December flew by with the many fun activities that we have going on around our elementary school. My friend, and AIG teacher, Helen, wanted to make sure we did something extra special with the new iPad minis we received as part of our Dare Education Foundation grant so we decided to challenge her students to come up with alternative perspectives of holiday character's and present them using Augmented Reality. The idea snowballed the more we talked and planned, and we ended up using the Chatterkid app to record the student's 30 second script, then used Aurasma to augment the character's pictures. When students in grades 2-5 came to library the final week before our holiday break, they used the iPads to hear and see the stories they know so well be told from new angles. Below are some videos that show just a handful of our hilarious and creative POVs. If you are considering trying out Augmented Reality, check out my video tutorial over at quicktechbytm.com/augmentedreality/
It's true, what they say… the older you get, the faster the years go by! 2014 flew, and I marked much of the year by the books I read. One of my resolutions was to read at least 1 book a week, but I wanted to read at least 80 books overall (I hit 85!). After 2.5 years of graduate work, my 'pleasure reading' had suffered, and I thought this goal would be a great way to expand past the YA lit I tend to gravitate towards. It also has helped me be a better librarian, and an advocate for reading with my students and friends. Below are some favorites from many different reading levels - feel free to leave a comment with some of your favorites you read in '14!
Louise Loves Art - Kelly Light (picture book) : such a sweet story about using your imagination and fueling creativity.
A Library Book for Bear - Bonny Becker (picture book) : I'm biased, of course, but the watercolor illustrations are beautiful and it's a perfect story for picky readers who think there's only ONE kind of book for them!
Tuesday Tucks Me In - Luis Carlos Montalvan (nonfiction): A touching, true tale of a former solider and the service dog that gets him through his days, very age-appropriate to teach about the importance of service animals.
Escape from Mr. Lemoncello's Library - Chris Grabenstein (chapter) : a fun page-turner about a group of kids who are using critical thinking and teamwork to find their way out of a very 21st century library.
The Fourteenth Goldfish - Jennifer L. Holm (chapter) : I've gushed about this one! A strong female lead learns about scientists and morality in a surprisingly touching way.
Navigating Early - Claire Vanderpool (chapter) : an adventure story about two boys in Maine during WWII, learning their histories while developing new chapters to their own lives.
Brown Girl Dreaming - Jacqueline Woodson (memoir/poetry) : won the National Book Award for good reasons! This prolific author shares her unique upbringing as a born-Northerner, in a segregated South, and how she chased her young dreams.
El Deafo - Cece Bell (graphic novel) : so many students are loving Raina Telemeier's Smile/Sisters graphic novels that I had to start finding more options for the library. Cece's is a graphic memoir about the struggles of having hearing loss while growing up - but the themes of friendship and being comfortable in your own skin are universal.
The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight - Jennifer E. Smith : first of her novels I read, and now, I'm hooked! Girl meets boy at airport, sparks fly in the air, they lose each other in customs… loved it. Also loved "This is What Happy Looks Like"
Anna and The French Kiss - Stephanie Perkins : another author I'm now crazy about! Perfectly captures the ups and downs of first(ish) love… set in Paris! Got to meet her at YALLfest in November and can't tell you how much I also loved the YA compilation she dreamt up and edited, "My True Love Gave To Me."
Fangirl - Rainbow Rowell : apparently this is the year of new YA authors where I read all their books and meet at a book conference! Eleanor & Park is Rowell's most well-known novel, but I'm partial to Fangirl because of the collegiate setting and the HP references. I absolutely love that her books don't really fit a mold - semi-YA, semi-Adult… 100% relevant.
Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children - Ransom Riggs : I avoided this book for awhile, thinking it would be too horror/suspenseful for my taste but I'm glad I finally listened to recommendations! Set during WWII, there are elements of time-travel and the obscure, but the heart of the story is so engaging and provides a unique way of looking at WWII. Movie is coming out in Spring 2014
The Impossible Knife of Memory - Laurie Halse Anderson : one of my favorite authors, never fails to amaze me. A haunting story of a daughter-father relationship, scarred by the effects of PTSD. Despite the dark topic, the writing is mesmerizing and I couldn't stop thinking about it when it was over.
Chasing Lincoln's Killer - James Swanson : the YA version of "Manhunt", this nonfiction reads like a novel in it's well-crafted storytelling and amazing attention to detail. I'm not a huge history buff, but reading this made me want to learn even more about the Civil War and president Lincoln.
Unbroken - Laura Hillenbrand : my favorite book of 2014. It's SO hard to pick, but after reading this amazing tale, I was changed. I joked many times before reading it that it's the only book my husband has read cover to cover in 4 years, and there must be a reason why! The subtitle of this book sums it up perfectly: "A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption." My freshman year in college I took part in a learning community, which meant that all my classes (history, sociology, religion, lit, writing) focused on WWII, and yet, I learned more about the human experience from Unbroken than anywhere else. So recommend reading this - before or after you see the movie. Perhaps the most important lessons to be learned is that of strength and forgiveness.
Big Little Lies - Liane Moriarty : another new author whose work I gobbled up in 2014, but Big Little Lies was my favorite. The first chapter opens with a murder, and you'll spend most of the novel guessing, and re-guessing who is responsible (and who died!). It's amazing writing and a book that will keep you up at night saying "just one more chapter."
The Girl You Left Behind - Jojo Moyes : this has been the year of discovering authors, because I read several of Moyes' novels but The Girl You Left Behind was engrossing and magical. The connection she makes between historical and modern storytelling is remarkable. This one has an element of art, but each of her novels will tap deep emotions and disappoint you when the pages run out.
Bossypants - Tina Fey : I laughed, and laughed, and laughed. Read this memoir in 1 sitting because it was so entertaining. It helps to be familiar with her work on SNL and 30 Rock, but any woman can relate to her humorous ways of looking at life. Can't wait to read Amy Poehler's "Yes, Please!" in 2015.
11/22/63 - Stephen King : I've honestly only read 1 other King book, and it was his recollection of the 2004 miracle Red Sox season… not his usual tomes. My dad insisted I *listen* to 11/22/63 in audiobook form and that's no small feat - it's 30 HOURS LONG! I went outside my comfort zone about this tale of a modern man who, through a time portal, attempts to alter history and realizes how his actions might impact the course of our nation. For those looking for a different (fictional) perspective on the JFK assassination, this one is mind-blowing.
The Book Whisperer - Donalyn Miller : my professional outlook changed with the reading of this book. For any teacher who wants to impact students' reading habits, this is a must-have. It will change your perspective on how we teach reading in classrooms, and make your connections with students & literature much more authentic.
My 2014 resolution taught me a lot about my reading, including how narrow my choices were before I set this goal. In all three areas, I expanded outside my comfort zone and tried new genres, listened to what others enjoy, and have found many new authors and topics to explore. My hope is that by reading a greater variety, I'm becoming a stronger advocate for literature.
From Miller's The Book Whisperer:
Reading is a univserity course in life; it makes us smarter by increasing our vocabulary and background knowledge of countless topics. Reading allows us to travel to destinations that we will never experience outside the pages of a book. Reading in a way to find friends who have the same problems we do and who can give advice on solving those problems. Though reading, we can witness all that is noble, beautiful, or horrifying about other human beings. From a book's characters, we can learn how to conduct ourselves. And most of all, reading is a communal act that connects you to other readers, comrades who had traveled to the same remarkable places that you have and been changed by them, too. (151)