Saturday, April 12, 2014

Turning Anger into Action

What's made you flaming angry lately?
Did you slam the steering wheel?
Write a passionate letter?
Vent to your Mama?
Whatever it was, follow the path of that anger until you find out what is at the core. And guess what?
There's your passion, sister. 
Here's what really burned my cheese recently: some statistics I found on the Literacy Project Foundation website:
70% of U.S. adults have not been in a bookstore in the last year.
(Please go support Barnes & Noble if you've ever loved me at all.)
6/10 households do not buy a book in a single year
44% of American adults do not read a book a year
(I blame Netflix.)
42% of American college graduates never read another book (for pleasure) after college.
(Now I'm weeping...)
These are the facts and they make me sad. This is why I do what I do. Parents who don't read have children who don't read. The cycle continues until a reader is built. My classroom must be a place where students can develop into the readers I know they can become.
Kids begin loving books and stories, but by the time they come into my classroom, most of them have lost that love. They haven't been surrounded by great books.
They haven't had anyone who cared enough to find the books that would light them up inside.
Disclaimer: I know that in the grand scheme of love and life, finding books for your kids seems like another task on your never-ending To Do List To Be An Awesome Parent. (Can we just agree to throw these away, please?) The pressure to do this job well is overwhelming and I am not on a mission to pile on another bag o' guilt.
The thing is: it's easier than you think. Go to the library. Read books in front of your kids. Buy books. Go to Goodwill and buy a bunch. Talk to the teachers and librarian.
If you put a lot of good books around kids, they WILL read. Maybe not at first, maybe not with joy, but they will read. I've seen it happen over and over again.
Those statistics shocked and angered me into a greater passion for what I do as a teacher. If something is making you angry, perhaps it is the fire you need for action.
We need your fire - light up the world with the passion that makes you come alive.
Your turn: What's made you angry or passionate this past week?


Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Forgiveness, Freedom, and Ted Dekker

It seems like there is always a student of mine reading a Ted Dekker book!

I've only read House (written with Frank Peretti) and Thr3e, but it took me a long time to recover! My students love the suspense and gripping mystery in Dekker's books and keep me up-to-date on which ones to get into my classroom library.

His most popular among my students is probably the Circle series with the titles Black, Red, Green, and White.

His newest book, Water Walker, comes out on March 18th.
Wouldn't you love to read an excerpt for free?!
Dekker's book explores the theme of forgiveness and the freedom that is found when you give that gift to someone else. It makes me think of the times in my own life when forgiveness has been a gift that I've withheld. I have kept my bitterness in my pocket and held tight to my pain as if that could be a healthy choice.
Choosing to be whole and healthy means letting go of the rocks in our pockets, so to speak. We drop them into the dust, and make the decision to forgive the hurt and pain.
If Christ offered forgiveness from the cross, who are we to think we shouldn't offer the same?
Holding on to hurt binds us up and keeps us from full, abundant life. We have the key to the chains. We can unlock these shackles and forgive. It doesn't excuse or erase what has happened, and it doesn't make it okay overnight.
It's the beginning of freedom.
I can speak from experience - forgiveness isn't always a one-time event. I have had to choose forgiveness continually when my mind goes to the hurt, like a song being played on "repeat."
What about you? How has forgiveness changed you? How has BEING forgiven changed you?

Thursday, March 06, 2014

The Boy on the Porch

John and Marta woke up one morning to find a boy sleeping on their porch.
They aren't sure what to make of his mysterious ways - he doesn't speak, but only taps to communicate. What he can't SAY he makes up for with ART. He finds joy in painting, playing instruments, and using his imagination.
When no one comes for the boy, John and Marta are left to wonder: Should we keep him? Put him in school? Report this to the authorities?
What will become of the boy on the porch and not that he's almost a part of their family, how could John and Marta ever live without him?
A great read-aloud for any age!

Thursday, February 27, 2014

THE Book of 2014 (so far)

I'm a book pusher.
When I find a good one, I try to let as many people know as possible.
Here's the one that stole my heart recently:

Willow Chance has always been...special. She teaches herself foreign languages and reads medical textbooks - all before middle school.  Obviously, she doesn't quite feel as if she fits in with other kids her age.
A tragedy in her life leads her to an odd mix of people who eventually become like family. Willow is a character I will never forget. I loved her and didn't want to see her story end. I think you'll feel the same.
I would recommend this book for ages 10 and up!

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

When Should We Stop Reading Children's Books?

I'm not sure where we got the idea we should be reading books "for our age group."
Wait. Yes, I do.
School. Teachers. Parents... I suppose even peer pressure from people who make you feel like a dummy for reading a book technically written for children.
Books of all kinds bring me pleasure, and I would hate for people to miss great titles because they think they're "beneath" them.
A good children's story that can only be enjoyed by children is not a good children's story in the slightest. - C.S. Lewis
The author of the beloved Chronicles of Narnia had it right. If you've read those books, you know how much richer they are when read at different stages in your life. These "children's" books have practically become Christian classics.
These are the kinds of books I'm looking for to put into the hands of my students.

I usually ask myself:
What exactly is the message here? 

Will this story still be relevant 10 years from now?

We must know what kinds of stories are being advertised to our sons and daughters, and eventually, our grandchildren.

I want to know what is available for the children in my life and reading from this genre helps me know how to guide them when they need a book for themselves.

Let's be honest-these books are FUN! 

Some of the most pleasurable books I've ever experienced have been written by Kate DiCamillo, a prolific children's author.

Your Turn: What children's books still move you today?

Monday, February 24, 2014

Music for Monday

I've been loving Ellie Holcomb for a long time now - she and her husband Drew do a favorite song of mine called "Live Forever" (which is what I play when I need a good cry, as if you wanted that information).

Ellie's new work "As Sure as the Sun" is a little bit of gold. It's mellow and sweet worship for any moment of the day. If you are new to Ellie, check out her website or this sweet interview below.

I had no idea she used to be an English teacher! No wonder I love her!

Friday, February 21, 2014

it's all your fault

I will be the first to admit I should not be blogging.
I have a family and a full-time job that keeps me spinning the plates nicely, thank you.
I put this thing down time and time again, only to pick it up, blow the dust off, and say Okay, let's give it another whirl. Then I try to silence all the critics in my head telling me I don't know what I'm doing; my blog isn't cute/original/stylish enough; this is a waste of time...whatever. That is all true, but I don't care.
And why? Well, you, actually. Yup. You are to blame. You are the ones asking for books for yourself, your kids, and I really do love helping.
You are my kind of people.
Talking about books is almost as fun as reading them. Almost.
My role as a teacher is more like a match-maker because I'm always looking for that next book that will help my students fall in love. So, that is what brings me back. Here are the books I've loved, books I've recommended lately, and maybe the occasional rant about...I don't know...probably mothering or hair products or my addiction to Cake Batter Chapstick. (Have you tried that stuff?? YUM-O)
So here we go. You ready?

 I've been telling everybody about this book. Light Between Oceans lives up to the hype. I picked it up when it first came out a few months ago and thought, Meh - it just didn't do it for me. But when my book club decided to read it for March, I tried again.
And this time, I got it.
The love story pulled me in hard and the book took over my life from then on. Be ready for a love story, but some agonizing moments.
A brief summary - Tom Sherbourne is a lightkeeper with a bit of a sad past. He wants to leave the dark memories of WWI behind and perhaps make up for the trauma he's suffered. He meets Isabel on the mainland (the story is set off the coast of Australia) and they try to make a life on the island together. She suffers greatly as she loses child after child, wanting so much to have a family.
One night, a boat washes up on shore and inside is a dead man and a healthy, screaming infant. Isabel believes God is giving her a baby, but Tom is unsure and hesitant. Will they keep this baby or face the truth?
There are moments in this book that are so gut-wrenching, you have a hard time turning pages, but like all great literature, you are moved and changed when the book finally ends.

The Chaperone by Laura Moriarty is another book club pick from earlier in the year. This would be the first book I ever read on my phone from cover to cover. So that was weird. I usually HATE reading on a screen, but this story was so compelling, I couldn't stop.
 Based on the real life of Louise Brooks, a famous actress from the 1920s, this follows Louise and her chaperone from Kansas to NYC, where Louise gets her big break.
Honestly, parts of this book made me angry and frustrated, but it was still a well-written page turner for me.
Looking for more? Try these:
  • Sleeping in Eden by Nicole Baart (A bit of a murder mystery and love story in one)
  • The Orchardist by Amanda Coplin (Sweeping epic of one man's care for two abandoned sisters, reminded me of East of Eden by John Steinbeck at times)
Ahh! This book is so much fun, I can't stand it. Henry Clark's What We Found in the Sofa and How it Changed the World. Yes, these kids find a sofa sitting at a bus stop.
Yes, there are things IN the sofa and these are clues that lead them into a grand adventure. I would recommend it to kids in grades 4/5 and up. The dialogue in this book is seriously brilliant.
Looking for other great books for kids? Try these:
  • Cardboard by Doug Tennapel (Thick graphic novel for 4/5 grade and up - a favorite in my classroom)
  • Flora and Ulysses by Kate DiCamillo (Funny and charming for any age, lots of great illustrations)
  • Knucklehead by Jon Sciezka (Hilarious short memoir with pictures - another favorite of the boys in my classroom)
  • The Incorrigibles Series by Mary Rose Wood (Great for an older elementary or middle school girl)

I could go on for quite awhile, here. But I'll stop and save the rest for another post.
Sigh. It's good to be back.