Because our Scholastic Book Fair is being delivered on Tuesday next week, we celebrated Banned Books Week early this year. I was able to meet with every ELA classroom in our school, which means I taught all of our 1,400 students in one week. That was a huge task and accomplishment! This year, I used station rotations in order to celebrate our freedom to read, to think, to question, and to learn.
What is Banned Books Week?
"Banned Books Week is an annual event celebrating the freedom to read. Banned Books Week was launched in 1982 in response to a sudden surge in the number of challenges to books in schools, bookstores and libraries...It highlights the value of free and open access to information. Banned Books Week brings together the entire book community — librarians, booksellers, publishers, journalists, teachers, and readers of all types — in shared support of the freedom to seek and to express ideas, even those some consider unorthodox or unpopular."
What did we do?
Check out my Instagram Stories for how I set up these stations! The station explanations are added below - all you need to do is use books you feel comfortable using for your age group.
For what we did last year, visit here.
Reading is a fantastic way to celebrate and ponder on who we are, where we come from, and where we’re going. Books also add valuable insight to help us gain greater understanding of cultures and experiences different from our own. In honor of Hispanic Heritage Month, I have pulled together a new list of books that celebrate Latinx heritage, culture, and identity. For last years list, visit here.
My Brigadista Year by Katherine Paterson
When thirteen-year-old Lora tells her parents that she wants to join Premier Castro’s army of young literacy teachers, her mother screeches to high heaven, and her father roars like a lion. Nora has barely been outside of Havana — why would she throw away her life in a remote shack with no electricity, sleeping on a hammock in somebody’s kitchen? But Nora is stubborn: didn’t her parents teach her to share what she has with someone in need? Surprisingly, Nora’s abuela takes her side, even as she makes Nora promise to come home if things get too hard. But how will Nora know for sure when that time has come?
The First Rule of Punk by Celia C. Pérez
From her clothing style to her favorite music to the zines she makes, Malú is a true punk kid. When she moves with her mom to a new city, she finds out that her interests make her a misfit at her new school — but she won’t let that faze her. An inspiring story of a girl fighting for self-expression, and navigating the challenges of making new friends, having parents in different states, and learning to love her heritage and identity.
Bravo! Poems About Amazing Hispanics by Margarita Engle, illustrated by Rafael Lopez
Bravo! Poems About Amazing Hispanics features a wide range of lyrical biographies of notable Latinos. With vibrant illustrations and tight free verse, Lopez and Engle profile figures ranging from César Chávez to José Martí, Pura Belpré, Roberto Clemente, Tito Puente, and beyond.
With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo
Ever since she got pregnant freshman year, Emoni Santiago’s life has been about making the tough decisions—doing what has to be done for her daughter and her abuela. The one place she can let all that go is in the kitchen, where she adds a little something magical to everything she cooks, turning her food into straight-up goodness.
Even though she dreams of working as a chef after she graduates, Emoni knows that it’s not worth her time to pursue the impossible. Yet despite the rules she thinks she has to play by, once Emoni starts cooking, her only choice is to let her talent break free.
*For Young Adult Audience*
I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter by Erika L. Sánchez
Your perfect Mexican daughter? That’s not Julia. That was her sister, Olga. But Olga died in a terrible accident, and in the wake of that tragedy Julia’s imperfections are even more magnified, especially where her mother is concerned. As Julia sets out to learn more about the person her seemingly perfect sister really was, she begins to unpack the complexities of family pressure, expectations, cultural identity, stereotypes, and the search for one’s own identity.
*For Young Adult Audience*
Us, In Progress: Short Stories About Young Latinos by Lulu Delacre
Puerto Rican author Lulu Delacre writes 12 short stories about what it means to be Latinx in the U.S. today. Readers will meet a young girl who spends the day on her father’s burrito truck, two sisters working together to change the older sister’s immigration status, and more. Short stories are often the just-right thing for reluctant readers who have low reading stamina. Plus, I think middle grade readers will appreciate reading stories that reflect their lives, not their parents’ or grandparents’ stories.
La Princesa and the Pea by Susan Middleton Elya
This bilingual retelling of the classic fairy tale is spunky, playful, and fun. Featuring gorgeous illustrations inspired by illustrator Juana Martinez-Neal's native Peru and cleverly crafted rhymes from author Susan Middleton Elya, it’s a joy for both the reader and the listener. Don’t be surprised if the kiddos can’t stop talking about la reina, la niña, and that pesky little guisante.
Lucía the Luchadora by Cynthia Leonor Garza, illustrated by Alyssa Bermudez
Lucía thinks she has what it takes to be a luchadora (she even has an awesome mask and cape to prove it!), but she starts to doubt herself when she’s told only boys can be luchadores. Then her grandma shares a family secret that inspires Lucía to feel proud of her history and empowered to follow in the steps of the luchadoras before her.
Everyone knows that mental illness exists; everyone knows the devastating effect that it can have, both on the people suffering from it and their friends and families. This is not new information – it’s something that we’ve known forever and ever. But the hush-hush way we’ve developed of discussing it and dealing with it clearly aren’t working. So let’s finally start talking about it, because that’s the only chance that we have of beating it.” — from Airing My Dirty Laundry by Anne Theriault
Talking about mental illness can be hard, especially when misconceptions are rampant in middle school. It almost feels like a taboo subject at times. The term "mental health" is loaded with meanings for different people. It could suggest a call for taking deep breaths or reducing stress or, on the other extreme, concern about one’s mental stability and the possibility that it may lead to violent or extreme choices. For our middle schoolers, I tried to focus this list on issues like anxiety, OCD, depression, and ADD/ADHD, which are relevant for many.
Reading books that tackle the topic of mental health helps students feel more at ease with whatever social/emotional/mental struggles they may be dealing with at school or at home. For others, it’s a great way to connect with a character that is experiencing the actual mental health challenge they face every day. Others may find inspiration from reading sad but hopeful books where the lead character perseveres and succeeds despite any mental health issues and trials that life throws at them. Ultimately, I hope this list showcases a mirror for those who need it and a window for others to become more empathetic towards those who struggle with mental health.
The Youth Suicide Prevention Program lists the following signs that may indicate that someone is thinking of suicide:
So, if a friend or child or sibling or student mentions suicide or shows one (even many) of the warning signs take it seriously. Get help immediately. Do not leave the person alone. At the same time, show the person you care by sharing your concerns and listening carefully to their feelings.
Last year, I saw a post from The Book Wrangler in which he created these adorable story character posters for his elementary library and knew I needed to create something as cute for our middle school library. This summer, I finally created my own version and updated it with inspiring quotes from some of our favorite classic and modern literary characters from middle grades and young adult readings. I printed these as 8 x 10 photos from my local Walgreens (thank you coupons!) and used frames from the dollar tree.
Feel free to download and use them for your own library!
If you are a PBIS school like ours or focus on growth mindset, you've probably heard of the Seven Mindsets before. I have found so many book lists for elementary school aged students or picture books that focus on growth mindset or books that could be tied into the Seven Mindsets. Unfortunately, there are not enough resources out there for our middle schoolers and young adults! This summer, I have gone through a huge chunk of my to-be-read list and they happened to have meshed so well with our Seven Mindsets curriculum so I decided to share some middle grades and YA selections that have themes that fit well with growth mindset and the Seven Mindsets. Be aware this list is subjective, includes nonfiction, fiction, various genres (though mostly realistic), and a mix of MG and YA reads. If you're like me and have been searching for ways to support the social and emotional goals of your school, I hope this helps!
Download the pdf version for posters:
Welcome to Wakelet, a new curation site for all the things!
Wakelet is an amazing newer Ed Tech curation tool that has endless possibilities. At its' core, it allows you (or several people if you want to collaborate) to create a collection made of virtually whatever you would like to add from website links to pictures to .pdf's.
How do you use it?
There iFirst, create an account here.
When you create a collection. In this collection (or wake), you can
My favorite way to use Wakelet is with the Chrome extension. It makes curation so much easier! This is also an app for iOS and Google Play App.
How can I use this as a teacher?
Check out the collection I created just for Wakelet teaching resources!
Wakelet guru, Laura, made this amazing Sparknote of ways to use Wakelet:
Teaching research skills directly at the beginning of the school year and continuing to collaborate on embedding those information literacy skills with teachers on projects, assignments, and lessons throughout the year is essential in fostering an inquiry-based environment for our students. If students feel confident in their ability to locate information efficiently and effectively, they will naturally begin to use credible resources for their own inquiry-based projects.
With that being said, I want to focus on a way to passively keep students engaged in practicing research skills like finding credible resources, analyzing information, and sharing their findings with others. I use #WonderWednesday as a means to promote a fun research learning experience for our students.
What is #WonderWednesday?
What is #WonderWednesday? I pose a question on social media and on our Wonder Wall in the library with a hint as to where to find more information about the subject. Students then discuss the question on the Wonder Wall throughout the week. I tend to post questions relating to issues in the news or about holidays/monthly celebrations to have more engagement in the practice.
Why do I do this?
What library standards does this cover?
SLEI (School Library Evaluation Instrument) Performance Standard 5: Effective Practices for Research
The school library media specialist teaches and models developmentally appropriate best practices for learning and research.
• Promotes and models an inquiry-based approach to learning and the research process
Future Ready Librarians Framework
Ensures Equitable Digital Access: Provides and advocates for equitable access to collection tools using digital resources, programming, and services in support of the school district’s strategic vision.
Builds Instructional Partnerships: Partners with educators to design and implement evidence-based curricula and assessments that integrate elements of deeper learning, critical thinking, information literacy, digital citizenship, creativity, innovation, and the active use of technology.
Designs Collaborative Spaces: Provides flexible spaces that promote inquiry, creativity, collaboration, and community
ISTE Standards for Students
#3 Knowledge Constructor: Students critically curate a variety of resources using digital tools to construct knowledge, produce creative artifacts and make meaningful learning experiences for themselves and others
#6 Creative Communicator: Students communicate clearly and express themselves creatively for a variety of purposes using the platforms, tools, styles, formats and digital media appropriate to their goals.
The Setup of our Wonder Wall
I used book fair funds to purchase a gigantic whiteboard from Amazon. Our amazing custodians helped me install it on our wall (which took a very noisy drill and some muscles but was overall painless). The board has held up over time and is super easy to clean with glass cleaner or whiteboard cleaner. Normal whiteboard markers do not work well so I use chalkboard paint markers instead.
This is open to all of our students and staff to use, but I do closely monitor the board for comments. Be prepared for comments like "Mrs. B was here" the first few weeks as students get accustomed to having the extra power to communicate. However, with middle schoolers being the lovely risk takers they are, I make sure to monitor for some more inappropriate comments that may arise. Luckily, we have some amazing students and this has not been an issue.
Who would win in a fight: Batman or Superman?
After originally posting a #WonderWednesday to our school library Instagram, a group of students and I got into a rich, albeit nerdy, discussion on who would win in a fight: Batman or Superman? So of course I capitalized on this and posed it to our Wonder Wall. This is just an example of how to utilize this method for your students.
Where to go from here?
After having done this for 6 months, I have learned how excited students get in the discussion aspect of the questions. I would like to start implementing an action step to go further with their learning - like creating a video or something similar to show their thought process, what they learned, etc. Is this realistic for them to do every week? Probably not. However, I would love to see this go beyond a Wonder Wall discussion! I'm trying it this week with Earth Day so we shall see how it goes.
For the young tween that walked into our library today, asking in a shy and almost embarrassed voice so that none of the people around us could here...For the countless tweens and teens who are struggling, questioning, or embarrassed...For the proud and open who just want to read about someone like them...
These books are for you.
It's hard to find middle grades books focused on or including LGBTQ+ characters or themes. It seems as if most of these novels are in the YA Lit realm, which is fine for many of our middle schoolers, but we still need to be cognizant of the huge population of our students who do not want to read mature content yet still would like their characters to be representative of LGBTQ+. Luckily, we are living a modern age where publishing companies are recognizing this. Below you will find a list for my top favorite LGBTQ+ middle grades novels.