Tag Archives: books

June #nctechat preview: Books That Changed My Life

June #nctechat

We hope you’ll join us on Twitter Sunday June 19 at 8 PM ET for #nctechat: Books That Changed My Life.  Read more about the inspiration for the chat from this post earlier in June.

Here is a preview of the questions to guide the chat:

  • Tell us about the book(s) that changed your life.
  • How did you discover that life changing book?
  • Is there a book you can pinpoint that turned you into a reader?
  • Have you ever given someone else a book that changed them?
  • Was there ever a book you assigned as a teacher or read as a student that changed a whole class?
  • What are some life-changing books you’ve heard other people talk about that you haven’t had an opportunity to read yet? (Perhaps a summer reading goal?)

What’s a Book For? Some Things to Consider when Planning for Conversations

This post is written by NCTE member, Richard Meyer, who will be participating in a symposium at the Whole Language Institute (WLU) this summer. 

Meyer 23My copy of Grand Conversations (Peterson & Eeds, 1990) is very well worn. The book flops open to my favorite parts just like any book (and teaching resource) that we come to love deeply, value as teachers, and rely on to influence our students’ thinking. I hadn’t heard of book clubs when I first read Grand Conversations, but now it seems that everyone I know is in a book club. My wife’s book club reads some of the greatest new fiction and nonfiction they can locate. When I ask her how her group’s meeting went on one particular evening, she answers, “We did what we always do. Some of us read the book. Some didn’t. We order wine and some tasty appetizers. We talk a little about the book and then we talk about our kids, our jobs, our spouses, our joys, and our worries.”

“What about the book?” I ask.

She grins. “We’re usually done with the book really fast, and then we get into getting caught up with each other. By the time we finish that, we all have to leave—but not until someone suggests the next book!”

Her group’s book serves a few purposes. First, since she has to finish it within a month, it is an excuse to leave other things behind and just read. That’s a really good purpose. It’s also a legitimate reason to be social. That, too, is a fine purpose for a book. Sadly, it also reminds all the members of the group that they have tight schedules with no time to discuss a book, and because of that, the social part of a book group takes over.

What about in school? It seems that between NCLB and the CCSS, books have been repurposed to serve as measures of fluency, vocabulary, text-based (closely read) comprehension, and even as a place to study phonics. I’ve just finished my memoir, which I can imagine 9-year-olds through 99-year-olds reading. Actually, it’s an exaggerated memoir because I’m just not sure if I’m recalling all these events with objective clarity, but my recollections make me who I am and that’s who and what I present in the book. Engaging in a grand conversation about my book would be the biggest complement that any reader could offer. A grand conversation is not a check of any literacy skills; it’s an active discussion about this question: “What do you think?”

Readers of my book—or any book—will understand the story. And if they don’t, they can certainly ask other readers what they think something means. I didn’t write the story to teach a specific reading skill. Readers will learn those in spite of my writing. I wrote the book to see what others think and with the hope that they’ll talk to one another about my life during the summer when I was 9 years old. When I dare to cross a forbidden street, what do you think? When I think back about the hugeness of my fourth-grade teacher’s rear end, what do you think? What I’m beaten up because I’m Jewish, lie to my parents, try to build a robot, or climb a tree to hide, what do you think? When readers engage in conversations about books, those books make them better people, thoughtful people, enraged people, and people provoked to engage in some action. That’s a grand conversation. It’s the real reason for a book.

You can find more about Flush: The Exaggerated Memoir of a Fourth Grade Scaredy-Cat Super-Hero here. If you want to learn the truth about me as a reader, have a read of the interview with me here.

Peterson, R., & Eeds, M. (1990). Grand conversations: Literature groups in action. New York: Scholastic.

Rick Meyer has been a writer since he could talk. He’s a professor at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque, as well as a husband, father, and grandfather. He wants to know what you think.

Using Literature as a Catalyst

February brings the celebration of Black History Month as well as the African American Read-In. While this time of year often a reminder to read and discuss literature by African American writers, it is also a great time to use literature for a bigger purpose.

The themed issue of School Talk titled “Multicultural Literature and Social Change” provides many suggestions: the history and the challenges of using multicultural texts in education, using a variety of literature to develop critical readers, and how to choose the best multicultural books. The article “Multicultural Literature: Story and Social Action” poses the question, “In what ways, then, can African American children’s literature in the classroom be seen as a catalyst for social action and social change?” See more in the following resources from NCTE and ReadWriteThink.org.

Author Sharon Draper was the 2015 winner of the ALAN (Assembly on Literature for Adolescents of NCTE) Award for Outstanding Contribution to Adolescent Literature. Among her other titles, she is author of Tears of a Tiger, Forged by Fire, and Darkness before Dawn. Listen to Draper after winning her award. In the ReadWriteThink.org lesson plan “Analyzing First-Person Narration in Sharon Draper’s Out of My Mind” students explore the different facets of complexity in the compelling first-person narrator in Sharon Draper’s Out of My Mind.

Walter Dean Myers has published well over 100 works. Much of Myers’s work revolves around young people struggling to figure out who they are and how they will survive against a backdrop of violence and turmoil as described in this article from the Council Chronicle. Myers also wants to help young adults learn the basic tools to cope with their lives. In the ReadWriteThink.org lesson “I Have a Dream: Exploring Nonviolence in Young Adult Texts” students will identify how Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream of nonviolent conflict-resolution is reinterpreted in modern texts, including a text by Walter Dean Myers and rapper Common.

Nikki Giovanni in the Classroom: “The same ol’ danger but a brand new pleasure”, the first volume in the NCTE High School Literature Series, features primary source materials including many of Giovanni’s poems reprinted in full, easily adaptable lessons and activities, and a resource section for students and teachers wishing to study Giovanni further. “Childhood Remembrances: Life and Art Intersect in Nikki Giovanni’s ‘Nikki-Rosa’“, a lesson plan from ReadWriteThink.org invites students to read Nikki Giovanni’s poem, “Nikki-Rosa,” and then writing about childhood memories of their own.

Even if they are few in number, diverse books do exist. Tune in to the Text Messages podcast episode #weneeddiversebooks to hear about recently-published YA titles that celebrate diversity in a range of genres. There’s something for every reader here: comic book superheroes, Civil Rights history, love stories, humorous essays, poetry, artwork, and stories of suspense.

What titles do you suggest to use as a catalyst?

Top Ten Books Purchased in 2015 from NCTE

This time of year, there always seem to be “best of” and “top 10” lists. We thought we would play along! Here are the Top 10 selling titles from NCTE in 2015.

  1. Wondrous Words: Writers and Writing in the Elementary Classroom, Katie Wood Ray
  2. The Writing Workshop: Working through the Hard Parts (and They’re All Hard Parts), Katie Wood Ray with Lester Laminack
  3. Connected Reading: Teaching Adolescent Readers in a Digital World, Kristen Hawley Turner and Troy Hicks
  4. Digital Reading: What’s Essential in Grades 3-8, William L. Bass II and Franki Sibberson
  5. Cross-Talk in Comp Theory: A Reader, 3rd edition, edited by Victor Villanueva and Kristin L. Arola
  6. Real-World Literacies: Disciplinary Teaching in the High School Classroom, Heather Lattimer
  7. English Studies: An Introduction to the Discipline(s), edited by Bruce McComiskey
  8. Teaching Phonics in Context, David Hornsby and Lorraine Wilson
  9. On Multimodality: New Media in Composition Studies, Jonathan Alexander and Jacqueline Rhodes
  10. What Works in Writing Instruction: Research and Practices, Deborah Dean

There are some newer titles on this list, as well as some favorites. Were there any surprises for you on this list?

Interested in purchasing some of these or some of our other titles? As a special treat, use code “Holidays15” in the NCTE Online Store to save 20% on all NCTE books, On Demand Web Seminars, Investigations and NCTE-branded gift items!

Multicultural Literature

booksMany awards and literature celebrations are held this time of year, which makes it a perfect time to look at multicultural literature. The following materials from NCTE and ReadWriteThink.org provide more resources on the topic of multicultural literature.

The Language Arts article Transactional Theory and the Study of Multicultural Literature works to answer the question, “Is transactional reader response theory still a viable and valid theoretical guide for the study of multicultural literature?”

In Understanding the Questions: A Community-Centered Approach to the Teaching of Multicultural Literature from Voices from the Middle, the authors challenges her preservice students to expand their understanding of “culture” beyond racially specific contexts and into the many roles people play within the communities to which they belong—local, regional, national, racial, religious, language, etc.

Author Jaime Wood offers middle school English language arts teachers material for teaching poetry by Nikki Giovanni, Li-Young Lee, and Pat Mora in her text Living Voices: Multicultural Poetry in the Middle School Classroom. The text includes graphic organizers and other resources. Also see the ReadWriteThink.org  lesson plans based on this text.

In the English Journal article Taking a Cultural-Response Approach to Teaching Multicultural Literature the author highlights the use of a cultural-response approach and the article presents several activities that can give teachers confidence to explore the cultural differences in diverse texts and provide “ways to help their students discuss these differences and enhance cross-cultural understanding.”

Thinking Differently about Difference: Multicultural Literature and Service-Learning an article from Teaching English in the Two-Year College, presents a project where service-learning was combined with multicultural literature study in a general education first-year course can encourage students to theorize difference from multiple perspectives.

Multicultural Hybridity: Transforming American Literary Scholarship and Pedagogy, a text from NCTE, explores the difference paradox in multicultural literary studies, the seemingly inescapable contradiction between two competing impulses: how do we acknowledge difference when it comes to multicultural literature but simultaneously treat all texts equally and as equal parts of the body of work and discipline long referred to as American literature? Read more in the sample chapter.

How do you use multicultural literature?