“Sanka? You dead mon?”

No, I’m not dead…but yes, it has been a while since I blogged.  Things went a little sideways for a couple of weeks.  Let me fill you in!

What happened…..

Remember how I was taking Block class a mere 3 hours from home?  Well, yeah, that finally ended last Friday.  The last two weeks we talked about special education and content literacy.  The class is now over and in the books.  I’ve learned a lot and I am glad I had the experience of this class with my friends and colleagues.  I’m also glad it is over!


Well, let’s just say that returning home, and staying home, has been nice.  I spent a few days immersed in homework.  I am now, though, returning to the world and doing chores.  Laundry is almost caught up.  Dishes are done.  My random junk from living away is getting picked up.  Slowly but surely.

My Classes Now
One of my fave comics from Hyperbole and a Half has become a meme!

So, now that I am at home, I am still taking 4 classes online.  I’m doing Precalculus, Applied Calculus, Math for the Elementary/Middle School Teacher 1, and Linguistics.  This is the summer of the content classes!  They are keeping me busy, but I am glad I can accomplish these from the comfort of my living room.

And now….THE BOOKS!

I’ve updated my Goodreads, but I thought I’d give you a quick run-down of what I have read these last few weeks!

Textbooks:  I finished reading Classroom Assessment for Teachers for my Assessment class.  I also read Improving Adolescent Literacy for the final week of block (on….content literacy!).  Two more texts with a bunch of information!

Audiobooks:  I finally finished Inkheart on audio.  It was good!  I found myself driving around Chadron in the vain hope of finishing the book – it was that good.  Audio definitely was the format for me and this book!

I’ve also started the abridged version of The DaVinci Code, by Dan Brown.  I’ve read it before, but it is action filled and I thought an abridged version might be a good audio for me to try.

Novels:  I absolutely devoured If I Stay, by Gayle Forman.  I love love loved it!  If I Stay tells the story of Mia, whose family has been involved in an accident.  Mia is unconscious, but she can travel around the hospital and see her family and friends – yet they cannot see her.  Forman paints an epically tragic tale through flashbacks, questions, and heart wrenching scenes.  I want to get the second one to add to my library soon!

I’ve started a re-read of one of my favorites too!  The Devil Wears Prada is the tale of Andrea “Andy” Sachs and her epic year as the second assistant to THE Miranda Priestly.  I’ve seen the movie a bunch (actually, saw the movie before read the book), but I really like the novel.  I won’t give you any spoilers, but there are some differences between movie and novel. 🙂

Picture Books:  For my Math for the Elementary/Middle School class had me create a lesson plan for math that involved children’s books.  A perfect blend for my two loves!  In the process, I read two beautifully illustrated and wonderfully written books by Greg Tang.  The Grapes of Math and Math for All Seasons use poems and images to create word problems for readers to solve.  They are quite inventive.  I think an entire Greg Tang library is begging to be added to my collection.  Check them out!

Whew!  I know that was long, but that’s what you get when I haven’t blogged in two weeks!  If you’ve made it this far….congrats!  Tell me what the best thing you have read in the past two weeks has been.  I’m always looking for something new for the TBR!


IMWAYR – May 16, 2016

ItsMondayGraphicThis week was my first week of Block out in Chadron.  I had 6 hours of driving this week – 3 hours each way. One of my summer reading plan elements was to add some audio books into my repertoire.  I didn’t do any audio books this week, but I did listen to some amazing podcasts.

Reading With My Ears

On the way out I finished the second season of the Serial podcast.  If you haven’t listened to the podcasts, I highly recommend them. Season 1 was better than Season 2, but they both are good.  Check out their site here.

On the way back, I spent some time listening to the Book Love Foundation’s Podcast.  Penny Kittle and her collaborators shared stories of matching students with the perfect book.  They also talk about some really awesome books-including All American Boys, one of my faves this past semester!  Check out the Book Love Foundation’s podcast site here.

Now….on to the book!

This week I read a book that has been on my Kindle for a little while.  Deleted, by Ashley Cunningham, tells Elsie’s story.  Elsie, a high school junior who has been hiding her acceptance to NYU from her mom and hangs out with her best friend Miles, gets a threatening email.  This is followed by increasingly intense and threatening messages.

Overall, this wasn’t my favorite book I have read.  There were some plot twists that were expected.  Other than a lackluster ending, I also struggled with the grammar and spelling errors that were present throughout the book.  It was hard for me to get past them.

Coming up this week….

I went to the library and checked out two different audio books.  I’ll try out Inkheart on audio book this week.  Hopefully, my drive will be a great time for me to finish reading this YA book that I got into this past semester.

I don’t know if Book a Day is going to be feasible, but I am still trying to get a lot of reading in.  Tune in next week to find out what I get through!

What did you read this week?  Got any audio book suggestions?

IMWAYR – May 8, 2016

ItsMondayGraphicThis week has been filled with a lot of work so that I could wrap up things at my job.  Today I am off to Chadron to take part in Professional Sequence class.  I’m also starting my Book-a-Day challenge – so follow along on Goodreads or Twitter to see what books I get read!

I was lucky enough to have time to finish an amazing YA nonfiction work.  Terrible Typhoid Mary:  A True Story of the Deadliest Cook in America, by Sarah Campbell Bartoletti, puts a very real and understanding spin on the story of Mary Mallon.

Mallon was a cook in the early 1900s in New York.  She was a well-respected cook who worked for well-off families.  However, she was unlucky enough to work with a series of families who were victims of the sometimes deadly typhoid disease.

The author dives deep into the motivations and events that led to Mary’s eventual imprisonment and quarantine.  Her engaging story makes Mary a sympathetic character and made me think about the motivations of those who wanted to study (and profit) from proving that Mary was a typhoid carrier.

I highly recommend this wonderful work for those interested in medical history.  The book reads like informative fiction – although everything is true!

I also devoured a book recommended by many of my YA Lit Class classmates.  Little Peach, by Peggy Kern, was an engaging and intense read.  Michelle, aka Little Peach, runs away from a really horrible situation (Grandpa dies, Mom is a drug addict, Mom’s boyfriend attempts to sexually assault her) to find a friend of hers in New York City.

Michelle doesn’t find her friend, but is instead taken in by a kid man named Devon.  However, Devon is actually a pimp.  Peach becomes one of his girls and experiences a life of prostitution, drugs, alcohol, and fear before eventually telling her story.

Little Peach does an excellent job dealing with the delicate nature of human trafficking while still exploring the comfort, then danger, then fear of her main character.  This is an intense read, but an excellent one.  It would be a great conversation starter for an older teen or adults.

Well, what did you read this week? Have you read either of these awesome books?

Summer Fun!

It sure has warmed up today – it is currently sunny and 81 outside!  The days of warmth and late day sun are finally upon us.

I am a planner.  So the advent of summer also means that it is time to prepare my summer reading plan.  I have been putting this blog off all week because I have LOVED YA Lit class so much that I don’t want it to end.  This summer reading plan is one way I can continue the reading fun all summer long.

The Plan

The Idea:

This summer I am going to follow along with many readers out there and try to complete a book a day this summer.  The #bookaday challenge is one that is championed by Donalyn Miller – one of my fave authors of professional development books.

The When:

I am starting my #bookaday on May 9, 2016.  This is the first day of the May/Summer semester and the official end of YA Lit class (at least in my mind).  I will read a #bookaday until 100 days have passed – August 16, 2016.

The What:

My 100 books will consist of a variety of genres, intended audience ages, and formats.  I will, of course, keep reading my YA Lit Summer TBRTBR.  However, I am going to read widely in a variety of formats this summer.

I plan to read/listen to at least 5 audio books.  This is something I don’t normally do, but driving back and forth to NE each week will give me time to get to know this format well.

I am taking classes, so any textbook that I read at least 75% of for school will also count into these 100 books.  However, my math books will not count.

I am going to read at least 3 professional development books.  I’ve got an idea of where I want to go – Passionate Learners and The Book Whisperer are anxiously waiting to be devoured.

My other books will be from my ever growing TBR, old faves (been itching to re-read Wicked these last couple of days), and new finds from the library, browsing at the book store, or that Amazon (my friend/foe) suggests.  I’ll also try to pick up whatever you recommend to me too!

The How:

So, how am I going to keep myself accountable?  First, I am going to continue to blog right here!  I’ll post my weekly It’s Monday! post and share my week’s reading with you.  I hope that you readers will continue the conversation and make recommendations based on my weekly reads.

Secondly, I am going to continue to tweet my reading.  I’ll bug you on Twitter with the #yalitclass and #bookaday hashtags.  Follow me there to get more consistent updates on my reads.

Finally, I’ll continue keeping count on GoodReads.  I will shelve books, group them by genre, audience, etc., and post reviews and star ratings.

So that’s my plan friends.  I hope that you continue to journey through reading and writing  on this blog, Twitter, and GoodReads.  What are you reading now?  What is your summer reading plan?  Let’s chat….

Questions and Actions

I just finished reading Book Love, by Penny Kittle.  I’m not going to lie – this book was inspiring, heart wrenching, and thought provoking.  If you haven’t had a chance to read the book, you should go right now and read.  Come back in a few hours.  It’s worth it.

Lessons Learned

There were so many things that I highlighted, underlined, starred, sticky noted, and Tweeted in her book.  These final few chapters did not fail to live up to my expectations.  So, rather than bore you with my ramblings, I want to just outline the take-aways and lessons I have learned by reading Book Love.

  • Teaching a love of reading is hard.  However, it is the kind of hard work that sometimes ends in disappointments.  It is also the kind of hard work that ends in miracles like Crystal (p. 159-167).
  • Teaching a lifetime of reading habits is hard.  You will find challengers and naysayers from surprising faces.  You will find the surprise champion for implementing a culture of readers.  You will cry.  You will smile.
  • Teaching others that choice is essential for a healthy reading life – especially for teens or for reluctant readers – is hard.  You will battle for the type of curriculum that allows choice, promotes readers workshops and writers workshops, and flips the whole idea of teaching on its head.
  • Teaching a love of reading is something that is a life mission.  It is something that you must be passionate about and it is something that will permeate your entire life.  Whether you are an English major, an English or Reading teacher, or the school principal (p. 141-146) – you are a teacher of book love.

Questions and Actions – How I will LIVE Book Love
Image courtesy Flickr Creative Commons

There is too much in this text to analyze or synthesize.  I’ve learned so much that it is difficult to put it into a few hundred words.  Instead, I think I’m going to publicly declare my intentions to be a teacher of book love.

My Declaration of Teaching Book Love

I hold firmly to the belief that we are all teachers of reading.  I have an insatiable desire to share books and stories with all people – young and old, student and friend.

I also firmly believe that as a teacher of book love I must live by example.  I will continue to read voraciously and to share these amazing (and sometimes not the best) stories through my blog and my Twitter feed.  I will help people find THEIR book – that gateway to the door of reading – and get that book in their hands.

I solemnly vow that I will never stop asking this most vital question

What are you reading now?

For it is with that question that I will frame my expectations, that all people will be reading something, and that their reading lives are just as important as what they had for dinner.  I will ask others for suggestions and will endeavor to ask this essential question multiple times a day and in every interaction I have.


What are you reading now?  Let’s talk below…

What are you reading?

This week I read some amazing articles on motivating students to read.  I learned a lot and some of my thoughts about teaching reading were reinforced.  I got some new ideas and thought critically about my previous beliefs.

I truly feel that our job as educators is to develop those life-long readers.  It is our responsibility to help our students grow.  We don’t have a choice in this matter – as educators it is our duty to motivate students and allow them to develop into readers.

But, how do we do that?

My Steps for Developing Life-Long Readers

I think there are four elements needed to create passionate, life-long readers.  We must complete them daily, repeatedly, and in new and innovative ways.  These steps are..

Talk about reading – their reading and our reading

Talking about reading is vital and essential!  We need to show our students through our actions and our conversations that reading is important.  We

CC: Flickr Creative Commons

should ask students what they are reading and honestly listen.  We need to talk about elements of stories, interesting nonfiction, and allow them to teach us about what they love to read.  We also need to allow our students to talk to each other about their reading.  Let them share with a neighbor the newest book in their hands or the book they stayed up too late to read.  Validate their experiences with books they didn’t finish or didn’t like (we all have been there), but help them move on to the next book that might be a match.  Conversation about reading is essential to developing life-long readers.


Share our excitement about books and drum up their excitement about books

This goes along with the first element – sharing our excitement about reading is sharing what we are reading with students.  Book talks, book trailers, and conversations with students will show them that we practice what we preach.  We should strive to be that crazy reading teacher who won’t stop talking about the newest book.  We also need to encourage their excitement about reading.  Let them do a book talk – not graded, just share what they read.  Allow them to “sell” the book they LOVE to their friends.  Excitement breeds excitement.  This is true in life and especially in our reading lives.


Set challenging and realistic goals to motivate our students.

Ever really want something that is just outside of your ability?  Didn’t you work hard to attain that goal?  We should set goals with our students that ask them to expand their horizons, stretch their reading comforts, and be something that has high interest for them.  We should help them to set goals that they can reach when they put in that extra little push of reading muscle.  Maybe their goal is to read a certain number of books.  Or a certain number of pages. Or to read widely and read various genres.  Maybe their challenge and goal is to find that one book they can not believe they never read.  Maybe their challenge is to write about what they have read.  There are endless goals out there – it is our duty to help students articulate these goals and create plans to reach them.



If you are a long-time reader of Oz and Other Lands, you will know that I fully support the concept of choice reading.  You will also notice that I cite Donalyn Miller (The Book Whisperer) and other educators who advocate for not creating lists of “required reading”.  If you haven’t read all of those gems (rants?), go visit the archives and find some of the thoughts these wonderful educators have inspired.

But, here is the long and short of it:  let students choose.  Countless authors, researchers, teachers, and bloggers have found that when students choose their reading, they are more engaged and they actually want to read the books they have.  Choice reading should be encouraged in all classrooms – reading or any other subject.  If you have done justice to the other three elements (talking about reading, drumming up excitement about books, and setting challenging but attainable goals), this probably has been one of the key tools you have used.  If not, you should try it.  I promise that your students will surprise you, read things they never would have read before, and develop and grow into life-long readers.

That was a bit longer than I expected, but I find that  I am super passionate about this.  We are obligated to create a generation of humans who read, share their knowledge, and act compassionately.  It is vital to our well-being and to our society.  Talk about books and reading. Get excited about the topic with students.  Help them set goals that are attainable but still challenging.  Let them choose what they read to reach their goal.

I firmly, wholeheartedly believe that when we do that, we do justice to our profession and students.

Expert Book Lists

It is a snowy day here in Wyoming.  Today, I had the pleasure of exploring the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA) website and blog.  I’m grateful for the chance to add to my personal lists from the wealth of resources from knowledgeable advisors.

The Book Lists

I think the best feature of the YALSA website is the numerous book lists that they gather.  I found myself lost in the lists, gathering resources for my future classroom library.  These are just a few of the amazing lists I combed today!

  • Best of the Best (2016)
    • Collection of YALSA Top Ten Lists
  • Audiobooks
    • A 10 amazing audio books for teens
  • Best Fiction
    • 2016’s top 10 YA Lit fiction picks
  • Graphic Novels
    • Graphic novels are super popular right now.  This is a list of 10 YA graphic novels to explore.
  • Paperbacks
    • Paperback picks for teen readers
  • Quick Picks
    • We know that we will encounter some reluctant readers.  This page has a huge list of options we might recommend to these readers.

The Hub – a YALSA Blog

The experts at YALSA also curate a blog called The Hub.  I fell down a huge rabbit hole when I visited The Hub.  Some of the articles I loved are listed below!

I really loved all the book lists and the tie-ins to other popular culture (the True Crime article has a tie in to The People v. OJ Simpson, the Serial podcast and the Netflix series Making a Murderer).

What did I learn?

Well, I first learned to explore the YALSA sites with my TBR at hand!  I only added 11 titles to my TBR.  Here are the ones I added.MoreTBRsI also learned that the amazing people at the YALSA are experts at what they do!  The depth of quality and breadth of topics covered on the site and the blog really show their expertise.

Have you added to your TBR List?  Did you find another amazing corner of the YALSA sites?  Let’s talk below…