Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Start of a new year

The two weeks of winter break do something to me. I start feeling the need to gather and hoard reading material for the long, cold winter ahead. Armed with the credit card, my husband and I sent the girl to daycare on Monday and made the trek out to Anderson’s Bookshop in Naperville. I also went to Half Price Books a few different times to stock up for the new year. Often, I try to convince myself that the books I am buying are for my reading list of the new year.

My husband is fantastic about making a reading list for the new year and sticking to it. For me, I get side tracked. Someone will mention a great book and the next thing I know I have it in my hand and the books on the bedside table get forgotten. Eventually, I get tired of them sitting on my bedside table and I put them away on a shelf and forget about them.

I have the best intentions. The books on my list really ARE books I want to read. There are just so many others that I want to read too. My Amazon wishlist has at least 10 other books on it. My Goodreads ‘to-read’ list has at least 20 others too. There are just so many great stories that it is hard to know where to start. And, I don’t usually abandon a book. I think I’ve abandoned maybe half a dozen in my life. Even if the book is bad, I usually want to know how it ends. So once I start, I’m generally committed.

Regardless, I’ve created my ‘2014 Reading Pile’. This is just a start. Books will be added (and most likely subtracted), but it’s a start. The pile also doesn’t include the books waiting to be read on my Kindle. *sigh*

Here’s a peek at 2014’s pile.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Higher Vocabulary

Talking to a 14-month old sometimes feels like speaking a foreign language. While I try to model appropriate sentence structure and words, I have to admit I find myself saying ridiculous things like, “Sit down for your sippy” and “Shoes. Shoes. I got shoes. I got shoes on my feet.” The latter is a song that we regularly sing in the morning.
I think that there is definitely a time and place for appropriate sentence structure and higher level words, but when I’m trying to cram tiny toes into a shoe that was clearly not constructed to bend to the will of a writhing, slippery child perched precariously on top of a changing table, that is not the time when I remember to say, “Please, insert your phalanges into this athletic footwear so that we can proceed to the lower level of our dwelling.”
I point this out because I think that we need to be aware of a time and place to introduce/use higher level vocabulary with our students. While I love the concept of using books with higher level vocabulary, if we don’t take the time to explain the words to students so they will understand them, I think it is similar to us using a foreign language. They may pick up on the ‘gist’ over time, but they may not gain a true understanding of the word.
However, if we choose a book that has so many words that are unrecognizable, the meaning of the text may be lost since we will have to spend so much time explaining vocabulary that the students will be using their brain power to remember word meaning.
I am wavering on the book Stardines by Jack Prelutsky. I still can’t decide whether I love it or hate it.
The poems in it are filled with great higher level vocabulary (fourth grade and above. However, reading some of the poems is like wading through a mud pit. The poems are filled with such big words, it can be hard to slog through. But, for the most part, this book is filled with interesting gems that capture the reader and make it a delight to teach interesting vocabulary.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Best of 2013

The web is currently inundated with the “Best of 2013” lists. I always find myself looking through the different book lists to see which ones I have read and agree with. I don’t often agree with the books that the critics have chosen. Usually I feel like there are more worthy books that were overlooked.
This year, I found that I had considerably less time to read. I am sure that is the product of having a small child to run after and keep an eye on. I’m looking forward to the days when we can enjoy family reading time.
For now, here are some of my favorite books that I was actually able to squeeze in time to read during 2013.

Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell has to be my favorite book of 2013. I can't even begin to express how this book stuck with me long after I finished reading it. I finished reading it and immediately wanted to start it again. I couldn't believe that it was over and I wasn't going to be living with the characters anymore. It has been a long time since a book had affected me like that. I lent it to a friend after I read it and felt physically sad that the book was not in my house and the characters were not around for me to check in on. I ended up buying a second copy, just to have them close again. Read this book, you won't be disappointed.

I don't know if I was joining the party too late by reading The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky. I really enjoyed the book and have to say I have not yet seen the movie. I feel like the movie will probably ruin it for me (most movies do) so I will just stick with the book.

I will admit it took some coaxing for me to read The Running Dream by Wendelin Van Draanen. I initially read about a third of this book and returned it to our library. I couldn't get into it and frankly, I didn't really care what happened. My librarian told me to take it again and give it another chance. It definitely got better the second time I tried to read it and it turned out to be one of the better books of the year for me. 

I waited and waited for Allegiant by Veronica Roth to come out. I bought it the day it came out but refused to read it until I had time to devote to the whole book. I knew that once I started, I wouldn't be able to put it down until I knew how it all ended. I had to wait three weeks after it came out to actually read it (Veterans Day) when I had a day to myself and the girl was in daycare. I sat on my couch with a blanket and read from the moment she left for daycare until I was done. I think the trilogy was wrapped up nicely. Divergent was still my favorite of all the three books, but I think Roth did a great job extending the story across all three books.