ELA in the middle

Middle School English, Language Arts

New book releases for Middle School

Cosmic Commandos
by Christopher Eliopoulos
Christopher Eliopoulos, a comic book creator who’s well-known for illustrating the books in Brad Meltzer’s Ordinary People Change the World series, is the talented artist and author behind this fun graphic novel for middle grade readers. Jam-packed with extraordinary hijinks, Cosmic Commandos stars a pair of identical twins who stumble upon a magic ring that allows them to live out a favorite video game in real life. It’s an adventure story that will hook tweens from beginning to end.
(On Sale: 7/4/17)

Lights, Camera, Middle School!
by Jennifer L. Holm, illustrated by Matthew Holm
Middle school is all about fitting in, but Babymouse was born to stand out! What better way to do that than to join film club? With a script in hand, Babymouse sets out to direct their first film … and quickly finds that being a director isn’t as easy as she imagined. Can Babymouse pull it off? With a seamless blend of graphics and prose, this first in a new series promises kids who have grown up loving Babymouse many more hilarious adventures with the lovable character.
(On Sale: 7/4/17)

Walking with Miss Millie
by Tamara Bundy
Alice isn’t at all happy about moving from Columbus, Ohio to boring old Rainbow, Georgia. To make matters worse, she’s been tasked with walking her elderly neighbor’s dog, Clarence, who stubbornly won’t go anywhere without his owner, Miss Millie. Set against the backdrop of the late ’60s, a friendship forms as Alice learns about Miss Millie’s life, including the tragedy and loss she has suffered at the hands of racism. As Miss Millie unravels her story, she shares the ways in which she has overcome pain and anger; sets an example of kindness, generosity, and positive spirit; and inspires Alice to address her own feelings of loss along the way.
(On Sale: 7/4/17)

It All Comes Down to This
by Karen English
This middle grade novel, set in Los Angeles in the summer of 1965 and inspired by real-life events, is already earning a host of starred reviews from the likes of Kirkus, Publishers Weekly, and School Library Journal. Twelve-year-old Sophie’s life changes when she and her family become the first African Americans to move into their new neighborhood. When riots erupt in nearby Watts, Sophie is forced to think about her place in the world in a whole new way. Balancing humor and a host of relatable issues, English has written a thoughtful and moving coming-of-age tale for tweens.
(On Sale: 7/11/17)

The Land of Stories: Worlds Collide
by Chris Colfer
See how it all wraps up in the final tale in author Chris Colfer’s bestselling Land of Stories series. Things are chaotic — all of the Land of Stories fairy tale characters are no longer confined to their world. Connor and Alex will have to try to win their biggest battle yet and restore order. Expect laughs, plenty of action, and a little sadness that this is the end.
(On Sale: 7/11/17)

Women in Sports: 50 Fearless Athletes Who Played to Win
by Rachel Ignotofsky
From the author of the New York Times bestseller Women in Science comes an awesome new anthology featuring fearless females. This time the focus is pioneering female athletes. Ignotofsky highlights the stories of 50 women from the 1800s through today who soared to great heights and broke new ground. Tweens can read about all kinds of athletes — from the well-known gymnastics star Simone Biles to the lesser-known skateboarding pioneer Patti McGee. A great addition to any tween’s bookshelf.
(On Sale: 7/18/17)

Spirit Hunters
by Ellen Oh
Ellen Oh, the author of the YA Prophecy series and cofounder of We Need Diverse Books, launches a new mystery series for middle grade readers with this riveting first installment. Harper Raine’s family just moved into a new house that she’s starting to think is haunted. When her younger brother begins behaving oddly, she knows she has to step in and figure out what ghosts might be hiding in their home.
(On Sale: 7/25/17)

Source: http://www.readbrightly.com/best-childrens-ya-books-july-2017/?sid=302&mcg=4D232B47C9758D8FE0534FD66B0AD50A&ref=PRH0563577803&aid=randohouseinc13256-20&linkid=PRH0563577803&cdi=3799D21575922120E0534FD66B0AEEBE

What Doesn’t Work: Literacy Practices We Should Abandon

JUNE 3, 2016

The number one concern that I hear from educators is lack of time, particularly lack of instructional time with students. It’s not surprising that we feel a press for time. Our expectations for students have increased dramatically, but our actual class time with students has not. Although we can’t entirely solve the time problem, we can mitigate it by carefully analyzing our use of class time, looking for what Beth Brinkerhoff and Alysia Roehrig (2014) call “time wasters.”

Consider the example of calendar time. In many U.S. early elementary classrooms, this practice eats up 15-20 minutes daily, often in a coveted early-morning slot when students are fresh and attentive. Some calendar time activities may be worthwhile. For example, teachers might use this time for important teaching around grouping and place value. But other activities are questionable at best. For example, is the following routine still effective if it’s already February and your students still don’t know:

Yesterday was _______.
Today is _______.
Tomorrow will be _______,

Does dressing a teddy bear for the weather each day make optimal use of instructional time? Some teachers respond, “But we love our teddy bear, and it only takes a few minutes!” But three minutes a day for 180 days adds up to nine hours. Children would also love engineering design projects, deep discussions of texts they’ve read, or math games.

5 Less-Than-Optimal Practices

To help us analyze and maximize use of instructional time, here are five common literacy practices in U.S. schools that research suggests are not optimal use of instructional time:

1. “Look Up the List” Vocabulary Instruction

Students are given a list of words to look up in the dictionary. They write the definition and perhaps a sentence that uses the word. What’s the problem?

We have long known that this practice doesn’t build vocabulary as well as techniques that actively engage students in discussing and relating new words to known words, for example through semantic mapping (Bos & Anders, 1990). As Charlene Cobb and Camille Blachowicz (2014) document, research has revealed so many effective techniques for teaching vocabulary that a big challenge now is deciding among them.

2. Giving Students Prizes for Reading

From March is Reading Month to year-long reading incentive programs, it’s common practice in the U.S. to give students prizes (such as stickers, bracelets, and fast food coupons) for reading. What’s the problem?

Unless these prizes are directly related to reading (e.g., books), this practice actually makes students less likely to choose reading as an activity in the future (Marinak & Gambrell, 2008). It actually undermines reading motivation. Opportunities to interact with peers around books, teacher “book blessings,” special places to read, and many other strategies are much more likely to foster long-term reading motivation (Marinak & Gambrell, 2016).

3. Weekly Spelling Tests

Generally, all students in a class receive a single list of words on Monday and are expected to study the words for a test on Friday. Distribution of the words, in-class study time, and the test itself use class time. What’s the problem?

You’ve all seen it — students who got the words right on Friday misspell those same words in their writing the following Monday! Research suggests that the whole-class weekly spelling test is much less effective than an approach in which different students have different sets of words depending on their stage of spelling development, and emphasis is placed on analyzing and using the words rather than taking a test on them (see Palmer & Invernizzi, 2015 for a review).

4. Unsupported Independent Reading

DEAR (Drop Everything and Read), SSR (Sustained Silent Reading), and similar approaches provide a block of time in which the teacher and students read books of their choice independently. Sounds like a great idea, right?

Studies have found that this doesn’t actually foster reading achievement. To make independent reading worthy of class time, it must include instruction and coaching from the teacher on text selection and reading strategies, feedback to students on their reading, and text discussion or other post-reading response activities (for example, Kamil, 2008; Reutzel, Fawson, & Smith, 2008; see Miller & Moss, 2013 for extensive guidance on supporting independent reading).

5. Taking Away Recess as Punishment

What is this doing on a list of literacy practices unworthy of instructional time? Well, taking away recess as a punishment likely reduces students’ ability to benefit from literacy instruction. How?

There is a considerable body of research linking physical activity to academic learning. For example, one action research study found that recess breaks before or after academic lessons led to students being more on task (Fagerstrom & Mahoney, 2006). Students with ADHD experience reduced symptoms when they engage in physical exercise (Pontifex et al., 2012) — ironic given that students with ADHD are probably among the most likely to have their recess taken away. There are alternatives to taking away recess that are much more effective and don’t run the risk of reducing students’ attention to important literacy instruction (Cassetta & Sawyer, 2013).

Measure of Success

Whether or not you engage in these specific activities, they provide a sense that there are opportunities to make better use of instructional time in U.S. schools. I encourage you to scrutinize your use of instructional time minute by minute. If a practice is used because we’ve always done it that way or because parents expect it, it’s especially worthy of a hard look. At the same time, if a practice consistently gets results in an efficient and engaging way, protect it at all costs. Together we can rid U.S. classrooms of what does notwork.

Notes

  • Bos, C.S. & Anders, P.L. (1990). “Effects of interactive vocabulary instruction on the vocabulary learning and reading comprehension of junior-high learning-disabled students.” Learning Disability Quarterly, 13, pp.31-42.
  • Brinkerhoff, E.H. & Roehrig, A.D. (2014). No more sharpening pencils during work time and other time wasters. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.
  • Cassetta, G. & Sawyer, B. (2013). No more taking away recess and other problematic discipline practices. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.
  • Cobb, C. & Blachowicz, C. (2014). No more “look up the list” vocabulary instruction. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.
  • Fagerstrom, T. & Mahoney, K. (2006). “Give me a break! Can strategic recess scheduling increase on-task behaviour for first graders?” Ontario Action Researcher, 9(2).
  • Kamil, M.L. (2008). “How to get recreational reading to increase reading achievement.” In 57th Yearbook of the National Reading Conference, pp.31-40. Oak Creek, WI: National Reading Conference.
  • Marinak, B.A. & Gambrell, L. (2016). No more reading for junk: Best practices for motivating readers. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.
  • Miller, D. & Moss, B. (2013). No more independent reading without support. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.
  • Palmer, J.L. & Invernizzi, M. (2015). No more spelling and phonics worksheets. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.
  • Pontifex, M.B., Saliba, B.J., Raine, L.B., Picchietti, D.L., & Hillman, C.H. (2012). “Exercise improves behavioral, neurocognitive, and scholastic performance in children with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder.” The Journal of Pediatrics, 162(3), pp.543-551.
  • Reutzel, D.R., Fawson, P., & Smith, J. (2008). “Reconsidering silent sustained reading: An exploratory study of scaffolded silent reading.”Journal of Educational Research, 102, pp.37–50.

Source: http://www.edutopia.org/blog/literacy-practices-we-should-abandon-nell-k-duke

11 Alternatives to “Round Robin” (and “Popcorn”) Reading

DECEMBER 1, 2014

Round Robin Reading (RRR) has been a classroom staple for over 200 years and an activity that over half of K-8 teachers report using in one of its many forms, such as Popcorn Reading. RRR’s popularity endures, despite overwhelming criticism that the practice is ineffective for its stated purpose: enhancing fluency, word decoding, and comprehension. Cecile Somme echoes that perspective in Popcorn Reading: The Need to Encourage Reflective Practice: “Popcorn reading is one of the sure-fire ways to get kids who are already hesitant about reading to really hate reading.”

Facts About Round Robin Reading

In RRR, students read orally from a common text, one child after another, while the rest of the class follows along in their copies of the text. Several spinoffs of the technique offer negligible advantages over RRR, if any. They simply differ in how the reading transition occurs:

  • Popcorn Reading: A student reads orally for a time, and then calls out “popcorn” before selecting another student in class to read.
  • Combat Reading: A kid nominates a classmate to read in the attempt to catch a peer off task, explains Gwynne Ash and Melanie Kuhn in their chapter of Fluency Instruction: Research-Based Best Practices.
  • Popsicle Stick Reading: Student names are written on Popsicle sticks and placed in a can. The learner whose name is drawn reads next.
  • Touch Go Reading: As described by Professor Cecile Somme, the instructor taps a child when it’s his or her turn to read.

Of the thirty-odd studies and articles I’ve consumed on the subject, only one graduate research paper claimed a benefit to RRR or its variations, stating tepidly that perhaps RRR isn’t as awful as everyone says. Katherine Hilden and Jennifer Jones’ criticism is unmitigated: “We know of no research evidence that supports the claim that RRR actually contributes to students becoming better readers, either in terms of their fluency or comprehension.” (PDF)

Why all the harshitude? Because Round Robin Reading . . .

  • Stigmatizes poor readers. Imagine the terror that English-language learners and struggling readers face when made to read in front of an entire class.
  • Weakens comprehension. Listening to a peer orally read too slowly, too fast, or too haltingly weakens learners’ comprehension — a problem exacerbated by turn-taking interruptions.
  • Sabotages fluency and pronunciation. Struggling readers model poor fluency skills and pronunciation. When instructors correct errors, fluency is further compromised.

To be clear, oral reading does improve fluency, comprehension and word recognition (though silent/independent reading should occur far more frequently as students advance into the later grades). Fortunately, other oral reading activities offer significant advantages over RRR and its cousins. As you’ll see in the list below, many of them share similar features.

11 Better Approaches

1. Choral Reading

The teacher and class read a passage aloud together, minimizing struggling readers’ public exposure. In a 2011 study of over a hundred sixth graders (PDF, 232KB), David Paige found that 16 minutes of whole-class choral reading per week enhanced decoding and fluency. In another version, every time the instructor omits a word during her oral reading, students say the word all together.

2. Partner Reading

Two-person student teams alternate reading aloud, switching each time there is a new paragraph. Or they can read each section at the same time.

3. PALS

The Peer-Assisted Learning Strategies (PALS) exercises pair strong and weak readers who take turns reading, re-reading, and retelling.

4. Silent Reading

For added scaffolding, frontload silent individual reading with vocabulary instruction, a plot overview, an anticipation guide, or KWL+ activity.

5. Teacher Read Aloud

This activity, says Julie Adams of Adams Educational Consulting, is “perhaps one of the most effective methods for improving student fluency and comprehension, as the teacher is the expert in reading the text and models how a skilled reader reads using appropriate pacing and prosody (inflection).” Playing an audiobook achieves similar results.

6. Echo Reading

Students “echo” back what the teacher reads, mimicking her pacing and inflections.

7. Shared Reading/Modeling

By reading aloud while students follow along in their own books, theinstructor models fluency, pausing occasionally to demonstrate comprehension strategies. (PDF, 551KB)

8. The Crazy Professor Reading Game

Chris Biffle’s Crazy Professor Reading Game video (start watching at 1:49) is more entertaining than home movies of Blue Ivy. To bring the text to life, students . . .

  • Read orally with hysterical enthusiasm
  • Reread with dramatic hand gestures
  • Partner up with a super-stoked question asker and answerer
  • Play “crazy professor” and “eager student” in a hyped-up overview of the text.

9. Buddy Reading

Kids practice orally reading a text in preparation for reading to an assigned buddy in an earlier grade.

10. Timed Repeat Readings

This activity can aid fluency, according to literacy professors Katherine Hilden and Jennifer Jones (PDF, 271KB). After an instructor reads (with expression) a short text selection appropriate to students’ reading level (90-95 percent accuracy), learners read the passage silently, then again loudly, quickly, and dynamically. Another kid graphs the times and errors so that children can track their growth.

11. FORI

With Fluency-Oriented Reading Instruction (FORI), primary students read the same section of a text many times over the course of a week (PDF, 54KB). Here are the steps:

  1. The teacher reads aloud while students follow along in their books.
  2. Students echo read.
  3. Students choral read.
  4. Students partner read.
  5. The text is taken home if more practice is required, and extension activities can be integrated during the week.

I hope that the activities described above — in addition to other well-regarded strategies, like reciprocal teaching, reader’s theater, and radio reading — can serve as simple replacements to Round Robin Reading in your classroom.

Tell us your favorite fluency or comprehension activity.

Source: http://www.edutopia.org/blog/alternatives-to-round-robin-reading-todd-finley

Ten YA Series to Binge Read

Source: http://theyoungfolks.com/review/10-ya-series-to-binge-read/78884

Binge series

2016 seems to be the year for final books in series being released. It can be hard to keep track of so we’ve put together a compilation of some well-loved or highly-anticipated series that you should check out if you haven’t already. Not all of the finales have been released just yet, but this is a great time to start reading so you’re all caught up when the final book is in the world!

1. The Raven Cycle by Maggie Stiefvater (The Raven Boys; The Dream Thieves; Blue Lily, Lily Blue; The Raven King)

I somehow missed the boat when The Raven Boys first released in 2012, and suddenly the fourth and final book, The Raven King, has just been released. I just started reading book two in the series and I’m really enjoying them. Maggie is a natural storyteller and I’m excited to see where this exciting, paranormal series goes.


2. Becoming Jinn by Lori Goldstein (Becoming Jinn; Circle of Jinn)

Jinn series

This is another series I missed when the first book came out but now that the duology is complete, I’m looking forward to reading it. This is a fantasy spin on the wish-granting genies that exist in mythology. I loved Jessica Khoury’s Aladdin re-telling The Forbidden Wish and this seems like a natural choice to pick up next.

3. The Selection Series by Kiera Cass (The Selection; The Elite; The One; The Heir; The Crown)

In a sense, this could be considered two separate series. But as The Heir and The Crown are spin-offs of the original Selection trilogy, it’s truly the end of America, Maxon, and Eadlyn’s story. I’ve got the final book, The Crown, on my bookshelf and all I need are a few more hours to finish the series. If you haven’t checked out this dystopian version of The Bachelor meets The Hunger Games, what are you waiting for?

 

4. The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey (The 5th Wave; The Infinite Sea; The Last Star – releasing 5/24/16)

fifth wave

If you’ve missed this series, it’s safe to say you might have been living under a rock for the past year. The post-apocalyptic series has aliens and a strong female lead character. The 5th Wave was even released as a movie starring Chloe Grace Moretz in January 2016. The third book in the trilogy comes out next week, so you’ve still got time to catch up before spoilers begin to show up on the Internet.

5. The Winner’s Trilogy by Marie Rutkoski (The Winner’s Curse; The Winner’s Crime; The Winner’s Kiss)

The final book in The Winner’s Trilogy recently released to extremely high anticipation. Marie Rutkoski’s series is probably one of the most hyped series that I still need to read. Now that it’s complete, it’s a great time to pick up the books and binge read them one after the other.

6. The Orphan Queen by Jodi Meadows (The Orphan Queen; The Mirror King)

This fantasy duology is now complete. Jodi Meadows tells a story of magic, spies, and royalty inThe Orphan Queen and The Mirror King. According to Goodreads, it’s “a vivid new fantasy full of intrigue, romance, dangerous magic, and one girl’s battle to reclaim her place in the world.” This is perfect if you’re looking for fantasy series that doesn’t require years of commitment!

The Naturals series

7. The Naturals by Jennifer Lynn Barnes (The Naturals; Killer Instinct; All In; Bad Blood – releasing 11/1/2016)

Jennifer Lynn Barnes is one of my all-time favorite writers. She has a skill for crafting mysteries/thrillers that have you on the edge of your seat and keep you guessing up to the very end.The Naturals series tells a story of teens with special talents that are put to use solving FBI cases. The most recent book, All In, revealed that things are not how they’ve seemed. Bad Blood is set up to be an intense, heart-pounding finale to a fantastic series.

8. Nil by Lynne Matson (Nil; Nil Unlocked; Nil on Fire – releasing 5/31/16)

“On the mysterious island of Nil, the rules are set. You have one year. Exactly 365 days–to escape, or you die.” If that doesn’t intrigue you, I’m not sure what will. It sounds like The Hunger Gamesmeets Lost meets Lord of the Flies. The third book in the Nil trilogy comes out in two weeks, so you’ve got plenty of time to read the first two books.

9. The Firebird Trilogy by Claudia Gray (A Thousand Pieces of You; Ten Thousand Skies Above You; A Million Worlds with You – releasing 11/1/16)

This is one of my most anticipated series finale’s this year. Claudia Gray has created an incredible world that spans different dimensions and characters that I love and want to protect. The mix of fantasy, sci-fi, mystery, and world-threatening stakes have me incredibly excited for A Million Worlds with You. If you haven’t read this series, why not?

six crooked

10. Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo (Six of Crows; Crooked Kingdom – releasing 9/27/16)

Heist stories are my favorite (need proof? Check out my obsession with Heist Society, anything else by Ally Carter, and now Six of Crows). In my opinion, Six of Crows was one of the most beautifully crafted stories of 2015. The cliffhanger-esque ending is brutal and I am absolutely dying for Crooked Kingdom to be released and sitting on my bookshelf. I am so ready for the ending of this duology, but I would also love to see more heist stories in Kaz’s world from Leigh Bardugo.

Binge series

2016 seems to be the year for final books in series being released. It can be hard to keep track of so we’ve put together a compilation of some well-loved or highly-anticipated series that you should check out if you haven’t already. Not all of the finales have been released just yet, but this is a great time to start reading so you’re all caught up when the final book is in the world!

1. The Raven Cycle by Maggie Stiefvater (The Raven Boys; The Dream Thieves; Blue Lily, Lily Blue; The Raven King)

I somehow missed the boat when The Raven Boys first released in 2012, and suddenly the fourth and final book, The Raven King, has just been released. I just started reading book two in the series and I’m really enjoying them. Maggie is a natural storyteller and I’m excited to see where this exciting, paranormal series goes.

Jinn series

2. Becoming Jinn by Lori Goldstein (Becoming Jinn; Circle of Jinn)

This is another series I missed when the first book came out but now that the duology is complete, I’m looking forward to reading it. This is a fantasy spin on the wish-granting genies that exist in mythology. I loved Jessica Khoury’s Aladdin re-telling The Forbidden Wish and this seems like a natural choice to pick up next.

3. The Selection Series by Kiera Cass (The Selection; The Elite; The One; The Heir; The Crown)

In a sense, this could be considered two separate series. But as The Heir and The Crown are spin-offs of the original Selection trilogy, it’s truly the end of America, Maxon, and Eadlyn’s story. I’ve got the final book, The Crown, on my bookshelf and all I need are a few more hours to finish the series. If you haven’t checked out this dystopian version of The Bachelor meets The Hunger Games, what are you waiting for?

fifth wave

4. The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey (The 5th Wave; The Infinite Sea; The Last Star – releasing 5/24/16)

If you’ve missed this series, it’s safe to say you might have been living under a rock for the past year. The post-apocalyptic series has aliens and a strong female lead character. The 5th Wave was even released as a movie starring Chloe Grace Moretz in January 2016. The third book in the trilogy comes out next week, so you’ve still got time to catch up before spoilers begin to show up on the Internet.

5. The Winner’s Trilogy by Marie Rutkoski (The Winner’s Curse; The Winner’s Crime; The Winner’s Kiss)

The final book in The Winner’s Trilogy recently released to extremely high anticipation. Marie Rutkoski’s series is probably one of the most hyped series that I still need to read. Now that it’s complete, it’s a great time to pick up the books and binge read them one after the other.

6. The Orphan Queen by Jodi Meadows (The Orphan Queen; The Mirror King)

This fantasy duology is now complete. Jodi Meadows tells a story of magic, spies, and royalty inThe Orphan Queen and The Mirror King. According to Goodreads, it’s “a vivid new fantasy full of intrigue, romance, dangerous magic, and one girl’s battle to reclaim her place in the world.” This is perfect if you’re looking for fantasy series that doesn’t require years of commitment!

The Naturals series

7. The Naturals by Jennifer Lynn Barnes (The Naturals; Killer Instinct; All In; Bad Blood – releasing 11/1/2016)

Jennifer Lynn Barnes is one of my all-time favorite writers. She has a skill for crafting mysteries/thrillers that have you on the edge of your seat and keep you guessing up to the very end.The Naturals series tells a story of teens with special talents that are put to use solving FBI cases. The most recent book, All In, revealed that things are not how they’ve seemed. Bad Blood is set up to be an intense, heart-pounding finale to a fantastic series.

8. Nil by Lynne Matson (Nil; Nil Unlocked; Nil on Fire – releasing 5/31/16)

“On the mysterious island of Nil, the rules are set. You have one year. Exactly 365 days–to escape, or you die.” If that doesn’t intrigue you, I’m not sure what will. It sounds like The Hunger Gamesmeets Lost meets Lord of the Flies. The third book in the Nil trilogy comes out in two weeks, so you’ve got plenty of time to read the first two books.

9. The Firebird Trilogy by Claudia Gray (A Thousand Pieces of You; Ten Thousand Skies Above You; A Million Worlds with You – releasing 11/1/16)

This is one of my most anticipated series finale’s this year. Claudia Gray has created an incredible world that spans different dimensions and characters that I love and want to protect. The mix of fantasy, sci-fi, mystery, and world-threatening stakes have me incredibly excited for A Million Worlds with You. If you haven’t read this series, why not?

six crooked

10. Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo (Six of Crows; Crooked Kingdom – releasing 9/27/16)

Heist stories are my favorite (need proof? Check out my obsession with Heist Society, anything else by Ally Carter, and now Six of Crows). In my opinion, Six of Crows was one of the most beautifully crafted stories of 2015. The cliffhanger-esque ending is brutal and I am absolutely dying for Crooked Kingdom to be released and sitting on my bookshelf. I am so ready for the ending of this duology, but I would also love to see more heist stories in Kaz’s world from Leigh Bardugo.

Scholastic 2016 reading bingo

Setting reading goals for yourself and the children in your world is a fun way to open a world of possible each year. The reading challenge that I tried in 2015 pushed me to read more adult books and genres that I don’t hit that often. This year, OOMers’ reading resolutions cover our reading habits, genres, and methods, as well as how some of us will track our progress using checklists, spreadsheets, or websites.

We are making the challenge of achieving your reading goals even more fun in 2016 by turning it into a game –the Scholastic 2016 Reading Bingo!

How to play:

  1. Download the PDF for the Scholastic 2016 Reading Bingo board.
  2. Read a book.
  3. See which descriptions/squares the book matches.
  4. Write the name of the book in the square or, for a fun visual, print out a small image of the book’s cover and paste it in the box.
  5. Repeat steps 2-4 several times.
  6. Once you fill in a row vertically, horizontally, or diagonally – yell “BINGO!” nice and loud.

If you really want to challenge yourself, read 49 unique books and complete the whole board!

I already got started with Matt de la Peña and Christian Robinson’s 2016 Newbery medal winning picture book Last Stop on Market Street in the center square and Laura Resau’s middle grade novel The Lightning Queen in the top row.

We’d love to follow your progress if you want to share your reading bingos on social media; just use the hashtag #ScholasticReadingBingo !

Challenge your students and library patrons to play!

Happy reading.

Source: http://oomscholasticblog.com/post/scholastic-2016-reading-bingo

12 Tween Titles to Add to Your Summer Reading Lists

Whether you are in the mood for lighthearted fiction about the struggles of middle school or a fantastical and fast-paced adventure, here are a dozen recommendations to bulk up your summer to-be-read pile.

000 AA1The Girl in the Well Is Me by Karen Rivers

“The thing is, if God is dead, who is looking after us?”

Karen Rivers’ pithy middle grade novel about a girl trapped in a well is an onion—at its surface, we just have a girl who is tricked into falling into a well, much to the delight of a Mean Girls-esque crew at her school. As we progress through the story, our heroine, Kammie, begins to reveal exactly why she recently moved to Texas, why her father is in prison, and why she even cares what these girls think. As Kammie begins to suffer from oxygen deprivation, she thinks back to the events that led up to her escapade and even hallucinates about talking goats. By the end of its 215 pages, I was affected, emotionally, by Kammie’s story—it’s certainly not what it seems at first glance. Highly recommended for a quick, thoughtful read

 

000 AA2Walk on Earth a Stranger by Rae Carson

The first book in a historical fiction trilogy, this novel follows the arduous journey of 15-year-old Lee Westfall, from Georgia to California during the Gold Rush of 1849. Lee is special in that, like some people can sense water in the ground, she can sense gold—it “will be like a string tugging my chest.” The problem is, her nefarious uncle Hiram Westfall has murdered her parents and is now chasing Lee in the hopes of using her gold-sensing abilities. An exciting, dramatic, and interesting take on the Gold Rush, Rae Carson’s latest is full of bold action and well-defined characters.

 

 

000 AA3Kalahari by Jessica Khoury

It sounds so simple—five teens go on an educational safari in the Kalahari Desert with fellow teen Sarah as one of their guides. Things go terribly wrong, however, when Sarah’s father is hunted by poachers. The group of teens must trek across the desert in hopes of finding assistance—but yet again, trouble strikes, this time in the form of a bonafide silver lion. When the group discovers the nefarious truth behind the silver lion, they become prime targets for an evil corporation bent on keeping it a secret. Full of twists and turns, and scientifically interesting, this is a fast-paced action-adventure that tween readers will love.

 

000 AA4We Are All Made of Molecules by Susin Nielsen

What do a 14-year-old snobby princess and a 13-year-old socially clueless nerd have in common? They are both made of molecules—a fact that does little to initially help the pair get along when their parents move in together. Ashley is still reeling from her parent’s divorce and father subsequently announcing he is gay; Stewart is still grappling with the death of his mother from cancer. When Ashley’s mother and Stewart’s father fall in love, the kids are thrown together and must learn how to live with each other. Full of feel good humor, Nielsen’s novel reminds us that no matter how different we may seem, we are fundamentally the same.

 

000 AA5Awkward by Svetlana Chmakova

When new girl Peppi joins the art club, she doesn’t realize the deep and ongoing feud they have with the Science Club. When the two clubs must compete for space at a school fair, the competition is fierce. Complicating things is the fact that Peppi embarrassed herself by tripping over and yelling at quiet Jaime, a nerdy science club member. The two clubs are more similar than they think, and both have to be creative in order to win the competition. Peppi’s trial of fitting in and having her first crush is adorably illustrated in this graphic novel that captures the essence of the middle school experience.

 

000 A12As Brave As You by Jason Reynolds

Eleven-year-old Genie, a curious kid who uses Google on a daily basis to look for answers to life’s questions, and his older brother Ernie leave the creature comforts of their Brooklyn home to spend the summer with their paternal grandparents down South. Ernie soon discovers, to his dismay, that his grandparent’s rural Virginia home is an Internet-free zone. And his grandfather, who is blind, has secrets to keep–including a strange “nunya bidness” room. With loads of heart and humor, this is a perfect summer read.

 

 

000 AA6El Deafo by Cece Bell

Cece is deaf (and a bunny), but she doesn’t let that stop her from achieving greatness and dreaming big as her superhero alter ego, El Deafo. Her new hearing aid, a Phonic Ear, allows her to have superhuman (or superbunny, as it were) hearing. Can she use her superhearing powers to make new friends? Author Cece Bell shows readers a unique and personal side of the Deaf experience with grace and vibrant illustrations.

 

 

000 AA7The Thing About Jellyfish by Ali Benjamin

There are some things you can always count on—the number of minutes in an hour, the rising and setting of the sun. Other things are unpredictable, such as life itself. Young Suzy’s former best friend recently died in a drowning accident. But Franny knew how to swim, so there has to be another explanation, Suzy believes—and latches onto the venomous Irukandji jellyfish as a prime suspect. Suzy is convinced they are the reason behind her friend’s untimely demise and is determined to find out why and how. This novel explores the grief of a young girl who just wants a rational, scientific explanation for something that makes no sense—the loss of a loved one.  Artful prose and an interesting structure—centered around the scientific method—allow readers to experience Suzy’s journey to forgiveness and resilience.

 

000 AA8Child Soldier by Jessica Dee Humphries and Michel Chikwanine

This non-fiction graphic novel deals with the physical and emotional aftereffects of being kidnapped and trained as a child soldier in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The story itself is horrifying: when Michel was just five years old, he and a group of his friends were kidnapped at gunpoint and taken to a rebel training camp, where they were assaulted mercilessly. Luckily, Michel was able to escape a while later and meet up with his family–but the family was still in danger. They moved to a refugee camp and desperately tried to get visas to North America. Michel was granted a visa; one of his sisters was not, and she was never heard from again. When he gets to Canada, Michel is astonished: people here cared more about their cell phones and appearance than the fact that there are children killing and dying another continent away. “So I share my story, as painful as it is for me to tell you and as sad it is for you to hear,” he says, determined to not let this reprehensible practice continue quietly. The story and illustrations are well-done and poignant enough to invoke an emotional response but not frighten middle grade readers.

 

000 AA9Drowned City by Don Brown

Most middle grade readers were only toddlers when Hurricane Katrina came ripping through the Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama coasts on August 29, 2005. Don Brown’s non-fiction graphic novel superbly illustrates the plight of the people left stranded in New Orleans, with no way to escape and with water rapidly rising by the foot. The peoples’ desperation is evident as they struggle to survive in a crowded Superdome and then migrate into Texas. Brown’s illustrations are subtle, yet show the depth of horror and emotion–but also hope–that came from the disaster.

 

000 AA11Stef Soto, Taco Queen by Jennifer Torres

Stef Soto, a seventh grader, is embarrassed: her father owns a run-down taco truck and insists on picking her up from school. While her dad is the purveyor of absolutely delicious food, his profession also leads other girls in the school to pick on Stef and call her the “Taco Queen”. When Stef learns that the food truck is coming under fire from local business owners, she begins to realize that her fondness for old Tia Perla goes deeper than she expected. Can she save her family’s food truck business and help her school’s art department gather funds for supplies? A lovable story, this is lighthearted and fun story–just don’t read it when you’re hungry.

 

000 AA10Terror at Bottle Creek by Watt Key

Alligators, boars, cottonmouths, and bears–oh my. Thirteen-year-old Cort has grown up in the swampy delta of Alabama, riding along with his river-guide father. When a hurricane threatens the Gulf Coast, Cort finds himself solely responsible for the safety of two neighbor girls. They end up trapped as the wind whips, the rain thrashes, and the snakes bite. Complicating matters even further is an angry, snake-bit boar that Cort names Rusty. Cort must navigate through alligator-infested waters and angry native wildlife to find help for the two girls. Full of action, this book is great for reluctant readers, especially if they have already enjoyed Hatchet.

 

Amanda Buschmann is the librarian at Atascocita Middle School in Humble, TX. She enjoys inspiring others to read, the smell of books, and all things sparkly.

It Takes 16 People Working Full Time to Publish All of James Patterson’s Books

Twelve years ago, Ned Rust was the lone employee on James Patterson’s team at Hachette Book Group (then Time Warner Book Group), working as what was then “radically” (as he put it) called a brand manager. At the time, Patterson was publishing two adult titles a year. “People were worried it was just too fast a clip,” Rust said, and that “readers wouldn’t be able to keep up.”

As Patterson became much more prolific—he is expected to publish eight adult titles in 2016—his team at HBG’s Little, Brown division has grown as well. Rust, who was recently promoted to v-p and James Patterson publishing director, heads a group of 16 employees dedicated to Patterson’s publishing efforts, which includes the staff working on Patterson’s new children’s imprint, Jimmy Patterson Books.

On March 21, the new imprint, which published its first title in September, will release its first original book, Jacky Ha-Ha, a middle grade novel by Patterson and Chris Grabenstein. September will see the release of Stalking Jack the Ripper, a debut YA novel by Kerri Maniscalco, the first time an author besides Patterson has been published within the James Patterson division. According to Rust, the changes this year will make Patterson’s prior years look “tame” in terms of “sheer innovation and scale,” though he said that the single-focus of the last decade has given his team a publishing edge.

“Jim’s storytelling instincts and his understanding of what readers want have been the bedrock of this operation’s success,” Rust said. “But I think we’ve also had tremendous advantage over other imprints in finding and honing the best ways to publish books consistently and well because of this very fact—that we’ve been working mostly with one author.” Rust noted that the majority of publishers have to “split their focus looking upstream” to authors and agents, and downstream to booksellers and to readers.

Because of Patterson’s consistency and dedication to Little, Brown and the team, “we’ve been able to focus our attention on the reader-facing side of the publishing process,” Rust said, “the nuts and bolts, the ins and outs of getting books into readers’ hands.” And there’s no questioning Patterson’s reach—the worldwide total sales for Patterson’s three biggest adult series, Alex Cross, Women’s Murder Club, and Michael Bennett, are 88 million, 56 million, and 20 million, respectively. Combining his adult and children’s titles, Patterson has sold 325 million books worldwide.

Patterson also touched on the advantage of a consistent working relationship with his partners at the company, saying it was “nice to know people over decades,” while characterizing Hachette staffers as “smart people who love books and are dedicated to getting people reading.”

The team functions much like other imprints with a diverse list of authors—with distinct sales, subrights, art, publicity, editorial, and marketing departments. At the end of January, the unit announced the addition of Erinn McGrath, who decamped from the Knopf publicity department, as publicity manager; Aubrey Poole as editor for Jimmy Patterson Books; and Trish Daly as editor for James Patterson.

In addition to ushering Patterson’s books through to publication, the staffers also oversee media and entertainment partnerships, including those with CBS Films and Scholastic, as well as the author’s literary and philanthropic campaigns, which have grown with the launch of the new imprint—the author’s earnings from Jimmy Patterson will go toward various literacy-related causes. “One of the most innovative things we’re doing is these campaigns that we’ve created to support libraries and independent bookstores,” said Jimmy Patterson’s marketing manager, Sabrina Benun, who is also in charge of Patterson’s philanthropic efforts.

Among Patterson’s donations that have gone to book-related causes are more than $1.5 million to fund reading, education, and professional development programs; $1.75 million to school libraries in 2015; more than $1.5 million to independent bookstores and indie booksellers; and $250,000 for young children and teens to spend at indie bookstores.

As for Patterson’s involvement in the publishing process, the writer brings the “passion and excitement of the proverbial kid in a candy store,” Rust said. “I tend to think the Jimmy character you’ll see attached to this new imprint is no small coincidence,” he added. “He kind of enjoys this book-publishing business, and it shows.”

This article appeared in the 03/21/2016 issue of Publishers Weekly under the headline: On Board with Team Patterson

 

 

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