Reading Professionally

Hundreds of professional texts line book shelves at Barnes & Noble or the virtual shelves of Amazon. It's often so hard to figure out which ones are worth our precious time and dollars. I hope this list will help narrow down your choices. These are just a few of what's out there, but they've either been favorites of mine or top recommendations from others. Please don't hesitate to become a friend on GoodReads or share your comments about what YOU thought below. I always love to read new and exciting texts to help my teaching improve. I hope to include one or two each week that I've either recently loved or read long ago and keep thinking about. Happy Reading!

I can't say enough about how helpful this book was in my recent confusion of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). Yes, the CCSS is concise and fairly easy to read, but the document is also deliberate to claim that it is not directing the way in which the standards should be taught. This book, Pathways to the Common Core, by Lucy Calkins, Chris Lehman and Mary Ehrenworth (Heinemann, 2012) eliminates the "taboo" of teaching the standards through reading and writing in a friendly, reflective way. All teachers, administrators, (and even parents) should give this book a try.

I have to include Kelly Gallagher's new book, Write Like This, as one of my first reviews. Our ILA staff collaborated in a book club on teaching adolescent writers, and all of us were energized and excited. Kelly Gallagher's book is organized and easy to follow through the different purposes and genres of writing with clear, authentic experiences to engage students in real world writing. Gallagher reminds us that we are the expert writers in the room, and he challenges us to write often and vigorously in front of students and to provide authentic, or real world, writing experiences to engage and entertain our students. I couldn't put this book down, and when I looked at it upon its first (and definitely not final) close, it was filled with dog-eared pages, high-lighted sections, margin notes, and sticky notes hanging out of all sides. A success!

Chris Tovani is one of my favorite authors for adolescent readers.  Our staff completed a book chat about her book, Do I Really Have to Teach Reading, and it was successful because our teachers were able to read, discuss, and USE strategies right away.  This book is organized in a way that you can read it from start to finish, or you can flip through one chapter at a time.  It's easy, light reading that makes you think and reflect.  I've also been fortunate to see Chris Tovani speak, and she gives great ideas for close reading (a CCSS must) and note-taking.  Her mantra to "teach deeper, not wider" is one to strive to achieve.  You'll love this book, and I'll bet you'll be back to read more of her books, too.

When I attended the Blue Ribbon ceremony last November in Washington D.C., I was fortunate to hear the national teacher of the year speak.  She recommended this book, Mindset:  The New Psychology of Success by Carol Dweck, and I downloaded it right away. Specifically, Dweck discusses the differences between a "fixed" mindset and a "growth" mindset.  Knowing the different ways in which people, and students, think, can drive our teaching and guide us to help students in their paths to success.  The author walks the reader through multiple examples of successes and failures of each mindset.  I'm already thinking of ways that I could integrate the thinking from this book into my teaching and the way to which I praise effort, give feedback, and encourage student success.  Try it!

Kylene Beers' book, When Kids Can't Read:  What Teachers Can Do, is an oldie but goodie.  It was actually a textbook in one of my graduate courses.  This is a practical guide covering it all:  theory and practice of teaching reading to striving readers.  Beers takes the best of the strategies for teaching reading and shows you, the reader, how to do it to help students learn.  This is a book that I have filled with sticky notes and I go back to revisit on a regular basis. A must-have book for reading teachers.

Mentor Texts:  Teaching Writing Through Children's Literature, K-6 and Nonfiction Mentor Texts: Teaching Informational Writing Through Children's Literature, K-8 by Dorfman & Cappelli are two true gems.  Organized by genre, topic, and writing styles, these books make it easy to find appropriate mentor texts to teach writing of all kinds.  We know the enormous power of teaching through author's voices and words, and these resources will help ease the taboo of finding those great texts to use.  Lastly, there is a fantastic blog called Teach Mentor Texts, which is another great blog to bookmark and follow.  

I was recently reading a professional blog and this book, Writing to Persuade, by Karen Caine was highly recommended.   I decided to get a copy for myself and when it arrived, I couldn't put it down.  I love how this book is organized.  This is a series of mini-lessons, broken down by genre, topic or skill to teach persuasive writing.  The lessons in this book are relevant to students and follow the writing workshop structure.  Karen Caine offers a "script" about how to introduce the skills to students.  This book is a gem and I know I'll go back to it over and over again!

It's rare to find a book as well organized, inspiring, practical and useful as Chris Lehman's new book, Energize Research Reading and Writing: Fresh Strategies to Spark Interest, Develop Independence, and Meet Key Common Core Standards. From cover to cover, Chris Lehman engages the reader with his passion for teaching and learning by providing a foundation for his thinking with research, theory and evidence, and then demonstrating strategies and practical tips to make them work in your classroom. These are strategies that you will hold onto and use over and over again, but Chris also reminds us of the significance of the important work in front of us: teaching students to become independent, critical thinkers in a fast-paced, technology driven society. My book is filled with dog-eared pages, post-its, notes in the margins, and high-lighted sections. Lehman says, "Taking time to teach students to research well is taking time to teach them the skills of the standards. Teaching students to research well is teaching them to learn well." (3) I feel energized and I know I'll be back into the pages over and over again to keep students energized, excited, and independent.

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