Author Archives: engagedreading

About engagedreading

The goal of UVU's Forum on Engaged Reading is to inspire and empower educators, librarians and parents to ignite in children and teens a passion for reading. With our website and our annual conference, "For the Love of Reading," we share the best in books, in educational practices, and innovative ideas for changing lives with the love of reading. The UVU Forum on Engaged Reading is for anyone concerned with making the love for reading an attractive choice for the young people in our lives.

My friend is brave…

I believe all Writers are brave. They are risk takers.  They are hard workers! I respect and admire writers…  and I especially love and respect writers for young peopleRickloveme — the ones who write the books that young people hold to their hearts, and either cry at the endings, or laugh all the way through them! Yes, the ones whose books kids will hunt for, long and hard, because of the one they just read.

Brave writers that are good writers make me wish I were a writer.  This one brave, good, hardworking writer that I want to tell you about is also a generous writer.  He has inspired so many other writer-wannabes, and he has mentored them and cheered them on to their own published books and careers as writers for young people.  My friend, the brave, good, generous writer, rick-soMANYbunnieshas done that for more writers than I even know about…  more than I can count.  I do, however, count this writer as my friend, and I know that I’m not the only one who does.

Meet Rick Walton. rick-walton-05Read his books…  and better yet, enjoy them with a child, or your children, or your classroom full of children.  Rick is a genius…  clever in word play, generous in friendship, caring in his regard for this earth and the people who love and care for it, too. Rick is kind…  and good… and hard working.  And brave.

Learn about RickSIGNINGhow Rick Walton became a writer for children. Be sure to read the paragraph you will find on the left-hand side of the screen!

See how funny Rick Walton is. Really, besides reading his books, you should read every part of his website at http://Rickwalton.com. Each time I look at his website, I find a different section that makes me laugh out loud!  My favorite section – because I teach elementary language arts methods courses — is his section on word play — and all of his amazing word lists!  (Rick is my idea of the perfect language arts teacher!)

Rick is bravely facing big trials and hard things.  I’m not a writer…  but as a lover of writers, this is my shout-out to one of the bravest of them all!  Rick Walton — you are loved!

Submitted by Nancy Peterson, Professor, UVU School of Education. Nancy teaches at Utah Valley University in Orem, UT, and is Co-Chair of UVU’s Forum on Engaged Reading.

Location, Location, Location!

This weekend, as I write, folks in Orem, Utah (where Utah Valley University is located)orem-utah-420x163 are celebrating the annual “Orem Summer Fest.”  This includes a carnival with rides, food trucks, and craft Summerfest2014booths in a local city center park, a “kick off” parade through downtown, a “cutest baby” contest (and more), as well as a culminating fireworks display.  The Orem High School Marching Band fireworkshas been practicing throughout the neighborhood for two weeks, and I suspect that Mountain View and Timpanogos High Schools have been doing the same thing.

Well guess what?  I thought of a connection to this!  The Orem Summer Fest is all about celebrating what’s great about living in Orem, Utah…  and it made me wonder about fiction for young people that might have their settings in Orem, Utah.  I actually know about one Iforget(and I know the author, too!):  If I Forget, You Remember, by Carol Lynch Williams (Yearling Press, 1999).  I love this book for its plot and characterization as much as I do for its location!

This description is adapted from the hardback book jacket blurb: Sixth grade has just ended and Elyse Donaldson is ready for a perfect summer. She’s going to read her favorite books and write her first novel. She’s even determined to get along with her older sister, Jordyn. But her plans quickly unravel when Granny, whose Alzheimer is getting worse, moves in. Elyse finds change difficult as she watches her beloved grandmother slowly slipping away from them, but she also finds that she is a lot stronger than she knew.

Reminiscing about how much I loved  this book also made me think about a book series that was set in my previous location – Buckhannon, West Virginia.  BuckhannonPhyllis Reynolds Naylor wrote a delightfully funny series of books about the Malloy family (with all girls) who move in across Island Avenue from the Hartford family (with all boys). The take-off from Hatfields and McCoys smallNAYLORgives you a subtle idea about what to expect.  The whole series is a delightfully funny and laugh-out-loud experience – perfect for reading aloud to a variety of ages! My personal favorite will always be the first: The Boys Start the War, but this series could take you 2inONENaylorthrough the entire summer: The Girls Get Even, Boys Against Girls, Who Won the War?,  The Girls’ Revenge, The Boys Return, A Traitor Among the Boys, The Boys Take Control, The Girls Take Over, Boys Rock, and Girls Rule!

Do you know about fiction for young people that has YOUR hometown as its setting location!  Please let us know! Happy “Orem Summerfest,” everyone!

Posted by Nancy L. Peterson, Ed.D., Professor of Teacher Education at Utah Valley University, and Co-Chair of UVU’s Forum on Engaged Reading – “For the Love of Reading”

Summertime! And the readin’ is easy…

Because I wanted to inspire folks for summer reading opportunities all week, I’ve been remembering every book I ever read that had the word “summer” in it. summer-reading(And this was after a few days of brainstorming book titles for “something old,” “something new,” “something borrowed,” and “something blue” for our Twitter and Facebook campaigns!)  Reminiscing about my favorite summer books and finding some new discoveries for every age range of this summer’s readers  has inspired me to create my own “have-to-have” list, and to try to persuade my now grown children into reading down my list with me!   summerBOOKSWhen my kids were younger, we did this every summer… not every kid, but always at least one of them and always with me. We instigated this tradition when my daughter was 13. After meeting Phyllis Reynolds Naylor at a children’s literature conference, and telling her of my daughter’s interest in her “Alice” books (Starting With Alice, The Agony of Alice,  Incredibly Alice,  Alice in Charge, etc., Lovingly Alice, Alice in Rapture, Sort of, etc.) AliceBOOKSPhyllis suggested that an article about mothers and daughters reading the Alice Books as Alice and the daughters “grow up” would be a fun idea.  My daughter and I have been collecting “Alice” books ever since, and beginning with their reissuing in the last 10 years, that collecting has been fun and easy!

Just in case you are not looking for books to share with a preteen or teen daughter, but you are looking for some summer books that will provide a jumping off (or diving in) place for sharing summer dive into booksreads with the children in your life at a variety of ages, here is my new list.  As I said, I’m going to invite my adult kids to read these with me…  and hope to have that experience with grandchildren, someday.

Features #1 through #22 are for readers between the ages of 8 and 12 or 13.  #23 is for young and old — a great picture book. Features from #24 to the end are for teens (and adults!). Enjoy!

1. The Penderwicks: A Summer Tale of Four Sisters, Two Rabbits, and a Very Interesting Boy by Jeanne Birdsall. Whether or not you are familiar with this entire series, you will be delighted by this summer read! The penderwicksPenderwick sisters are on the grounds of a beautiful estate called Arundel, where sprawling gardens, treasure-filled attic, tame rabbits, and the cook who makes the best gingerbread in Massachusetts, provide a delightful holiday. But the best discovery of all is Jeffrey Tifton, son of Arundel’s owner, who quickly proves to be the perfect companion for their summer adventures.

2. One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia  In this Newbery Honor novel, three sisters travel from Brooklyn to Oakland, California, oneCRAZYin 1968 to meet the mother who abandoned them. When they arrive to spend the summer with her, Cecile is nothing like they imagined. While the girls hope to go to Disneyland and meet Tinker Bell, their mother sends them to a day camp run by the Black Panthers. Unexpectedly, Delphine, Vonetta, and Fern learn much about their family, their country, and themselves during one truly crazy summer.

3. Flea Circus Summer by Cheryl Ware  Venola Mae Cutright has spent most of the summer writingFleaCIRC letters, and never giving up, whether begging for a job, nitpicking with a friend, or straightening out a flea company:

Ultra Underwater Flea Circus People

P.O. Box 2000

Destin, Florida

 Dear Flea People’s Bosses

Enclosed is a Tupperware bowl of wet black specs. Please have your doctors analyze these in your oratories and see if there is something wrong with my water. I followed your directions to a tee…

Venola Mae Cutright

P.S. I don’t need any more magic rocks, but I never did receive the circus tent full of tiny elephant and bears and giraffes that the underwater fleas are riding in your advertisement.

4. The Summer Camp Mystery (The Boxcar Children Mysteries #82) by Gertrude Chandler Warner  & Hodges Soileau  The Boxcar Children boxcarare going to summer camp and are looking forward to a week of new friends, exciting activities, and, most of all, the annual camp Olympics, but as soon as camp begins, everything begins to go wrong for the Aldens.

5.  A Summer Secret by Kathleen Fuller (Mysteries of Middlefield Series) Mary Bethsummer secret is a thirteen year old Amish girl with three energetic brothers. She has a sweet, loving spirit and wants to be obedient to her parents (“do not go that abandoned barn out in the field!”) but when she makes a discovery in that barn, she knows she as a work to do.

6. The Summer Before Boys by Nora Raleigh Baskin.  Julia and Eliza SummerBEFOREboysare best friends, so when Julia’s mom is sent to serve in Iraq, it makes perfect sense for her to spend the summer with Eliza and her parents. Any other time, Julia would be thrilled to be there. But on top of worrying about her mom, Julia develops her first real crush. The gap between Julia and Eliza keeps widening—until Eliza does something drastic to win back her best friend. In this follow-up to the award-winning Anything But Typical, Raleigh has written a powerful, touching story about friendship, first love, and how the people who are farthest away from us are sometimes the ones we need the most.

7. Bluffton: My Summers with Buster Keaton by Matt Phelan  Award-winning Phelan has visualized a Blufftonbygone era in this graphic novel. In the summer of 1908, in Muskegon, Michigan, a visiting troupe of vaudeville performers is about the most exciting thing since baseball. They’re summering in nearby Bluffton, so Henry has a few months to ogle the elephant and the zebra, the tightrope walkers and — lo and behold — a slapstick actor his own age named Buster Keaton. The show folk say Buster is indestructible; his father throws him around as part of the act and the audience roars, while Buster never cracks a smile. Henry longs to learn to take a fall like Buster, “the human mop,” but Buster just wants to play ball with Henry and his friends.

8. The Summer I Learned to Fly by Dana Reinhardt:  Drew’s a bit of a loner, summerTOflywith a pet rat, her dead dad’s Book of Lists, an encyclopedic knowledge of cheese from working at her mom’s cheese shop, and a crush on Nick, the surf bum who works behind the counter. It’s the summer before eighth grade and Drew’s days seem like business as usual, until one night after closing time, when she meets a strange boy in the alley named Emmett Crane. Who he is, why he’s there, where the cut on his cheek came from, and his bottomless knowledge of rats are all mysteries Drew will untangle as they are drawn closer together, and Drew enters into the first true friendship, and adventure, of her life.

9. Mom Made Us Write This In The Summer (Max and Maggie Journal series) by Ali Maier, illustrated by Joanna Robinson  When Mom comes up with a plan for them to keep a summer momMADEusjournal, Maggie and Max can t believe it. Worse yet, they have to share! Through their writing, Maggie and Max find out they have very different (and hilarious) views about growing up, family and life a conclusion they only discovered because, as Max and Maggie say, “Mom Made Us Write This.”

10. The Summer Experiment by Cathie Pelletier Roberta is convinced she and her best friend Marilee can win the State Science Fair if only they summerEXPERIMENTcan find an amazing project to showcase. And they’ve got the whole summer to work on it. But in order to win they’ll need to defeat their chief competitor, “The Four Hs of the Apocalypse”: Henry Horton Harris Helmsby! When mysterious lights begin to appear over her hometown, Roberta has a brilliant idea: finding aliens in Allagash and proving they exist would win her first place for sure. Four Hs could never top that…or could he?

11. How Tia Lola Saved the Summer (The Tia Lola Stories) by Julia Alvarez  Miguel Guzman isn’t TiaLOLAexactly looking forward to the summer now that his mother has agreed to let the Sword family—a father, his three daughters, and their dog—live with them while they decide whether or not to move to Vermont. Little does Miguel know his aunt has something up her sleeve that just may make this the best summer ever. With her usual flair for creativity and fun, Tía Lola decides to start a summer camp for Miguel, his little sister, and the three Sword girls, complete with magical swords, nighttime treasure hunts, campfires, barbecues, and an end-of-summer surprise!

12. The Summer I Saved the World . . . in 65 Days by Michele Weber Hurwitz:  savedWORLDIt’s summertime, and thirteen-year-old Nina Ross is feeling kind of lost. Her beloved grandma died last year; her parents work all the time; her brother’s busy; and her best friend is into clothes, makeup, and boys. While Nina doesn’t know what “her thing” is yet, it’s definitely not shopping and makeup. And it’s not boys, either. Though . . . has Eli, the boy next door, always been so cute?
To survive this summer, Nina decides to change things. She hatches a plan for each of the sixty-five days of summer she’ll anonymously do one small but remarkable good thing for someone in her neighborhood, and find out: does doing good actually make a difference?   

13. Three Bird Summer by Sara St. Antoine For as long as he can remember, Adam and his parents have 3BIRDsummerspent their summers at his grandmother’s rustic cabin on Three Bird Lake. But this year will be different. There will be no rowdy cousins running around tormenting Adam. There will be no Uncle John or Aunt Jean. And there’ll be no Dad to fight with Mom. This year, the lake will belong just to Adam.
But then Adam meets Alice, the girl next door, who looks just like the aloof, popular girls back home—what could he and she possibly have in common? Turns out, Alice isn’t like the girls back home. She’s frank, funny, and eager for adventure. And when Adam’s grandma starts to leave strange notes in his room—notes that hint at a hidden treasure somewhere at the lake and a love from long ago—Alice is the one person he can rely on to help solve the mysteries of Three Bird Lake.

14. Seaglass Summer by Anjali Banerjee: Eleven-year-old Poppy Ray longs to be a veterinarian, but she’s never had a pseaglasset. This summer, she’s going to spend a month with her uncle Sanjay, veterinarian and owner of the Furry Friends Animal Clinic on an island off the Washington coast. With warmth and humor, Anjali Banerjee tells the story of a resourceful, determined girl who can’t wait to grow up, but begins to realize just how much she has left to discover.

15. Umbrella Summer by Lisa Graff: Annie Richards knows there are a million things to look out for—bicycle accidents, chicken pox, runaway zoo animals. UmbrellaThat’s why being careful is so important, even if it does mean giving up some of her favorite things, like bike races with her best friend and hot dogs on the Fourth of July. Everyone keeps telling Annie not to worry so much, that she’s just fine. But they thought her brother, Jared, was just fine too, and Jared died. With a lot of help from those around her, Annie just may find a way to close her umbrella of sadness and step back into the sunshine.

16. Summer of the Monkeys by Wilson Rawls: The last thing a fourteen-year-old boy expects to find along an old Ozark river bottom is a tree full of monkeys. Jay Berry Lee’s grandpa had ansummerofMONKESY explanation, of course–as he did for most things. The monkeys had escaped from a traveling circus, and there was a handsome reward in store for anyone who could catch them. Grandpa said there wasn’t any animal that couldn’t be caught somehow, and Jay Berry started out believing him . . . This beloved and classic novel, set in rural Oklahoma around the turn of the century, is a heart-warming family story–full of rich detail and delightful characters–about a time and place when miracles were really the simplest of things…

17. Summer Ball by Mike Lupicia: The sequel to the #1 New York Times bestseller Travel Team! Leading your travel team to the national championship summerBALLmay seem like a dream come true, but for Danny, being at the top just means the competition tries that much harder to knock him off. Now Danny’s heading to Right Way basketball camp for the summer, and he knows that with the country’s best players in attendance, he’s going to need to take his game up a notch if he wants to match up. But it won’t be easy. Old rivals and new battles leave Danny wondering if he really does have what it takes to stand tall.

18. Cam Jansen and the Summer Camp Mysteries CamJANSENby David Adler: Cam Jansen and her best friend Eric are spending three weeks at Camp Eagle Lake, and they couldn’t be more excited. But mysteries seem to follow supersleuth Cam everywhere, and it isn’t long before she’s using her photographic memory to “Click, Click” and save the day! 

19. Summer Reading is Killing Me! (Time Warp Trio, No. 7) by Jon Scieszka and Lane SummRDGkillingMESmith: Sam, Fred, and Joe–the Time Warp Trio–find themselves face-to-beak with a giant, 266-pound chicken … who, unfortunately, looks hungry. As the chicken begins to chase them, the boys realize with horror that they are smack-dab in the middle of Daniel Pinkwater’s The Hoboken Chicken Emergency! How did they get there? Fred accidentally stuck the school’s summer reading list between the pages of “The Book”–a time-warping, green-mist-expelling book that triggers time travel in all of Jon Scieszka’s well-loved Time Warp Trio action-adventures.

20. Summer Bucket List for Kids by Michelle summerBUCKETlistSnow: If you have a hard time helping your kids fill the hours in those long summer days, then this invaluable guide is exactly what you need. Full of fun, original, and thoughtful ideas—sure to use up your kids’ excess summertime energy in a positive, healthy way—this book is guaranteed to stop boredom in its tracks.

21. A Kid’s Summer EcoJournal: With Nature Activities for Exploring the Season by Toni Albert & Margaret Brandt: A Kid’s Summer EcoJournal invites kids kidsECOjournalto write about nature on pages exquisitely illustrated by Margaret Brandt. The author has included short entries from her nature journals, which express her irrepressible and unflagging delight in the natural world. Kids love to read about Trickle Creek, where fawns play on the lawn and young raccoons steal plums in the orchard. The Summer EcoJournal is packed with nature activities for exploring summer. Kids can build a turtle loafing platform, collect insect tracks, make a mushroom spore print, attract moths with a shining sheet, grow a giant sunflower, make sun prints, and enjoy dozens of other summer activities that teach them to love the world of nature. Based on solid science. 

22. Summer of the Gypsy Moths by Sara Pennypacker: From Clementine author Sara Pennypacker, this is a poignant middle-grade novel about two foster Gypsy mothschildren who must find a way to work together in order to survive. Eleven-year-old Stella misses her (unreliable) mom, but she loves it at great-aunt Louise’s house. Louise lives on Cape Cod, where Stella hopes her mom will someday come and settle down. The only problem? Angel, the foster kid Louise has taken in. The two girls live together but there’s no way they’ll ever be friends.Then Louise suddenly passes away one morning—and Stella and Angel decide not to tell anyone. Now they have to depend on each other for survival. Now they are forced to trust each other with the biggest secret ever. With great empathy and humor, Sara Pennypacker tells the story of two very different girls who unexpectedly become each other’s true family.

23. Rules of Summer by Saun Tan: In a series of loosely linked pictures Tan suggest Rules of SUMa fantastical summer shared by two brothers. Each full-page painting is paired with a one-sentence rule related to the accompanying scene. For instance, “Never leave a red sock on the clothesline” appears next to an image of the two boys crouching against a wall while a seriously giant red rabbit glares at the single sock drying in the sun. How the boys arrived in such a situation is unclear, but speculating is half the fun. “Never leave the back door open” precedes a painting of the two brothers overlooking a living room brimming with an otherworldly forest. Though the rules are occasionally confounding and don’t lend themselves to a clear narrative, and the paintings are tinged with a growing sense of menace that might frighten young readers, Tan’s mesmerizing, gorgeous art is as beautiful and entrancing as ever and will likely have wide appeal well outside the usual picture-book audience, especially among imaginative teen artists. 

For Teens (and Adults!) 

Memories of Summer by Ruth White: It is the mid-1950s, and Lyrics family is finally moving from the backwoods of southwest Virginia to Flint, Michigan, where her father hopes to get an memoriesSUMMERassembly-line job for a car manufacturer. Thirteen-year-old Lyric has always been close to and admired her older sister, Summer, who is pretty and popular. But in their new hometown, Summer unexpectedly and drastically changes. She becomes remote, speaks gibberish, stops taking care of her appearance, and wont go to high school. Lyric and her father try to cope with the devastating effects of Summers mental illness. Ruth White has written a heart-wrenching novel which, despite the sad and serious subject matter, offers readers humor and hope and most of all love.

Revolutionary Summer by Joseph J. Ellis: In a brilliant narrative, Ellis meticulously examines the most influential figures in this propitious moment, inclRevolutaionary Sumuding George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, and Britain’s Admiral Lord Richard and General William Howe. He weaves together the political and military experiences as two sides of a single story, and shows how events on one front influenced outcomes on the other.

Summer of My German Soldier by Bette Greene: German SoldierThe summer that Patty Bergen turns twelve is a summer that will haunt her forever. When her small hometown in Arkansas becomes the site of a camp housing German prisoners during World War II, Patty learns what it means to open her heart. Even though she’s Jewish, she begins to see a prison escapee, Anton, not as a Nazi, but as a lonely, frightened young man with feelings not unlike her own.

Summer of the Swans summerSWANSby Betsy Byars: The Summer of the Swans, by Betsy Byars, is a heartwarming story about the longest day in the life of a fourteen year old . A wonderfull theme emerges from the story that every child should hear.

A Summer to Die by Lois Lowry: Meg isn’t thrilled when she gets stuck sharing a bedroom with her older sister summertoDIEMolly. The two of them couldn’t be more different, and it’s hard for Meg to hide her resentment of Molly’s beauty and easy popularity. But now that the family has moved to a small house in the country, Meg has a lot to accept. Just as the sisters begin to adjust to their new home, Meg feels that Molly is starting up again by being a real nuisance. But Molly’s constant grouchiness, changing appearance, and other complaints are not just part of a new mood. And the day Molly is rushed to the hospital, Meg has to accept that there is something terribly wrong with her sister. That’s the day Meg’s world changes forever.

The Summer I Turned Pretty by Jenny Han : Belly measures her life in summers.summerPRETTY Everything good, everything magical happens between the months of June and August. Winters are simply a time to count the weeks until the next summer, a place away from the beach house, away from Susannah, and most importantly, away from Jeremiah and Conrad. They are the boys that Belly has known since her very first summer — they have been her brother figures, her crushes, and everything in between. But one summer, one wonderful and terrible summer, the more everything changes, the more it all ends up just the way it should have been all along.

Freedom Summer: The 1964 Struggle for Civil FreedomSUMRights in Mississippi by Susan Goldman Rubin: Fifty years after the Freedom Summer murders, this meticulously researched, compellingly told account covers an incredible moment in history. Mickey Schwerner, Andrew Goodman, and James Chaney were three young civil rights workers who decided to work for the Council of Federated Organizations (COFO) to confront bigotry in Mississippi and register African Americans to vote. They left for Meridian, accompanied by student volunteers from across the United States, Schwerner, Goodman, and Chaney were killed by Klansmen after being arrested. Their deaths deepened the conviction of the others and served to engender incredible strides in the forward momentum of the civil rights movement.

A Summer State of Mind by Jen Calonita: Summer has finally arrived and fifteen-year-old sumSTATEofMINDHarper McCallister intends to spend her days at the mall shopping or by the pool at her country club. But after receiving her latest heart-stopping credit card bill, Harper’s parents makes other plans, and ship her off to camp. Suddenly, the clueless yet ever-popular Harper is the new girl at the bottom of a social ladder she can’t climb in wedge sandals and expensive clothes. She seems to be winning over super-cute camp “Lifer” Ethan, though, and if she can manage to make a few friends–and stay out of trouble–she just might find a whole new summer state of mind. 

Posted by Nancy L. Peterson, Ed.D., Professor of Teacher Education at Utah Valley University, and Co-Chair of UVU’s Forum on Engaged Reading

Demystifying Dyslexia in Literature and Life

Henry Franklin Winkler is not only a well-known American actor (The Fonze, from the hit comedy, Henry_Winkler_Fonzie_1977“Happy Days”), producer, and director, but he is also the author of a critically acclaimed series, Hank Zipzer.  Collaborating with Lin Oliver, who is a writer and producer of movies, books, and television series for children, Henry Winkler has written HankZipperSERIESa series of 17 children’s books about a 4th grade boy who is dyslexic. Winkler, a dyslexic himself, delights his readers in the escapades of his hero, Zipzer, who always manages to get the last laugh. The “world’s greatest underachiever”,  Zipzer  gives those who struggle with reading a reason to laugh at themselves and to find solace in a character in whom they can relate. Shouting loud and clear is the core message that everyone can succeed no matter what obstacle may be in there way.

Winkler himself did not realize he was learning disabled until he was 31 years old when his stepson was tested and diagnosed. This revelation brought him both ahas and relief. Dyslexia was an unhappy part of his childhood, and it was nice to get a label for the difficulty he had in learning when he was otherwise a very bright and intelligent child.  HWtodayMuch like his main character, Hank Zipzer, Henry Winkler is smart, funny and resourceful. Even though fonzauthorhe can tout such tributes as having a star on Hollywood Boulevard, being presented the Order of the British Empire by the Queen of England, and having the jacket he wore as the Fonz in Happy Days hanging in the Smithsonian Museum in Washington, D.C., he will tell you that his proudest accomplishment is writing the Hank Zipzer series.

I am a dyslexic. Shoot!  Like Henry Winkler, I didn’t find out I was until I was an adult.  I was in a doctorate program where the science of reading was my focus.  I know, a dyslexic studying the science of reading, seems a little out of place, right?  Right! I was explaining to my professor how I read and she quipped, “That’s not how it works!” What? Yes it is. At least that is how I read.

The conversation wasn’t a complete disaster because it ended up being somewhat life changing. That dear knowledgeable professor promptly led me to Overcoming Dyslexia by Sally Shaywitz.  overcomingDDid you know it comes in an audio format? I purchased the audio tapes and “read” the book going and coming from my home in Las Vegas where I was pursuing my doctorate, to my home in Salt Lake.  As I read I came across a list of clues for dyslexia describing typical behaviors of a dyslexic. I was dumbfounded. I demonstrated all of them. Not one or two, not most, but ALL. I rewound the tape and listened to it again. I got out my printed copy of the book and read, underlined, and flagged the page. THIS explained so many things.

Listen to this! Dyslexia is not just a reading impairment.  It affects the ability to spell (I love spell check!), to retrieve words, spellingto articulate words and to remember certain facts. Impairment is not intellectually based. Just the opposite, those impaired are highly intelligent. (That last part I really like!)  Up to now I had wordsassumed that I just wasn’t as smart as everybody else. I was a hard worker, and I was positive it was my work ethic, not my intelligence, that got me to where I was. My memory was a disaster, especially for proper names or proper terminology.  I was always saying things like the thing-a-ma-bob, or that thing on the you know what, or I can’t remember what it is called but you know… Well come to find out, this tip-of-the-tongue phenomenon is a symptom of a phonological weakness on the left side of the brain we laymen call the language center.  Who knew!

You see, good readers have highly interconnected neural systems that encompass regions in the back and front of the left side of the brain. Most of the reading part of the brain is in the back. brainIn contrast, dyslexics show that their back of the brain has faulty wiring. Neural pathways for them are under activated. This causes them to use other parts of the brain not necessarily equipped well for the reading task. Therefore, they find themselves needing to subvocalize as they read, slowing their reading rate way down. They don’t process words as deeply and as clearly in their lexicon (a fancy word for an internal dictionary of stored words). These poor quality representations make it hard for dyslexics to retrieve words when speaking or to recognize words when reading.

Knowledge is power, and we can take this scientific information and use it to help. So the good news is that the brain can actually be rewired.  Hard to believe but it is true.  Researchers using a functional MRI scanned the brains of struggling readers as they were reading both before and after instructional treatment. What they found is that when dyslexic students were given explicit, multisensory reading instruction in phonemic awareness and phonics that those highly interconnected neural systems start ed lighting up! EUREKA! How exciting is that? Well to me, and the one-in-every-five children who struggle with reading, it is life changing.

As Dr. Sally Shaywitz expresses in her book, dyslexia is no longer a faceless beast causing havoc in the lives of its victims. We now can see the “face of the beast”, and we arewell on our way to taming it and taking command!

This week’w Guest Blogger, Dr. Ann Sharp, teaches literacy in the School of Education at Utah Valley University, Orem, UT.

ann sharp photo

Celebrating Cinco de Mayo with the Pura Belpré Award

cinco-de-mayo

I recently returned from a trip to London and I’m now fascinated by anything I see or hear about England. I noticed this same thing after taking my then 12-year-old daughter on a trip to Paris, England and Scotland in 2012. At the time, she had limited experience with international cultures and the trip helped her understand that her life is much different from what other people experience in different parts of the world.  internationalBKSThis later helped bring alive what she was learning in European History, Art History, and Shakespeare classes as well as in any number of other ways I don’t even know about.

Although it’s not feasible to take students on extended field trips, bringing the world into the classroom is a little easier through good books! Luckily, the American Library Association has helped identify outstanding works by Latino/Latina writers and illustrators with the annual Pura Belpré awards puraAWARDrecognize works that “best portray, affirm, and celebrate the Latino cultural experience in an outstanding work of literature for children and youth.”

Are you looking for ways to share the Pura Belpré books to develop a love of reading? The Classroom Bookshelf has these great ideas in their blog:

  • Have students analyze their own classroom bookshelves for characters from various cultural backgrounds.
  • What do students notice about the social locations of characters?
  • Do the characters they read about remind them of themselves?
  • Do they see themselves in books? When?
  • Are their stories missing from the shelves? If so, how can they be added to your classroom bookshelves?

Another great way to help students understand the culture is through author videos. For example, what would you do if you won an award like the Pura Belpré? yuyiYuyi Morales has won the Pura Belpré Award honor four times, and the medal four times, all for different books, and most recently for Niño Wrestles the World (2014, Roaring Brook Press).Nino wrestles Here’s what Yuyi had to say (and dance!) about winning the 2014 Pura Belpré Illustrator award! http://youtu.be/F2FDU0B32cc

The 2014 Pura Belpré Award Honor books include:

Maria Had a Little Llama / María Tenía una Llamita illustrated and written by Angela Dominguez and published by Henry Holt and Company, LLC
  Pancho Rabbit and the Coyote: A Migrant’s Tale illustrated and written by Duncan Tonatiuh and published by Abrams Books for Young Readers, an imprint of ABRAMS
Tito Puente: Mambo King / Rey del Mambo illustrated by Rafael López, written by Monica Brown and published by Rayo, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers

 

The Belpré award is named after Pura Belpré, the first Latina librarian at the New York Public Library. PuraBelpre2As a children’s librarian, storyteller, and author, she enriched the lives of Puerto Rican children in the U.S.A. through her pioneering work of preserving and disseminating Puerto Rican folklore.

Stay tuned with us for some great book and reading suggestions about portraying, affirming, and celebrating a “world wide” variety of cultures, peoples, places and ideas as we assist young people to find themselves on the pages of books.

Submitted by Lesli Baker, UVU Library Assistant Director-Public Services at Utah Valley University in Orem, Utah 

Anxiety is number one…

Anxiety is the number one mental health problem facing young people today according to psychologist Dr. Tamar E. Chansky, Ph.D. Childhood should be a happy and carefree time, yet more and more children today are exhibiting symptoms of anxiety and fear. Parents everywhere want to know: All children have fears, but how much is normal? How can you know when a stress has crossed over into a full-blown anxiety disorder? Most parents don’t know how to recognize when there is a real problem and how to deal with it when there is.

As a book buyer at Utah Valley University’s Bookstore, I have come across some great books that I have used to help my 10 year old daughter to overcome her anxiety and fears. All these titles are in print.

Freeing Your Child from Anxiety: Powerful, Practical Solutions to Overcome Your Child’s Fears, Worries, and Phobias by Dr. Tamar E. Chansky is one that I recommend that has lots of practical advice to help a child suffering with anxieties. How can you know when a stress has crossed over into a full-blown anxiety disorder? Most parents don’t know how to recognize when there is a real problem and how to deal with it when there is. This book guides you through a proven program to help your child back to emotional safety.

Growing Up Brave: Expert Strategies for Helping Your Child Overcome Fear, Stress, and Anxiety by Dr. Donna B. Pincus, PhD.  This is such a timely book, as our nation’s children are more anxious than ever. It presents parents with a step-by-step guide to help their children deal with the ever encroaching stress and fears that our disconnected world is creating. Dr. Pincus empowers parents to use simple, scientifically established techniques to guide the development of competent and confident children.

Monsters Under the Bed and Other Childhood Fears: Helping Your Child Overcome Anxieties, Fears, and Phobias by Dr. Stephen W. Garber, PhD. & other contributors. If your child’s worrying is interfering with his or her life, then you should read this book. It is an authoritative guide to current knowledge on childhood anxiety disorders, written in a clear, engaging style. To develop more courage, your child needs to learn how to cope with anxiety.

A wonderful book for a child to read is What to Do When You Worry Too Much: A Kid’s Guide to Overcoming Anxiety ( What to Do Guides for Kids ) by Dawn Huebner and Bonnie & Ellen Candace. This book for school-age children teaches techniques to reduce and overcome anxiety, fears, and worry, through writing and drawing activities and self-help exercises and strategies. My daughter loves this book and shared it with her 4th grade teacher and classmates.

I know these resources will help a child to overcome his/her anxiety and fear.

Posted by Randy Varney, Buyer – General Trade & Reference Books at Utah Valley University Bookstore in Orem, UT. Randy is also a member of the planning committee for the UVU Forum on Engaged Reading, and provides a conference bookstore for our event.

 

Mrs. D Taught Us!

This week the “For the Love of Reading” conference is celebrating National Library Week.  And who loves guylibrarianreading more than librarians?  Librarians are no longer just keepers of books, but a valuable instructional resource — a co-partner in teaching students skills in information-gathering, critical thinking, and evaluation.

Last week a friend came over to my house for some help with her research.  I got her into one of the university’s databases and had to leave to answer the door.  When I returned there was my 13-year-old daughter explaining boolean logic to her like it was her native language!  “The more terms you enter, the more narrow your search will be,” she said…and on and on.  I secretly wished that having a librarian mom was the reason she was so well versed in research lingo, but unfortunately it was not.  “Where in the world did you learn all that?” librarianHELPSI asked.  “Mrs. D taught us,” she said as she zipped out of the room.

Mrs. D., her librarian from elementary school, was a “partner in crime” with the teachers for school projects and papers.  She didn’t just sit behind a desk and check out books.  She was a librarian on the move, working alongside teachers to educate students in information literacy, literature and loving to read. LBlibraries

How can we as parents and educators support libraries and librarians’ efforts to instill a love of reading in our children?  The American Library Association offers these tips:

  1. Get to know your school librarian. Ask what the needs are and how you can help. Donations of books and equipment such as computers and video players may be welcome. Offer to volunteer your time.
  2. Join the Friends of the Library, a support group of volunteers who provide fundraising and other assistance. If there is no group, offer to start one.
  3. Help your child be school ready. Enroll your preschool child in story-hours and other programs at the public library. childCOMPlibraryMake sure your child has a library card and knows how to use it. Read together with your child. Research shows that children who are read to in the home do better in school.
  4. Be a role model. Let your child see you reading at home. Help your child explore new technology. Many school and public libraries make computers available for public use. Feel free to ask for assistance. DCC-library1
  5. Support legislators who support libraries and education. Let them know you think the two go together and should be a high priority.

See “The School Library: What Parents Should Know”

Posted by Kim Rollins. Kim has a Masters of Library and Information Science degree from Brigham Young University and is a librarian at Utah Valley University.

Jumping on the POETRY bandwagon…

I’m not really one for jumping on the bandwagon of national-this-or-that days, weeks or months. I promise…  I don’t even do much celebrating of less-than-national days, such as my grown kids’ birthdays (I live in shame for this), my own anniversary national-poetry-month(I go to therapy for this), or  National Day of Prayer (I go to church for this). However, there is one month-long celebration that I’m all in favor of. I go to great lengths to celebrate this one: National Poetry Month. As a passionate proponent of “doing” poetry with children in order to convince them that words are their friends (and very playful ones, at that), and as a “Ralph Fletcher convert” to poetry writing that every child can do (love, LOVE his book, Poetry Matters: Writing a Poem From the Inside Out), poetry mattersI simply cannot resist building my own “bandwagon” and inviting my students, my family, my friends, and you, Dear Reader, to jump onboard!

Here are three elementary-teachers-should” truths that I know about …poetry cover1.   Elementary teachers should  have favorites – favorite poems and favorite poets.

2.     Elementary teachers should collect brief, clever, and delightful examples of poetry with which they can delight and entertain their students.

3.     Elementary teachers should nurture the natural poets children are, rather than assigning poetry.

Here are three elementary-teachers-shouldn’t” truths (I know these truths, thanks to Mike Tunnell & Jim Jacobs):

1.     Elementary teachers shouldn’t force and over-do poetry memorization & recitation.

2.     Elementary teachers shouldn’t force/assign all students to write poetry (particularly with rigid parameters, no matter how many lines or syllables called for).

3.     Elementary teachers shouldn’t force/assign heavy-duty analyzing of poems for their structures and meanings.

And finally, here are three elementary-teachers-can” truths that I know about poetry:

1.     Elementary teachers can  entice children with contemporary poems with humor and some sort of rhythm and rhyme.

2.     Elementary teachers can  empower children with writing poems when they demand fewer conventions and permit “poetic license.”

3.     Elementary teachers can inspire children as poets when they show them that (Ralph Fletcher’s idea here) writing a poem for someone is like giving blood.  It goes from the heart of the giver to the heart of the receiver. (I know, isn’t that brilliantly poignant?)

Are you ready to put your own poetic license“Poetic Teaching License” to work? Needing ideas for some fresh poetry to delight, entice and empower your students?  mooseThe scope of this blog post cannot include everything I wish teachers could know, understand, and do about poetry.  But I cannot resist an opportunity to unload a few things from my bandwagon, and leave them with you for yours:

Check out the Classroom Bookshelf Blog  and scroll through everything you will need, including book reviews, teaching ideas, and supporting resources.  Be sure to “search” the archives for the many new and wonderful poetry books they have included on their site!  Then…  well, in the words of Beatrice Schenk de Regniers,

“Keep a poem in your pocket and a picture in your head and you’ll never feel lonely…”PocketFULofPOEMS

Posted by Nancy Peterson, Ed.D., Professor of Elementary Education at Utah Valley University, and Co-Chair of “For the Love of Reading” conference. 

Did I ever tell you you’re my hero?

This week we are kicking off new ways to share information that we hope will fill your classrooms, your children, or you with a love of reading. 

Our first topic, in celebration of the wonderful biographies that have been published recently, and over the past few years, is “personal heroes.” 

heroINhandA hero is what we call someone who displays courage or excellence, and/or self-sacrifice for some greater good, often in the face of danger and adversity, or from an original position of weakness. There are, of course, fictional heroes, mythological heroes, superheroes…  and then there are Real Heroes … real, as in reality. hero canThese are what great biographies for young people are all about. And the great thing about today’s biographies for young people is that readers can make their own minds up about what constitutes a hero, and about how heros inspires them.

Everyone loves heroes, especially as their understandings about the human experience grow and mature. Heroes come in many shapes and sizes, EleanorRooseveltand children’s literature is filled with fantastic examples. WrightBrosWe recommend having a class discussion or Socratic Seminar about heroes – what makes them, what happens to them, and what they accomplish during their lives. These discussions, when they include real examples from real lives, can be motivations for young people to read biographies and find some answers for themselves.

  • See Kristin Wright’s middle grades unit on Heroes.  KristinWright-Heroes_Unit  (Kristin Wright is an instructor in the School of Education at Utah Valley University).
  • See middle grade “4-Square” unit on Heroes through Biographies: Hero Essay & Instructional Unit Outline. For a list of selected biographies to accompany this unit, email the author: nancy.peterson@uvu.edu

Questions to inspire meaningful discussions about heros:

  • What makes someone a hero? 
  • What kinds of things happen to heroes?
  • What kinds of things have heroes accomplished?
  • What strengths and virtues have heroes exhibited?
  • What challenges and obstacles have heroes overcome?
  • Who helped the hero you read about?
  • How was your hero transformed?
  • What strengths of character do you share with individual heroes you’ve read about?

Included in this blog are links to some great websites to help facilitate discussions, as well as a couple of instructional units that can be adapted for older or younger students as they investigate the concept of heroism, or personal heroes.YOUaREhero

Who is your favorite hero?  Who have your read about?  Who would you like to read about next?

BIOGRAPHY BOOK

Looking for a book to love…

Valentine’s Day is past, and I’m feeling guilty that we didn’t re-post our guest blogger’s great Valentine’s Day tradition from last year, so here it is (just a couple of weeks late). It looks like spring may have sprung early (around here, anyway!) and I’m fearing that my leisurely reading hoursBook_Lovers_Day will be prematurely replaced by garden-planning and yard work.  I left my last “lost-in-the-book” experience behind when I drove home from our inspiring conference (UVU Forum on Engaged Reading) at the Chateaux in September.

 

I just haven’t lost myself in a good book, for way too long. Oh, I’ve enjoyed reading some new picture books, and some that are new to me even though they have been around for a while, and I’ve enjoyed classroom and office discussions of the books that my students and colleagues have been losing themselves in.  But I’m feeling pretty melancholy about this, BLANAand I’m starting to worry.  Maybe this is more than a midterm crisis for me – I’m thinking this is serious!  I can’t hear any of my night-stand stacks of “read-me-next” books calling to me.  I look through the Scholastic Book Order leaflets and notice some recent additions, but nothing is reaching out to me. I don’t feel drawn into  bookstores at the moment – not even my favorite ones.  I am stressing over feelings of  guilt about co-chairing a conference that fights the 21st Centure problem of “a-literacy,” while I am exhibiting symptoms of it myself. I don’t want to read a book to “get current” in my field, and I don’t want to read a book just because it received some recent (albeit prestigious) award. I just want to feel lost in a book again.  medalion book-loverI’m longing for a book that holds my heart in between my reading sessions, and that I can hold to my heart as I tell someone about it.

 

I recently came across a delightful poem written by Tom Robert Shields and published (Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2004) in Wonderful Words: Poems About Reading, Writing, Speaking, and Listening, selected by Lee Bennett Hopkins and Illustrated by Karen Barbour. wonderful-wordsThe poem is “I Am the Book” and it promised to be my friend, stay by my side… bring dreams I’ll “forever keep,” to warm me, and to plant in me a “spring seedling…” while I am reading.  It promises,

 

“… I am the book

You are needing.”

 So, I decided to ask you…  any reader who may have stumbled onto this blog, in spite of the fact that it hasn’t been updated for some time – until now.  What do you suggest?  Is there a book that has been your friend…  brought dreams bklvr1you have “forever [kept],” and planted in you a “spring seedling – some book that you were needing and found — that you can share with me?  Please write soon., because you may know the book I am needing.  Yours truly, An Engaged Reader in Crisis

Posted by Nancy Peterson, Professor of Elementary Education at Utah Valley University, and Co-Chair of UVU’s Forum on Engaged Reading