Sharing books is one of the most powerful ways to connect with other people. When you find out you’ve read the same book as your friend, your colleague, your spouse, your child, it’s like you’ve had a new shared experience that you can’t wait to talk about with one another. After a summer spent devouring book after book, I’m excited that the return to school means new ways to connect with kids and colleagues and new books to recommend to just the right readers.
Even though the end of the summer also means the end of an abundance of reading time, I’ve managed to squeeze in several good reads over the past few weeks:
Kate Messner’s How to Read a Story was a great book to kick off our professional development focused on Reading Units of Study. I love that this book is not only practical, but focuses on how enjoyable reading is. This book has been passed from classroom to classroom this fall as primary teachers have introduced Reading Workshop to their students.
I kept seeing School’s First Day of School by Adam Rex on every list of “Must Read Back to School Books”–and it definitely earned its place! This was a fun book to share with kids during the first few days of school to welcome them back and make them think about the perspective of the school itself. I love how Rex calms the anxieties of a new school year through this tale of school who was also fearful about what would happen when students walked through his doors. This is definitely a book I’m glad I added to my library!
If you’re looking for humor, a story kids can relate to, and a book that lends itself to being read over and over again, you can’t go wrong with anything by Mo Willems. Don’t Let the Pigeon Stay Up Late is a favorite with my own children right now, and I love how such a simple story has so many layers of emotion and character development. This is a great story for young readers to practice big thinking skills!
I have to admit that I greatly underestimated Troy Wilson’s The Duck Says during the first several bedtime readings at my house. It was a book that we
read once or twice, then dismissed to our bookshelf. However, my daughter dug it back out this evening and I was pleasantly surprised to discover that this fun, rhyming text has a few hidden gems that make it worth taking a closer look. Throughout the book, events of the story build upon one another–requiring the reader to not only read the story but to also pay close attention to the pictures. This would be an excellent book to practice close reading with young students, taking the time to look back at pictures and explore the story that is being told through the illustrations.
I can’t praise John David Anderson’s Ms. Bixby’s Last Day enough. It’s one of those books that you pick up knowing that it’s going to be a touching read, but this is so much more–it’s an adventure, it’s a tribute, and it breaks your heart. This was the last book I read before returning to school, and I’m so glad I was able to end my summer with this one. As the three main characters–Topher, Brand, and Steve–set out on a mission to visit their terminally ill teacher in the hospital, their own tragedies and weaknesses are revealed to the reader. It’s a story of loss, of hope, of friendship, of respect, and of love–and it’s one that needs to find its way into the hands of every teacher who’s ever wondered Am I good enough for these kids?
After reading The Witch’s Boy by Kelly Barnhill several months ago, I was excited to get my hands on The Girl Who Drank the Moon. This story reminded me of a beautiful tapestry, weaving together the stories of a young girl who has been “enmagicked,” a madwoman, a scarred young man with a powerful conscience, and an aging witch with two unusual companions. With beautiful language and imagery throughout the book, this is a timeless fantasy story that middle grade readers will love.
Gae Polisner’s The Memory of Things, set to be released on September 6th, is a YA novel about a lost girl set against the backdrop of New York City on 9/11. The main character, a girl who has lost her memory and been found by a boy (Kyle) making his way home in the aftermath of the fall of the Twin Towers, slowly reveals herself to the reader throughout the book through verse. The story alternates between her perspective and that of Kyle, son of a first responder and sufferer of his own life tragedies. This story unfolds with hope, faith, and the truth that nothing in life is certain. Although this book is too mature for the readers I work with on a regular basis, I would highly recommend it for high school readers.