Happy New Year!

Last night I started working on this post and gave up, curled up with a book, and read.  I realized that I had nothing new to say.  I could talk about how 2013 was a challenging year and I was glad it was over, but then I realized that seems to be a pattern that I fall into.  I suspect others do too.  I could talk about goals, but I seem to forget them as quickly as I make them.  So far this isn't looking good for the new year.  And then I realized that there is one thing that I can focus on.  I can focus on how I react to what life places in my path each day.  I can actively choose to engage with life and to try and respond to it with class.

For the past couple of years, I have felt that in some areas of my life, I have been letting life go by.  I have lost some of my zest, passion, confidence, or whatever you want to call it but it has resulted in a general apathy.  This is not me.  So, 2014 needs some mix-ups. 

Some things you will be seeing on the blog in 2014....

1.  Celebrate This Week (Saturdays) and 5 Things I have Loved Last Week - Awhile back, Colby Sharp started sharing 5 things he loved about the previous week.  Ruth Ayers started Celebrate This Week.  Colby merged his concept with Ruth's Celebrate This Week.  I like Ruth's concept and Colby's format.  I think this will help me focus on the good things happening and keep my focus on a positive and thankful attitude.

2.   Book Recommendations vs. Book Reviews - Reviews take me a long time.  I have tried various techniques but they continue to take me several hours to write up.  As a result, I end up not sharing as many books as I would like.  I am moving from the concept of doing book reviews to doing book recommendations.  This will allow me to share more books that I love with readers of this blog.

3. Celebrating Diversity - I am not sure how this is going to play out on the blog.  Will it be a challenge or a series of blog posts? Not sure.  However, I do know I want to spotlight more books that will reflect the lives of the children in my very diverse school community. 

Some things I will be focusing on in my reading life....

1.  Reading and Re-reading - I am going to give my permission to re-read books and stay with a book longer if I love it that much.  I give children permission to re-read books like Diary of a Wimpy Kid over and over again until they are ready to move on.  Can I give myself the same permission?  Though I have more confidence in my ability as a reader to pick books or find ones I will love, I still find that some books resonate so much with me that I am not ready to move onto another story.  However, in an attempt to read a greater number of books, I am reading through books too quickly and hence not enjoying what I am reading as much. 

2. Permission to read more of the genres that I like. - There is a part of me that would be happy to read only mysteries, historical fiction, and science fiction/fantasy.  In an attempt to read more widely in order to keep up with book buzz or to make recommendations, I have ignored what I love to read.  I still want to read widely, but I also want to indulge a little bit more in some other books, including books written for adults.

Some things in my professional life....

I have no idea what this will look like?  I have no idea whether it will be taking classes towards a new degree or an additional credential or if it will be serving on a new committee in an area that I would like to build more skill and expertise or creating a PLN to try new teaching strategies.  I do know that I need to find new challenges in order to be better able to support the teachers and schools that I am assigned to work with.   For some accountability, I will share my journey with you through on-going blog posts each month.


Every year will bring challenges - some years more than others - and we cannot control those things. We can control how we respond. How will you respond to life in 2014?

Adventures in 2013

Recently, I have heard a number of people say that they were happy to see 2012 end and were hoping that 2013 would bring better things.  I then saw a post on Facebook from my cousin and she made a comment about resolutions that really struck me. 

"If you made 10 and you kept one, then you were one better than you were the year before. Maybe you said you'd quit something or start something for the eighth year in a row, but this is the year it finally clicks and sticks for you. I say, it's best to approach each new year hopeful and optimistic that something wonderful will happen. Pick yourself up, dust yourself off, start all over again."  
I think it is easy to focus on the 9 things that you didn't do or change and forget the 1 thing that you did change.  With this in mind, I want to think of 2013 as an adventure rather than a year filled with resolutions.  Rather than create a list of things I should be doing and then "beating myself up" when I don't do them, I plan to think about life this year as an adventure.  Life hasn't felt like an adventure in a long, long time.  Adventures are filled with hope, and a sense of excitement, and surprise.  It is time to get back to a sense of wonder and excitement.  The only condition for this adventure - to make the most positive choice I can make at that moment with the information I have or with what is in front of me.

My other plan in 2013 is to get moving more.  For several years, I have been plagued with some injuries and other issues that has undermined my attempts at regular exercise.  I am excited that my reading and teaching community on Twitter and Facebook is expanding in 2013 to include supporting one another's goals to get healthy and move more.  Thank you Franki Sibberson, Paul W. Hankins, and others who started #runteacherrun (which can also include #swimteacherswim or #biketeacherbike or any thing that will get us moving more).

So who is in for heading out on an adventure in 2013? Where do you think the road will take you this year?

Guest Post: Tammy Blackwell - New Year Resolutions Timber Wolves Style

When Aly first asked me to write a guest post for the first of January to celebrate the release of TimeMends, possibly with a New Years resolution theme, I immediately thought of My So-Called Life.* There is this episode that starts with all the characters sitting around watching a pre-stroke Dick Clark herald in 1995. And as they’re watching, they do voice-overs of all their resolutions. It’s one of my favorite moments of the show because you get this really awesome over-view of each of the characters. Because resolutions, they’re like this really intimate thing, you know?**
            So, inspired by the spirit of Angela Chase,*** I am sharing Scout and company’s spoiler-free resolutions.

Scout: No more messes. No clothes just laying around in piles of clean and unclean and kinda clean. No more accidentally growing science experiments in the bottom drawer of the cabinet in my bathroom. No more screwing up the lives of everyone I love. This year, I’m Talley-izing my life.

Jase: Increase my free throw average to .90. Stop wanting things I can’t have. Be more awesome.

Charlie: I need to learn to accept the things I cannot change, have the courage to change the things I can, and have the wisdom to know the difference. Or, at least, that’s what my therapist says. And me? I think I just need to grow up and move on.

Talley: Try harder. And maybe learn a foreign language.

Angel: I want to: 1. Learn how to use the stove. 2. Read all the Harry Potter books, even the ones that Mom thinks are too scary. 3. Grow taller.

Alex: Follow the rules and quit getting distracted by her.

Liam: Avenge and atone.

* I’m of the Catalano generation. I almost always immediately think of My So-Called Life. Or Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Or maybe even Veronica Mars... You know, there is a chance my own New Years resolution should have been to watch less TV.

** This sentence can be blamed on the fact I turned My So-Called Life on in the background while I typed this. I think I may throw on a flannel and dye my hair red next.

*** Who wanted to not get caught up in her thoughts so much and become less introspective, except that might make her shallow, so she was going to have to think about it some more.

Thanks to Miss Tammy for the helping us to get to know her Timber Wolves Trilogy Characters a little better.  Tammy Blackwell is the Young Adult Services Coordinator for a public library system in Kentucky. When she's not reading, writing, or cataloging books, she's sleeping.  She is the author of the YA Novel Destiny Binds and now Time Mends.  

You can follow Tammy on twitter: @miss_tammy or check out her website: http://misstammywrites.blogspot.com/

For more information about her awesome characters, check out the Destiny Binds character interview Tammy did a few months ago, click here.

Happy New Year! Looking forward to 2012

I just took a look at my New Year's Day post from 2011.  Wow!  it seems so long ago.  As I read through it, I was pleased to see that I actually met some of my goals.

In 2011, I had hoped to read 800 books.  I met that and exceeded it by 400 books.

In 2011, I wanted to read more children's non-fiction books.  I nearly doubled what I read in 2010 by reading 55 non-fiction books.

In 2011, I wanted to read more early readers and early chapter books.  I read 112 early readers and early chapter books which is 3 times more than I had read in 2010.  And I am excited to say that I found some really well done early readers.  

And in 2011, I hoped to inspire more children to read than I had the year before.  Check out my blog post with an animoto that shares about how many authors/illustrators we connected with over the year.  We also connected with three different schools via Skype.  It is exciting to see how my school is transforming itself into a reading community.

Another big goal was to expand and connect more with other individuals and organizations to promote books and literacy.  In 2011, I co-founded Bridge to Books with Alethea (@frootjoos, Read Now, Sleep Later) - a grassroots movement which has connected teachers, librarians, bloggers, booksellers, and publishers in an effort to connect kids to books.  I am so excited about what Bridge to Books has been able to do and where we are headed in 2012.

Over the course of 2011, I discovered that reading more is wonderful but makes carving out time for reviewing more difficult.  I reviewed less books than I wanted to and hope to change that in 2012.

For 2012, I am excited to co-host The Non-fiction Picture Book Challenge with The Nonfiction Detectives.  This is the first time that I am organizing a book challenge and excited to work with The Nonfiction Detectives, Cathy and Louise.

I am also participating in two other book challenges - #Nerdbery hosted by Colby Sharp and John Schu, and #Nerdcott hosted by LibLaura5 and A to Z Library. There is also a #Nerdibert (Sibert) Challenge that I hope to do alongside the Non-fiction Picture Book Challenge.  It is hosted by Shannon of Ms. Houghton's Class blog. 

Here are a few other things I hope to do:
1. Continue to connect my students with students from other schools to promote literacy partnerships.

2.  Reinstate my "Hot Off the Press" post on a weekly basis.

3.  Feature some student reviews of books that we are reading.

4.  I am looking forward to continuing to connect with my on-line PLN and encourage everyone else in their goals to develop a reading role models for children.

Hope everyone has had a wonderful first day of 2012 and what are your goals for the new year? 


Happy New Year!

As an educator, I always feel like I get 2 starts to the year.  One at the start of the school year and then at the traditional time of January 1st.  At the beginning of a school year, I set goals for what I hope I will be able to do as a school administrator as well as what I would like to see for my teachers and students.  My school goal this year was to create a reading community where every child would love books and reading.  After four years of watching children struggle with reading and state testing, I knew that if I could get them reading more and exposed to a greater variety of books that they would have more to draw from and be better overall students.

I am excited to say that as a school community, we are well on our way to becoming more of a reading community and I am very excited about all of the things we accomplished so far.  I will be writing some blog posts talking about what we are doing and how it is going over the next few months.

But January is the time that I think about personal resolutions.  And since this is a blog about books and reading, I want to share some goals related to reading.

Thanks to #book-a-day on Twitter, I managed to read around 380 books in 2010.  True many of them were picture books but there were also over 140 novels (MG/YA) on that list.  But I am going to stretch myself this year.  If I read a majority of the 380 books from June to December, then surely by starting in January I can reach a much higher number.  Here is what I am thinking:

Goal:  I have set a goal to at least double that number for 2011 or to read nearly 800 books (about 15 books a week).

Goal:  To read more non-fiction picture books particularly geared for grades 3 to 8.

Goal:  To read at least 12 non-fiction books related to professional growth and development.

Goal:  To read more early reader/chapter books.  I know that there must be more out there than Junie B. Jones or the Magic Tree House Series (no offense to either of those book series).  Yet, I don't feel like I have a good grasp of what is out there.

Goal:  To go back and either read or re-read older books that I have either never read or forgot about.  I love staying current but the nice thing about children's books is that there is a new group of children who haven't read one of those books that were published 5, 10, or more years ago.  Many are timeless and wonderful and should be pulled out and read.

In April, I branched out and started my blog.  It is still a work in progress but I want to see it take more shape.  How will I do this?

Goal:  To post more reviews of books that I am reading and how they are or could be used in the classroom.  

Goal:  Aim to blog/post at least 5 times per week.

Goal:  To develop some weekly or monthly features for the blog that will focus on books and the classroom.

I have truly enjoyed my on-line Professional Learning Community/Network (PLC/N) and don't plan to stop the interactions.  However, I would like to develop or participate in something more local or face to face. I am already on the Children's Literature Council of Southern California's Award Committee, but I think I need to branch out a little.  What will I do?

Goal: To research and identify local chapters of national organizations related to children and reading and determine the possibility of regular participation in one of these groups. 

I know that these goals are fluid and may change some over the year, and I can live with things shifting around.  However, I know that if I hadn't sat down two years ago and started to think about some changes I wanted for both the school and my life and then started to pursue those changes/goals I would never have discovered so many wonderful people and activities.

Here is to a Happy New Year to all and may this be the year that we conquer some of our fears or obstacles and see new growth and life in our lives. - Aly