Thursday, April 29, 2010

Why Boys Lag Girls in Reading

From IRA: Reading Radio
Listen and Learn
Why do boys lag girls in reading and what can we do about it? Listen as literacy expert William G. Brozo discusses the overwhelming evidence of a gender gap between boys and girls in reading that is an accelerating international phenomenon. Brozo explores how current notions of masculinity may be contributing factors and shares field-tested strategies for closing the gap.

Brozo is Professor of Literacy in the Graduate School of Education at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia, and is author of To Be a Boy, To Be a Reader: Engaging Teen and Preteen Boys in Active Literacy (International Reading Association). 

Get the Word Out
IRA Reading Radio segments are meant to be shared! We encourage you to share this important information with your school community, professional circles, and social networks. Act today to get the word out!
  • Forward this blog to your professional colleagues and ask them to listen to the program and forward it to a friend
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  • Share the program with staff, teachers, and parents in your school and district.
About IRA Reading Radio
IRA Reading Radio airs monthly on the BAM! Radio Network, a radio website for the education community. In each installment, IRA Executive Director William Harvey interviews an expert on a key topic relating to reading education.

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Monday, April 26, 2010

You Tube in the Classroom

Have you ever thought of you how you might be able to use "You Tube" in the classroom? View this video by OK Go and let me know how many ways you might be able to use this in your science or English classroom.
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Thursday, April 22, 2010

Reading a Museum

For those of you who are planning an end-of-the-year class trip to a museum, I’d like to share some insights from an article in a recent International Reading Association journal.

“Museum Literacies and Adolescents Using Multiple Forms of Texts ‘On their Own,’“ (Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy, 53 (3), 204-14. doi:10.1598/JAAL.53.3.2) evaluated the way in which eight teenagers interacted with exhibits in the Bedford Museum, a collection of archeological artifacts from the Americas, Greece, and Africa. Although none of the teens spent time reading the printed texts accompanying the displays, each of the participants made several “text to self” and “text to text” connections based upon the exhibits.

After analyzing the students’ responses, the author, A. Jonathan Eakle, concluded that “what was seen in the museum took precedence over what was written.”   Although some might disparage how the teenagers ignored the printed museum texts, Eakle argued otherwise:

“…the greatest value of the museum experience may well be how visitors, such as the adolescents in the present study, use museums freely, that is, on their own and for their own purposes. And to be free was an attractive part of adolescent museum excursions as shown through the investigation, whether it was, for example, escape through fantasy play, as was the case with Frank and Tom [two teens] darting among museum labyrinths, or by turning a corner to go beyond adult purview, as did Flo aka Mic and Bishop [three other teens] to discuss an interesting object in their own terms. These movements through, and readings of, space are an important aspect of museum literacies and suggest degrees of freedom perhaps not available in many education settings. In times when liberties and choices are often considered precious and rare commodities in education, as well as in wider communities, museums may offer important possibilities for engaging in most valuable aspects of literacies.

Furthermore, Eakle recommends that teachers conceptualize museums as text, thinking about the exhibits as if they were chapters of a book. In this way, activities like treasure hunts are in fact search-and-find activities familiar to literacy educators (p. 213). 

Eakle ended the article with questions which can guide museum learning.
·      Who is represented in the exhibition?
·      Who do we not hear from through the exhibition?
·      What language does the museum curator use to create a visual image?
·      What images, other objects, and spaces does the curator use to craft a language?
·      If we were to take away the printed text labels, do our notions of the museum object or exhibition change?
·      Whose interests are served by the museum text? Whose interests are not served?
·      What view of the world is put forth by ideas in the museum texts? What views are not?
·      What are other possible worldviews seen through the museum texts?
Note. Questions are adapted from Franzak, J., & Noll, E. (2006). Monstrous acts: Problematizing violence in young adult literature.Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, 49(8), 662–672. doi:10.1598/JAAL.49.8.3

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Tuesday, April 20, 2010


If you live in or near Charlotte, NC then you know that public libraries are in huge financial trouble. I recently received this email:

What is to become of libraries
if funding is cut by 50%?

Get the facts. Show your support.
Join the conversation.

Last week, Director of Libraries Charles Brown presented three scenarios to the Library Board of Trustees that outlined ways Charlotte Mecklenburg Library could potentially deal with an expected $17 million (50%) budget cut from Mecklenburg County. Learn more and find out how you can help at one of these community meetings:
  • Wed., April 21 at 6:30 p.m.
    CPCC North campus: 11930 Verhoeff Drive, Huntersville
  • Mon., April 26 at 7 p.m.
    CPCC Levine campus: 2800 Campus Ridge Road, Matthews
  • Wed., April 28 at 11:30 a.m.
    Main Library: 310 North Tryon Street, Charlotte
  • Thurs., April 29 at 6:30 p.m.
    Myers Park Baptist Church: 1900 Queens Road, Charlotte
  • Mon., May 3 at 6:30 p.m.
    CPCC Cato campus: 8120 Grier Road Charlotte
Additional community information sessions will be scheduled soon so that citizens from across the County who are interested in the future of the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library can learn more at

The county has already fired over 100 staff and cut hours at many branches.I can't imagine a community without libraries. Can you?

If you value the many services which public libraries provide and you live in the area, come out and show your support. 

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Thursday, April 15, 2010

Hormone Jungle

After quoting one of Brod Bagert’s poems in a previous blog, I decided Hormone Jungle was worthy of its own post. This collection of 50+ poems is “written” by 11 fictional characters, the self-proclaimed “Digital Poets.” The book is presented in the form of a scrapbook compiled by the girl whose poem, “Middle School Payback,” began a middle school poetry war. Bagert did such an excellent job of writing the poems from different point-of-views that several times I had to remind myself that he is the behind-the-scenes real author of the entire collection.

Middle school voices are authentic and compelling. Consider this final verse from “Middle School Payback” by Christina Curtis:

This ain’t elementary anymore,
You’re in a brave new world,
You’re a boy in middle school
And buster, I’m a girl!
So down on your knees and crawl, slime,
Middle school is payback time.

The poetry matures as the pre-teens develop into teenagers. No adolescent anxiety is left untouched. Body odor, self-image, fear of love, fear of rejection, sports trauma, school … Bagert’s “Digital Poets” uncover them all. What middle schooler won’t relate to:

“Bored” by Steven Gilley

Forty-three stations on the radio,
Ninety-seven channels on cable TV,
Thirty-nine thousand books in the library,
And the whole world on the Internet.
So why am I totally bored?

I’m lying in bed, I smell like cheese,
And half the day is through.
I think I get so bored because
There’s too much stuff to do.

Or, how about “Underarm Charm” by Ryan Spalding:

Last night at the drugstore,
My mother smiled discreetly and said:
“Look, Ryan, deodorant.
Would you like the roll-on or the spray?”

I may not have big muscles,
And I may not have a tan,
But I’m growing hairy armpits,
And I’m smelling like a man.
Although many of the poems are humorous, some are serious such as “The Door Unopened,” by Emma Mackey:

In our house there are doors—
    A front door.
    A back door.
    A door to the patio.
Doors that open to the light.

But there’s another door—
    A door that moves on rusty hinges
    To steps that sink through silence,
    Past the whisper of broken promises,
    Into the dust of forbidden memory.
In my house there are lots of doors,
And among them
There is one door
I can never open again.

Christina Curtis opens the book with a flippant narrative about the Digital Poets, and ends with a somber reflection about Steven Gilley that brought me to tears. Bagert has woven together poetry and fiction into an award-winning book that will be appreciated by students and teachers alike. Art work by “real” middle school students at  PK Younge Laboratory School in Gainesville, Florida, complements the book. (Maupin House, 2006) 

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Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Watch this Video! (if you want to write for kids)

A friend just told me about this You Tube video. File it under I "wish I had thought of this" category!

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Monday, April 12, 2010

Celebrating Poetry Month

In honor of  celebrating April as poetry month, here are some classroom resources. The first is an unpublished poem written by my friend, Linda Phillips. She gives you permission to use it with your elementary students as you celebrate spring together:


It wasn’t when the snow melted
   or the air forgot to sting
        neither was it by the calendar
            when I knew it must be Spring.

But the sun in Daddy’s voice
    the winking of an eye
         first drive into the country
             to hear the new lambs cry.

This second poem, written by Brod Bagert the author of Hormone Jungle, (Maupin House, 2006) has an older audience in mind. This poem is taken from his book that is simultaneously poignant and humorous. Poems will be appreciated by middle school students and teachers alike.

Aunt Aurora's Promise

I don't think Daddy likes her,
He says she's pretty wild,
just because she dresses
With her own Aurora-style.

She never ever wears her hair
The way my Daddy likes,
She uses lots of gooey stuff
And shapes it into spikes.

Her lips are painted purple,
And her nails are painted black,
So Aunt Aurora looks as though
                                         She's ready to attack.

So Daddy's feeling nervous,
He's feeling full of stress,
Cause Aunt Aurora promised me
She'd teach me how to dress.

Finally, here are some links to more poetry resources provided by the Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy (October, 2009):

Poetry Alive is a good site for teaching poetry, especially through performance. Check out "Poetry resources" for ways you can incorporate poetry into the classroom.

Favorite Poem Project documents ways that poetry affects and informs people's lives. Includes videos, readings, lessons plans and poetry workshops.

ReadWriteThink has many poetry (as well as other literacy) resources. This one shows how to make magnetic poetry in your classroom.

National Writing Project Scroll down to "Spotlight on Poetry Programs for Teachers." Lessons, ideas, radio broadcasts, and more.

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Monday, April 5, 2010

A Southern Smorgasbord

Following Karen Hesse's advice that aspiring historical fiction writers should read novels from the same time period and place that they're writing about, I have read several books to inform my own work. Here is a smorgasbord of books that take place in the south during the last 60 years; with a rating (5 *'s is the highest) following each.

Bone by Bone by Bone by Tony Johnston

In Tennessee in the early 1950's, nine-year-old David suspects that his father, the town's well-respected physician, is a member of the KKK. Despite knowing his father's feelings towards "niggers," David's best friend, Malcom, is black. He knows he can never bring Malcom home because his father has threatened to shoot any black person who comes into the house. The two boys enjoy one another's company until David is picked to be on the neighborhood baseball team while Malcom, clearly the better player, is not. Although the book is a good depiction of racial relations and bigotry during this time and place, I felt that the repeated foreshadowing of the terrible event that would happen, spoiled the predictable ending for me. I would recommend it as a good 4-7th grade book to be read in conjunction with a social studies unit about segregation in the South.***

Belle Prater's Boy by Ruth White.

This novel is told through the eyes of Gypsy Arbutus, cousin to Woodrow Prater who moves in next door after his mother disappears. Set in the 50's in rural Virginia, I appreciated how White gradually unveils both Gypsy's and Woodrow's stories, against the background of Woodrow's adjustment to life in the small town of Coal Station. Woodrow gains notoriety because of his ability to tell outlandish tales--including his own idea of where (and how) his mother left him. Gypsy lives with her mother and step-father; the reader is not told how her father died. The book's powerful climax is how both children face up to the truth of their missing parents. When the taunting of a peer at school brings up memories, Gypsy remembers: "He shot himself in the face. He killed himself. Of course I knew it all the time. I was there. I saw what happened. But how can a thing like that be in your head and you go on talking and eating and sleeping. It's the thing you can't really look at. So you hide it away and pretend it never happened. You have to. Only in my dreams did the truth look out at me."*****

My Louisiana Sky by Kimberly Willis Holt

In rural Louisiana in the 1950's, Tiger Ann is the smart daughter of two mentally challenged parents. Although she is embarrassed by her parents, she manages to live comfortably in the safety and protection of her strong maternal grandmother, Granny. When Granny dies, Tiger Ann's Aunt Doreen swoops in and takes her back to Baton Rouge; insisting that Tiger Ann would have more opportunities with her. Tiger Ann is torn. She loves the modern city, the clothes, and fun life her aunt promises, but when she comes back to visit her mother, Tiger Ann finds her depressed and unable to even get out of bed. This sensitive book shows a situation not often portrayed in books; Tiger Ann's conflicts are real and sympathetically described. ****

When Zachary Beaver Came to Town by Kimberly Willis Holt

The place is the south, the Texas town of Antler, but the time period has moved up about 20 years. This is a story of an unlikely friendship between three boys: Toby, his best friend Cal (whose brother, Wayne, is serving in Vietnam); and the sideshow star, Zachary Beaver, who comes to town and is billed as the "fattest boy in the world." Ostensibly, Zachary is trying to eat his way into the Guinness Book of World Records and is hostile to the boys' feeble attempts to befriend him. It's not until Cal's older sister genuinely shows interest in him, that the ice is broken between the boys. There is an undercurrent of lies and dishonesty throughout the story. Toby comfortably lies about his mother, but is bothered about Zachary's obvious lies about his own past. When Wayne dies, Toby can't bring himself to attend the funeral. Zachery confronts him which proves to be a turning point for all three boys. Recommended for 4-8th graders, this book can help students think about honesty, stereotypes, and friendship.*****

Missing May by Cynthia Rylant

Set in rural West Virginia, the main theme of this contemporary, intermediate novel is how the main character, Summer, deals with the death of her beloved Aunt May. Orphaned, Summer comes to live with Aunt May and Uncle Ob (a whirligig artist) as a young child. They love her completely and when May suddenly dies, she and Ob are left bereft and helpless. As Ob sinks deeper into depression, Summer's fear of losing her only remaining relative increases. When Cletus, a peer at school, suggests they consult a medium to see if they can reconnect with May, Ob and Summer agree. I found Summer's gullibility as a 12-year-old to be a little far-fetched. On the other hand, I loved how at the end, the three "planted" Ob's whirligigs in May's garden-- setting them, and their grief free. A good book to open up discussion about death.****

Both Bone by Bone by Bone and When Zachary Beaver Came to Town are books with strong male protagonists that would appeal to boy readers.
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