October 1st, 2015

What Happens When Students Write Publicly

“Someone in another state really read my blog?”

“I got a comment from a real expert! How’d you do that?”

“You’re like our agent, Miss. You’re my number one promoter.”

For the last five weeks, my students have been working towards publishing an op-ed. We read examples that I provided by writers who I admire. They found more samples on topics that interested them. I teach in the workshop style, studying the hallmarks of a genre and then asking students to write in the genre on a topic that they choose.

My model looks like this:


This doesn’t look that different from traditional writing workshop classrooms. But there are a few important differences that make the cycle even more meaningful to me and to my students.

We brainstorm and ideate in a pretty traditional way, except that they publish their ideas on their blog as they think and explore. Instead of traditional writer’s notebooks (which I’ve also had great success with), my students participate in a series of small writing tasks to explore ideas – these tasks can take the form of poetry, listing, group brainstorming, short pieces, all published and open for feedback from peers, teachers and other readers. This takes the notebook that used to be the sole possession of the writer and opens up the thinking process to the community. The feedback loop opens the writer’s eyes to new ideas as they both receive feedback on their own thinking and look at and examine the thinking of others.

Next comes the pitch. When it comes time to settle on an idea to write about, I ask my students to both put that idea down in writing and to verbalize it to others. Sometimes we do it speed dating style, sometimes as whole class presentations, sometimes as small groups. But however the pitch day looks in my class, the main idea is to have to talk through the idea with an audience. To listen to how it sounds outside of their own heads. Sometimes they realize they have a great plan. Sometimes they realize it doesn’t sound fully fleshed out, or they aren’t as passionate as they first thought. Talking about it makes the idea real.

What follows is reading in the genre and writing drafts. The more reading and writing they do, the better their product. My class composes in google docs so that I can see the progress and offer feedback as they work. In the end, this saves me time on grading since I am constantly reading their work, I get to know it well, and it also leads to much better products.

Here’s where it really gets fun, though. When I was in school and when I first started teaching, “publishing” in the writing process meant handing your final draft in to the teacher and waiting for a grade. Today, for my students, publishing means hitting the publish button on their blogs and waiting for readers, comments and shares. This changes everything.

This week, our first publishing week, was one of the best of my career. My students hit publish on their amazing work, I took to social media to share it (with their permission) and the readers came. I am lucky to have an amazing group of colleagues, friends, an online PLN that always comes through and fellow bloggers who understand what a comment can mean to a writer. My students came in later in the week and were beyond excited to tell me that they had gotten comments from people they’d never met, from experts in the fields they’d written about, from other teachers, from students they’ve never met. Good comments pushed their thinking and made them feel like writers, not simply students.

One student’s piece resonated so much with her audience – teachers – that a school in Kansas shared it with all of their first year teachers. As I discussed that with the student, we both got chills and were nearly in tears. What does that validation mean to a young writer? So much more than the good grade I gave her. She won’t remember what score her writing received, but she sure will remember the time she shared a message about racism in education and people she’d never met read it and shared it and started talking because of it.

While my classroom might look in some ways like a traditional writing workshop classroom, hitting the publish button throughout the process – and especially at the end – makes all the difference.


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September 10th, 2015

The Teacher Is Not The Audience



Six years ago, when I sat down to type my very first blog post, I had no idea how much that decision would shape me. How much I’d grow as a writer and a member of a community. How much I’d come to rely on this space to figure myself out. How much writing here would make me a better mother for the moments it forces me to see.

It should be no surprise that blogging has made me a better teacher too.

I started a blog because I needed an outlet. Because journaling wasn’t enough for me anymore. Because I wanted an audience and connections and a reason to put words on a page.

I started blogging with my students three years ago for the same reasons, really. They needed an audience bigger than just me. In this age of technology, for many of them journaling seemed superficial or forced – something to do only in school. Because my students deserve a reason to put words on a page aside from “I assign you an essay,” or “You have to pass a test.”

Last year was the first year I rolled out blogs to all my students. I wrote at the end of the year about that experience and how inspired I was by the growth and dedication I saw in my students.

And they saw it too. They told me again and again that they couldn’t believe how much they had grown as writers. That they were so happy to see what others were saying and have a chance to respond. They loved looking at their statistics and reading comments that didn’t only come from a teacher.

A few weeks ago, as we began another school year, my department decided they want in on this blogging journey too. None of them are bloggers themselves. They all have varying levels of comfort with technology and experience in the classroom. But after hearing me talk about it so passionately for so long now, they all jumped in to blogging with their students.

We’ve already learned a few lessons and I know there will be many more as the year goes on. We’ve tackled communicating our intentions to parents, setting up blogs with over 1000 teenagers, logistical ways of keeping track of each students’ individual blog, helping students to comment productively on each others’ work. And we are only 3 weeks in to school!

This morning eight teachers met in my room for a PLC no one directed us to create. We weren’t there because of any mandate or paperwork we were required to fill out. We were there because this year we are all learning together how to build a classroom writing community using blogs. We are encouraging each other to step out of our comfort-zone and encouraging our students to do the same.

The teacher isn’t the audience. I don’t want my students to write for me. I want them to write for themselves and for the people who need to hear the important things they have to say. I want them to know that their voices matter outside the walls of a classroom. That their words are powerful tools.

I will be sharing my department’s blogging journey here most Thursdays. I hope you’ll follow along.



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August 31st, 2015

Woom Bike: A Love Story

Almost 20 years ago now, when Ken and I first started dating, he was always on his bike. I went from just being an English major nerd to being immersed in the cycling community, learning a new language with each race that I tagged along to. I got to see roads in Texas that I never otherwise would have seen and I became a spectator,  supporter and feed-zone pro.

Much of our courtship was spent on, near or among bikes. We traveled together to races and got to know each other on the long drives. He got me on a bike again for the first time since I was a kid and taught me to let go, have fun and embrace adventure. We rode bikes together through Acadia National Park on the day when Ken proposed.

When bike racing took Ken up north, he met my parents for the first time, just hours after this photo was taken.

Ken Dille

Ken is the one in the red helmet with the fierce look on his face. And while he looks at this photo and sees second place, I look at it and I remember how much I admired his discipline and determination, his bravery and his tenacity as he rode and raced and sometimes won and sometimes didn’t.

Bikes have always been a part of our story, and now bikes are part of our parenting story as well.

A month ago I brought home a Woom 2 bike and watched as Ken and Miles fell in love. Ken sat staring at it, in awe of its awesomeness. He gushed over every part, continuously marveling at the depth of quality on this small bike. Miles looked up at him as he listed off the things that he wished he had had as a kid.


He talked about its alloy rims, lightweight aluminum frame, unique frame shape that allows a lower center of gravity, short 3-piece cranks for small legs, the spot to add a cage for a water bottle, the comfy seat, the short-reach hand brakes, the super-cool reflective tires.

He said bike things like, “The geometry is really great on it” and I asked, what does that mean? Even 20 years later, the bike language sometimes needs translation. In short, it means it fits kids well. That Miles can easily sit on the seat and reach the handlebars and put his feet down if he needs to but also reach the pedals well.

Miles doesn’t call it “geometry,” but every time he jumps on his bike he says, amazed, “This bike is the perfect size for me.” He was proud of how quickly he mastered the hand breaks. He could easily put his feet down when he was feeling wary. He could ring his bell to let his sister know he was right behind her.

And I love that everything about the Woom stands out in its simplicity. It is just a really great bike to look at (no characters or sparkles or other gimmicks kids quickly outgrow). It is a classic – solid colors, everything on the bike is for a purpose, giving it a friendly and easy to use look that helped my timid kid want to jump right on.





When Miles got on his Woom bike for the first time, I thought he might just take off. He had ridden a balance bike for a while, though he never really got the total hang of it, he was really excited about his new awesome bike and he said he was ready.

But he didn’t take right off. I should have known he wouldn’t; he’s not a risk taker, he never has just jumped right in to anything in his life. He is a perfectionist – if he can’t do it perfectly, doing it at all is a struggle.

So he didn’t take right off. And, really, I think that’s better.

It’s not better because he has fewer skinned knees or because he still stays right there next me. It is better because most things in life won’t come easy. Most things will take the discipline and determination, bravery and tenacity that I so admired in his father on a bike all those years ago.

I realized this the first time around when Nora learned to ride her bike, but the hanging on and letting go of learning to ride a bike is just a giant metaphor for parenting. I want him to take off on his own, but I don’t want him to go too fast or too far. I want to hold him up forever to prevent him from falling, but I know I can only teach him by letting go. I wish that it was always easy to balance all of life’s demands, but sometimes that balance is something we struggle to find.

IMG_0737 Woom1



And so we’ve spent time practicing. Riding bikes in the park while Ken and I hold on to him for the most part, encouraging some risks and assuring him we are still right there.

“I want to ride my bike as good as my dad,” he said as we rounded another corner in the park, my hands holding tight to his handlebars, his feet pushing the pedals around and around in circles.

“You’re learning, buddy,” I told him.

He’s learning to pedal and look where he’s going, learning to pull the hand breaks and steer along the paths. But he’s also learning to be brave, to try things that scare him, to embrace adventure and to try again and again when he doesn’t get it right away.

“I’m learning,” he agreed.

And then, for a few long seconds, I let go.

woom 2



Thank you to Woom Bike for giving Miles the bike and asking me to write about your outstanding product! I am so happy that Woom bike is now a part of our family’s continuing bike story.



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August 11th, 2015

Words In – Summer Reading Edition

I always think that I’ll have so much more time to read every summer than I do. My days quickly fill with trips to the pool, summer professional development workshops, reading for work and getting my kids snacks. Constant snacks. Nonetheless, I managed to read too. I also managed to read a few things that were outside of the usual genre I go for.

I started off the summer reading a book that I had no intention of liking. It sounded weird and I hadn’t liked the last book with a teenaged male narrator. But this book, even at the end of summer, is close to the top of my list of things I’ve read this year. Nogginwas just so unexpectedly good. A kid dying of cancer chooses to have his head cryogenically frozen and then five years later he is brought back to life on someone else’s body. Everything has changed – his friends are five years older – and he has to figure out how he fits back in to the world. It was really well written, with likeable characters and a plot line that avoided all the possible cliches it could have walked right into. I highly recommend it.

Just like I confessed yesterday that I’d never read Harry Potter, I also hadn’t ever really read a graphic novel. I’d read Maus and Persepholis, but a graphic novel outside of a historical or academic setting, hadn’t ever really appealed to me. In the spirit of broadening my reading horizons, I picked up This One Summer– the title sounded like a great book for a summer reading list. Going in, I thought it would be light and innocent and maybe even something I could read with Nora. Nope. It was so layered and complex and right away dealt with more adult content than I’d ever share with my 7 year old. The drawings were simple but managed to really communicate the depth of feeling these characters were going through. I loved the experience of reading this book. If you’re looking for one last quick summer read, add this one to your list.

On my journey through YA fiction this year, I’ve read so many books that make use of and pay tribute to poetry in various ways. As a reader, these poetic gestures are intriguing. As a writer, I love looking at how other authors have blended genres, and as an English teacher I love seeing the ways my students are most likely encountering poetry in their independent reading. And We Stay took some really heavy themes – school shooting, suicide, abortion – and mixed them in with the biography and poetry of Emily Dickinson. While this book doesn’t stand out to me after reading all the others, it was a book with interesting characters drawn in a unique way.

My favorite book that I read this summer was The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender. At first I was really skeptical. It started with a lot of family history, something I don’t usually enjoy reading. Then a girl was born with wings. And I’m usually much more into realistic fiction. But Ava’s story turned out to be stunningly beautiful and painful and full of surprises. At one point towards the end I had to put the book down and text my friend Chelsea who had already finished it. I was scared to continue, I knew something terrible was about to happen and I wasn’t sure I could do it. She told me to keep reading and so I reluctantly picked it back up. The ending of the book was so good. So good. I will reread this book some day and I really hope that someone makes it into a beautiful movie. Definitely put this book on your to-read list!

I don’t let Nora watch movies before she’s read the book (Did you know the Diary of a Wimpy Kid movies are pretty good? She’s read all those and we’ve watched some movies this summer. But I digress…) so I thought I’d hold myself to the same standard. I read Me and Earl and the Dying Girlon our trip to Florida earlier this summer. And while it wasn’t my favorite and I didn’t run right out to see the movie, I did enjoy it and was pleasantly surprised that it was not just another cancer romance story like The Fault in Our Stars. It was very different and had really well developed characters who I still have lots of questions about, but that’s a good thing, I guess, since I care enough about them to want to know more.

I’m a big fan of Sarah Dessen. She captures moments of teen years that still resonate as an adult and she usually paints really interesting family portraits. Saint Anything was a compelling read with interesting family dynamics and some really well-developed characters. It is getting a bit hard for me to remember which Dessen book is which, so moments of this now that I’m trying to remember it do run together with her other books. But there were some really great moments and some unique twists. If you like Dessen, you won’t be disappointed with Saint Anything.

Lastly, my only non-YA book of the summer was The Girl on the Train. A friend gave it to me for my birthday and it was a great summer mystery with some good writing. It was a strange book for me. I really disliked all the characters – not one of them did I find likeable. But at the same time, I had to know what was going to happen. That’s a trick as a writer – to be able to create some loser characters but still have the reader care about their fate. I was really glad that I read it and if you like mystery and drama and books told from various viewpoints, I recommend it.

What were your favorite summer reads? I’d love to hear in the comments!

**All links are amazon affiliate links.
Clicking through to buy books recommended here gives me a very small contribution towards my reading habit!***
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August 9th, 2015

Reading Harry Potter for the First Time

Before this summer, I had never read Harry Potter.

I’m a book lover. A story lover. An avid reader. But for the past 19 years, when someone has asked me what I thought of Harry or what house I’d be in, I’d have to admit that I had never cracked open a Harry Potter book.

This has earned me some pretty strange looks and some declarations of not understanding me at all. How could I never have read these books?

I did it on purpose. Well, sort of. The first book came out when I was in college. As an English major, maybe I should have quickly jumped on the Harry Potter band-wagon, but I didn’t. I let myself stay immersed in 19th century fiction – my favorite. I had no time for Harry.

I graduated from college and started teaching students who, of course, had read Harry. They loved them and talked about them so much and I started to feel like I didn’t really need to read them. I was, in my 20s, not that interested in Harry Potter.

But then I had kids. And that’s when I started to not read Harry Potter on purpose.

“You haven’t read Harry Potter!” people would gasp and choke in shock as I admitted this glaring hole in my reading history.

“I’m waiting to read it with Nora and Miles,” I would tell them.

There were plenty of stories from my childhood that I couldn’t and still can’t wait to pass on. Reading Charlotte’s Web with Nora felt like reading it for the hundredth and the first time. I read it many times as a child, but I had never read it as a mother. I quickly passed on my love of Ramona as she ventured into reading chapter books. And I can’t wait to give her Judy Blume when the time is right.

But it seemed somehow even more special to be able to discover a story together. For me to experience a new tale along with her, to talk as readers do – ask questions, make predictions, grow attached to characters for the first time. So I saved Harry Potter on my bookshelf until we were all ready.

Today we read about the Sorting Hat and Harry’s amazing flying skills.  Miles listened here and there, but Nora is all in.  We cuddled up on the couch and in my bed and read for so long my voice hurts. And neither of us wanted to stop. We will both dream of flying on brooms and portraits with people who don’t stay put. We will dream of hidden monsters and blooming friendships, of giants and wizards and spells. And neither of us knows what is going to happen.

Harry Potter Quiz

At dinner I let her take her first internet quiz. To Which Hogwarts House Do You Belong? She answered the questions, which were slightly complicated for her, and she came out with Hufflepuff. She was disappointed even though the description of being a good, kind friend and worrying about others should have made her feel good. No. She wanted to be in Gryffindor just like Harry. She passed me the computer to take the quiz (I got Ravenclaw) and to her dad (He ended up with Gryffindor) and then she even tried to make Miles take it. When he wouldn’t cooperate she filled in answers for him and insisted he would be in Slitherin.

And this is why I waited, I thought as I watched her talk about each house as if she could really just go there tomorrow. Because reading Harry Potter was never supposed to be about the magic of my childhood. Reading Harry Potter is supposed to be about finding the magic in the childhoods unfolding right before my eyes.

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July 27th, 2015

The Power Of Amplifying Teen Voices

Their hearts break and adults tell them to get over it because teens don’t understand true love anyway.

They miss deadlines and adults warn that they better watch out for the big bad “real” world.

They take selfies and adults call them selfish because they only see them looking at themselves and not looking for meaning and identity.

Our society misses out on brilliance because many times we shut down teen voices when we should be elevating them. Too many times we adults tell teens what to think and how to act without listening to and crediting them for their own ideas, their own feelings, their own insight born of those moments searching for truth and identity.

I know this not as a parent, my kids are too young, but as a teacher, someone who has spent 15 years learning as much from my teenage students as I teach them each day.

I’ve learned about speaking your truth and being honest.

I’ve learned about passion and drive and trying to have it all.

I’ve learned about friendship and curiosity and community.

I’ve learned about perseverance and family and asking questions.

I’ve spent 15 years listening. Of being open to their voices and their ideas. Of following their path instead of mine many days because it felt just right.

I’ve tried to show them by listening that their voices matter. That teen voices deserve to be heard. That they aren’t stereotypical selfish kids who only see themselves, but that I see them looking out into the world and trying to find their place.

Last week at BlogHer, I literally sat teary-eyed through most of the Friday morning keynote.



Soledad O’Brien sat on stage with three of her scholars from her Starfish Foundation – all inspiring young women who had so many important things to say. Soledad O’Brien listened to their teen voices, rewarded their passion and perseverance and hard work.

Anna Maria Chavez, Girl Scouts CEO and two accomplished scouts took the stage and displayed the many ways teens do exactly what I know to be true – serve their communities, build strong relationships with each other, explore outside their comfort zones.

And the most exciting new initiative for me at BlogHer was the Hatch initiative – a brilliant way to help elevate teen voices about topics that matter. So many times we assume that the conversations adults are having – online and off – are outside the realm of teenage thought. We as a society don’t bother to ask them how they feel about feminism or racism or any other number of issues. But Hatch asks. And they listen. Then they amplify those voices so that hopefully others will start to listen as well. And it is so clear from the way those kids just took to the microphone that they so love being heard.



Like I wrote last week, this year’s BlogHer wasn’t really just about blogging for me. It was a call to keep doing all the work I’m doing in all the spaces I inhabit. It was a call to find new ways to amplify the smaller, less frequently heard voices. It was a huge moment I can now point to in my classroom and assure my students that I am not the only one listening.

I’m not the only one who knows their hearts really can break.

I’m not the only one who know that they already live in the “real” world.

I’m not the only one who sees them searching for something bigger when they turn the camera towards themselves.

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July 23rd, 2015

BlogHer and The Power of Our Voices

Just like in 2012, I traveled to this BlogHer conference worrying that I would feel out of place, like a too tiny fish in a too big sea. I worried that I haven’t written enough lately to call myself a blogger. I worried that skipping last year would mean that my blogging friends had moved on to new people. I worried that I would go and simply realize that I should no longer really call myself a blogger.

But just like in 2012, I left New York City with a renewed sense of pride and purpose. A new kind of confidence born from old and new friendships, encouragement from a community that has so much power. I left New York City thinking even more about how and why words and sharing of stories matters not just for us on a personal level, but for the betterment of the world around us.

I left New York inspired.

Last Thursday I sat in a room with inspiring women and had the amazing opportunity to hear from two of the founders of the #BlackLivesMatter movement. I stood at the end and chanted along with them about freedom and speaking out. I sat in the audience, teary-eyed at their stories, in awe of what they have created, and thought what I would think many times that weekend. It is our voices that matter.

BlogHer isn’t really about blogging. BlogHer is about the power of our voices.


It is about the big voices. Soledad O’Brien speaking about the incredible ways she’s helped girls get to college despite all the obstacles in their way. Gwyneth Paltrow speaking about parenting and divorce in a way much more real than I had anticipated. Christy Turlington Burns speaking about the many ways she has helped start a movement around maternal health. Ava DuVarney speaking so humbly and honestly about what it means to tell the stories she tells in a world that tries to devalue storytellers who look like her.

But BlogHer isn’t only about the big voices. I realized that three years ago and again last week. I might go there feeling small and unworthy, but I leave knowing that my voice matters too. That people care and listen and that I should go on speaking and writing because it might matter to someone. Because it matters to me.

I stood last week amongst some of the best content creators on the web who were being honored as BlogHer Voices of the Year winners. James Oliver who gave an amazingly powerful performance. Imani Miller, a teen film-maker who I found incredibly inspiring. My new friend Angela who danced in her kitchen and my old friend Kristin who writes such powerful words. These voices were being honored – chosen out of 1000s of entries.  And I was there with them, being honored for my words. It took my breath away to see my words blown up big, my name on the honorees list. Even after all the success I’ve had in this space and with my words, I struggle still to call myself a writer. But that night, I really felt like one.


IMG_8895 Voices of The Year

BlogHer is about voices. About using those voices for change and for health, for growing community and supporting people and things you love. It is about raising up women’s voices – all women’s voices. It is about the power that we and our words hold.

I’m ready to keep writing, to keep using my voice.


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July 9th, 2015

Swimming Lessons

It’s poolside every summer where I learn more and more about who my children are and who I am. So far I’ve mostly learned with her, the oldest, my fish girl who has always loved the water. It’s where I’ve learned to let go and trust her, where I’ve learned to stand back and watch and trust myself. It’s where I’ve learned that my own fears aren’t always hers. I’ve written about this before.



This summer I’m learning from and with him. I’m learning not to push. Not to expect him to dive right in to something new. I’m learning that his confidence is quieter than hers and maybe not as strong. He’s his own person, I know. Swimming lessons remind me of this.  He is a watcher more than a doer at first. He studies before he tries. He gets frustrated easily and wants to give up.

“You’re learning,” I tell him.

“It’s ok to feel scared,” I assure him.

I know how he feels.

I feel it too.

For the first two days he was on the sidelines, thinking about it. Watching the other kids swim and learn. He wouldn’t do it, he said.

I took him to the pool after the lessons to show him he could. To help him face his fears.

And he did. He swam and jumped and played. He kicked and scooped and beamed from ear to ear. He was so proud.

At the lesson he was less confident. Unsure again.

But on day 3 he put his feet in. And then sat down on the steps. He kicked the water and he played with the rings. He didn’t talk to the teacher or let her help him.

But on day 3, there was progress.


My mom sent me this poem from The Writer’s Almanac on Monday, the day before Miles started his lessons. It was and is just so perfect.

The First Day 
by Joseph Green

Saturday morning the pool fills
with children. Their parents
want them to learn something
preposterous: not just to tread water,
but to move through it as easily as they run
at home from one room to another. Naturally
the miracle of flotation escapes some of them;

however, the believers, buoyant in their faith,
hold their breath and push away from the side.
Face down, arms outstretched, these blessed ones
glide like angels in a fleeting state of grace,
then pop up grinning when they run out of air.
Splashed with success, they hug themselves
happily in the blue-lipped chill.

Meanwhile, the few still clinging to the wall
watch their own number shrink. Small, miserable,
suspicious of their parents for making them
suffer here, they begin to see the arrangement
of things: how easily everyone can turn
away from them when they don’t give in,
how lonely a personal conviction is.
“The First Day” by Joseph Green from What Water Does at a Time Like This. © Moon Path Press, 2015.

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July 2nd, 2015

The Power of Old Friends

They met when they could barely even wave across the room to each other, when they were young enough to nap multiple times a day and just be content smiling and reaching and maybe sitting up a bit. They were six and eight months old, happy babies in the same daycare room.

They were toddlers, one and two, together there too, learning to share and draw lines with color and feed themselves. They played dolls and ran outside and loved their teachers.

They were three and imagined new worlds together, planted bean plants and watched them grow, learned their ABCs and put on puppet shows, told stories and acted silly and sometimes were lucky enough to nap next to each other.

They were four and learning to write their names and glue and cut and paint. Learning to speak up for themselves and each other.

Every year of their daycare journey together, they learned, most of all, how to be good friends.

And then they were five and went to different schools. But they didn’t forget.

When I first left my first baby at daycare, I cried so hard for so many days I thought I’d never recover. I thought of all I was missing and all that I was depriving her of.

Now, seven years later, as these girls who haven’t seen each other for months come together like they’ve known each other their whole lives (because they have), I see the gift I unknowingly gave her.

She’s seven, but she already knows what it’s like to be in the company of an old friend.

Old Friends

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July 1st, 2015

Summer Reading for 2nd Graders – What Nora’s Reading

The books are stacked high next to her bed these days. And when it’s quiet in the house in the few weeks we have at home together a fair guess is that she’s in her room reading. She read in the car for hours last week on our road trip – making me jealous since reading in the car makes me car sick. I watch her and I return to the summer days I remember as a kid, on my brother’s top bunk or curled up in a chair reading whatever my dad had given me for that summer’s stack.

She’s an avid reader whose skill surpasses her maturity. Last year I wrote about her favorite chapter books as a beginning reader – the books perfect for her age, Ivy and Bean, Cam Jansen, Magic Treehouse. She loved those. So our challenge has been finding books that aren’t “too easy,” that she won’t just finish in one sitting, that still have content that fits her age.  Lately we’ve found some good ones.

What Nora Reads

Earlier in the year, as her teacher encouraged her to read some non-fiction, she wasn’t too excited. We went in search of a biography for her to read since I was pretty sure she’d love learning about some interesting historical figures. She’s now read three or four from the Who Was series of biographies. These books are pretty perfect for this age level and they have a pretty good selection of people to read about – from the traditional ones I remember reading as a kid to some modern men and women with interesting stories.

When I like an author, I want to read everything they’ve ever written. Nora has the same tendency so far. This year, she’s read – both as in-school read-alouds and at home books – all of Beverly Cleary. Watching her read through the Ramona series and on to Henry Huggins and then into the animal books, I had a new appreciation for Cleary’s amazing power to harness childhood. She hit with perfection the moments that matter to seven year olds and she wrote them in a writing style still suited for young readers. As much as Nora loved Ramona (she read Ramona Forever three times at least), she loved Socks even more. The cat and the new baby and all the moments as only Cleary can say it.

Another author she loves is Annie Barrows, writer of the Ivy and Bean series that still tops Nora’s list of favorites. We tried reading Barrow’s new series, The Magic Half, together as a read-aloud. It was poignantly written and just complex enough to keep both of us interested each evening. We haven’t yet read any other books in the series, but I know Barrows is an author we will return to.

One thing that sort of surprises me about Nora’s reading is that she doesn’t at all fit the “girls only” reader profile. I’ve always liked books with female protagonists and girl power aspect, but she is drawn right now to all kinds of books – including ones I wouldn’t have suggested for her but that she found on her own. She loved the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series so much and read all nine in just a few months. After closing the page on book 9, she had her first series let down. It was over and she couldn’t imagine a series she’d ever like as much.

So we went shopping for more books (one of our favorite things to do… surprise surprise). She found two more series that have lifted her sadness of finishing Wimpy Kid. The first is Big Nate. Like Wimpy Kid, these books have a boy at the center who has many frustrations and a great sense of humor. There are also the illustrations from the comic he draws, giving it a similar feel to Wimpy Kid.  She’s read three of these so far and gives them a firm thumbs up.

The other series she found was one she keeps gushing over. It’s the best ever, she says. And from what she’s told me about the story of the human turned mermaid and the forbidden love between humans and mer people, I sort of want to read it myself. This book is the biggest reading stretch for her – it is her first with smaller type and 16 longer chapters. I knew she could do it – her reading skills were up to it – but at first she was intimidated by it. When it was finally the only thing left to read on our vacation, she reluctantly picked it up and then refused to put it down. “Just a little more reading, PLEASE!” is the best sentence I ever hear and when she found out there are six more books in the series, she jumped for joy. The Tail of Emily Windsnap is probably her number one summer reading pick.

I have a whole shelf of books waiting for her when she gets just a bit older. But this middle place is proving pretty awesome too. She’s finding the power of stories and reading all different things. Nothing makes me happier than an open book in the hands of my kids.

What are your kids reading? What should I add to Nora’s summer reading pile? I’d love to hear your suggestions in the comments!

2nd grade summer reading
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