Monday, September 4, 2017

Summer Reading List 2017

Jason Reynolds (SWOON)

Today, Labor Day, marks the end of summer....

This summer, I traveled to seven different places, and only one of the trips was for pleasure. However, from the time that school ended which was June 23rd until today, labor day, I read almost fourteen books. (One of the books I could not finish.)

Reading is a habit that I have developed, and you know how hard it is to break habits. I do read for pleasure, but I also read with the idea of what books can I introduce to my students and fellow educators. Being a high school teacher and a literature consultant, I need to make sure that I read all of the time so that I can rattle books off the top of my head when it’s needed. So, I make the time.

Now, the time is not always in big chunks. Mostly, I fit it in when I can: waiting for an appointment, on a plane, while waiting on my food in a restaurant etc. You feeling me? You don’t need a lot of time to read; you can fit it in whenever you can.

I love to read, because it causes me to focus and think. Yes, it helps me to focus. Whenever my thoughts are out of control, I sit down with a book, and my thoughts settle down. When I read a book like Homegoing, by Yaa Gyasi, with lots of characters and a complex plot, I can only focus on that book, and oh, how I love, at times, to be transported to another time and place.

I also love reading because it gives me insight into people, and I just love folks' stories. My empathy meter is to the roof, and that’s mainly because of books.

For my summer reading, I decided to attempt to read all five books that were on Bill Gates’s recommendations for summer reading. I finished two of the books, Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance and A Full Life by Jimmy Carter, before school got out. However, the other three were part of my summer reading. The other books that I read this summer mostly came from people’s recommendations.

Here is my summer reading list:

1. Born A Crime by Trevor Noah. (Bill Gates’ list) I can’t even began to explain how this book spoke to my heart, and gave me a lot to think about such as systematic racism and how it seems to exist everywhere. You know, I thought about the idea that some folks just need a helping hand. I will definitely be sharing this one with my students. This would be great to use in a Coming of Age Unit or Identity Unit.



2. The Heart by Maylis de Kerangal. (Bill Gate’s list) This books is a fictional look at what could happen to families when they are faced with the decision of organ donation. One family’s tragedy can end up being another family’s joy. This is a story that will be with me for awhile.



3. Homo Deus by Yuval Noah Harari. (Bill Gate’s list) I tried... I tried... I really tried, but I just could not finish this book. Wordy and DEEP. However, I did get a few things from this books such as we keep trying to change the students by giving them medications, but why don’t we change the schools.


4. My Grandfather Would Have Shot Me by Jennifer Teege. I am so happy that Jennifer wrote this book. Such a great look at a woman grappling with her issues by looking into her past. I know that I am still coming of age, and it’s good to know that I am not the only grown woman who is coming of age.


5. The Storyteller by Jodi Picoult. At an Advance Placement Institute, a participate mentioned this book to me, and you should have seen the joy on her face when she talked about it. When I returned home from the Institute, she sent me an email to remind me to read the book, and I am happy that I did. This book tells a very complex story of what could have happened during the holocaust, and she brings the story to the present day. I can see doing a unit on Genocide and including this book and My Grandfather Would Have Shot Me along with some other books.


6. Piecing Me Together by Renee Watson. I picked up this book at the International Literacy Conference this summer, AND it was ALL OVER twitter. So, I read it, and it is incredible. This book is about a girl who is faced with the challenge of being courageous. I absolutely love the message of facing our issues instead of turning away from them.


7. Some Possible Solutions by Helen Philips. So, I was in St. Louis, and I finished the book that I was reading on the plane ride to St. Louis, and my digital reader was dead, and I forgot the charger. Y’all, I must have something to read at all times. So, I found a quaint bookstore in a very swanky neighborhood. I told the bookseller that I would like to read his favorite book, and he picked up this book. Great, collection of short stories that I thoroughly enjoyed.


8. Reading In the Wild by Donalyn Miller. My fellow, literature teachers, READ THIS BOOK! One of my many teaching bibles for sure.


9. Wonder by R.J. Palacio. Several people told me to read this book, and it is wonderful. Such a great book to teach empathy and strength. I have copies in my classroom, and I am going to use it to remind my students and myself to always, always, go with radical kindness.




10. Miles Morales by Jason Reynolds. Y’all know that I love Jason Reynolds and his writings. This book does not disappoint. I did not know that there was a Black/Hispanic spider man.... There are going to be some super excited children of color excited about this one.  LOVE, LOVE this book!


11. Solo by Kwame Alexander. Kwame did it again. This is an incredible book that is written in verse like many of Kwame's books. The protagonist is RICH and Black and lovable. I was deeply moved by this charming story.


12. What We Lose by Zinzi Clemmons. This book was Well-Read Black Girl book club selection for August. This book deals with grief in the most beautiful way. I love the writing style and the storyline.... completely, beautiful story.


13. Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi. Y’all this book is everything that you could possible ask for in a good story: suspense, love, endurance, love, suffering, love, LOVE! I love this book soooooo much. Cleverly written and every character is delightful!


14. Holding Up The Universe by Jennifer Niven. At the end the school year, one of my students gave me this book with the most moving letter. I purposefully read this book right before school started so that I could talk to her about it. It is a beautiful story that reminded me that teenagers need a whole lot of Grace and Mercy.


What a wonderful summer full of wonderful books.....

Soon and very soon, I will be starting the 10 to 40 book challenge with my students. I am encouraging them, myself, and you to read between 10 to 40 books between September and June.

Join us if you dare!

Monday, August 7, 2017

Jason Reynolds and Gareth Hinds

So, this happened this weekend.....


Jason Reynolds Y’all! AND, he signed My copy of his novel, Miles Morales!

The added bonus is that Gareth Hinds, the guy who does the graphic novel adaptations of many of the classic novels, was also in the house.


Sometimes, My Blessings come in pairs!!!!!!!!

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

10 to 40 Book Challenge!



Whirlwind School Year; What a Ride!

School year 2015 -2016, I was ready to throw in the towel. I was sooooo done with teaching; I was bored to death. If I was bored, can you imagine how my students were feeling?? Teaching one book at a time is boring.....I had been doing that since I started teaching, and I knew that I needed to do something differently.

I began to read and read and talk to folks, and someone told me about Donalyn’s Miller book The Book Whispers. Donayln’s book helped me to “Go Back To Love.” I decide to take my love and passion for books into the classroom, AND school year 2016 -2017 was the best school year that I have EVER had.

I gave up control, talked abouts books every single day, turned my students on to the power of words, gave my students complete choice in what they could read, and My, Oh My!

I read 46 books this school year and my students read tons of books as well....

Here are the books that I read this school year:

01. All American Boys by Jason Reynolds. Completely awesome. It was our common text second quarter, and I allowed the students to read it at their own pace. No more trying to keep the whole class together stuff. That does not work....



02. The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri. This book was recommended to me by a student. Not my favorite book; I had a strong dislike for the main character. However, my empathy grew for his story and the many different immigrants stories.

03. X by Ilyasah Shabazz and Kekla Magoon. I found this book to be boring, but it can definitely be used to introduce students to Malcolm X.



04. Drowned City by Don Brown. This was our required book for first quarter. INCREDIBLE look at Hurricane Katrina. You know, many high school students were very young when this horrific event took place. Great way to introduce them to a part of American history.



05. Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri. This is a collection of short stories. Loved every one of them. I read this book, because a student said that I MUST.

06. Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison. This is the one book that I read once a year, and I teach it with my whole heart. It is the blueprint for my entire AP class.

07. The Reading Zone by Nancie Atwell. If you want to know more about taking love back into your classroom, read this book.



08. Draw the Circle by Mark Batterson. If you are believing God for ANYTHING. This is the book for you.

09. Write Beside Them by Penny Kittle. Good book about how to introduce writing into your classroom.



10. The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander. Life altering book. My people, we got to take a closer look at our justice system and work to reform it. MUST READ FOR EVERYBODY!!!!

11. Stitches by David Small. This is an adult graphic novel that I thoroughly enjoyed. Young adults would enjoy it. However, because of the content, you may want to read it first.


12. God Help the Child by Toni Morrison. Quick read but intense and lovely. Toni Morrison can write. AND one of the main character’s name is Booker as in Booker T. Washington. (SWOON)

13. All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr. INCREDIBLE.... Read this book and grow.

14. As Brave As You by Jason Reynolds. The most loving book that shows the love between Black men and boys.


15. Life is Short But Wide by J. California Cooper. This was a reread, and it is all about love. J. California Cooper can WRITE. THAT IS ALL!!!

16. Everyday by David Levithan. I was not fond of this book. But, teenagers love this book for some reason.


17. The Power of Now by Eckhardt Tolle. One of the Best Books Ever. I have read it so many times over the past twenty years. Right now is all we have... Be Present In It.

18. The Boy in the Black Suit by Jason Reynolds. I love the way that Jason Reynolds treats delicate situations. Great book about coping.


19. The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman. You need to know your love language.



20. The Five Love Languages: Singles Edition by Gary Chapman. I repeat. YOU NEED TO KNOW YOUR LOVE LANGUAGE.

21. Bud, Not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis. The most delightful book. I heard that 5th graders read this book. It’s so delightful, I think that almost anyone can appreciate this book at any age.


22. Pushout by Monique W. Morris. If you work with Black girls. READ THIS BOOK!


23. Despite the Best Intentions by Amanda E. Lewis and John. B. Diamonds. If you want to understand how systematic racism plays out in schools, this is the book for you.


24. We Should All Be Feminist by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. I read this as the Women’s march was approaching. Thought provoking and a quick read.


25. Another Brooklyn by Jacqueline Woodson. Incredible book about the complexity of women's relationships.


26. Think and Grow Rich: A Black Choice by Dennis Kimbro and Napoleon Hill. GAME CHANGER. It needs to be read and read and reread.

27. Garvey’s Choice by Nikki Grimes. This book evoked so many emotions in me. I will share it with as many students as possible.


28. Swing Time by Zadie Smith. Incredible, Incredible. Life is complex y’all.


29. Tell Me How Long the Train’s Been Gone by James Baldwin. James Baldwin just gets it right. This book reads like it could have been written now, but it wasn’t.


30. Ghost by Jason Reynolds. Love LOVE LOVE.... LOVE! The characters and storyline.. LOVE LOVE LOVE!


31. American Street by Ibi Zoboi. Immigrants in Detroit... Thought provoking story that I will never forget and will read over and over again.


32. "Multiplication is for White People” by Lisa Delpit. If you work with children of color, read this book.

33. When I Was The Greatest by Jason Reynolds. This book is the greatest. I had so many thoughts and feelings after reading this book. I even ran upstairs to get a student out of another class to talk about this book.


34. The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas. This book came out of the Black Lives Matter Movement. I was not feeling this book; I like more character development. However, I had some students to really like it.


35. Black Like Me by John Howard Griffin. A close look at how folks just simply don’t like Black people because of their skin. That is all... OUR SKIN.

36. The Pearl That Broke Its Shell by Nadia Hashimi. All that I can say is incredible.


37. Caucasia by Danzy Senna. There is nothing not to like about this book.

38. The Coming by Daniel Black. The most beautiful slavery narrative ever told.

39. This is how you Lose Her by Junot Diaz. This is an incredible collection of short stories....Add this to your diversity list. Junot Diaz is a Dominican, American writer.


40. A Shepherd Looks at Psalms by W. Phillip Keller. This book showed up at the right time. It was my book club’s selection.

41. Hallelujah Anyway by Anne Lamont. Grace and Mercy.... Grace and Mercy... This was a great reminder of the importance of Grace and Mercy.

42. Friday Night Lights by H.G. Bissinger. My students read and loved it, and so I gave it a try. Very informative and engaging... Must Read.


43. Culturally Responsive Teaching and The Brain by Zaretta Hammond. Every teacher MUST read this book. It gives practical strategies that can be implemented right away.


44. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood. I love this book more than I can say. Oh, to be a woman.


45. Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance. Eyeopening. Engaging. Thought provoking....


46. A Full Life by Jimmy Carter. Completely boring, but President Jimmy Carter is a GOOD MAN.


Y’all, school has been out for almost two weeks, and I thought that I would include the one book that I have read so far during my summer break: My Grandfather Would Have Shot Me by Jennifer Teege. This is a great story of a grown woman coming of age. Yep, I think we come of age until we die.


It’s funny how books evoke emotions, and just going back over this list, I was transported right back to where I was when I read each book.

If you are feeling kinda blah in any area of your life, I want to encourage you to go back to love... Completely emerge yourself in whatever you love or use to love and “Go Back to Love.”

For all of my literature teachers reading this, you have to be a resource for your students, and just reading during the summer is not enough... You got to read, read, read.... and help students to become readers and GROW!

Happy Summer Y’all!

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

It’s Been SIX YEARS!


Some people vividly remember what they were doing the day that Dr. King was killed, or what they were doing when O’Jay Simpson was in the ‘get away’ car, or the day that they got married, or graduated from college... You following me?

Well, I vividly remember the very first day that I showed up to start personal training with The Greatest Trainer in the World, Berhane....


His location at that time was not near my house at all, and with the DC traffic, I left home EARLY to make sure that I was on time. I got there, and he talked to me, and assured me that he could help me reach me health goals. Because I was working out, and I thought that I was doing OK with my diet, I was shocked when I saw what I weighed and my high body fat completely shocked me.

However, Berhane assured me that he could help me reach my health goals, and the rest is history....

Now, if you know me or if you only know me through this blog, when I start something, I am fully committed, or I am not. Either I am in, or I am not. After meeting Berhane, I made a decision to fully commit to my health which means that I think about every single thing that I put in my mouth, and I exercise even when I do not feel like it and most of the time I don’t feel like it.


Now, like a lot of folks, I get off track...

Back in September when school started back, I was still in summer mode. Therefore, I was not prepping my meals, eating far to many peanuts, drinking a few too many glasses of wine, and lo and behold, Berhane checked my weight and body fat, and that was the reality check that I needed to get back on track.

True to Berhane style, he talked to me about my diet and talked to me about health and being vigilant. That very day, I went home and started back meal prepping, stopped drinking wine, and my weight and body fat positively responded.

I know all types of people, and Berhane is the most consistent people whom I know: he works out himself religiously, eat foods that are good for his body all of the time, does not drink alcohol, consistently kicks my butt, and always tells me the truth. I am happy that I have him in my life forever. (Folks Need Other Folks!)


I am not sure where you are on your journey, but if you are in your forties, I hope that you are aware that our bodies need good care to carry us into old age, and if you are under forty, please, please, please don’t take your health for granted. You are never to young to focus on your health.

Y’all, I love this journey with my whole heart, and I never take for granted the blessing of taking this journey with The Greatest Personal Trainer in the Whole Wide World, Berhane!

Yes, it’s been six years, and we have ninety-nine more to go....



You can reach Berhane at BT fitness.

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