Friday, January 19, 2018

New Book Club and a Symphony of Armpit Farts

The discussion of Dog Man by Dav Pilkey was fun.  The boys spent more time than usual pointing out the merits of the graphic novel.    They were polite to each other, and when they disagreed with someone they would say, “I disagree with you because..”  I thought, “wow what a new civilized group”.  Well when 12 boys get together after school with food and beverages the civility doesn’t last long.  All it takes is one, third grade, boy to change the tune of the meeting.  As the last boy finished the symphony of armpit farts began.  Yes, ladies and gentlemen, the boys tried to play a song with their armpits.  I knew if I didn’t intervene it was down hill, and no way to get back.  “Hey what did you guys read over break?” I asked.  Luckily for everyone involved they quickly moved on to answering the questions.

A little background about this Guys Read Book Club:  I currently teach at a Title 1 school with a magnificent view of downtown Denver.  We can walk to the a few museums and Denver Public Library’s main branch.  We are, also, a school in which 60% of our students have been either homeless, or in some type of foster care.  It is a tough school.  Our achievement on the state’s test shows that we lag behind students from middle class schools.  There are about 14 boys this year that come to the monthly meeting.  Of the 14, 11 come from homes where English is not the primary language, and at least one parent is a new immigrant.  Four of the boys read significantly below grade level.  All 14 boys are your typical goofy boys.

After 10 years of doing a book club it is exciting and rewarding to see a group of boys come together and participate in a book club.  It is just like any “fun” book club.  We eat, drink, laugh, talk a little bit about the book, talk, laugh, eat… I am very fortunate that I get a grant to buy the books.  Each month the boys get to keep their books.  For some families these are some of the only books that are in the house.

January 2018
I have worked in Title 1 urban schools and in most of them there is a belief that “these kids won’t do that” or “these kids can’t do that”.  I know that if we don’t provide opportunities for kids in Title 1 schools we will never break the cycle.  Is it challenging? YES.  Is it worth it? Look at the picture.  The saying goes “A picture tells a thousand words.”  In the case of these guys the picture tells a million words!

Friday, January 12, 2018

Miles Morales Spider Man by Jason Reynolds

Miles Morales is just another teenager trying to get through school, talk to girls and not make his parents angry.  Miles is on scholarship to a boarding school in Brooklyn.   He plays video games with his roommate Ganke. (More about him later!)  While trying to fit in and impress a girl named Alicia he makes a bad choice and the consequences get him suspended for a few days.  On top of all the normal teenage issues he is Spider Man and his super powers are acting weird. 

As Miles tries to get he live back together he keeps having nightmares that he can’t shake, even when he is awake.  His nightmares force him to come face to face with an evil plot being carried out by his racist history teacher. That is enough of a summary.  You have to read the book to find out more.

I want to start with the fact that Jason Reynolds is a master storyteller.  Miles Morales Spider Man is an incredible book.  I had trouble putting it down, and I purchased multiple copies to give a Christmas presents. 

Over the past few years there has been a lot of discussion about the lack of characters of color in middle-grade books.  Many of the books that had been published were not that good.  Luckily, the last couple of years we are finally getting well written books that have main characters of color.  Jason Reynolds is one of the authors that writes books that kids enjoy, and make them think. 

I am always seeking books that will make great read alouds or a book for book club.  Unfortunately, this book won’t work for me.  HOWEVER, if I taught fifth grade or middle school it would be a FANTASTIC read aloud.  The same goes for book club.  As I said earlier it was hard to put down.  Mr. Reynolds sucks the reader into the pages.  At times I felt like I was on the subway with Miles.  It is definitely a book I would put in the hands of many kids and in classroom libraries.  Thank you Jason Reynolds.