Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Summer Reading Time!

Even though I am no longer in the classroom, I still love the feel of May and the end of the school year.  (I’ve never been able to really think of the “new year” as January 1st.  As a teacher, your year runs from August-May.) Summer is the time for thinking and creating.  It always took me about 2-3 weeks to allow my mind to unwind from the school year. Around the end of June or early July, though, I would start thinking about how I wanted to do things the following year, collecting storage containers, organizing files, making learning centers, and all of the things that spark our creativity as teachers.  

Summer was also the time that I would READ….a lot.  So, in the spirit of the summer reading splurge, I thought I would give a few recommendations to my teacher/educator friends out there who want to dive into some reading this summer.

Get reacquainted with your local library.  Yep...Amazon has nothing on your public library.  You can get audio books, print books, and best of all access to databases with thousands of magazines and journals. For FREE!  I access just about any professional journal I want to on these databases.  Also...many libraries weed their books and magazines each year (around December).  Often, they will let you have some of them if you ask.  I used to put my name on a list to get certain magazines once they were out of date.  It helped me build up a classroom supply of reading materials that the kids loved and provided a library of mentor texts.  Besides all of that, libraries are pretty amazing places. Go check it out.

Read outside your realm.  One of the best pieces of advice I was ever given was to read outside of my field.  Now, don’t get me wrong, my bookshelf is piled with professional books about education, literacy, and coaching. However, I have heeded that advice over the years, particularly with magazines. My husband and I travel frequently, and it seems that the airport convenience stores have a more varied selection of magazines than a typical grocery store. Some of my favorites to stock up on are Forbes, Popular Science, MIT Technology Review, Wired, The Economist, Entrepreneur, The New Yorker.  I have also found some great articles in Spirit magazine-the Southwest Airlines publication.  One aspect of creativity is to connect seemingly unlike things.  When I read outside of my field, I always read with a lens of “How does this relate?”  It’s the same thing that we do as teachers every time we read a book--”How could I use this in a lesson?”

Try different modes of reading.  There are so many options for how you can access a book now that it is almost sinful not to try them all. Print, digital, and audio all offer unique benefits that should be explored.  While there are those that are hard-core print enthusiasts, I have found….as with most things….different modes offer different experiences.  I like to read certain kinds of books in certain ways. Here are my two cents on the different vehicles for books:

Audio-I have to say...I love audio books. I always have. Even as a kid, I preferred listening to books with records.  However, I have learned a few things about audio books over the years.  (1) They are convenient. I usually listen to a book as I am getting dressed in the mornings or when I am going to be in the car for a while. (2) The narrator matters...A LOT.  I listen to both fiction and nonfiction on audio. With fiction, the actors have to be good.  I have not found that to be as big of an issue with fiction as it is with nonfiction.  With nonfiction, the narrator can be great or terrible. I haven’t found many that are in between.  If it is an autobiography, I prefer the person who wrote it to read it, but that doesn’t always happen.  I also listen to a lot of professional readings, but if they are really interesting, I buy the printed copy so that I can take notes and highlight. If you haven’t tried audio, give it a whirl.  Apps like Audible are connected to your Amazon account, but many libraries also use Overdrive and allow you to download audio books for free.

Print--There sometimes is no substitute for paper.  I prefer to buy professional books related to education in either print or e-book form because I like to highlight, write, and take notes on how I might use different things as I develop trainings and lessons.  Sometimes there are features in a text that are just better to see in print. Children’s books are also a paper MUST for me.  There is so much art that is put into the pictures and placement of text in a children’s picture book that I just feel like I lose some of that if I don’t have it in print.

E-books-For travel, convenience, and space...nothing beats e-books.  I’m admittedly a very impatient person, so the instant download and access of an e-book is gratifying to me.  It is also nice when I am in a meeting or hear of a new book to just click and download.  The other nice thing is the highlights feature in Kindle.  I can just click on that and see all of the things I have highlighted.  Probably the best part of e-books is the fact that I can adjust the print size!

So, I hope these tips will give you some ideas for summer reading. I would love to hear your tips, too!