Happy New Year (My Year in Review)

Greetings, Gentle Readers. It’s been quite some time since my last blog post. This happened not for lack of ideas but for lack of time. During 2011 I read 152 books, participated in a 100 task book challenge – of which I finished 98 tasks, had a successful first defense of my doctoral dissertation (topic adolescent literacy), got married, went to a slew of author readings and concerts, and managed to miss seeing Ellen Hopkins twice within the space of three weeks when she was near my hometown reading, signing, and promoting Perfect and Triangles. (Of course this list is in no particular order of importance, and if it were my marriage would be first.)
I have many New Year’s Resolutions. One is to post more on the blog. Since it’s been sitting abandoned the only people visiting it are spammers, and I’ll refrain from sharing their comments with you, but I could give you the secrets to unlocking the iPhone 4, sell you some Uggs, and well, oh never mind. I’m hoping to post at least once a week. In a perfect world, I’ll post almost every day. For those of you who do visit the blog regularly (and you’re not spamming me), I do update My Reviews and Currently Reading on a regular basis.

Here’s my year in review:

1) I’ve read almost all of the Cirque du Freak books (11 of 12) – much to my dismay. I really don’t like them. I find them pedantic and rather boring. My students – especially my boys – can’t get enough. So I do what any teacher who wants her students to read does – I keep slogging through them and putting them in my students’ hands. Here’s what I’ve seen from the readers of this series: as my students wait for me to finish the next book, they are asking me for recommendations. I’ve been able to successfully convert Cirque du Freak readers over to other series (like Percy Jackson) or turn them on to books that have gore and suspense (what they’re looking for in Cirque du Freak) but have a bit more literary merit. Most importantly, I’m seeing that my students are reading more. And that makes me happy. (More about the importance of reading in my next blog.)

2) I’ve stumbled on some good new series. My favorites for the year: Divergent by Veronica Roth and The Seven Realms by Cinda Williams Chima.

3) I’ve continued reading some of my favorite series: The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flammel by Michael Scott, Gone by Michael Grant, The Maze Runner by James Dashner, and Heroes of Olympus by Rick Riordan.

4) I’ve learned to appreciate the stand alone book. My favorites for the year (and these aren’t necessarily new books): Drink Slay Love by Sarah Beth Durst, The Sky Is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson, Twenty Boy Summer by Sarah Ockler, and The Dark Days of Hamburger Halpin by Josh Berk.

5) I’ve read banned books. When we start choosing what our children or our citizens can read or what’s suitable for them to read, we’re no better than any dictatorship. America’s foundations have certain inherent freedoms; we like to call them the Bill of Rights. Since our founding fathers also were drawing up our important cultural documents during the Age of Enlightenment, they believed in our ability to be able to think for ourselves. I trust my students to be able to read something and draw conclusions and actually think for themselves. After all, isn’t that what literacy is all about?  A piece of literature or a text should shape the way my students see the world – for good or bad. As much as want to protect them from the harsh realities our society and this world has to offer, I have to also give them tools to deal with life.  I don’t believe in telling my students what to think. I believe in teaching them how to think critically – how to be a consumer of information. Now I’ll get off my soap box and state this disclaimer. Since I have multiple grade levels in my room, some of the books with more mature content – whether it’s situation or theme – are separated out from the general library. What I’ve found is that students read what they’re ready for. If they’re not ready, they either don’t pick up the book, or they drop it.

5) I’ve read some really great adult fiction. I’ve learned that a steady diet of nothing but YA makes me a grumpy reader.

In the spirit of trying to live up to my blog resolution, I’m going to try to post at least twice a month. My hope is to actually post a few times a week.
Happy, healthy, and prosperous 2012, Everyone!

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