Literacy Lockers

When I was at the Michigan Reading Association a couple weekends ago, I had the privilege to attend Donalyn Miller’s luncheon and listen to her speak about reading communities.  I’ve known Donalyn for a few years now through Twitter and the Nerdy Book Club, and spend quite a bit of time talking with her when we’re at NCTE/ALAN, but this was the first time I’ve listened to her speak in a formal setting.  Anyway, she brought up an important point that she’s also discussed on Twitter before.  She spoke about how many of our students are dependent readers.  They’re dependent on us as readers because they only make/have time to read during our classes, and they only find books through us or with our help.  She discussed how it’s important for us to help our students become independent readers who will read beyond our classroom walls and find books without our help.

As Donalyn was discussing this, my wheels started turning.  Not long before the MRA conference, Jillian Heise pinned this inspiring picture on Pinterest.  I LOVED the idea of sharing my reading life with my students and decided to copy her idea on my classroom door.  Jillian’s idea has been spreading online and now many of us (teachers/librarians) have been sharing our reading life displays on Twitter.  My students are awed by the amount of books on my door (thankfully I’ve added more since taking this picture), and we started discussing reading and which titles we love.  They started sharing with me and their classmates the titles they’ve read this year and how much they love reading. The psychology/health teacher across the hall liked my reading life door as well and asked how he could create one.  He tweaked this idea for his door and has all of his favorite non-fiction books on display.  (I’ll take a picture soon and update this post with it.)

Reading Life Door

So while I was sitting in Donalyn’s session listening to her talk about dependent readers, I got an idea.  How cool would it be if my students were able to publicly display their reading lives?  Thankfully I can text my principal during the weekend with crazy ideas like this, so I did to get his approval before I posed the idea to my students.  On the Monday after MRA I spoke with my Sophomore Seminar students about the luncheon and the idea of “literacy lockers.”  I asked them how they would feel about taping pictures of book covers on their lockers to display the books they love and recommend or the books they’ve read this school year.  They really liked the idea, but some were concerned about other students ruining them or being the only student who participated.  I assured them that this would be a during class activity and that it wasn’t mandatory.  I took a poll and the majority of my students wanted to participate.

That day I had them write down the titles of books they wanted to put on their lockers.  After tallying up the different books, I started saving book cover images and putting them on PowerPoint slides.  My principal told me to send them to his secretary when I was done so we could print them in color 🙂  One of my students helped cut some of the pictures after school, and during the Friday we did this in class my first group of Sophomore Seminar students helped cut the rest and organize them while other students went in the hall to tape them to their lockers.  The covers have been on their lockers for a few days now and none of them have been ruined by other students (that I know of).  I’m going to present this idea to my YA Lit I and II classes to see if they’d like to participate.  Although this time I might limit the amount of book covers they choose because we used quite a bit of paper… Or I’ll just make the book covers smaller.

After taping their covers, my students came back in the room telling me how much they liked the way it looks.  I hope more students will like this idea and want to do it as well.  Maybe some of the other teachers in my department will present the idea to their students.  Ultimately, I hope these literacy lockers will spark discussion amongst the students in the hall.  It’s my hope that a friend of one of my students will see one of the book covers and ask about the book(s) and if he/she should read it.  I’m hoping more of my boys in class will want to do this now because I’ve only had one boy participate so far.  William Brozo was at MRA and spoke about the importance of every school being proud of its reading culture and making it obvious throughout the school.  This is a small step in that direction, but it’s one that I hope will grow.

I took some pictures of my students’ lockers to share with you.  I realized while putting this post together that I forgot a few of their lockers, so I’ll have to go back and take pictures of those so those students don’t feel left out.  Some of my students share lockers, so I had to make the covers smaller so they could all fit.  Also, I apologize about some of the blurry pictures.  The lighting is poor in our hallway, so I didn’t realize the pictures were blurry when I took them.  I really wish their lockers weren’t orange because I think the covers would stand out much better if they were gray.

Allie & Brandi’s lockers, Ana’s locker, and Ariana’s locker (she spread her covers over to her boyfriend’s locker 🙂 ):

Allie and Brandi's lockersAnna's lockerAriana's locker

Brooke H’s locker, Emma & Lindsey’s lockers, and Hallie’s locker:

Brooke H's lockerEmma & Lindsey's lockersHallie's locker

Hannah B’s locker, Jenna’s locker, and Kaelyn & Hannah M’s locker and Kara’s locker:

Hannah B's lockerJenna's lockerKaelyn & Hannah M's locker and Kara's locker

Katie’s locker, Madi’s locker, and Megan & Marissa’s locker next to Morgan T’s locker:

Katie's lockerMadi's lockerMegan & Marissa's locker next to Morgan T's

Morgan F’s and Shaylyn’s lockers:

Morgan F's lockerShaylyn's locker

Trista’s and Tim’s lockers:

Trista's lockerTim's locker

Cover Excitement Galore!

I had another post idea planned for today until these covers were revealed this week.  I’m so excited about them, I had to share!

Original Post Links:

Where the Stars Still Shine (reveal link + giveaway)
Smoke (reveal link)
Isla and the Happily Ever After (reveal link)

I’ve been eagerly awaiting for the cover reveal of Where the Stars Still Shine for months!  I’m a HUGE fan of Something Like Normal, and after meeting Trish and reading the summary for Where the Stars Still Shine and falling in love with Trish’s writing, I simply can’t wait to read her sophomore release.  (Phew, that was a long sentence…)  And this cover?  SO.  BEAUTIFUL.  Have you ever seen a book cover and feel the need to hang that cover up in a frame on the wall?  No?  Well, this one is worthy of that.

Where the Stars Still Shine

Summary (From Goodreads): Stolen as a child from her large and loving family, and on the run with her mom for more than ten years, Callie has only the barest idea of what normal life might be like. She’s never had a home, never gone to school, and has gotten most of her meals from laundromat vending machines. Her dreams are haunted by memories she’d like to forget completely. But when Callie’s mom is finally arrested for kidnapping her, and Callie’s real dad whisks her back to what would have been her life, in a small town in Florida, Callie must find a way to leave the past behind. She must learn to be part of a family. And she must believe that love–even with someone who seems an improbable choice–is more than just a possibility.

Trish Doller writes incredibly real teens, and this searing story of love, betrayal, and how not to lose your mind will resonate with readers who want their stories gritty and utterly true.

I really like Ellen Hopkins’ covers because they all have a similar look despite not all sharing the same characters, settings, etc.  My copy of Burned is pretty beat up, so I’ll need to buy a fresh new copy before buying a copy of Smoke because I know my students will be all over this when I add it to my classroom library.  The cover is eye catching and slightly unsettling, which I love.

**Note, this summary has Burned spoilers**


Summary (From Goodreads): Pattyn Von Stratten’s father is dead, and Pattyn is on the run. After far too many years of abuse at the hands of her father, and after the tragic loss of her beloved Ethan and their unborn child, Pattyn is desperate for peace. Only her sister Jackie knows what happened that night, but she is stuck at home with their mother, who clings to normalcy by allowing the truth to be covered up by their domineering community leaders. Her father might be finally gone, but without Pattyn, Jackie is desperately isolated. Alone and in disguise, Pattyn starts a new life, but is it even possible to rebuild a life when everything you’ve known has burned to ash and lies seem far safer than the truth?

My students and I simply adore Stephanie Perkins’ stories.  She writes fantastic love stories that are full of swoon, while featuring strong characters and solid settings.  I was expecting that the cover for Isla and the Happily Ever After would be similar to the covers for Anna and the French Kiss and Lola and the Boy Next Door since they’re all companion novels, but I guess I should have expected something different since Penguin is the publisher.  (If you aren’t familiar with this, Penguin has become known from changing cover designs mid-series.)  I have to admit that I really like this new look.  I shared the new covers with my students and the majority of them agreed.  They described the new covers as “dynamic” and “more appealing.”  What do you think?

Isla and the Happily Ever After

Summary (From Goodreads):  From the glittering streets of Manhattan to the moonlit rooftops of Paris, falling in love is easy for hopeless dreamer Isla and introspective artist Josh. But as they begin their senior year in France, Isla and Josh are quickly forced to confront the heartbreaking reality that happily-ever-afters aren’t always forever.

Their romantic journey is skillfully intertwined with those of beloved couples Anna and Étienne and Lola and Cricket, whose paths are destined to collide in a sweeping finale certain to please fans old and new.

Anna and the French Kiss NCLola and the Boy Next Door NC

The Pull of Gravity in Paperback!

I have a special attachment to Gae Polisner’s debut The Pull of Gravity because it’s the first book I read and reviewed on my blog per request.  I was so excited when Gae emailed me to see if I’d review her novel!  Since then we’ve formed a close relationship via email, Twitter, Facebook, etc.  I wrote the teacher’s guide for The Pull of Gravity, I teach it with Of Mice and Men, and love promoting it whenever I get the chance.  It’s such a wonderful book 🙂

The original cover is fantastic and received a positive response from my students.  As happy as I am about the hardcover, I’m thrilled about the paperback!  It’s gender neutral, fun, and really fits the atmosphere and tone of the book.  The hardcover feels a little more serious to me, while the paperback celebrates the lighter and more hopeful elements of the story.  The shade of blue is perfect, the rea-life models against the artwork pops, and I love the addition of the important symbols like the water tower and the open novel.  The cover lets readers know that Nick and Jaycee are going on a journey which the hardcover fails to do.  The think the animated-like artwork opens The Pull of Gravity to a younger audience as well.  It’s very reader-friendly.  What do you think?

The paperback releases February 5th, 2013.  I hope you get yourself a copy! 😀

Here’s the front cover:

Here’s the front and back cover:

Summary (From Goodreads): While Nick Gardner’s family is falling apart, his best friend, Scooter, is dying from a freak disease. The Scoot’s final wish is that Nick and their quirky classmate, Jaycee Amato, deliver a prized first-edition copy of Of Mice and Men to the Scoot’s father. There’s just one problem: the Scoot’s father walked out years ago and hasn’t been heard from since. So, guided by Steinbeck’s life lessons, and with only the vaguest of plans, Nick and Jaycee set off to find him. Characters you’ll want to become friends with and a narrative voice that sparkles with wit make this a truly original coming-of-age story.

Cover Reveal: Entice by Jessica Shirvington

Angels in the paranormal romance genre have been a big hit lately, and this year I was introduced to a new angels series.  A few months ago I read and loved Embrace by Jessica Shirvington, and today I get to reveal the cover for her second book in the series Entice!  You’ll probably notice the cover for Entice has changed quite a bit from Embrace, which Sourcebooks Fire editor Leah Hultenschmidt  explains: “For Entice, we really wanted to have the cover reflect the darker edge of the story and Violet’s toughness.”

I’m excited to catch a glimpse of what lies ahead for Violet:

“Two tutors and three students from the Grigori training center in New York were arriving in two days and I couldn’t be happier.  I was going to be able to learn from the experts and have people my own age to train with, something I really needed.  I was sure with their help I would be able to get over whatever it was that had been holding me back. 

 Griffin had been eagerly awaiting the arrival of the two senior Grigori –the intelligence, resources and backup they could provide was much needed.  The Scripture that can decipher the identity of all Grigori, even those who have not yet embraced and are therefore defenseless, was at stake. 

 I would not stand by and watch it fall into the hands of exiles.  If they found they key to destroying all Grigori and gained the upper hand, the slaughter would not stop until all the humans knelt before them, worshipping them as gods.”

Summary (From the Publisher): Seventeen-year-old Violet Eden’s is back! With a destiny to protect humans from the vengeance of exiled angels it becomes clear that it won’t be easy as even her partner, Lincoln, is hiding something.  And now she has to learn to live with her feelings for him while they work together to stay alive and stop the exiles from discovering the key to destroy all Grigori.  It isn’t easy. Especially when the electricity between her and  Phoenix ignites and she discovers his hold over her has become more dangerous than ever.  Violet’s power will be pushed to the extreme with a race halfway across the world to find the one artifact that could tilt the balance of power between Angels and Exiles.  And the ultimate betrayal will be exposed.

So are you ready for the cover?!  Entice by Jessica Shirvington releases from Sourcebooks Fire on September 4th, 2012.

Exciting Extras!

Check out Jessica’s brand new video blog post where she sits down with a cup of coffee and invites us into her home.  From her favorite chair to her love of befriending characters in a series, Jessica chats with us about her perfect setting for a good read!

You can read the first two chapters of Entice here!

Exciting News!!  Jessica Shirvington will be traveling to the U.S for a two-week national book tour for Entice starting September 18.  Keep an eye on for more details.

Book Covers: What My Freshmen Think

A week ago I posted about what my Y.A. Lit students think of book covers.  The day it posted I received tons of feedback and also passed out a book covers survey to my freshmen to get a broader view.  This time I added two parts to the survey: providing their gender and providing examples of book covers they like.  I polled 43 boys and 34 girls for a total of 77 freshmen.  My post also includes images of some of the covers mentioned in the surveys.

1. What about a book draws your attention the most?

  • Cover design–58%
  • Author/reviewer blurb–3%
  • Summary–39%

2. What kind of cover design do you prefer the most?

  • Models on the cover–25%
  • Objects/scenes related to the story–75%

**Note–This was the same in my Y.A. Lit class**

3. What kind of color combination draws you the most?

“There isn’t really a color combination that draws me in more than others.”

“Red and black”

“Bright colors”

“Red mixed with black and white”

“Bright and dark in one”

“Pink, purple, blue–cute colors”

“Green and yellow”

“Orange and blue”

“Neon or 1 or 2 solid colors and an all caps, stencil, huge title.”

“I really don’t care, but if it has fun colors it will catch my attention.”

“It doesn’t matter, I pretty much read what you say is good.”

4. Is font style & placement important to you? Explain.

  • Yes–40%
  • No–60%

“Bold and artistic to draw me in to see what the title is.”

“Not really. It’s more about what it says than the font or placement.”

“I like it when the font is popped out and in your face.”

“Not really, it really depends on what’s between the covers.”

“The author’s name should be at the bottom.”

“Not really because I’m going to read the title no matter what.”

I Hunt Killers is a good example when font matters.”

5. Would you feel comfortable reading a book w/a gender-specific feel to it? (Guys reading a book w/a “girly” cover.)

  • Yes–65%
  • No–35%

“Not really, unless somebody points it out (multiple times).” –Male

“I don’t care as long as it’s a good book.” –Male

“Yeah, as long as it’s not hardcore manly.” –Female

6. Do you prefer to see the character’s “face” or would you rather imagine the character on your own?

  • See the character’s face–34%
  • Use your imagination–66%

“Seeing the face ruins the book for me.”

“Seeing their face is easier, but imagining them is more fun so either one.”

“I do sometimes. I really like the models on the covers of Wither and Fever.”

7. If possible, please provide some examples of covers that you like and why.

Divergent–The symbol looks to be on fire, and it is connected to the story.”

Bad Girls Don’t Die, Maximum Ride: The Angel Experiment, If I Stay, Where She Went, Night World.  All of these books have interesting covers.”

“I like the cover for Stupid Fast because it looks like he’s alone; it makes you wonder.”

Payback Time because it’s about sports.”

Epic Fail–It’s cute and fun.  Catching Jordan–It kind of explains the book.”

The Hunger Games–Looks tough and serious.  Shiver–Draws my attention.”

“Anything by Simone Elkeles. Hers have models and they really interest me.  I like covers that look romantic.”

Fracture, The Hunger Games, and Living Dead Girl because they leave you with questions.”

Other Words for Love because it’s cute.”

Split and Crescendo

Catching Jordan–Cute and pops”

The Pull of Gravity because I like the colors and how you can see the characters, but everything’s sort of muted.”

“I like the cover for I Hunt Killers because it catches my attention.  I also like the cover for Trapped because it helps me visualize the school they were trapped in.”

Forever by Judy Blume and Boy Meets Boy because Forever is girly and I like the colors in Boy Meets Boy.”

House of  Night, The Mortal Instruments, Hush, Hush, stuff like that.  I like that the models aren’t too detailed but enough to get an image of the character.”

“I like the cover for Across the Universe because there are people but not faces; it’s mysterious.”

Boy 21, Paranoid Park, and I Hunt Killers because they just stick out or have the character on it.  They let you picture something while staying mysterious.”

The House of Night series: This is because they show the main character’s unique tattoos.”

Divergent–very bold”

Insurgent because it makes me wonder why there is a tree with a circle around it.”

“The cover for Hold Still is good because even though it shows the girl, it also briefly tells the story just by looking at it.”

Book Covers: What My Students Think

We’re not supposed to judge a book by its cover (or so the saying goes), but when we’re honest with ourselves many of us admit to it.  I’ll admit that I’ve avoided books because of covers and I’ve pined over books because of covers.  My students do exactly the same.  I also know that my students are sensitive to gender specific covers and will turn books away because of them.

Covers are discussed often in my classes, especially my Y.A. Lit class.  I often pull up the cover features from Stacked during these discussions so we can have a broader or more specific conversation.  Because of this I decided to create a short cover survey for my Y.A. Lit students.  Only 24 students participated, the majority of which are girls.  I know this isn’t a very large poll, so I plan on using this survey again with more students.

1. What about a book draws your attention the most?

  • Cover design–58%
  • Author/reviewer blurb–0%
  • Summary–42%

2. What kind of cover design do you prefer the most?

  • Models on the cover–25%
  • Objects/scenes related to the story–75%

3. What kind of color combination draws you the most?

“Dark and an object that’s bright and vice-versa.”
“Reds, pinks”
“Pink, red, purple, girly covers”
“Bright warm colors”
“Bright colors against soft colors”
“Dark colors”
“It depends on the book, but I’d say dark and mysterious.”
“Smoky colors–blues and grays”
“Dark with colors that pop out and grab your attention.”

4. Is font style & placement important to you? Explain.

  • Yes–58%
  • No–42%

“If I like the font, I’ll probably be more likely to read it.”
“Not really, as long as the plot is good then I don’t care.”
“Yes, it should match the book in my mind.  A scary book should have a darker style for it.  A girly book should have a girly font.”
“Yes, it gives you hints to the feel or even formatting of the book.”
“The placement is important. Like on Looking for Alaska, I didn’t like how the title was at the bottom in small letters, and the author’s name was in big letters at the top.” (Note–Our books have this cover.)

5. Would you feel comfortable reading a book w/a gender-specific feel to it? (Guys reading a book w/a “girly” cover.)

  • Yes–67%
  • No–33%

“Yes, I would actually enjoy it since I prefer hanging out with guys anyway.”
“I probably wouldn’t pick it out by myself, but if it’s a good story I wouldn’t mind.”

6. Do you prefer to see the character’s “face” or would you rather imagine the character on your own?

  • See the character’s face–25%
  • Use your imagination–75%

“Even if I see their ‘face’ on the cover I imagine them my own way when I read and sometimes will compare the two.”
“I’d rather imagine the character, but parts of their body or their back is interesting too.”
“I don’t want to see the face because I want to picture the character on how I want him/her to look.  Usually if I see the character’s face I’ll be disappointed because that would not look how I would picture him/her.”

Judging Books By Their Covers: 10 Deceptive Covers

I try not to judge books by their covers, but I do more than I probably should.  Thankfully now that I’m blogging and active on Twitter and Goodreads, I’m reading far more reviews than I ever have before which has helped me look past covers.  When it comes to covers, I’ve found that I’m much more judgmental about them when I’m thinking about my students and what will draw their attention.  For these reasons I really like this Top 1o Tuesday prompt because it’s giving me a chance to narrow down the most deceptive covers.  When I put this list together, I thought about books that I was hesitant to read because of the cover, books that I wish were better suited for their audience, and books that give the wrong impression about the topic.

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by The Broke and The Bookish.

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins (Goodreads): I’m a HUGE fan of this trilogy, but when I first heard about The Hunger Games at the MCTE (Michigan Council of Teachers of English) conference I was hesitant to jump on the bandwagon.  My friend and I stopped at a book store after the conference to check out some books and I passed up The Hunger Games because the cover looked boring.  Thankfully I looked past my judgment and read it.  I appreciate the cover now 🙂

Tris & Izzie by Mette Ivie Harrison (Goodreads): This cover is gorgeous!  And it ends there.  I saw this cover and thought it was going to be a romantic, gushy book.  I couldn’t have been more wrong.  Besides the fact that this is one of the worst books I’ve ever read, the cover and the plot don’t mesh AT ALL.

Tempest by Julie Cross (Goodreads): There are two issues I have with this cover.  The first one is that I thought this was a book about fallen angels or something when I first looked at the cover.  The characters are in the sky, one is falling, the other is reaching, it screams paranormal love story to me.  I never would have guessed it’s about time travel.  I definitely wouldn’t have guessed that a guy is narrating the story.  That’s my second issue.  I can’t stand it when perfectly good books with guy appeal are given girly covers.

I Know It’s Over by C.K. Kelly Martin (Goodreads): Both the hardcover and the paperback cover for this book are deceptive.  It’s obvious judging by both covers that Martin’s novel deals with a relationship.  I’m not sure who the audience is though.  Both covers are more appealing to girls than guys, but our narrator has an incredibly authentic male voice.  I really think guys would enjoy and relate to this book, but I don’t see any of my boys in class borrowing my copy.  I talked it up all over the place to grab the guys’ interest, but only the girls are borrowing it.

I Know It's Over Paperback Hardcover I Know It's Over

Cryer’s Cross by Lisa McMann (Goodreads):  Cryer’s Cross is a really cool book full of creepiness.  The original cover fits the mood perfectly with the desk and the creepy handwriting.  I am not thrilled with the paperback cover at all.  Romance is not a big focus in Cryer’s Cross, but this cover gives the impression that it is.  The mystery involved in the story isn’t represented in this cover either.

Hardcover Cryer's Cross Cryer's Cross Paperback

Breathing Underwater by Alex Flinn (Goodreads): I love this book, and I love teaching it in my Y.A. Lit class.  One of the main reasons I’m such a big fan is because it’s almost always a winner for my reluctant male readers.  Admittedly, many of my students tell me that they would never pick this one up based on the original cover, but once we start reading it they really appreciate the cover.  When the paperback was released I showed my students to get their opinions.  For the most part they don’t care for it.  Their reasons match my own.  This cover says nothing about the book and the abuse that goes on.  The models don’t exactly look like they’re in love, but Nick’s anger isn’t represented.

Breathing Underwater Original Cover Paperback Breathing Underwater

The Earth, My Butt and Other Big Round Things by Carolyn Mackler (Goodreads): Something about this cover leaves me with the impression that it’s girly and upbeat.  Maybe it’s the pink.  Maybe it’s the hip jutted out to the side.  The problem with this is that this is not an upbeat book.  Virginia is battling some heavy issues (no pun intended).  She has very low self-esteem, her brother has been accused of something horrible, and her family is falling apart.  It’s a good book, but the cover needs to look more serious to fit the tone of the book.

Tell Me a Secret by Holly Cupula (Goodreads): Tell Me a Secret is an unputdownable book.  It deals with serious issues and broke my heart at the same time that it left me feeling hopeful.  I think the cover gives the impression that it’s a serious book, but it looks like it’s about a romantic relationship.  There really isn’t any romance to speak of.  Tell Me a Secret deals with Miranda’s sister’s death, Miranda’s pregnancy, and problems with Miranda and her parents.

But I Love Him by Amanda Grace (Goodreads): But I Love Him is another unputdownable book.  The cover, while being dark, doesn’t strike me as serious as the topic is.  The sea glass heart looks a little too friendly to represent a book about a broken and abusive relationship, but this heart is on the cover because of the symbol it represents within the story.

When You Were Mine by Rebecca Serle (Goodreads): I haven’t finished reading When You Were Mine yet, but I’ve read enough to wish that the cover was different.  It’s a different spin on Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet, so we know it’s a love story and we get that impression from the cover.  I’m just not a fan of covers like this because it doesn’t give us any other information about the book.  It looks like any other love story out there, but based on the premise of this book it should have a cover with more personality or more of a story.

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