The Thursday Three – World Read Aloud Day and More

I remember a few years ago, I had a really unruly class, with a capital UN.

Part of the issue was that every single one of them had a reading disability. They had IEPs, ILPs, RTI plans, dyslexia, and ADD (with the H and without). By 7th grade they thought reading was something that made them look dumb. The old saying proved true: they would rather look bad than stupid. So they acted out. They tested me. I knew I needed to find some common ground, something that would keep me from pulling my hair out and throwing one of them out the window (I kid!). I found it when I pulled out Things Not Seen by Andrew Clements and started to read aloud.

It was like I had a magic wand.

Students sat and listened. They engaged. They asked questions! Everyone of them wanted to know how this kid had turned invisible. They speculated about what they would do if they woke up that way. I was grossed out that he walked around Chicago with bare feet. It was my favorite time of the day and it only cost the price of a paperback.

I remembered this group of kids and that magic moment this week as the we celebrated World Read Aloud Day. Here are my gleanings:

1. An article in U.S. News & World Report was a great reminder that technology has it’s place, but reading aloud to children will never go out of style. Just like that group of 7th graders that I bewitched with a story, most children love to be read to. Heck, we all enjoy story time now and then! Taking the time to read to someone shows you are interested in them, their education, and their entertainment. It’s something all literate people can do to re-pay the gift of learning to read. Read to someone and change the world!

2. Another great internet finding was a blog post that came out today by Nancy Tandon via The Nerdy Book Club. I have a son just like hers. He’s an “active listener” and that’s always been hard for me, a criss-cross applesauce kind of girl. He loves to play Legos and listen to audio books. I have to take deep breaths sometimes when I want to interrupt this very acceptable literacy activity because my teacher-side thinks he’s not listening. He is. He can prove it every time and I need to take a chill-pill.

3. Finally, I’ve decided that we will no longer be getting ice cream or a smoothie when we need a treat after a stressful trip to the dentist (can you believe I do this?) or the doctor. Again, from Nancy Tandon, who suggests why not get the reward at the book store?* Why not indeed? I can’t wait for my son’s 6 month check up! Barnes & Nobel here we come!

What have you learned about literacy this week?

*I know he doesn’t need a reward at all, but come on! I just got this great tip! Let me try it at least once?


Surviving NaNoWriMo: CCIRA 2014 Presentation

One of the great things about CCIRA is being able to learn from other professionals. I decided to share my experiences using National Novel Writing Month with students at this years conference. Below you’ll find the slide show presentation I used minus pictures of people. Feel free to comment or email me if you have questions. I’ll also be doing a separate post regarding the writing games I use. Watch for that!

Ccira 2014 surviving na nowrimo from Beth Claycomb

Literacy Intervention at the Wal-mart

Walmart is my favorite place to stumble upon accidental literacy. It’s like I can’t help but advocate for reading and writing just by walking through the huge double doors. It’s the magic kingdom of literacy awareness.

The location of my most recent accidental literacy intervention.

The location of my most recent accidental literacy intervention.


So Saturday I ran into my favorite Wal-mart to get the usual (coffee, yogurt, socks, posterboard if you must know) and my accidental literacy moment happened in the checkout lane.

Full disclosure, I love Wal-mart.

However, I hate the check-out lane.

I always pick the wrong one. Always! At least I have lots of time to scan the trashy magazines and talk myself out of buying band-aids and candy bars.

Eventually I got up to the checker and she was a nice girl who looked to be about aged 12. She and I got to chatting and you could have knocked me over with a bag of Sunchips when she mentioned she had a 2 1/2 year old son!

She mentioned that he’s really smart for his age. With that comment I pounced with all the force of a literacy evangelist.

“I’m sure he’s super smart! Do you read to him?” I asked.

“Yeah.” Young checker girl replied.

“Reading to your child is so important! Especially when you have such a bright little guy like you do! Read to him every day! Do you read to him at night?” I smiled in what I hoped was an engaging and non-maniacal manner.

“Not every night. I work late some nights. He loves books though.”

“That’s okay, you don’t need to read only at night. You can read to him anytime. Bathtime! Breakfast time! In the doctor’s office! My son loved to bring books when we got the oil changed and had to wait. Don’t think you can only read at bedtime.”

“Hmmm. Really? I’ll have to try that.”

At this point the person behind me has nudged her cart into my back.

“Anytime is a good time to read. You have one lucky little boy!” I took my receipt, waved, and left.

I wish I’d paid attention to her name. I would have brought by some books that my son has outgrown and dropped them off.

Maybe I’ll still do that. I do go to Wal-mart often.

When have you seized the opportunity to talk about reading aloud?


Quiet Sunday Reading

There’s nothing like a cozy chair, a favorite beverage, and a good book is there? Sunday is my day to gather all three together and enjoy the comfort they give. This weekend I’m enjoying Reading in the Wild: The Book Whisperer’s Key to Cultivating Lifelong Reading Habitsreading-in-the-wild

Books and a cozy chair

Books and a cozy chair

by Donalyn Miller with Susan Kelley. I’m hoping to finish it before we head off to the library.

So far here are my impressions:

– If you don’t read, you’re in trouble!
– It’s a great companion to The Book Whisperer, a book I loved when it came out in 2009.
– I too struggle with how to get students to become “wild readers” (Ms. Millers term of those who reading independently outside the classroom).
– I’m still wondering what to say to those (parents) who complain that all we do is read in Language Arts class. Of course that’s not all we do! However, when I don’t send home worksheets for homework and instead assign reading, that’s the impression some get.
-I feel really confident with my “building a classroom library skills” so I skimmed that part.
-One tip: Add a weekly book recommendation to email signature. I can’t wait to do that and I’m also going to add one to the weekly newsletter I send out too!

Looking forward to finishing this engaging book from my comfy chair.

What are you reading on a quiet Sunday?


Free Books! No Strings Attached!

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How do you make a group of middle school students happy on a late spring day?  Get them out of class and give them a free book.

April 23, 2013 was the second annual World Book Night here in the United States.  Publishers, authors, and volunteers come together and give out brand new books for free to light or non readers across the country.  People that receive free books are under no obligation to do anything in return, although the hope is that the book will get read and the pleasure in reading will be realized.  It’s really just spreading the love of reading, one book at a time.

This year my book selection was Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life by James Patterson and Chris Tebbetts.  I decided to hand it out to 7th graders who are in a remedial reading class (Literacy Lab) and asked their teacher if I could come in, explain the program, hand out the books, and give a book talk.  It took about 15 minutes all together.

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What a blast!  All the students were so surprised to get books and their reactions were priceless!  One kid, a girl with braids and braces, kept asking if she had to give it back.  When I reassured her that it was hers to keep, she smiled slowly.  One kid did mention he didn’t like paperbacks, but every other child said thank you and all we’re reading when I left.  Truly it was the best part of my day.

The next day, two kids told me they had finished the book that night and passed it off to another.  One gave his to a friend and one to his brother.  World Book Night continues!

So how is this accidental literacy?  Well, randomly receiving a book is pretty unexpected.  I would love it if that happened to me!  Also, it reaffirms my belief, and the researched truism, that reading is more likely to be part of a child’s life if they own books.

In the end, I can’t say enough good things about World Book Night, the authors who donate their books, the publishers who are involved, and the volunteers who spread the books around.  All believers in a literate world, and that’s no accident.

When have you given a book to someone as an gift?

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World Book Night:  United States