Today we are excited to welcome 4th and 5th grade teacher Katie Reilley to the #MGBookVillage as part of our month-long celebration of educators!
Please tell us about yourself!
Who are some of your favorite middle grade books or authors?
My favorite middle grade books and authors vary from year to year depending on my students’ reading lives. This year, Alan Gratz’s Ban This Book and Refugee were very popular with my fourth and fifth graders. I can’t keep anything by Kwame Alexander on my bookshelf. Leslie Connor’s All Rise for the Honorable Perry T Cook and The Truth as Told by Mason Buttle were also well-loved by my fifth graders, and my fourth graders could not get enough of Victoria J Coe’s Fenway and Hattie series. During October, Lindsay Currie’s The Peculiar Incident on Shady Street was perfect for students to read. My fifth grade book club devoured Aven’s story in The Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus by Dusti Bowling. Students who loved how Wonder was told with multiple perspectives liked the same style in Rob Buyea’s The Perfect Score. My fourth grade students are just discovering Phil Bildner’s Rip and Red series and blowing through it. Both grade levels have loved the Track series by Jason Reynolds and are begging me to buy Sunny so they can continue. Graphic novels are always a hit, and favorite authors include Raina Telgemeier, Judd Winick, Dav Pilkey, Jennifer L Holm, Ben Hatke, and Kazu Kibuishi.
What are some of your favorite read alouds? Why?
We started the school year with Abby Cooper’s Sticks and Stones because she was coming for an author visit in September. Students loved the magical realism aspect of this one and enjoyed watching Elyse grow and change throughout the story.
Next we read The Wild Robot by Peter Brown for our Global Read Aloud. Students loved the idea of a robot with wild animals as friends and family and could not wait for its sequel, which we are currently reading aloud. They also loved connecting with other classes who read this for GRA and have continued to be postcard friends with students at a school in Canada.
Then we read Katherine Applegate’s Wishtree, and students fell in love with Red and her animal companions. They especially liked how the animals were named and the message of acceptance that the story wove.
Another favorite read aloud was EngiNerds by Jarrett Lerner. What’s not to love about a farting robot who shoots out turd missiles and a dog named Kitty? Students could also relate to the “stemmy” feel this book had and are anxiously awaiting book two.
Just Like Jackie by Lindsey Stoddard was really loved, too. Students had great conversations about Jackie’s behavior and choices in the book, and they learned via Robinson, what Alzheimer’s disease can do to a family.
How do you stay “in the know” about new/upcoming books (are there tools, people, sites you regularly rely on)?
I am so grateful to the Nerdy Book Club for keeping me in the loop with new “must-reads.” I heavily rely on their daily blog posts for book suggestions and author interviews to share with my students. I also use John Schu’s Book release calendar to help guide my new book purchases. Other must follows in the bookish community include Pernille Ripp, Colby Sharp, Donalyn Miller, the BooksBetween podcast, and MG Book Village. I’m also very grateful to be part of the #bookexpedition group as we read and discuss advanced reader copies of new middle grade novels. Being part of this group as helped me communicate, collaborate, and create in a way that I was not able to do before, and it is truly benefiting my students.
Take a picture of something in your classroom and tell us the story behind it.
This is a photo of my #classroombookaday table. The images that created it came from last year’s #classroombookaday board that hung in the hallway. Near the end of the year, each of my 5th grade students chose two of their favorite picture books that we had read. I added a few books to cover the black spaces, then we arranged them onto the table and Mod Podged it all together, adding a final coat of epoxy spray paint to the top. It has held up well this year, and my current students love to look at the books on it, and my past students love to come back to visit it!
This is a photo of our classroom wishtree. Last year I had a student named Nola whose favorite book was The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate . Early on in the year, we read Home of the Brave, and Nola said it changed her as a reader. When I got a copy of a Wishtree ARC, I knew Nola would be the next reader after me. After Nola had finished the book, she asked to meet me at a local ice cream place to give me something. That something turned out to be a large wishtree (on poster board) that she had created for my next year’s class. Fast forward to this school year, and both Nola and I were fortunate enough to hear Katherine Applegate speak. During her talk, she asked the audience to make three wishes: one for themselves, one for someone else, and one for the world. I loved that idea so much, that after I read Wishtree to my students, they did just that. The result is our beautiful classroom wishtree that was started for me by Nola, a great reader and an even better kid.
Are you connected with authors online? How do you incorporate authors in your classroom?
I feel so fortunate that my students are able to connect with many authors and illustrators via Twitter and Instagram. Each time we read a book for #classroombookaday , we tweet the author and illustrator with our thoughts about the book. Most times, we get a response by the end of the day, and students are so excited to hear what the authors and illustrators have to say in
reply. Authors and illustrators are incredibly generous people, and many have sent my students book swag such as bookmarks and buttons, as thanks for reading their books. These connections make students feel as if they know the authors personally, and I’d say students are now so much more invested in looking to see if they recognize author or illustrator names on the books we read based on those connections. It’s great to hear them say things like, “When is Ame’s next book coming out?” or “Can you ask Josh to tell us more about the third Lady Pancake and Sir French Toast book?”
Skyping with authors is also something my students love to do. Jarrett Learner read a book (via Skype) with both my 4th and 5th grade classes during World Read Aloud Day, and that was incredible. Later this month my 5th grade students are going to Skype with Diane Magras who wrote The Mad Wolf’s Daughter, and they are very excited about asking her questions about her story.
We’ve also been very fortunate to have authors come talk with the fourth and fifth graders at myschool. Last year Liesl Shurtliff came and spent the morning sharing her writing process and information about her books Rump, Jack and Red. She even gave students a tiny hint about what her next book in the series would be about (and now they can’t wait to read Grump!) This year we had both Abby Cooper and Lindsay Currie come visit in the fall, and Jarrett Lerner stopped by in the spring. It really is incredible; students view these authors as rock stars and are so thrilled when they come talk to them about reading and writing.
Want more inspiration? Check out the other #MGEducators interviews and guests posts!