to my kids and they ate it up.

 

 

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#kal Kids Are Loving #2: Books My Students Are Currently Reading & Loving

Welcome to another Kids Are Loving (#kal), where I offer up texts my students are reading and loving. In case you missed KAL #1, you can catch up here. These texts are ones young people choose to read. [Note: My classes are comprised of mostly underserved young people (i.e., students of color, ones with learning challenges, boys, etc.) who usually have not had enough positive experiences with reading before starting my class.] Kids are currently reading, chatting up, and passing around a lot of nonfiction. Enjoy!

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Image from Amazon.com

Nonfiction

Columbine, Dave Cullen: none of my students were alive when this school shooting happened on April 20, 1999. Cullen’s account of the shooters, the environment, and the aftermath holds them spellbound through the entire account. Plus, Cullen’s writing is riveting and makes for great modeling about powerful writing.

Laughing at My Nightmare, Shane Burcaw: Burcaw is a 21-year-old living with spinal muscular atrophy. It’s Burcaw’s use of humor that students love as they read about his triumphs and travails. What kids realize is that having a challenge doesn’t mean someone is so different after all.

Lost Girls:An Unsolved American Mystery, Robert Kolker: I picked this book up after reading a review in the New York Times. Essentially, this book attempts to find out what happened to four murdered women whose bodies were found in New York. That these young women were, essentially, forgotten because they lived lives of survival makes their fates and the inattention paid them, even more troubling. This book has resonated with many students and has topped a number of Best Of lists for them.

Makes Me Wanna Holler: A Young Black Man in America, Nathan McCall: Nathan McCall came to my college when I was a sophomore (I vaguely remember). At that time, his book had just been published. I remember him as being warm, strident, and of having my peers note that they felt he was talking about their own experiences. Now, nearly 20 decades later, that same feeling of personal address by McCall continues to resonate with readers, particularly ones of color, but McCall’s message holds true for any young person going through difficult times and encouraging them to keep pushin.

Fiction

The Coldest Winter Ever, Sister Souljah: I can’t keep this book in my library and have multiple copies. This is a fast-paced, drama-filled story of a young woman who navigates elements of urban life. Winter is street smart, in love with a bad boy, has a complicated relationship with her father…kids love it (and so do I). There are two sequels, BTW.

Spanking Shakespeare, Jake Wizner: A senior in high school has to write his memoirs as part of a graduation requirement. As you might imagine, the details are hilarious. This book has been popular with boys who want to laugh. A lot.

What are your kids loving lately? Share their faves (and yours) in the comments!

 

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#kal Kids Are Loving #1: Books My Students Are Currently Reading & Loving

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Boy21 image from Matthew Quick’s website

Welcome to what I hope is a regular series I’m calling “Kids Are Loving” #kal. Here, I’m aiming to note what is popular with my teenage readers in hopes of having a record for future recommendations, to also serve as suggestions for those of us working with young people, and to remember what they enjoyed at that particular moment. These books are all ones students selected on their own and read as part of their independent reading lives.

Boy 21, Matthew Quick: boys love this book! I can’t keep our multiple copies in the library. From Matthew Quick’s website: Basketball has always been an escape for Finley. He lives in broken-down Bellmont, a town ruled by the Irish mob, drugs, violence, and racially charged rivalries. At home, his dad works nights and Finley is left alone to take care of his disabled grandfather. He’s always dreamed of somehow getting out, but until he can, putting on that number 21 jersey makes everything seem okay…

Rule of the Bone, Russell Banks: another one that is always checked out. Review here from the New York Times.

Monster, Graphic Novel, adapted by Guy Sims from original by Walter Dean Myers: a graphic novel of the popular story of WDM’s Steve. Tackles timely questions in a gripping, accessible way. Students who loved the original Monster also like this version.  More info here. 

Redefining Realness, Janet Mock: another popular selection that is informative and inspirational as well as a great example of how literacy can save us. Plus, Mock has a fantastic online presence that encourages follow-up and further reading.

The Death of Bees, Lisa O’Donnell: a student explained why she loved this book: alternating narrators and a mystery that isn’t resolved until the last few pages. Great for kids who love mysteries, young adults as protagonists (and I found them portrayed accurately, though it took me a moment to get used to the narrators because they talk just like…well, like teenagers!), and a well-told, sentimental story. (The link takes you to an NPR story about the book).

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