Tuesday, March 21, 2017

The #30SecondBookTalk Championship May Be Over, But The Opportunity To Help Kids Fall In Love With Reading Continues!

Thank you, Scholastic, for originally publishing this post by me and Brad Gustafson on the Reader Leader Blog! Not only are we excited to share our reflections on this year's project, but also to celebrate the work of so many people who are using the #30SecondBookTalk platform as a way to help young readers blossom! Y'all inspire us every day! 

From Jennifer:
At a recent conference, I had the opportunity to look on as a local Superintendent received an award for his support of School Libraries during his lifetime of service to his school district. During his acceptance speech, he mentioned that by the time his son was 10 years old, he and his wife “knew something was very wrong,” because their son hated reading.  

Having exhausted every strategy he could think of, this Superintendent went to one of the district’s librarians and asked for advice. Her prescription was simple: “find your favorite books from when you were his age, and then carve out time each night before bed, and read to him from those books. Let him see your love of reading and for those books.” The Superintendent admitted that he’d never thought of such a thing and was skeptical about its effectiveness, but was willing to try anything.

Notably, this librarian never mentioned reading levels, completing a reading log or the possibility of earning “points” for the time they spent reading together.  Rather, she encouraged this life long educator to simply share with his son the joy that books bring him.  With tears in his eyes, the Superintendent choked out a thank you to this long retired librarian, and to all librarians who, in his words, “save kids like mine every day” saying, “I don’t know what would have happened to my son had we not had this experience of reading together.”

As we all stood in applause as he accepted his award, I couldn’t help but admire the simplicity of this beautiful gift: permission to read with a child for purely joyful reasons.

From Brad:
I married my high school sweetheart and we have three beautiful kids.  Our oldest two can be found at a restaurant near you trying to read “one more chapter” before supper starts. Our middle child is infamous for milking additional minutes out of bedtime because she wants to read “just a few more pages.” Sometimes their authentic love (and obsession) with reading is exhilarating, and other times it is somewhat socially awkward. (Who brings a book to a sleep over, anyways?!)

Our youngest child is not an avid reader yet. He prefers pretending to be a ninja and playing Legos. We don’t have a formal intervention plan or reading SMART goals for him yet, but we do try to talk about the books we love at home. We model what it looks like to be curious, and this usually involves reading in some way, shape, or form.

We even do crazy things like create videos about books we’re reading while laughing hysterically together. Sometimes our literacy-themed adventures pique his curiosity, and he will occasionally exchange glancing blows using his foam sword while we’re recording book talk videos. I haven’t quite figured out why the reading logs my wife and I complete on his behalf do not have the same draw, but I think Jen’s story above addresses this nicely.

Although my wife and I met and fell in love earlier than most, it took us a little longer to figure out a few important things about our kids (and their formative reading identities):

  1. All kids are different.
  2. All kids have different passions.
  3. Do no harm.

I’ll let you draw your own conclusions about book talk videos, reading logs, and even our parenting skills (which are still a work in progress). However, I will also promise you one thing. No child has ever been turned off to reading by an adult who shared the joy of reading in a manner that was authentic, personalized, and respectful to that child.

From Jen and Brad:
These stories illustrate some of the reasons why we created the #30SecondBookTalk and why we continue to be inspired by those who have participated!  We know that when adults share their passion for reading and for the books that have touched them, kids respond by developing their own passions. Similarly, we also know that reading for pleasure is a vital part of helping young people develop healthy and robust reading lives.  

Simply put, the #30SecondBookTalk provides educators a platform through which they can share their love of reading with kids (without an emphasis on assessment, points, levels, or logs). Yes, battling it out as co-commissioners and placing bets on which team would take home the Vince LomBOOKi prize was a lot of fun, but ultimately, our goal has always been to connect kids with great books.

This is why we’re thrilled to see the amazing ways so many educators are taking the #30SecondBookTalk beliefs to their schools. Take a look:

In Cabarrus County, NC, little learners created promo videos supporting their teachers’ #30SecondBookTalk videos. While the winner of this epic competition has yet to be announced, who wouldn’t want an endorsement from these absolutely precious readers?

Meanwhile, in Cold Springs, MN, 5th grade teacher, Belinda Walsh was awarded $100 in books for her classroom, in an EPIC school-wide assembly, after the school community voted Ms. Walsh their #30SecondBookTalk Champion! Woo hoo!

And then there’s school librarian, Andy Plemmons, who is using FlipGrid to create a Global #30SecondBookTalk competition in which his 5th grade students share their best #30secondbooktalks with the world - and then the world votes to select the winner. How fun! Voting in this competition is still open!

Finally, we’d be remiss if we didn’t once again celebrate the 16 educators who came together to share their love of reading as part of our own #30SecondBookTalk Championship. After nearly 30,000 votes were cast, Bronwyn Merritt’s video, featuring the children’s classic Matilda by Roald Dahl took home the grand prize and we’re so excited for her, and her students, who will soon be selecting $500 worth of books for their classroom library thanks to Scholastic.

However, we’re convinced that everyone who participated would agree that the real winners in this competition are kids. Every time we make sharing our passion for books with kids a priority, we strengthen the connection in their hearts between reading and joy. Every time we share the ways that reading has had a positive, meaningful impact on our own lives, we fortify the idea that reading is an integral, relevant part of living a full life. Every time we let our reading geek flags fly, we help young readers fly their own reading colors too.

To that end, while the official #30SecondBookTalk Competition has come to a close, it’s never too late for you to start modeling the joy of reading through book talks. Feel free to use the materials below to kickstart the book talk battle at your school. And don’t forget to share your own mad #30SecondBookTalk skillz to the Twitter hashtag. We’re always on the lookout for future Lead Learners and Literacy Legends!

Happy reading, everyone.

Resources for the Classroom/Library:
Crowdsourced Tips for EPIC BookTalks by #LiteracyLegends

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Of Mothers And Daughters

My mother died in December.  

Typing those words seems strange, but not for what I would guess are the usual reasons. I miss my mother, but not because she was a regular fixture in my life. I don't feel the every day loss that people who are close to their parents experience when there's suddenly an empty place in their days and hearts that mom or dad used to fill. In fact, although I was once very close to my mother, we'd grown estranged over the years, and in the last two decades, I'd only seen her a handful of times. Some days I feel as though I might drown in the regret that comes along with knowing that no matter what happens next, I'll never have the chance to fix what was broken between us. On other days, I recognize that fixing us was never my job alone. 

Circa 1974
That said, I'm not interested in excavating my relationship with my mother in this space, (any more than you are interested in reading it!) But one thing I've been thinking about a lot in recent days is how my relationship with her has affected my reading choices over the years. And this has made me curious about literature for young people featuring complicated mother-daughter relationships. 

Despite my chosen field and love of all things literary, I didn't become a widely read person until later in life. When I hear people like Donalyn Miller or Travis Crowder reminisce about all the books that shaped them as young people, I find myself feeling more than a little jealous. I don't have that breadth of reading history. In fact, I can only recall reading a handful of books before the age of about 15. But I read that limited selection over and over and over again.

I've written before about my own lack of interest in school. By the time I reached high school, I'd managed to be promoted every single year without ever reading a single book that I'd been assigned. I was quiet, and (mostly) stayed out of trouble, and did just enough to get by without drawing attention to myself.  But whether a whole class novel, or a book we were able to choose for a book report of some kind, I simply wasn't interested in reading what people told me to. I didn't care enough about school to prioritize the assignments, and we moved around so much in my younger years that by the time a teacher realized I was slipping through the proverbial cracks, I was already disappearing. That's not to say I didn't read though. I read plenty. Just nothing I was supposed to. 

While every other 10 year old girl on planet earth was falling in love with Anne of Green Gables, Little House on the Prairie, Nancy Drew, or some other idyllic and wholesome novel/series for kids, I was reading Stephen King and VC Andrews: specifically Carrie and Flowers in the Attic.  I'm not sure what that says about me, but I know one thing for certain, I read those books, cover to cover, until they fell apart. And then I taped them back together and started the process all over.  In fact, when I moved to NC in 1990, with only one suitcase and $150 to my name, both of those books came with me.

I think about this every time I talk to a teacher or librarian who refuses to allow a student to reread the books they love. "They're too old for Diary of a Wimpy Kid," they'll say.  Or "I can't allow them to continue to read fluff like Captain Underpants." Really? Why not? Show me the research that indicates kids who read only what they love, sometimes over and over again, fail in comparison to those who are forced to read what an adult prescribes. Clearly, I'm not saying we shouldn't introduce young readers to other texts that they might also adore, but we should do that by celebrating the ones they already love. Every time we forbid a child to read the thing they love, we're telling them (however, unconsciously) that they are not real readers and that their reading choices are suspect. So many kids have yet to find a single book with which they connect. How dare we destroy that love for those who have? Our job is not to make kids read "better books." Our job is to better the reading lives of the children we serve. Period.

But I digress.

One thing I want to be clear about is that my mother was in no way similar to the mothers in Carrie or Flowers in the Attic. I'm absolutely not making that comparison. But in thinking about why I read those two books hundreds, maybe thousands, of times growing up, I've realized that despite their gruesome themes, I found comfort in those pages. It's true, neither story has a happy ending, but no matter what was happening at my house, it was always a hell of a lot better than what was happening in that attic! And even though I wasn't consciously looking for that validation of experience when I picked up Flowers in the Attic for the 300th time, that didn't stop me from finding it.

Obviously, the publishing world for young people has grown exponentially since the Paleolithic period when I was in school, and not just in sheer volume, but also in quality. These days I'm an unabashed lover of young adult fiction and I can't stop/won't stop because it's just so good! But in the wake of my mother's death, I also can't help but dream about an alternative universe in which adolescent me found her way to books that better reflected her experience and that maybe, just maybe, helped her cope a little bit better in the bargain. 

Which is why I've felt compelled to start collecting those titles here. A few days ago, I asked my PLN (on Twitter and Facebook) to contribute to this Padlet by sharing titles of books for young people that feature complicated mother-daughter relationships. And now I'm asking you, too.

Made with Padlet

Please consider adding your picks to this growing resource and then sharing it as you feel is appropriate. I may not be able to fix what was broken between me and my mother, but I like knowing that there are many more options out there for kids like me who are looking for confirmation in books that they're not alone, that not all families are perfect, and that when our broken places heal, they often turn out to be stronger than they were before. 

Thursday, February 23, 2017

And The #30SecondBookTalk Winner Is....

The World Championship of Book Talk videos started with 16 creative educators from several continents. They came together around a common cause and each produced a short (30 second) book talk video. The rest is history!

After over 29,000 votes were cast we have a winner. Congratulations to   and the Literacy Legends team. You can see Bronwyn
#30SecondBookTalk video HERE along with the other finalists. In addition to taking home the hardware (also known as a Vince Lombooki Digital Badge), Bro
classroom will receive $500.00 in books from Scholastic...how cool is that?!

​As with all great things, this was a labor of love that could not have happened without lots of amazing people. In addition to thanking 
​everyone who participated
, we'd 
​also ​
like to recognize several educators who are empowering kids to collaborate on similar book talk video projects. Here are just a few of our favorites:

Finally, I can't post this without thanking my co-commissioner Dr. Brad Gustafson. The #30SecondBookTalk Challenge was 100% his brainchild and I'm honored that he asked me to be a part of it. Thank you, friend! You inspire me ever single day.

As we reflect back on the journey we know that it wasn't just 
​Bronwyn's class
 who won, it was the countless students and educators who got to experience the joy of reading and talking about the books they love. Congrats to 
​everyone who participated and a special shoutout to the #literacylegends who brought home the hardware once again. I've no doubt that the #leadlearners will bring it next year, but until then, happy reading everyone! 

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

#30SecondBookTalk FINAL FOUR! Voting Starts NOW!

Okay, y'all... let's do this thing!

The World Championship of Book Talks started with 16 educators from several different continents. After 8,000+ votes we are down to the final four, and YOU get to select the winner. Will it be a "Lead Learner" or will it be a "Literacy Legend"?! Oh, who we are kidding?? It's definitely gonna be a Literacy Legend!

We created this collaborative project to inspire readers, young and old, to celebrate the books they love. Here's how:
  1. Watch the podcast containing the final four book talk videos above.
  2. Choose your favorite and vote HERE.
  3. Follow the action on Twitter at #30SecondBookTalk.
  4. Create and share your own book talks with young people in your life!
Voting ends at 7:00pm EST on Friday, Feb 17th. In addition to taking home the 2017 "Vince LomBooki" digital badge, the winner will also receive $500 in books for their classroom, school, or university. (Thank you Scholastic!!)

Of course, the real winners are the students who get to see the educators they look up to talking about the books they love. We're even seeing classrooms recreate their own #30SecondBookTalk Tournaments using the free resources below. Please keep sharing your love of reading with your students, and don't forget to showcase your classroom's creativity using our hashtag.

Now... let's get this party started! Get your vote on.... NOW!

Resources for the Classroom/Library:.
Voting Link: Cast your vote for this year’s champion!
#30secondbooktalk hashtag - where you can follow the players as they promote their book talks.
Crowdsourced Tips for EPIC BookTalks by #LiteracyLegends