I enjoyed looking through the Young Adult Library Services Association’s book list and blog. The first book list that I looked through was best fiction for young adults list. I have only read a few of the YA fiction books on the list for 2016. I added Paper Hearts by Meg Wivott, Bone Gap by Laura Ruby, and The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black to my TBR list from this YALSA list. I like that they put short descriptions of the books by the book title.

The next list I looked through was great graphic novels for teens. I still need to fill out my read a graphic novel section of my book bingo, so I thought this list may help me find some options of graphic novels that I would enjoy reading. I added Outcast by Robert Kirkman, Starlight by Mark Millar, and Tokyo Ghoul  by Sui Ishida to my TBR list from this YALSA list.

The final list I looked at was the top ten most popular paperbacks for young adults. I added Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson, Ashfall by Mike Mullin, and Rot and Ruin by Jonathan Maberry to my TBR list from this list. I was also happy to learn that Ashfall and Rot and Ruin are parts of book series! More books!

I also enjoyed YALSA’s blog, the hub. I really liked reading the book reviews for the books that they post. They do a great job of describing the book, and giving information about the characters and author. I also like how they address issues that relate to teens that do not involve literature. I read one of their blogs about teens needing to sleep more, and it was very informative and instructional. They also write blogs about certain aspects of different books, such as which books have the most developed characters and which books have the best writing styles. The hub has a lot of different blogs that give students great books to read, and that give students information about reading.


Reading Response

Twenty Better Question for All American Boys by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kelly

1. What character(s) was your favorite? Why?

Rashad was my favorite character. I related to Rashad because he likes to draw, and I also like to draw. I also felt sorry for Rashad that he had to endure what he had to endure during this story. He is just a kid who is trying to stay out of trouble, but is thrown into trouble because of his skin color. I enjoyed Rashad’s voice in All American Boys because it was very easy to read.

2. What character(s) did you dislike? Why?

I disliked Paul and Guzzo. Paul is a lying police officer who just wanted to take his anger out on someone, so he found the first chance to beat up a black kid. He makes Quinn feel like crap for standing up for what is right. He twists his little brother, Guzzo’s, head to make him think that he is the hero while Quinn is a traitor. It is very straightforward that Paul is a racist, bad cop. He was a good guy for Quinn while he was growing up, but he is not a good cop. He put Rashad in the hospital over a bag of chips. My feelings for Guzzo are not as straightforward as my feelings for Paul. Loyalty is an amazing quality to possess, and Guzzo takes loyalty to heart. He wants to stand up for his brother because he wants to be loyal to his brother. He gets mad at Quinn because Quinn is not loyal to his brother. However, I think sometimes you have to remove your feelings from a situation to realize what is right. Guzzo probably saw the video of Paul beating Rashad, so, instead of staying loyal, he should have realized what was right.

3. Does anyone in this work remind you of anyone you know? Explain.

No one in All American Boys really reminded me of someone I know. There were aspects of some of the characters that I could relate to myself or someone I know. I can relate to Rashad’s love of drawing. I can relate Quinn’s obsession with basketball to my boyfriend’s obsession with basketball. I can relate Rashad’s mom’s  strictly cussing only when she is very upset to my mother.

4. Are you like any character in this work? Explain.

I like to draw like Rashad likes to draw, though it seems to me that I am probably not as good as him. I can’t draw people very well. I can also relate to Quinn’s realization that he lives in privilege.

5. If you could be any character in this work, who would you be? Explain.

If I had to choose a character in this book to be it would probably be English. First of all, how cool of a name is English?! Also, he is a cool, sleek basketball player who is very popular. I might choose Rashad for his drawing abilities or Spoony for his confidence, but English seems to be the whole package of smooth.

6. What quality(ies) of which character strikes you as a good characteristic to develop within yourself over the years? Why? How does the character demonstrate this quality?

Spoony’s confidence strikes me as a good characteristic to develop within myself over the years. Spoony displays his confidence just by being who he is. Rashad describes it as a respect that everyone just automatically has for Spoony because of the way he carries himself. He is a leader and he does not back down. Spoony is loyal to Rashad, and organizes a protest against police brutality. Spoony tells it like it is because he is not afraid of being wrong. He tells Rashad what the world really is like.

7. Overall, what kind of a feeling did you have after reading a few paragraphs of this work? Midway? After finishing the work?

After reading a few paragraphs of this work I was immediately interested by Rashad’s unique voice telling the story. I became more interested when he said pay attention and then described the details of his arrest and beating. Midway through the work, I was mad that Guzzo and Paul were treating Quinn so poorly and I was mad that Paul hadn’t been punished for what he did to Rashad yet. After finishing All American Boys, I was left with a lot of questions: what was the outcome of the trial? Did Quinn and Rashad ever talk? Did Quinn and Guzzo make up? Will Paul be punished? Did Rashad get with Tiffany? Did Quinn get with Jill? Did anything happen as a result of the protest? What changed Rashad’s father’s mind about going to the protest?

8. Do any incidents, ideas, or actions in this work remind you of your own life or something that happened to you? Explain.

Quinn’s realization that he lives in privilege reminds me of my own life. As I grew up, I realized that my parents were pretty well off, that I was never discriminated against, and that I really got a lot of chances to succeed through-out my life. It was around 15 that I realized I was spoiled compared to a majority of the people on this planet; that I had never really endured a real struggle. I had never really even been discriminated against or treated differently (that I can remember) because I am a girl. It was a stunning realization to realize that not everyone is given every chance of succeeding in life like I was (for this, I am very grateful to my selfless parents) and this realization does make you feel guilty like Quinn felt guilty.

 9. Do you like this piece of work? Why or why not?

I really enjoyed this piece of work. It brings up so many issues that our country faces regarding discrimination based on race. It makes you question our own justice system as well as police officers. I enjoyed this book because it shows a side of the world that some people never see.

10. Are there any parts of this work that were confusing to you? Which parts? Why do you think you got confused?

I was confused as to why they ended the book where they did. I had so many questions, and most of all I wanted to know whether Paul was going to get punished at all for what he did to Rashad. I enjoyed the ending because it was beautiful with Quinn and Rashad finally connecting in a small way, but I wanted to know more!

11. Do you feel there is an opinion expressed by the author through this work? What is it? How do you know this? Do you agree? Why or why not?

The opinion expressed through this work is that just because something bad does not directly affect your life, that does not mean that you can just do nothing about it. If you choose to ignore a problem, then you are feeding the problem. If you do not stand up for the oppressed, then you are taking the side of the oppressor. We have to actually talk about these hard issues like police brutality and race in order to address the real problems in our country.

12. Do you think the title of this work is appropriate? Is it significant? Explain. What do you think the title means?

The title of this work, All American Boys, is very appropriate and significant. Both Rashad and Quinn could be seen as all american boys. Rashad has a cop for a father and is in ROTC. Quinn’s father died in the military and he is a basketball star.They are both trying to live up to the all american boy standard set by Quinn’s father giving his life in service and Rashad’s father pressuring him into the military.  However, despite Rashad and Quinn both being all american boys, they have very different lives and receive different treatment. In a lot of ways, the two boys are very similar except their skin color, and this makes all the difference in the world.

13. Would you change the ending of this story in any way? Tell your ending. Why would you change it?

I would change the ending to give the reader more of a resolution. I would end it happily, of course. I would have Quinn and Jill get together. I would have Rashad and Tiffany get together. I would have Quinn make starter of the basketball team despite skipping practice to go to the protest. I would have English and Quinn get attention from basketball scouts. I would have Paul get fired and put in jail for assault after a successful trial. I would have Guzzo realize that Paul was guilty and make up with Quinn.

14. What kind of person do you feel the author is? What makes you feel this way?

I feel that the authors, Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely, are very creative people. I wonder if one wrote the voice of Quinn while the other wrote the voice of Rashad. They organized the book in a way that kept the reader interested. I enjoyed getting two perspectives on the story. They created the characters so that they were very easy to relate to and were very three dimensional. I liked both of their writing styles.

15. How did this work make you feel? Explain.

All American Boys made me ask myself a lot of questions. Had I ever been discriminatory towards someone based on their race without realizing it? How do we stop police brutality and racial discrimination from occurring?  Why are these beliefs that black people are less than white people so deeply held? Had I ever been dismissive of an issue within our country because it did not directly affect me?

16. Do you share any of the feelings of the characters in this work? Explain.

I share Quinn’s feeling of guilt when he realized that he can just step away from this issue that Rashad is facing. He does not have to be a part of it because he is white. He does not have to face certain struggles just because he is white. He does not have to fight for his own civil liberties because he is a white male. He feels guilty that he could just turn his back on another person because of a difference of skin color. He realizes that he does not want to step away from the issue anymore and goes to the protest.

17. Sometimes works leave you with the feeling that there is more to tell. Did this work do this? What do you think might happen?

YES! There were so many questions, as I have already stated. There was no retribution for Paul. We never found out about the basketball starters or the relationships that Quinn and Rashad hoped to form. We never know if anything happens because of the protest. We don’t know if Rashad ends up going to court. We don’t know anything!

18. Would you like to read something else by this author? Why or why not?

I would read other pieces of work by these authors because I liked their writing style. I read this book very quickly, and enjoyed reading it. The words were simple. The character’s had different voices.

19. What do you feel is the most important word, phrase, passage, or paragraph in this work? Explain why it is important.

When Quinn is questioning whether to go to the protest because he is scared of the military tanks, Jill gives him a flyer with a quote by Desmond Tutu that says: “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.” I think this is the most important phrase in the book because it shows the whole moral of the book. Just because injustice or discrimination does not directly affect you, that does not mean you can remain neutral. If you remain neutral, then you are just as bad as the people doing the injustice. We can help fight against discrimination even if it does not involve us, and we should, as decent human beings, stand up for our fellow human-beings. We can fight hate and ignorance with education.

20. If you were an English teacher, would you want to share this work with your students? Why or why not?

I would want to share All American Boys with my students. People may not be aware of the kinds of discrimination people of color face, especially in rural communities like small town Nebraska. This book can be a way to open student’s minds to the struggles that other people face, and may motivate them to stand against injustice even if it does not involve them directly.

Teen Reading and Social Media

Featured image by Sean MacEntee.

I enjoyed going through the best literary hashtags on twitter blog. I recognized a few of the hashtags, but a few I did not remember seeing. I liked going through the hashtags on twitter, and seeing so many people discussing literature. Anyone who says reading is a lost art simply has to look at these hashtags to see that literature is still a major part of people’s lives. I liked the writing prompt hashtag because writers who are struggling can get ideas from an entire twittersphere to get them back on track. There was a hashtag going around a few months ago that I found very interesting: #sixwordstory or maybe #sixwordshortstory (I’m not sure). I loved reading all the create six word stories from people around the world. Twitter and other social media sites allow us to engage in discussion about literature with experts, other lovers of the books, and the author of the book!

While researching social media and teen reading, I found that teens use many social media sites for their own literary purposes. Pinterest has many (MANY!) boards about books and literature. There are want-to- read boards, book discussion boards, and writing prompt boards. Facebook allows the user to see posts from the author, message the author, and share one’s own thoughts about a book. Twitter has many literary hashtags the prompt a discussion of literature, and allows the user to connect with other readers and the author. WordPress is used to blog about books, and can easily be used in an English classroom to respond to books. Teens use social media to discover books that they want to read, engage in discussion about literature, and share their thoughts on books. There are both pros and cons to using social media in the classroom. Social media can create many distractions, but it can also make learning easier. It all depends on the way that the teacher approaches social media. Social media should be used in the classroom as a learning tool, and should be monitored for distractions and inappropriate behavior.

Reading Response

Emmy and Oliver by Robin Benway is a fantastic love story with a twist. Emmy and Oliver are best friends until the second grade, when Oliver’s father kidnaps him. Oliver returns at the age of 18 with a load of issues, and Emmy and Oliver have to get to know each other again. Tweet to an author:

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Reading Aloud to Students

Featured image by U.S. Embassy

Before the 18th century, and the rise of the middle class, reading out loud was common practice. Reading used to be a special occasion where people came together and engaged in a story together. Bards told stories, read poems, and sang songs. Though reading out loud was common before the 18th century due to illiteracy, reading out loud can still be beneficial to us in a time of literacy. I used to love it when my parents read me bedtime stories, and in high school I enjoyed when my college English teacher read out loud to the class.

I enjoyed Hinds’s blog “A Curriculum Staple: Reading Aloud to Teens” because Hinds shows that reading out loud can create more interest in stories and reading. Sometimes students do not like reading because of the level of energy that reading takes, however, listening to someone read out loud does not take much energy. Another benefit of reading to students out loud is that the students can stop the teacher to have him/her explain a word or a portion of the text. The teacher can gauge the students’ interest level and comprehension level of the book when they read out loud. The teacher can also have the students read the book out loud in order to increase their reading abilities and comprehension levels. Reading out loud builds the students’ listening skills and helps the students to connect with the teacher and with the story.

I learned from Gassaway’s blog post, “Ten Realizations I’ve Had Or Remembered While Reading Aloud to Middle Schoolers This Year” that reading out loud to students is a guess-and-check process. Gassaway says that not reading the book before reading it out loud can be bad because there could be words which make the class lose control. But she also says that reading the book before can cause the teacher to lose interest or give away the story to the students. I really enjoyed her statement that if students are not interested when they are being read to that it is not reading aloud that is wrong; it is the book. Reading out loud to students can create an interest in stories and reading. I will be reading out loud to my students in my classroom, and I WILL be doing crazy voices for each character. No one wants to listen to a monotone teacher, and doing voices for different characters can create interest in the story.

Reading Response for Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson

I decided to do the mind mapping reading response for Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson. I chose to map the thoughts of the main character, narrator, and protagonist, Melinda Sordino. I chose to draw lips because Melinda struggles through-out the book to make her lips move so that she can speak up. Melinda’s anxiety causes her to pick at and chew on her lips until they bled.I chose the word “speak” in association with the lips because, not only is it the title of the book, but Melinda cannot speak up to anyone about her worries or about being raped.

Secondly, in the dark parts of her brain, Melinda is always thinking back to when she was raped. I chose a “no” sign and the word “rape” because a major theme of this book is rape. Melinda Sordino is raped at the age of 13 by a popular senior, then she is outcasted by her friends for calling the cops on the party after being raped. Melinda struggles with whether she was actually raped or not because she could not actually bring herself to say the word no. However, through the book, Melinda comes to grips with the fact that, since Andy covered her mouth and held her down, she was indeed raped.

Finally, I chose the word tree and an image of a tree because Melinda’s favorite teacher, her art teacher, assigns a year-long project where Melinda has to make an artist project of a tree mean something. Melinda struggles with the project through-out the book until she visits the tree where she was raped. Once Melinda visits the tree where she was raped, she realized that trees, like people, are not perfect. At the end of the book she finally aces the project by creating an imperfect tree that shows that it has been through life. In doing this, Melinda also comes to grips with her own imperfects and can begin her own life.

This is simply an amazing book. I plan to reread it every year, and recommend it to anyone who needs a good book. It is inspirational and real. IMG_1681