Monday, August 3, 2015

Scholastic Reading Summit

This Tuesday, I attended my first Reading Summit sponsored by Scholastic.  It was a deal I couldn't pass up--professional development hours, paid for by my Scholastic Dollars earned from book fairs, and held at the Renaissance Hotel, a mere fifteen minute drive from my house.  Oh, and lunch was provided!

It was such a good deal that I was able to take two teachers from my campus (one from K-2 and one from 3-5) using Scholastic Dollars as well.  Bonus!

The food was yummy, I got to chat with some of my SHSU profs, there was oodles of Starbucks coffee and ice water to be had, and a friendly Scholastic representative every ten feet to help you find your way.  Those sneaky Scholastic folks even knew how to get us there early--they opened up the book fair an hour-and-a-half before the first keynote, and kept it open all day.  I got my shopping for the library done early, and even snagged two signed copies of Kate Messner's books; Ms. Messner was kind enough to personalize them for my school.

But enough about the food and shopping.  Here's what I learned....

Opening Keynote--Scholastic and Donalyn Miller

Alan Boyko, President of Scholastic, treated us to a booktalk on Crossover by Kwame Alexander after talking to us about research data on decreasing attention spans and the importance of independent reading for critical thinking and lifelong learning skills.  He stressed the importance of book talking; at Scholastic, they even begin their meetings with a book talk!  You can find resources for book talks at .  

Donalyn Miller, author of The Book Whisperer and Reading in the Wild, honed in on the importance of allowing student choice in reading.  My favorite points from her talk:

  • We need to support our students' reading choices, or else risk extinguishing interest in reading altogether.
  • The most important thing that an adult can do is stop and listen when  a child wants to talk about a book.
  • Book choice develops decision-making ability.
  • Students' voices should be louder than ours.
Ms. Miller also gave us some great ideas for promoting books:  student-made "shelfies" to recommend books; decorating doors with recommended books or "currently reading" titles; posting QR codes to book trailers, then laminating them and placing them inside the book covers to be discovered; and hosting a Review Club, in which books are reviewed by at least two members for all grade levels in the school.

iDEAL:  Inspiring, Developing, Empowering, Assessing, and Leading a Schoolwide Independent Reading Culture

This full-day workshop was based on Scholastic's "Independent Reading Professional Learning Guidebook", as well as the highly-recommended Creating Lifelong Readers through Independent Reading by Barbara Moss and Terrell Young.   Lottie Liner, guest principal from Forest Lane Academy in Richardson, provided copies of the book for her staff when implementing her school-wide literacy program.

Scholastic provides the framework that Ms. Liner used, including pre-assessment surveys for staff and parents, online tools and resources (many of them free of charge), and post-assessment surveys. More information can be found at .  

Points I liked from this workshop:
  • Develop your vision and find enthusiastic supporters.  Each campus needs to decide what independent reading looks like to them--DEAR time for the whole school?  Students carrying books to read during transition time?  Book talks on morning announcements, in community circles, at PTA meetings?
  • The 20 for 20 challenge asks parents to dedicate 20 minutes of reading WITH their children for 20 consecutive days.  Information and resources can be found at the aforementioned link.
  • Creating Lifelong Readers as well as Donalyn Miller's Reading in the Wild offer guidelines for curating classroom libraries--which should number at least 300 books per room. Scholastic offers boxes of "bruised" books at discounted prices; teachers noted that don't always seem that "bruised"!
  • When using the pre-evaluation from the resources, think of what needs to be done as a three-year plan.  Get your rituals and routines in place during year one, applications such as one-on-one reading conferences, data gathering, and student response systems in year two, and assess student and family engagement in year three.
  • Another resource is No More Independent Reading without Support by Debbie Miller and Barbara Moss.
  • Sustain your efforts by using the provided surveys and connecting with your professional learning network.  
  • Ideas for finding the time and space for implementation:

  • Scholastic ReaderLeader is a blog for administrators that is now open for anyone to follow:
  • Invite your teachers to tweet about books!  Hold contests for assigned parking space for the most tweets!
The iDEAL resources seem very helpful, whether you decide to use the entire process as outlined or pieces that resonate with the needs of your campus.

Ending Keynote--Booktalk and Kate Messner
The Scholastic manager for Texas book talked Fish in a Tree by Lynda Mullaly Hunt (it's on my to-read pile!).

Kate Messner took the stage, and energetically shared her story of becoming an author (while she was a teacher!).  My favorite part of her talk was about handling book challenges, after she had a particularly distasteful encounter with a classroom parent.  Her response was so well written, and she generously said to borrow whatever we needed from it to help us if we faced a similar situation.  Her letter can be found on her blog, here.

This led into a focus on diversity in children's literature.  Ms. Messner talked about the importance of children finding themselves in the books they read, as well as learning about others--our differences AND what we have in common, perhaps helping to make the world a better place.  The books she featured:

Ms. Messner continued by sharing her wide range of books with us, from her newest Ranger in Time series and stand-alone novels to her picture books on the rainforest, gardens, and the ocean.  She thoroughly researches the material for her nonfiction and "Ranger" books, traveling around the world with her writer's notebook to capture details that make her stories come alive. We then read How to Read a Story together--the perfect book to use when teaching students how to find and share a good-fit story for themselves.

Favorite points:
  • "Reading is magic."  That makes teachers and librarians wizards. "We can write books, but if they're not finding their way to the readers, we're kind of shouting into the dark." 
  • We should be okay with questions that don't necessarily need answers.
  • Be careful of "genderizing" books too much.  Boys and girls need to read all kinds of books, to avoid sexism later.
  • "We read independently to understand others."
Kate Messner's keynote was a wonderful way to end my first Scholastic Reading Summit!


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