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New Roads

So.... I took a bit of time off from this little book blog. I didn't intend for it to be so long, but what with a never-ending mountain of doctoral  reading/writing and a year working as a library media specialist, time just slipped away. This morning I start a new journey, one that I hope will offer me more time for a love of books: elementary reading specialist. Ironic that being a library media specialist left me no time for books. 

       Like all change, it's scary. I haven't stepped an instructional toe inside an elementary school since 2005; and the change happens just as I begin my doctoral research, confusing my research angle. But... I am also exceptionally excited about the new school year as I walk away from a disastrous one. 

       When I earned the media specialist certification in 1999, I dreamed of one day working as a 'librarian.' I have always held the utmost respect for the job and can now, having done a year in the modern 'media specialist' gig, truly say that it is a very big job caught in a socially morphing world. I wish my year had gone differently, but schools, like all human-inhabited spaces, are political and I was not a member of the ruling party. In truth, I cannot yet ascertain whether it was the job of library media specialist or the environment. I do know that I missed instructional coaching and I missed being a reading specialist. 

     My new position embraces both of those titles and understands that they are different roles. A reading coach is different from a reading specialist. An instructional coach supports mostly teachers, instructional practices, and curricular programs whereas a reading specialist holds a masters degree in reading and diagnoses/remediates student reading disabilities. A reading endorsement entitles one to teach reading, but it is far from the diagnostic aimed work required for a masters degree in reading (especially from a International Reading Association - now ILA - accredited school). Unfortunately, many educators do not understand and/or care about the difference. 

But, I digress... I wanted to come here to thank the publishers who have kept sending me books and the authors who have reached out to me. Thank you. Your stacks of wonder line my home office and I have not forgotten the joy of books and reading. I choose happiness and positivity and I will get your wonders posted out to the internets real soon, promise. 

-------------------- That's all folks! --------------------
 © 2007-2016 Cheryl Vanatti for www.ReadingRumpus.com


The reality of being a reading specialist in Florida

In September of 2013, I wrote an honest post lamenting my disillusion with the state of reading education in Florida. In 2014, I wrote a paper for one of my doctoral classes titled, "Leaving FCAT Behind: A chance to end harmful impacts in remedial reading classrooms" and it was my great hope as we transitioned to FSA from FCAT (Florida terms for standardized tests) that the politicians would be swayed to abandon the reading mandates in light of a new and untested assessment. In 2015, I was excited to see the mandate dissolve (at least while we awaited calibration of the new assessment)!

A full two years from my original heartfelt posting on being a reading specialist in the state of Florida, I have resigned my position as a reading specialist. My district and school's choosing to continue the segregationist marginalization of minority populations was too much for me to bear. Blaming the politicians in Tallahassee was one thing, being unable to affect change in my own realm of influence was another.

I am now working as a library media specialist. So far, it's just not the same. Don't get me wrong, it has been kind of fun playing with books and technology, planning exciting literary events for the students, but I am having a hard time keeping my mouth shut. Most of what I have contributed in my new role has been either clerical or manual labor. I long to tell the uniformed parents to get their kids out, that there is no mandate, that their child can have music or art classes, that they can learn Spanish or be a part of our awesome STEM classes.

People like to throw research at all sorts of ideas in education and there is enough reading research to fill our remaining days in contradictory contemplation. You can find research backing glorious programs (most sanctioned by the publishers of said programs) and heralded researchers of reading arguing the merits of fluency versus comprehension, phonics versus whole language, and all sorts of ideas on struggling adolescents. Bottom line? It's all lost in the experience of being a student, of making decisions based upon individuals and not simply numbers on a page.

I have posted my original paper as a Google document HERE. It's filled with research citations, reads sort of like a literature review, but it tells the story of a passionate lifelong reading educator who thought there was still a chance to end the insanity.

© 2007-2015 Cheryl Vanatti for www.ReadingRumpus.com


Touch the Brightest Star by Christie Matheson

Thank you to @christiemath @GreenwillowBook for my review copy

My two cents: Touch the Brightest Star is a lovely picture book for both pre-readers and beginning readers. Told in flowing cadence and rhyme, it tells the story of day's end turning to night and then ends with the closing of eyes to darkness, only to open again to morning. This is a great vehicle for foreshadowing and inference (what happened while the eyes were closed?). Because the vocabulary is limited, and there are numerous spelling repetitions due to the rhyme scheme, it also makes a good book for beginning readers (though the topic might be a bit young, the idea that they can actually read the words usually supersedes that!). Information on various creatures and objects of the night is given on the last page, making for further discussion and future investigations.

The most unique thing about this book, aside from the great writing, is the use of terminology usually reserved for digital reading. The author invites young readers to "swipe" and "tap" various scenes of serene watercolor-like mixed-media illustrations on big bold pages of blue and darkening sky. The change in the shadowing of the apple tree lends further discussion opportunities. I think this one is definitely a Caldecott contender!

This is a truly stellar learning tool and should be purchased for all pre-school and kindergarten libraries.

Publisher's Synopsis: "A companion to the popular and acclaimed Tap the Magic Tree! In this interactive bedtime story, touch, tap, blink, whisper, and more to make magic happen in the nighttime sky, from sunset to sunrise.
What happens while you're sleeping? With lush, beautiful watercolors and cut-paper collage, Christie Matheson reveals the magic of the nighttime sky, using the same kinds of toddler-perfect interactive elements as her acclaimed Tap the Magic Tree. Wave good-bye to the sun, gently press the firefly, make a wish on a star, rub the owls on their heads, and . . . shhhh. No two readings of this book will be the same. That along with the gentle, soothing rhythm, makesTouch the Brightest Star a bedtime winner—no matter how many times you and your child read it."

Genre: Picture Book
Age: 4-8 years
Pages: 40
Themes: Day turning to night turning to day, creatures & objects of the night
Thank You to publisher: Greenwillow Books
Date: May 2015
ISBN: 978-0062274472
BUY Touch the Brightest Star HERE

-------------------- That's all folks! --------------------
 © 2007-2015 Cheryl Vanatti for www.ReadingRumpus.com


Edgar and the Treehouse of Usher by Jennifer Adams

(Thank you to @ericsmithrocks & @GibbsSmithBooks) for my first BabyLit copy!

My two cents: I had heard of the BabyLit series, but had not held one in my hands. They sure sounded great, but I am a middle school reading specialist so they were honestly kind of low on the TBR stack. When I got an email to take a look at Edgar and the Tree House of Usher, I thought that I would probably like it. I mean, any bibliophile has to at least like the idea of putting classical readings in children's hands as young as possible, right? And who doesn't love Poe? I mean, c'mon now!

So... if I said that I liked it, no one would really be surprised. 

BUT... if you look over at my "highest recommendation" tag, you will see that I am very sparing with that tag. Most of the books in that category have won big prizes or accolades. I stake my reading reputation on that tag.  

Edgar and the Tree House of Usher is marvelous! It follows the general plot of The Fall of the House of Usher, with name dropping and illustration references galore. But, when this house falls, the outcome is less bleak and has a little lesson on equality and fairness thrown in (without a hint of moralizing). How wonderful that children can have some background knowledge of our beloved classics. I want all of the BabyLit now (well, I'd really like to have a grandchild to go along with it, but that's for the personal blog)! 

Teachers and librarians: if you haven't been purchasing this series yet (and especially the Edgar ones!), I suggest you get your hands on them quick. 

Although I would like to thank the folks (up top there) that sent me this review copy, I would also like to tell them that I know their game! I am headed over to Amazon to start my collection with

Publisher's Synopsis: ""It was a dull, dark, and soundless day in the autumn of the year ... " when the mischievous raven Edgar heads to his friend Roderick's house to work on their tree house. Edgar dashes his sister Lenore's hopes with the ever-popular phrase "sisters are not allowed," until a storm starts to brew and the two boys realize that sometimes the best things happen when you decide to stick together. The third picture book in the popular Edgar series is sure to warm the hearts of kids and parents alike.

JENNIFER ADAMS is the author of more than two dozen books, including titles in the Baby lit series, which introduces children to the world of classic literature. She lives in Salt Lake City. Visit her website at jennifer-adams.com.
RON STUCKI is a graphic designer and illustrator of Edgar Gets Ready for Bed and Edgar and the TattleTale Heart. Ron lives in Utah and Idaho. Visit him at rstuckidesign.com."

-------------------- That's all folks! --------------------
 © 2007-2015 Cheryl Vanatti for www.ReadingRumpus.com


Max the Brave by Ed Vere

(Thank you @Sourcebooks) 

My two cents: A spunky cat has to figure out what a mouse looks like so that he can chase it. Children and adults alike will gasp when Max finally encounters the "mouse." This is a sweet and funny tale that should not be missed. The funny and surprising ending make this title a must buy for preschool and kindergarten classrooms. 

Publisher's Synopsis: "Max is a fearless kitten. Max is a brave kitten. Max is a kitten who chases mice. There's only one problem-Max doesn't know what a mouse looks like! With a little bit of bad advice, Max finds himself facing a much bigger challenge. Maybe Max doesn't have to be Max the Brave all the time...

Join this adventurous black cat as he very politely asks a variety of animals for help in finding a mouse. Young readers will delight in Max's mistakes, while adults will love the subtle, tongue-in-cheek humor of this new children's classic."

Genre: Picture Book
Age: 3-6
Pages: 32
Themes: Unique & spunky character, Tenacity and curiousness, Little white lie = comedy
Thank You to publisher Sourcebooks for my copy!
Available in hardback in the USA on September 8, 2015, but you can preorder Max the Brave HERE

-------------------- That's all folks! --------------------
 © 2007-2015 Cheryl Vanatti for www.ReadingRumpus.com
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