Thursday, July 17, 2014

the power of great literature

One of my former students called me yesterday, Cierra, and FYI - the comments on the side of this picture are worth reading, all the way down to my "touché"

click to see this bigger!
She's one of maybe five kids who have access to my personal facebook account. I have another profile for students (which I'm hoping most of them will migrate over to my new facebook page for BigTime Literacy).

Anyways, Cierra called me yesterday. She's going to be a senior this year and has her heart set on Howard University. She'll get there, I know it! In an effort to save up, just this week she has started two jobs...cashier at Target and working at Oberweis. Talk about hard-working!

So we get to talking about a lot of things - her jobs, whether or not kids working hard in school is a matter of mindset, race, or income level, and eventually, talking about when she was in class with me.

When I had her, I only taught one section of reading, and so did all the other teachers on my team. When we got to the Holocaust in eighth grade, each of the teachers taught a different novel and we mixed up all our classes to do so. I ended up with Anne Frank and a group of kids who wanted to read it...some really read their Just Right books every night, others, not so much.

Cierra had remembered some of the kids who were in that class, and during our conversation yesterday she commented, "Everyone read that book, Ms. Brezek. Even S. We did our homework at lunch, but we always ended up talking about that book."

She didn't go on with many more details, but it just made me think about the how powerful great literature can be, if it is set up in a purposeful way. Kelly Gallagher reminds us that when teaching novels, we have to find that "Sweet Spot," meaning we can't do a chop-chop curriculum where we dissect the book so much that kids can't find a reading flow, and we also can't underteach it, where we set kids off to read a book without first setting purpose for them.

I guess, by way of that comment, I had found the Sweet Spot with them and Anne Frank, and that makes me so happy that I actually have goosebumps right now!

If you are a middle or high school teacher, Readicide should be required reading. It's a quick read and filled with tons of easy ways to help kids learn to love reading.

Have you heard from any of your former kiddos this summer? What did they have to say?


  1. What a great interaction! With my own children I worry about talking too much or not enough about books that they are reading. Perhaps I should check out Readicide...

  2. I did hear from one of my former students! I got a surprise email from a student who is now going into sophomore year of high school. He wanted to know if I remembered him. :) I always laugh at that. Like I could ever forget one of them! :)

  3. I love this about Gallagher. When I attended his workshop, he told us no novel study should last longer than 2 weeks. This is SO FAR from the reality I experienced last year where one novel study dragged on for TWO MONTHS. They blame it on Common Core and close reading, but I wanted to scream at them about how they were missing the whole point. Even I wanted to poke my eyes out!

    To answer your questions, I'm in constant contact with several former students, and actually had two lunch dates this past week with some and have more scheduled for next week. It makes my heart SO happy to catch up with them and be able to cheer them on from the sidelines!


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