End of the Year & Summer Reading Recommendations – Nonfiction, Of Course

blizzard of glass

Funny…I haven’t been in the classroom as a full-time teacher in awhile, but I still get that “WE’RE ALMOST DONE” feeling about this time of year. In the schools I’m visiting, I’m strongly encouraging teachers to host lots of time for students to just read, hoping this time spent carries into the summer when the students are reading on their own. My suggestions – introduce engaging nonfiction, book talk nonfiction, create a special display of nonfiction, match books to readers and put those books in kids’ hands. Most importantly provide time for students to just read, read, read. And be present to coach at the point of need. This might be during reading workshop when the whole class is reading – OR it might be during guided reading. Now is a good time to cut “teacher-talk” down to a few minutes and be fully present to guide those five or six students at your table as they read continuously for 15-20 minutes.

Would it be radical to even say, “Let go of the sticky notes and reading response journals?” Students will not be writing notes when they read on their own this summer. This might be a good chance to coach and take anecdotal notes – but to also free students of the sometimes cumbersome stopping and jotting. Just provide space for them to immerse themselves in reading. They can be accountable through their conversations with you during reading conferences, right?

Okay…I might be preaching to the choir here…just a few of my thoughts.

With that in mind…I’m going to be blogging for the next couple of weeks with a focus on high-quality trade books for students to read as the year winds down…and maybe to find at the public library this summer.

My first recommendation is Blizzard of Glass: The Halifax Explosion of 1917 by Sally M. Walker. Couldn’t put it down. I can see 4th/5th/6th grade students being drawn in as Walker narrates the stories of several of the families and other individuals who started out having a typical day on December 6, 1917. At 9:00 a.m. a ship carrying tons of munitions to the war in Europe was making its way through the narrow straight between Halifax and Dartmouth and collided with another ship. At first it seemed as though the initial fire could be contained. Within a few minutes, though, the largest man-made explosion prior to Hiroshima devastated the two cities, instantly killing 2000 people. If you were standing at a window watching the fire before the explosion, chances are the blizzard of glass flying at you also blinded you. Walker describes the aftermath including how people came from all over Canada and the United States to help the community recover.

Walker’s writing is superb. She has become a “go to” author for me as far as finding good books for students. She understands her young audience of readers and, in this book, weaves together details to create a suspenseful narrative filled with intriguing facts and tidbits of information students will ponder over and over again.

If you get a chance, put this book in a kid’s hands.

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