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READALICIOUS! Books for Tweens

The 2017 ARC Reviews Are In! Just in Time for Censorship Week

Two years ago, in 2015, I started the ARC, the Advanced Reader Club in my classroom, which quickly expanded to include other sixth graders, at all reading levels, and then, last year, even my principal!

My trustworthy sixth graders (and principal) were granted privileged access to advanced reader copies of books yet to be published (thank you, publishers, especially Scholastic) in exchange for telling me whether the books are suitable for my locally famous FREADom classroom library.

Beyond a mere book report, I hoped they would give me the thumbs up, thumbs down on putting a NEW book on my classroom shelves, likely in place of another OLD book since space is limited.

Suitable? What do I mean? What can sixth graders handle? What CAN'T they handle? Questions abounded, good ones, interesting ones... questions that we probe each year during our Book Censorship Unit in September. I love it.

As I start the new school year, I have a box full of ARC reviews from my former brilliant readers who are now seventh graders and thus out of my sphere of influence. THANK YOU, to all who voluntarily participated.

Now, with pride and uncertainty (I have not read all the books), I'd like to report to you, internet at large, their findings.

Which books are safe, intriguing, appropriate, WORTHY of my classroom library, which is resurrected and curated each year with painstaking care?

Let's start with a report from good student Leah...  Read More 
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The Last Surviving Novel: Summer Reading

What I mean by a high-interest article from Newsela.
What I mean by a high-interest article from Newsela.

Every June, I send the parents of the fifth graders—soon to be my sixth graders in the fall—a list of fiction and nonfiction books for summer reading. These can't-miss, super high-interest titles appeal to a range of tweens, specifically at ages 10-11. My speciality!

This year, my list contained one title, a novel. More about that book in a moment. The rest of the recommended reading section featured selections from an online service called Newsela.

The site features articles about current events and other topics, each one available to read at a range of reading levels (based on Lexile score). Students can self-differentiate by choosing their own reading level, and we can all annotate the text, sharing questions and comments. Call it social reading, a welcome approach since it's generally more fun to do things with others.

Kids take a quick, four-question quiz after reading an article, which allows me to automatically assess and track progress. The readings are short, and I assigned one article for every Monday over the summer. It started with Alex Honnold's first-ever free climb up El Capitan, the sheer cliff in Yosemite Park.

As for the lone novel on the list?  Read More 

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Spontaneous Poems on the Power of Words

So, we were reading aloud the book Love That Dog, by Sharon Creech, and close to the end, there's a crushingly sad part. (I won't spoil it, but maybe you've guessed.)

A couple of students cried. Real tears.

One girl said, "Man, I'm cryin' over here!" Sob.

I was not the least bit surprised. Happens every time I read this book.

I said, "It's not an author's job to make you feel happy. It's an author's job to make you feel. That's the power of words."

Whoa. Floodgates. An energetic and excited conversation ensued, which the sixth graders eventually tied to our censorship unit at the beginning of the year. (Be still my heart!)

The gist of what they said, "Dictators don't want people to know things, and they keep information from people, and it's powerful."
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My ARC (Advanced Reader Craze) Book Club is Born!

Reading incentive: Three unopened boxes full of unpublished books, sitting on a shelf in very plain view.
Reading incentive: Three unopened boxes full of unpublished books, sitting on a shelf in very plain view.

A few days ago I put a bug in the ears of a couple of my most rabid readers. I told them I wanted to start a book club at recess for books that aren't published yet.

Aren't published yet? How is that possible? Like, we'd be the first ones to read them? grin

I pointed to three unopened boxes of ARCs—Advanced Reader Copies—and explained what ARCs are and why publishers and sometimes the authors themselves send them to book reviewers and bloggers.

I added that I had no idea what book titles were inside the boxes (knowing full well that last year's ARC box contained quite a few super hits).

I left the mystery boxes in plain sight on a shelf and let the ear bug go to work. I watched and listened for an hour or so as the whispers went 'round. still grinning
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