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.

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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

If I were desperate, I might even look into what Heidi and Jo March were doing.

Guest Blog Post by Mike Freeman

When I was young, I lived on a farm in the Ozark hills of southern Missouri, and literally went to school in a two-room country schoolhouse.  one_room_school_houseWe were the real Waltons with eight children in a smTOWNmainSTfive-room house.  Even going to town was a rarity, and I didn’t care to go anyway because standing around watching my sisters shop was not that thrilling.  My brothers liked to hunt and fish but I didn’t.  We didn’t have a television and videos didn’t exist.

One thing we did have was a set of the Great Illustrated Classics and I liked to read.  Over and over again I journeyed down the Mississippi with Huck and Jim, sought treasure with longJsJim Hawkins and Long John Silver, fought duels with d’Artagnan, answered the call of the wild with Buck, and discovered those grim Grimm’s tales.  If I were desperate, I might even look into what Heidi and Jo March were doing.  All of these books fed the imagination of distant times, worlds and sites, and saved my childhood from utter boredom.

Once a month the bookmobile from the county library would appear at our school, and our teacher would select a single representative from each grade to select the Bkmbooks for the month.  Though the student was instructed to select for everyone, a marked bias always seemed to surface.  I just couldn’t believe the kinds of books those girls would choose.

Nonetheless, I was hooked and now years later, with English and History and Library Science degrees under my belt, I still musketeerscan’t find enough time for the endless lists to read.  Now that I am older, I sometimes revisit those old classics and marvel even now how well they still capture my attention.  Reading is the opportunity to look into the minds and souls of people across the ages, and to ponder all the struggles that have created our modern world.  Reading connects our common humanity, and makes us consider other points of view and ways of life.  Mark Twain said that a man who won’t read is no better than a man who can’t read.  I couldn’t say it better.

mike2Mike Freeman is the Library Director at Utah Valley University in Orem, UT. He holds a bachelors and MLS from University of Missouri, and his MA in History from the University of Utah.  Prior to coming to UVU in 1993, Mike worked at the University of South Carolina and the Orem Public Library in Utah.  He is an ardent Mark Twain fan.

I need to read like a boy…

That’s right – I said read like a boy.  I’m a girl, all grown up, having raised a boy who is now all grown up, and I still do not know what it is in a book that will capture a boy’s heart and soul boys1girl lovingBOOKSand help him become a reader for life.  I do know that all three of my girls loved being read to from the first moment I did it.  All I had to do was hold them close, let them see the book, and let them feel my love for them and the words and the illustrations. Once they grew out of my lap for story time, all I had to do was lie down on the living room floor, or the bed beside them, and read. Reading “like a girl” was easy, and I loved it!

My son, however, was a different story.  “On-the- lap” story time for the two of us was short-lived because boyENGINEERI mother_reading_to_baby_boycouldn’t get him to stay there long enough for a story!  He was one of those kids who love taking things apart and playing with all of those parts.  Maybe some of your daughters do that, too, but this was my experience only with my son. I will love Eric Hill Eric_Hillforever.  My discovery of his lift-the-flap books about a puppy called “Spot,” finally did reward me with a daily story in the lap, and together we discovered many other delightful, engineered books. We had just a few weeks of “in the lap” story time. Before long, I passed him off to some wheres-spotwonderful, book-loving teachers who introduced him, Where's SpotINSIDEthrough a journey unknown to me, to fantasy and science fiction, which he continues to read … and write!

Once I passed my son to those teacher-guides, I went back to my own choices for reading, and I never figured out the key to getting real_men_read_sweatshirtguys to read.  I know that guys reading Young_boy_readingis a cause that has been taken up by many authors out there, and I’m willing to take a look at what they have to say, and to learn from them.  But in the end, I really would like to read like a boy.

I found someone to emulate!  In her blog entry on July 15, 2011, Ruth got my attention! (I just love the blog’s title). In this blog entry on “Teaching With Joy and Purpose” I find good company, and an example for my quest to “reading like a boy.” Here are Ruth’s own words:

“What I have realized is that even if I’m familiar with titles and authors and summaries and reviews, truly connecting with readers is hard when you don’t ever read the same kinds of things they do. Besides, my selections for read alouds, book clubs, reading groups and even independent reading suggestions may make it hard for student readers who are not drawn to the same type of reading I am. The other problem is that I end up with very limited experience to draw upon when supporting these readers. I may not understand as a reader how these texts are set up, how the plots tend to work, or what strategies may really help readers navigate and understand and enjoy and share with others what they are reading.”

Ruth is so right!  And she confirms my belief in her as a model to follow by sharing her personal list of books for readingBoys_Reading that summer.  Since at least 1,000 new books for boys have been published since Ruth’s list, I would love to hear about recentBD1234-001.jpg “boy books” that you, readers of this blog, have discovered since 2011.  Please share!

The Toilet Paper Tigers (G. Korman)

Oggie Cooder (S. Weeks)
A Whole Nother Story (Dr. C. Soup)
The Spiderwick Chronicles, Book 1 (H. Black, T. DiTerlizzi)
100 Cupboards (N.D. Wilson)

Fablehaven, Book 1 (B. Mull)                  childrens-books

The Unusual Mind of Vincent Shadow (T. Kehoe)

Powerless (M. Cody)
Stink-o-pedia (M. McDonald)
NERDS: National Espionage, Rescue, and Defense Society (M. Buckley)

And, if you happen to be in the market for a good, recent list yourselves, consider coming to UVU’s Forum on Engaged Reading this coming September 19th  and 20th in Park City, Utah.  GuyREADINGsteveLAYNESbkJoining us to inspire a love of reading are “boy book” authors and fans, GuysREADatOURconfalong with other great authors and fans, all who desire, as I do, to discover many paths to life-long loving of reading.

Meet Steve Sheinkin… next year!

Because we want to give this year’s audience attending UVU’s Forum on Engaged Reading, a preview of next year’s program, I want to introduce you to Steve Sheinkin, SteveSheinkinone of the Keynote Presenters for UVU’s 2014 Forum on Engaged Reading.  I “found” Steve on Ink Think Tank itt-logo — a great website that is a true “think tank” of nonfiction authors.  In Steve’s bio, he confesses to being a recovering textbook author… whose mission is to simply prove to kids that his­tory is actu­ally cool.”  You’ll probably recognize a couple of his books:  The Notorious Benedict Arnold: A True Story About Adventure, Heroism, and Treachery (Square Fish Publications, 2013) and Two Miserable Presidents: Everything Your Schoolbooks Didn’t Tell You About the Civil War (Roaring Brook Press, 2008).

Notorious Benedict2MiserablePres

Whether or not you recognize those books, you’re sure to be interested in his most recent one, Lincoln’s Grave Robbers (Scholastic, 2013), and the one just before that (a Newbery Honor Book), Bomb: The Race to Build–and Steal–the World’s Most Dangerous Weapon BombBook(Flashpoint Publications, 2012). These books aren’t “your mother’s nonfiction” — these are “thrillers and adventure stories first” so that Sheinkin’s readers will want to read them!

 lincolns-grave-robbers

Since the Common Core State Standards have shifted the focus of teaching comprehension and writing of complex nonfiction, it’s refreshing to find authors like Steve, who lure kids (and their teachers) in to the wonderful world of facts and details that make history come alive.

If you join us (UVU’s Forum on Engaged Reading) in October of 2014, you’re sure to become a Steve Sheinkin fan, as I have. SteveSgiving.talk In preparing for this blog post, I read a blog post by Sheinkin, himself, where he refers to his writing as detective work.  “… a nerdy kind of detective work,” he says, “but still… My job is to find stories, and I read books to look for clues, follow leads, gather evidence.” Wow, what an example for our students!

I’ll end this blog with just a bit of serendipity: at the end of Sheinkin’s blog post, author Jim Murphy makes a comment…  and guess what?  Jim Murphy is Keynoting this year’s Forum on Engaged Reading (Sept. 19 & 20, 2013).  So, Dear Reader, I hope you have become a believer: our conference — “For the Love of Reading” — is just a gift that will keep on giving, to you and to your students!  See you there!

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