Summertime for me means a lot of hanging out here… or poking around in the dirt here… or a trip to the Brimfield Antiques Fair… But mostly, I read and think about the looming coming school year. I think about what kinds of books to share with the students, think about the balance between wanting to just read the amazing books that I’ve encountered recently, and not so recently, with the need to work on library skills, research skills, and all the other things I should be covering in a school year. The students would be thrilled if I just read to them during every library period. Frankly, so would I. However, at the last minute I heard about a series of one day conferences being held around the country sponsored by Scholastic. These conferences called “Reading Summits” are “designed to inspire educators with a fresh view of independent reading strategies for their school communities.” Color me intrigued. And, I was in the midst of an early summer slump, not feeling particularly motivated or inspired, so I signed up on an impulse. I’m glad I did. On the whole it felt much like many other conferences, one day or otherwise, with a few keynote speakers, some breakout sessions and then a final keynote at the end. Of course, what makes it more than your average conference are the people involved; it’s always about the people. Speakers included Donalyn Miller talking about inspiring reading in her classroom of 4th, 5th or 6th graders. And that inspiration looks like many things, but mostly it’s about giving kids choice when it comes to their reading, about letting, nay encouraging, kids to talk about their choices, and about giving them time in the day to do that reading. She was inspirational, and enormously practical when it came to tips about independent reading in school. So, while I’m not a classroom teachers, there are many at my school who ask for guidance or express frustration when it comes to making independent reading effective, and fun. I have some more ideas to share with them. Specific tips about book conferences, response letters to their reading, and others, but perhaps those ideas are better for another, more in-depth post about IR. At the end of the day, two powerful women spoke about reading and literacy. Dr. Kim Parker, an English teacher in Cambridge spoke so eloquently about her work with young men of color, helping them to find themselves as readers, and helping them make a lifelong habit of it. Andrea Davis Pinkney was the final speaker of the day. A powerful voice, with a lot to say. She has created some wonderful books, both picture books and not. I read The Red Pencil last summer and loved it; couldn’t wait to share it with the 6th grade teachers at my school who teach about Africa all year long and are always on the lookout for great literature to accompany their work. This one fit the bill, for sure. Andrea’s reading from it gave me chills. The room was mesmerized. I know my students would be, too. Hmmm. Yikes, this post is long. If anyone is still reading at this point, I’m sorry. Mostly its for me, so I can remember what was what. And it’s good practice for me to write. I don’t do it all that often. The two breakout sessions I attended were also good. The first one was Booktalk Basics and Beyond , something I do a lot, but there’s always room for improvement, and new ideas. Alice Ozma led this one. She works for Scholastic, but also wrote a book about her childhood reading experiences with her dad. The book looks good, I’ll be getting a copy for the library, and recommending it to parents. The second one was called Troubleshooting Independent Reading Challenges Through Conferring, and presented by Donalyn Miller, who was one of the morning keynotes. It was an extension of her morning presentation, with more specificity and the opportunity to ask questions. Again, very helpful with my work with teachers, but less direct application in the library, which is a-ok with me.
Oh, and there was some swag! What would a conference be without it?
Ok, time to be done. Be well.