Wednesday, December 31, 2008


It is hard to believe that today is the last day of 2008. I cannot tell a lie it is ending wonderfully. I spent the morning with my friend Carol. We work and live within miles of each other, but it has taken months to actually get together. We spent hours talking about, well about everything. It was nice to see her. She asked “Are you making any resolutions?” The answer is NO! I look forward to the upcoming year. Thank you to all the fellow bloggers that inspire and teach me. Have a fantastic 2009.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Bright Beginnings for Boys: Engaging Young Boys in Active Literacy

Earlier this week my friend Barb gave me an article from the most recent IRA magazine about a new book called Bright Beginnings for Boys: Engaging Young Boys in Active Literacy by Debby Zambo and William G. Bronzo. The joy of technology is that I was able to down load the first chapter from the book. The first chapter is titled Nurturing Young Male Readers. I am not a researcher. I am a practitioner, so this information helps me work with my students.

What I really liked about this chapter is how it addresses capturing boys’ imaginations. Zambo and Bronzo talk about using picture books that have positive male characters (I argue that it must be true in novels and graphic novels too.) and how boys relate to the actions and emotions of the characters. This was very evident in my class this week when I brought out An Orange for Frankie by Patricia Polacco. 25 of my 29 students heard this story last year in second grade. I heard many boys say “this is such a sad story!” When I asked do you want me to read something else the chorus of “NO” was very clear. I agree with the authors that “Thinking about how characters feel allows boys to step outside themselves in to someone else…”

While I read the chapter I thought of the Guys Read book club and how the boys reacted to all the books we have read. Their favorite books are the ones with positive role models (I guess Greg in Wimpy Kid is positive!). They take it outside to role playing their own version of Lightening Thief.

I often hear teachers and parents say “Boys only read non-fiction.” I find this not to be true. I have given the guys many non-fiction books as possible book club books and they have not chosen one. They want the characters.

As I read more of the book I know it will inspire me to post more of my thoughts.

39 Clues: One False Note

I finally finished 39 Clues: One False Note by Gordon Korman. It took me awhile because I was so tired every night. Thankfully it happened before the weekend because Ethan was about ready to just take it out of my bag. There is already a queue of boys waiting for their turn.

I have to admit they are a fun read. I really like how geography and history are embedded in the story. When do you think they will figure out they are learning while having fun finding clues? The only problem with finishing 39 Clues: One False Note now is that the next one is due out until March!

Friday, November 21, 2008

Does it have to be a classic?

Recently a parent asked me why I didn’t pick any of the classics for the Guys Read. I explained that my goal is to introduce the boys to new books. She asked “but don’t you think the old ones are good? How about Red Badge of Courage?”

So, my question is, am I being too narrow in the books we are reading? There are so many wonderful books to choose from. The canon is important, but if we don’t read the new authors how will it ever increase? I, also, think that as they continue in their education they will have enough teachers that will ONLY let them read the classics.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Comment Challenge

I am having fun trying to meet the challenge. It is hard, but I enjoy finding all these new blogs. I entered to win a book at Book Dads. Wish me luck in both winning the book and doing a proper link to their blog.

Monday, November 10, 2008

What to do with 20 "guys" that want to discuss books?

Yes, it is hard to believe but last week 20 third and fourth grade boys showed up for book club. I am excited that so many showed, but trying to have a discussion was challenging. When it came time to pick the next book it was a tie. Half the group picked The Navigator by Eion McNamee and the other half picked One Small Step by P.B.Kerr. Since I am always flying by the seat of my pants I said that next time we would meet in two groups. One with me and the other with Mr. Bry, my team teacher. By the way his name is also Kyle! Luckily the next morning he said he would. Wish us luck.

By the way it is nice to have a long weekend. Off to read and enjoy a cup of tea we got in Paris last spring.

don't forget to comment on other blogs!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Finding Just Right Books for Book Club

The last couple of books we read for book club have been a little challenging for some of the guys. The first one Silverfin was exciting, and at their level; but it really is a book for 5th grade and above. The second one is Mariah Mundi The Midas Box by C.P. Taylor. Content and theme is much more 3rd to 6th, but the vocabulary was challenging at times. It is a great book for teaching rich language.

I have started the quest for a few more suggestions for the book club. I have a small stack and have started to read them. I started with Science Fair by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson. Kids hate when you laugh while reading silently. They want to know what is so funny. We had a little time on Tuesday before our Parade of Masks and the autumn party. The story is about a science fair at a wealthy middle school where only the wealthy students win. There is more. In the capital city of Krpsht (pronounced “Krpsht”) in a country named the Republic of Krpshtskan the president is planning to destroy the United States. If you couldn’t tell there aren’t many vowels in the language either. I enjoy the book but it is definitely NOT for 3rd and 4th graders. One reference to a “hot” student is OK, but five on one page and it on to the next.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

2009 CCIRA Conference

I received the conference registration book this past weekend, and as I looked through it I said "Oh my god what now?". This past spring I submitted a proposal for a session. Carol helped me wordsmith. During the summer I was notified that I was accepted. NOW the moment of truth. I am in the book. Will people sign up? Will it be what they want. I hope so. It is an hour session to talk about setting up a book club and suggested books. I am looking forward to it, but scared.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

"Again! Again! Again! Again! Again!

The other day I watched my niece and nephew. Hannah is 3 and Levi turns two this Thursday. Yes, he is a two year old boy. He LOVES trains and trucks. Once I got them into their pajamas I let them pick a book to read. Hannah picked a pink book, she loves pink, “I like purple now!” and Levi chose Smash!Crash! by Jon Scieszka. I read, and when I finished he said “again, again, again” It is a great book but five times is tough. I got him I’m Bad! By Kate & Jim McMullan. It is a cute story about a hungry T-Rex that loves him mom.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Far from organized chaos!

Wednesday was our first real book club of the year. It was LOUD! It was interesting to watch two different groups of boys try to blend into one. The fourth graders were really trying to say hey we run this show, and the third graders kept saying we don’t care what page you got to because we finished the book. Truthfully, I picked a book too challenging for the group. Silverfin by Charlie Higson is a great adventure, but would be better for fifth grade and above. It proves that even though they read above grade level not all books at their level is appropriate.

My goal all along has been to let the boys run the discussion and let them have the freedom to go where they want. Well, that will change a little next month. Our next book club is going to be controlled. I plan on having them pair up with someone they don’t know well to talk briefly about favorite parts. (Yes, I know there are better ways to talk about books, but that is what they always want to do first!) After that sharing I am going have different guys ask some discussion questions. Hopefully, this will create an environment where all the guys have fun.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Comfort Zone

My friend Carol has a wonderful post on pouring beer at Taste of Colorado. It is funny how we find ourselves in places way outside of our comfort zone. Carol writes about how she is a poor beer pourer, but a proficient writer. Well, I am great at pouring beer, but writing a blog is WAY out of my comfort zone. I do it so that I will become a better writer, and writing teacher. With that said, I want to comment on a couple of books.

The first is Alvin Ho, Allergic to Girls, School, and Other Scary Things by Lenore Look. There are not many books where the main character completely shuts down at school. Alvin is a selective mute, but only at school. I laughed through this book. Alvin is a boy that is afraid of everything. He prepares himself for all the scary things in life with a PDK, a Personal Disaster Kit. There are steps on how to deal with substitute teachers, girls and bullies. His brother Calvin helps him add a list on how to make friends. I don’t want to give away the ending, but this is a great boy book.

The second book is Bad Kitty Gets a Bath by Nick Bruel. This is a chapter book/graphic novel about the loveable (not really) Bad Kitty. Chapter 3 is very much like the TV show Dallas. Remember the year Bobby died, but we find out the next year that it was all a dream. Yes this entry dates me!

The third book is Gym Shorts Baseball Bats by Betty Hicks. My librarian told me that this is anew series. It is a great story of friendship, and how we sometimes have to admit that our friends are better at things then we are.

The last book is The Retired Kid by Jon Agee. Who knew life is so hard for kids. Brian just can’t take it anymore, so he retires to Florida. He soon finds that taking about hip replacements are not fun either.

A good laugh helps the soul.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

A Fun New Reading Year

We had our first Guys Read meeting yesterday after school. It was a packed hour. There were numerous new “guys”, so we did brief introductions. Name and favorite book. Well for third and fourth graders that was not enough. They needed to included their favorite series. One of our new members had an orthodontist appointment at 4:40, so we voted for our next few books before he left.

By a landslide The Young Bond Series, Book One: Silverfin (A James Bond Adventure) (Young Bond) by Charlie Higson was picked as our next book. I can’t wait. It looks like a fun series.

After picking our next books we had a very brief discussion about Homework Machine. At first many did not like it, but once they got in to the style they really enjoyed it. A few were upset that Belch was destroyed, and Harrison could not understand why they just didn’t do the homework. He is smart like Brenton. Go figure!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

The Boys of Steel The Creators of Superman by Marc Tyler Nobleman

I corresponded with Marc this past spring about how excited I was to see a book coming out about the history of a great super hero. He offered to come by my school and talk to the kids. He thought my Montclair was in New Jersey. Maybe when he is in Denver he can still stop by.

Well I received my book in the mail on Monday. It was worth the wait. The story is engaging. At times I felt like I was reading a kids version of Kaviler and Clay, but non-fiction! It is unfortunate that there are still way too many teachers like the one Jerry had.
The illustrations are retro fun.

Friday, August 8, 2008

We went to Boulder the other day for lunch and the farmers market. Of course we ended up at the Boulder Bookstore as well. I got a few books. Some for gifts, some for me, and some as possible Guys Read Book Club books.

Elephants Never Forget by Anushka Ravishankar is a special tale about a baby elephant that lives with the water buffalo. This is the gift book. I bought a few copies!

For me I got Frankenstein Takes the Cake by Adam Rex. The poem The Sphinx Ain’t All That-Yeah, You Heard Me will be my poem for Poetry Friday! I laughed out loud when I read Ducks Don’t Wear Socks by John Nedwidek, so I bought it too! It reminds me of New Socks by Bob Shea.

The four books I picked for Guys Read Book Club are:
One Small Step by P.B. Kerr
Mariah Mundi The Midas Box by C.P. Taylor
The Wright 3 by Blue Balliett
The Alchemyst The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel by Michael Scott

I read a few other books this summer as possible book club selections. We meet again on the 20th, so I will post our list.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

17 Takes

I have written before that I do not like to read sad books aloud with kids because, well, I don't want to cry. I get teased by friends. On Monday NPR had a piece on EB White. They ran a part form old interview with Mr. White. The original interviewer asked him to read the ending of Charlotte's Web. It took 17 takes before he could read it without crying! See I'm not a freak.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

A Moose, A Hammock and a Couple of Books!

We spent a wonderfully relaxing long weekend in a cabin next to Michigan Reservoir in North Park Colorado. Recently at Jazz in The Park someone had a portable hammock. Yes, I got one for the weekend. It was nice to lay back and read a couple of books.

The Sea of Monsters was a fun read. I enjoyed the continuing adventures of Percy Jackson. I imagine a cruise ship is full of evil! I didn’t really like the third Benjamin Bartholomew Piff book. It seemed forced. However, the boys in my class really enjoyed it.

Summer is coming to an end and as usual I only made a dent in the stack of books I wanted to read. I will keep at it and maybe start next summer with a whole new stack.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Jeremy Fink and The Meaning of Life

Wednesday was our final summer Guys Read Book Club in the Park. We discussed Jeremy Fink and The Meaning of Life by Wendy Mass. I was worried at first that the new third graders would not enjoy the book, but I was wrong. They did, and really enjoyed it. It was fun listening to them talk about life. Innocent eyes refresh old teachers!

I enjoyed Jeremy Fink and the Meaning of Life. As parents dropped off their boys they commented on how much they enjoyed reading the book. It reminds us what we are supposed to do.

Our next get together is the first week of school, and we will discuss the Homework Machine by Dan Gutman. They are excited to pick our autumn books.

Towards the end we talked about what books we had read this summer and movies. The favorite movie was the spoof Meet the Spartans. Yes, I saw it too. Very Guy. Very Bad!

Wednesday, July 16, 2008


Loss. There are many boys’ books out there about the death of a pet. I confess I hate them. They make me very sad. It will get worst now because our little Westie, MacLeod, died during the night. He was not the healthiest of dogs, but he was happy. He was diabetic which led to constant cold etc. He died in our arms. We will miss him.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Happy Summer

I’m back. When I started my blog I thought it would be easy to make numerous posts. It is, but it takes discipline to actually keep up with them. Here is a little information about since my last post.

There was money left from the grant, so we went on a field trip to The Bookies to spend it. Each book club member got $25.00 to spend on books. It was fun to watch them pick. They read back of covers, asked questions and narrowed choices. They really wanted to choose the correct books. It was a wonderful afternoon.

My principal asked if I would continue the Guys read Book Club during the summer. A few parents had approached her to see if I would be willing to do it. We meet once a week at the local park. It is great park in the shadow of a historical building. The first book for the summer was Here Be Monsters by Alan Snow. Ethan enjoyed the humor. All year long at least one boy spilled, but once we went outside NO ONE spilled. BOYS!

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Oprah's Book Club?

Last week we had a mini-book fair at school. It was fun and very successful. I overheard some parents discussing a book they were going to buy for their second grader. One mother said “this book is one the books that they read in Guys Read. When they finish he (refereeing to me) put a guys read sticker on it. It’s like having an Oprah Book Club sticker on it.”

I got the stickers a few years ago when Jon Sczieska’s Guys Read Book first came out, and decided to just use them. I guess they are having some impact.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

The Misadventures of Benjamin Bartholomew Piff: You Wish

Last night was our monthly Guys Read Book Club. The “guys” discussed The Misadventures of Benjamin Bartholomew Piff: You Wish by Jason Lethcoe. A few finished the book in two days. I tried to get them to not just talk about their favorite parts, but they are eight and nine so….. After the initial discussion they did go deeper. There were comments about how sad it was that his parents died, and how that would “suck”. I was surprised that no one picked the battle and the boomerangs as their favorite parts.

We talked about when the book was written and what plane crash Ben’s parents were in. I asked them “Why did you like this book so much? Why is it your favorite?” Chris answered “He writes like Dav Pilkey. He makes you want to read more and not put the book down.” I don’t think a boy can give a better compliment to an author!

Monday, March 31, 2008


“The ending was sad. I cried.” Three third graders said this during our discussion about Elijah of Buxton. Trust. As teachers we do not get quality work or involvement until our students trust us. On a superficial level this is an easy task. However, to get students to share their true feelings they need to feel they won’t be mocked or discounted. It is challenging to create this type of environment. With 12 3rd grade boys it is even harder, but when they shared I knew they felt safe. I look at these faces and see our future. We are lucky!

Monday, March 17, 2008

Elijah of Buxton

The boys picked to read Elijah of Buxton for this month’s discussion. The librarian asked me how I tricked them into reading an historical novel. I told her it was my wit and good looks. I think it has more to do with the cover. Anyhow, some have loved it, and some have struggled. Third graders are so used to being told to make sure words are spelled correctly that when they read a novel with dialect that is different it takes them out of their comfort zone.

On Friday during Independent Reading I look up because I hear Chris say “oh my god, oh my god, WOW!” He was almost to the end of the book. He gets up goes to his friends and rereads them the part. They begin to discuss the book. So much for the discussion this Wednesday, and Independent Reading. I think the guys have discussed the book more then any adult book club. There are times when we see and hear things that tell us this is why I put up with No Child Left Untested and the CSAP.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008


Our school’s librarian is wonderful. She is constantly getting in new books and letting us know what we, or our class might enjoy. This morning I got a new stack. As I read them I will let you know what stands out. The first two picture books were loved by the class. They were fun to read after CSAP Writing Session I.

The first one is Who is Melvin Bubble by Nick Bruel. It is a wonderful story of 6 ½ year old friends. It was fun to watch and listen to third graders making silly predictions of what was going to happen next.

The second book is Steal Back the Mona Lisa by Meghan McCarthy. The story is about a boy named Jack that is called into service to rescue the stolen Mona Lisa. At the end of the book there is interesting information about the real theft of the Mona Lisa. It is always fun to find books in which the characters have the same name as a student in class.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

The Traitor King

At the CCIRA conference I was the “host” for Todd Mitchell, the author of The Traitor King. I enjoyed spending the day with him, and learned some fun writing games to do with my students. I started The Traitor King, but had not yet finished before I met him. The day would have been more fun if I had because I loved the book. It is a superb story about a dysfunctional family that takes the reader to the Otherworld. The story begins with, 6th grader, Darren Mananann and his family arriving at his uncle’s house in the woods of Maine for the yearly “family reunion”. However, when they arrive they discover that their Uncle Will has disappeared. The quest to find him reveals many family secrets. Todd’s story telling makes me feel like I am helping Darren and his sister Jackie find their Uncle Will.

It is a book that, I hope, The Guys Read Book Club will choose next year. They picked the books for the rest of the year. (More on that later.) We are planning on having Todd visit our school in the autumn to talk about The Traitor King and do writing workshops with individual classes.

Friday, February 1, 2008

Grant Money

I am so excited. I recently applied for a grant. I just found out that The Guys Read Book Club recieved an $800 dollar grant to buy books. Imagine a teacher in a book store!

Sunday, January 27, 2008

The Book Lottery and the Importance of the Independent Book Store

On Tuesday morning I held my first book lottery out in the hall outside my room. Another teacher was walking by, and stopped to watch. She couldn't believe that 9 boys were waiting to find out if they got to be the first to read a new book. I opened the lottery to students that had read the first Diary of a Wimpy Kid. There was joy for the six that got to be first to read Rodrick Rules, and disappointment for the four that had to wait. By weeks end 10 third graders and two second graders have finished it. I hope more students read it this week.

I hear often from teachers that they have to get their books from the big chains because they offer better discounts. Yes, teachers are on limited budgets but if WE don't support the independent book sellers wonderful children's book will NEVER be read. I would not have the books to share with my class if it were not for The Bookies. It is a jam packed book store. The women that work there do it because of their love of books. They share that with everyone that walks in the door.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Rodrick Rules

I got six copies on Saturday. It is a hilarious sequal. I enjoy how Greg gives us a realistic view of what it is like being a sibling. Are all vice principale like that?
I can't wait to see the looks on students faces tomorrow when they find out that the book arrived before February!

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Third Grade List

I am very excited that The Invention of Hugo Cabret won the Caldacott. After looking at all the great list of books I decided to ask my third graders what their favorite books are. So here is their list:

  • Diary of a Wimpy Kid
  • Harry Potter (series)
  • The Lightening Thief (Percy Jackson series)
  • Bone
  • Rotten School
  • Captain Underpants (wow what a surprise!)
  • Narnia LWW (they said it was short for Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe)
  • The Arrival (this one surprised me because no one has asked if it can be put in a book bag)
  • Goosebumps
  • Tales of the Crypt
  • The Simpson's

It is great to see such a range of books. A few are influenced by what I have brought into the classroom, but that is why I read the book blogs, the NY Times book review, and visit The Bookies. The more I bring in the more excited they become.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

The Lightening Theif

The Guys Read Book Club met for the second time this past Wednesday. The boys were so excited to talk about The Lightening Thief by Rick Riordan. It is amazing how a book gets a group of boys going. Most of them used Christmas money to buy the sequel.

Here a a couple of examples on how excited they really are about this book. First, a parent told me that her son told her that during lunch they are playing Lightening Thief. Each boy is a different character and they are reenacting the book. The mom is so excited about the club. The second example happened yesterday. I am doing a mid-year DRA2 on my students. I was testing a boy from the book club. He did his oral reading part (went from a DRA28 to a DRA38), and I sent him over to an area to finish the book and answer the questions. I look up and he is sneaking looks at a Greek Mythology book. How bad is it when a kid is reading a book during a reading test?

Monday, January 7, 2008

Congratulations Jon Scieszka

It is exciting to have an ambassador for children's literature. The New York Times describes him as a witty and subversive author. I guess whatever it takes to get boys to read is fine by me.

His book and web site Guys Read is a great resource for boys. I started a boys book club at my school called Guys Read Book Club. Once a month myself and 8 third grade boys meet to discuss a book. The first meeting we talked about Diary of A Wimpy Kid.
This Wednesday we are talking about The Lightening Thief.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Happy New Year

My goal was to get the blog started at the beginning of winter break, but since school starts Monday I didn't quite make it. I am excited that I did start one. My objective for The Boy Reader blog is to share books that boys enjoy reading. I want my boy readers to see that there are books besides Captian Underpants. Dav Pilkey is wonderful!

I want to start by thanking a couple of blogs that inspire and inform me: A Year of Reading and A Fuse #8. Over time I will add other blogs.