The Start of Me and You (SOL #30)

One more day to go! It’s been hard to find time to write while I’ve been on vacation – I usually forget until it’s right at the deadline.

Today, I finished a book called The Start of Me and You, a YA novel by Emery Lord. She is from my hometown of Cincinnati, Ohio, so I’ve been interested in reading her books. I love discovering local authors. I read her book When We Collided over the summer, and it was heartbreaking, but beautiful

The Start of Me and You reads like a typical teen drama – it takes places over the course of a school year, in which the main character, Paige, is still getting over the death of her boyfriend a year ago. She decides to make a list of things to do to help her get back to normal life.

The thing I love about this book, and what I think sets it apart from other teen novels, is that Lord’s characters are so strong and well-developed. They are complicated and messy, just like real people. She really gets to know these people whose story she tells, and they come alive.

Maybe I saw a bit of myself reflected in Paige, the main character, and my high-school self would have been jealous of her tight-knit friend group. This book is definitely more about character development and personal reflection than exciting plot lines. I have found that I am drawn to these kinds of stories.

I am going to get a copy of this book for my 8th grade classroom – it’s tame enough for middle school, but also has enough drama to keep their interest. I’m looking forward to reading more of Emery Lord’s books!


Reading Reflection (SOL #4)

Today I finally finished reading 1984, after taking a few weeks to get through it. I wanted to read it much faster than I did, but it’s not really a book you can read quickly. It compels you to stop and think about it.

I try to remember my own reading habits and patterns when I am talking to my students about books. Some books take longer than others to get through, not because we don’t like them, but because we read in different ways with different books. My students sometimes comment on  how I read so fast (I keep a list of books I’ve read on my wall), but in all honesty, I am a very slow reader. I just create the time to read.

My kids don’t often understand this – sometimes you have to create that time for reading, and make it a priority. I read constantly because I know there are so many books out there that I will enjoy. I don’t think some of my students feel this way, and they don’t have a continuous list of to-read titles. That’s part of my job – to help them start to see this reading potential.

I often find myself frustrated when I am moving too slowly through a book because my to-read pile just grows as I am working my way through. I have to come to terms with the fact that maybe reading a classic published in 1949 will just take me longer to read than the latest popular YA novel.

But since I’ve just finished one book, now I have the excitement of picking the next one! Happy reading!

Surprise in a Reading Conference

Yesterday during my routine reading conferences with students, I had a great conversation with one student, Mai*,  not only about her book, but about her life as well. First, we talked about the book she was reading, Goodbye Stranger by Rebecca Stead (one of my favorites), and she said that she liked it because it showed what it was really like to be a 7th grader, and how you change so much at that age. I asked her to give me some text evidence, and she brought up how one of the characters is suddenly obsessed with boys. This caused a fit of giggles from the girls at her table, as all of them looked at another girl who constantly talks about boys and romance.

What really struck me about this reading conference, though, was when I asked her to tell me a reading goal. She surprised me by saying that she wanted to learn how to read in Vietnamese, which is her parents’ first language. Mai had recently spent a month in Vietnam, and realized that she wanted to be able to read the many classic children’s books that her family has there. I also learned that her mother speaks mostly Vietnamese at home, so Mai knows how to speak and understand the language – she just can’t really read it.

As she continued talking, she told me that her mother was planning on having the whole family take Vietnamese classes on Sundays, and that she was excited to get started. A lot of students and friends I’ve known often dislike spending part of their weekends learning the language of their parents, but I was happy to see that she was looking forward to it.

I am inspired by this student’s desire to learn, and make herself more knowledgeable about something that will help her as she grows up. I know it is cliche, but my students never cease to amaze me. They are always leading more complicated lives than I often realize, and I relish in getting to share some of their diverse experiences with them.


*not her real name