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    • Children's & YA Literature

    Friends and Families

    Barbara A. Ward
     | Jun 17, 2019

    Books that focus on friends and families are popular with young readers, possibly because they remind them of their own supportive networks. The books in this list illustrate the positive power of community. 

    Ages 4–8

    The Lost Sloths (Peter & Ernesto #2). Graham Annable. 2019. First Second/Roaring Brook.

    The Lost SlothsReturning to the same characters and territory featured in Peter & Ernesto: A Tale of Two Sloths (2018), Graham Annable follows Peter and Ernesto and their sloth friends as they search for a new home after their favorite tree is destroyed in a hurricane. Their requirements are simple; they want to be safe from predators and relax in comfort. They try various spots, but nothing seems ideal. After a bird suggests a perfect tree near the river, the sloths blunder toward where they think it might be. Eventually, they find a new home, but their journey is not without its challenges, including an encounter with a jaguar. As they settle into their leafy home, it’s not clear how long this new living situation will last, but they’re all safe for now. Annable tells this humorous adventure story for beginning readers through dialogue balloons in colorful graphic novel panels.

    Make a Wish, Henry Bear. Liam Francis Walsh. 2019. Neal Porter/Roaring Brook.

    Make a Wish, Henry BearAlthough Henry Bear’s birthday wish from last year came true, it hasn’t turned out well. Having permissive parents has resulted in a steady diet of chocolate cake, late night hours, and tardiness to school. Henry is sick of his parents’ behavior and ready to go back to normal as he reveals to Marjani, a new classmate. When he invites her to his birthday celebration, she brings him a cupcake with a candle for wishing, which comes in handy since Henry's parents are serving only candy, not a traditional birthday cake with candles. The colorful mixed-media cartoon artwork features charming village street scenes and humorously depicts Henry Bear’s parents behaving like children. By the end of the book, it’s clear what Henry’s new birthday wish will be.

    Old Man of the Sea. Stella Elia. Ill. Weberson Santiago. 2019. Lantana.

    Old Man of the SeaIn this picture book, a young boy and his grandfather grow closer through storytelling. Grandpa’s tales of adventures at sea, as he fell in love with one continent after another, thrill the boy and make him eager for his own adventures. Although the stories and illustrations, created with watercolor and finished digitally, are exciting and charming in their own way, the book gains power from the boy's observations about his grandfather’s increasing frailty and growing understanding of his advice about life, calling it “a sailor's knot: simple, resistant and easy to untie.” Youngsters will relate to the idea of listening to someone else’s stories and dreaming of their own adventures. Older readers may ponder over how elderly people look back on their life journeys, knowing that there isn’t much time left for future stories.

    A Squirrely Situation (Calpurnia Tate, Girl Vet # 5). Jacqueline Kelly. Ill. Jennifer L. Meyer. 2019. Henry Holt/Macmillan.

    A Squirrelly SituationWhen Callie Vee’s brother Travis brings home an orphaned baby squirrel, the whole household is disrupted by its arrival. Fortunately, the family cat, Idabelle, nurses the squirrel (named Fluffy by Travis) alongside her kitten, Thud. Thud and Fluffy wreak havoc in the kitchen getting in the way of the family’s cook, Viola. Callie puts her veterinary skills to use when Fluffy's tail needs surgery after an accident with a door. When a contest is held at the local fair to determine who killed the most squirrels and who has bagged the biggest squirrel, Travis enters Fluffy in the biggest squirrel category since there is nothing in the rules that says the squirrel must be dead. Life lessons are woven in among humorous childhood adventures in rural Texas at the turn of the century in this engaging, illustrated chapter book.

    Ages 9–11

    Battle of Champions (Peasprout Chen #2). Henry Lien. 2019. Henry Holt/Macmillan.

    Battle of the ChampionsIn her second year at the Pearl Famous Academy of Skate and Sword, Peasprout Chen is determined to make the most of her opportunities. Her friendship with Doi, her former adversary, is on firm footing, and she continues to have romantic feelings toward Doi’s brother, Hisashi. When Hisahi arrives in Pearl with Yinmei, the heir to the Shinian throne, who is seeking asylum in Pearl, things get complicated. Peasprout, jealous of the possible relationship between the two, doesn’t trust the girl. As her new homeland faces attacks, Peasprout and the other students are sorted in battlebands to practice competitive skating and defensive maneuvers. Even though she becomes captain of her group, Peasprout struggles with making decisions and dealing with self-pride and impulsivity. Amid the exciting skating and battle scenes, Peasprout realizes her character weaknesses and how she has hurt others. Because of all the intrigue and layers of betrayal, readers won’t want to leave Peasprout’s world.

    The Epic Story (Cilla Lee-Jenkins #3) . Susan Tan. Ill. Dana Wulfekotte. 2019. Roaring Brook.

    The Epic StoryBecause she views the world through the lens of a writer, Cilla Lee-Jenkins provides readers with a unique perspective on life. The challenges she faces as part of a mixed-race family and as a preteen are relatable. Having already written a “bestseller” and a “classic,” Cilla decides to write an epic, an apt choice since her fifth-grade year has the types of challenges that might be found in one. Cilla feels unsure about transitioning to middle school, doesn't get along with her teacher, Ms. Paradise, and almost forsakes playing the tuba and silly games with her friend Melissa because of the dismissive remarks of classmates. Her beloved Ye Ye, who has always guided her about being true to herself, can no longer speak English because of a stroke, but Cilla soldiers on, supported by her family and librarian friend, Ms. Clutter. Cilla is not only writing an epic, she and those around her also seem to be living one—and she’s hoping for a happy ending.

    Ages 12–14

    The Remarkable Journey of Coyote Sunrise. Dan Gemeinhart. 2019. Henry Holt/Macmillan.

    The Remarkable JourneyTwelve-year-old Coyote and her father, Rodeo, have been crisscrossing the country in a repurposed school bus since her mother and two sisters were killed in a car accident. Coyote has had no problem with this lifestyle until she learns that Poplin Springs, Washington, plans to destroy the park where her family left a memory box. She concocts a plan to persuade her father to take her back home, and as they make their way across the country from Florida, they pick up various passengers, including Lester, who plans to forsake his music career for his lady love; Salvador, who is fleeing with his mother from an abusive father; Val, a girl whose parents won't accept her sexual identity; and a feisty goat named Gladys. Readers will come to care about Coyote, who is dealing with loss and grief, as well as those who become a family for her.

    Ages 15+

    Girls on the Verge.  Sharon Biggs Waller. 2019. Henry Holt/Macmillan.

    Girls on the VergeThis timely novel about women’s reproductive rights focuses on three girls, one of whom is pregnant, on a road trip from rural Texas to Mexico and then New Mexico. When her best friend, Bea, lets her down, Camille arranges for Annabelle Ponsonby, an older theater friend, to drive her where she needs to go to find a way to terminate the pregnancy. The author captures Camille’s confusion, frustration, and disappointment in herself as well as the conflicted emotions of Bea, who decides to go along despite her belief that abortion is wrong. The solidarity of sisterhood is threaded through this story while the book raises important questions about the judgmental attitudes that surround the sexual behavior of women but not men. Important and relevant, this book should provoke much discussion.

    Heroine. Mindy McGinnis. 2019. Katherine Tegen/HarperCollins.

    HeroineSenior Mickey Catalan has the world on a string, and everything that matters is going her way—until suddenly it isn't. After the talented softball catcher and her best friend, Carolina, a pitcher, are injured in a car wreck, OxyContin eases Mickey’s pain as she faces months of recovery. When her doctor balks at prescribing more OxyContin, Mickey, who is desperate to be ready for the softball season, behaves in ways she’d never have dreamed she would, stealing from her family and a stranger and hanging out with others using the drug for recreational purposes. Things quickly spiral out of control, and Mickey looks for cheaper and more efficient ways to ease her feelings and stave off withdrawal symptoms. Through it all, she lies to everyone around her and comforts herself with the assertion that she isn’t an addict. For anyone trying to understand the opioid crisis in our country, Mindy McGinnis’ story provides a good starting point.

    How to Make Friends With the Dark. Kathleen Glasgow. 2019. Delacorte/Random House.

    How to Make Friends With the DarkSixteen-year-old Grace (Tiger) Tolliver is close to her mother, the only parent she’s ever known. Her mother somehow manages to pay the bills, and they scrape by. Lately, Tiger has been chaffing at her mother’s overprotective ways, and she unhappy when her mother buys a dress she considers inappropriate for the dance she’s attending with her long-time crush. She blasts her mother, and then spends a blissful few hours kissing Kai. The first 38 pages are devoted to Before—before her mother's death, that is—and are followed by what comes afterward as Tiger is placed in a series of foster homes near Tucson, where she learns that things can be much, much worse. Ultimately, Tiger saves herself with help from friends, some old, some new, and some having gone through similar experiences. The title is fitting since that is exactly what someone with a life-changing loss must do. Kathleen Glasgow takes an unflinching look at a topic that many avoid and includes resources about grief, loss, and suicide.

    Barbara A. Ward teaches graduate and undergraduate courses in literacy at Washington State University, Pullman. She spent 25 years teaching in the public schools of New Orleans, where she worked with students at every grade level, from kindergarten through high school as well as several ability levels. She is certified in elementary education, English education, and gifted education. She holds a bachelor's in communications, a master's in English education from the University of Tennessee, and a PhD in curriculum and instruction from the University of New Orleans.

    These reviews are submitted by members of the International Literacy Association's Children's Literature and Reading Special Interest Group (CL/R SIG) and are published weekly on Literacy Daily.

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    • Digital Literacies
    • Teaching With Tech

    Addressing Technopanic in the Age of Screentime

    By Ian O’Byrne
     | Jun 14, 2019

    As educators that play with and embed digital literacies into classroom instruction, we believe the thoughtful use of educational technologies can help prepare youth for future practices and texts they will encounter. I study the effects of technology on society, culture, and education in my weekly newsletter, Digitally Literate. Together with a group of colleagues, I maintain a website focused on living and learning in the age of screentime and the challenges posed as we adjust to these new spaces. One of these challenges is a type of technopanic that suggests screentime promotes addiction, depression, or worse.

    What is technopanic?

    According to Christopher Ferguson, a professor in the Department of Behavioral, Applied Sciences and Criminal Justice at Texas A&M, a technopanic is a “moral panic that centers around societal fears about a specific contemporary technology (or technological activity) instead of merely the content flowing over that technology or medium.” Technopanic is accompanied by pleas to “do something” to protect society as a whole. This message is often promoted and amplified by the public, media outlets, and policymakers. In turn, the message is exacerbated when children and adolescents are added into the cultural anxiety surrounding a technopanic. Alice Marwick, assistant professor in the Department of Communication and faculty affiliate at the Center for Media Law and Policy at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, says technopanics have the following characteristics: 

    First, they focus on new media forms, which currently take the form of computer-mediated technologies. Second, technopanics generally pathologize young people’s use of this media, such as hacking, file-sharing, or playing violent video games. Third, this cultural anxiety manifests itself in an attempt to modify or regulate young people’s behavior, either by controlling young people or the creators or producers of media products.

    The challenge is that the paranoia and panic that accompanies a technopanic is often overblown and stifles the discussion, examination, and critique that is necessary as we explore these new digital spaces.

    The rise of technopanics

    Adam Thierer, senior research fellow at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University, suggests there are six factors that contribute to the rise of technopanics and how they impact our culture and society in general.

    • Generational differences: Older generations are generally pessimistic about the impact of technology on culture and society with younger generations. They forget that they too had new texts, tools, and gadgets that previous generations never dreamed of.
    • Hyper-nostalgia: People tend to recall past events and lived experiences more positively than they perceived them to be at the time of their occurrence—this is called rosy retrospection bias. Critics often yearn for the old order, established norms, and traditional structures as they seek to find balance in a changing ecosystem.
    • Bad news sells: In today’s world, readers are greeted by a regular firehose of information when they open their devices. Fear-based tactics and alarmism—especially involving children—cuts through the noise.
    • The role of special interests: As bad news sells, there is often a company, service, or product working behind the scenes to elevate concern. These companies exaggerate the problem and offer a “silver bullet” response to this challenge.
    • Elitist attitudes: Skeptics and critics often have elitist mindsets and opinions about the use of these new digital texts and tools. These beliefs often indicate that they are superior to others because of their intellect, social status, wealth, or other factors.
    • Third-person-effect hypothesis: When people engage in debate, or encounter a problem that seems outside of their expertise, they suggest that others “do something” to correct the situation. Psychologists refer to this as “third-person-effect hypothesis” and this mindset sometimes is a call for governmental intervention.

    How to address the current situation

    We are increasingly hearing different manifestations of technopanic as all forms of technological devices (phone, tablet, computer, etc.) are conflated into a general area of “screentime” and identified as a cause of concern. As a parent, and educator, it is sometimes hard for me to read this and worry about the peril and imminent danger that are children are being subjected to. But there is a need to beware of the outrage, fear mongering, and “science” that is often spread by the news media and others.

    Rather than assuming all technology use is equal (and equally bad), perhaps we should take a more nuanced approach as we discuss these issues. We might, for example, consider different types of screentime, and the affordances of each of these texts, tools, and spaces. Perhaps spending an hour passively consuming YouTube content is not viewed as beneficial as an hour spent coding in Scratch. Perhaps an hour spent zombie scrolling through social media is not as valuable as an hour spent playing video games. Perhaps if children and adults spent time coconsuming this content, and had dialogue about the experience, we might have a better understanding of screentime.

    As an educator the focus should be on guiding your students as they explore and negotiate these new spaces, places, and practices. As a parent, there is an opportunity to talk about all of these elements with your children, and not be afraid to confront your own practices. Finally, there is a need to understand that we’re still learning as new technologies are developed, and as we interact with these texts and tools. To continue to learn more about these elements, you might consider subscribing to my weekly newsletter or following the blog feed at The Screentime Age. Lastly, Kristen Turner and I developed a podcast all about technopanic, and it explores the challenges experienced by children, parents, and educators. Feel free to send us an email at if you have a question you’d like us to answer.  Together, we can work to avoid getting caught up in fear of new technologies and learn how to use them safely and productively with children. 

    Ian O’Byrne is an educator, researcher, and innovator. His research investigates the literacy practices of individuals in online and hybrid spaces. Ian’s work can be found on his website. His weekly newsletter focuses on the intersections between technology, education, and literacy. Ian is an assistant professor of Literacy Education at the College of Charleston. You can find him on Twitter @wiobyrne.

    This article is part of a series from the International Literacy Association Technology in Literacy Education Special Interest Group (TILE-SIG).

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    • The Engaging Classroom
    • Teaching Tips

    A Fresh Take on Book Clubs Promotes Early Literacy Development

    By Maria Dismondy
     | Jun 13, 2019

    fresh-take-book-clubsDid you know when parents and caregivers are involved in their children’s reading habits, the children are more likely to be frequent readers later in life? When I found this out, a light bulb went off and the Family Book Study was born. I like to think of it as a movement that bridges literacy and family togetherness. Thinking back to my own childhood, I remember reading picture books with my grandma and chapter books with my sister. Through these experiences, I saw firsthand how books can enhance family time.

    To get this educational family reading event off the ground, I first reached out to my daughter’s school and got the staff on board. It took shape as an evening of togetherness that meets twice a year at the school.

    The books for each grade level are chosen and shared with the school families. We don’t limit this to parents and children, either. We have a diverse culture of families and do not want to exclude anyone.

    As the coordinator of this event, I search online lists of books that received positive reviews by families and educators on Goodreads, Amazon and Common Sense Media. I provide three to four titles to the school administrator who then asks the school staff to vote on which book will be assigned to each grade-level group. Having the teachers involved makes a difference as many of them offer to facilitate a discussion group the night of the event.

    Participants are then encouraged to read to, with, or alongside their children for the Family Book Study. We ensure families know how to get their hands on the chosen titles, many of which are free.

    On the evening of the event, the media center at my daughter’s school is buzzing with families excitedly discussing their books. As an author and literacy advocate, it doesn’t get much better than this.

    We start the evening with a book-themed icebreaker and then we’re off and running. To help the evening run smoothly, I provide discussion questions for each title and choose one adult facilitator for each group to help lead the discussions. Occasionally, I’ll even prep an activity for the younger children. For example, after reading the book, The Wonky Donkey by Craig Smith and Katz Cowley (Scholastic), students and family members worked together to create silly donkey puppets using markers and paper lunch bags. They were encouraged to recite the repetitive phrase from the book using their homemade puppet. Next, they were asked to come up with their own rhymes to be recited by their donkey puppet.

    The benefits of Family Book Study go beyond literacy development. It has helped strengthen family bonds and allowed parents to be intentional about reading quality literature with their children at home. One particular comment stands out after hosting several of these book nights. A grandmother told me how much she looks forward to this special night with her grandson. They read the book independently, then go out to dinner to discuss the book before the school event. We have had several of our English language learner families attend the event, which has provided them with a platform to make connections and build community.

    Ready to start your own Family Book Study? Download your how-to guide here

    Happy reading!

    Maria Dismondy is a former educator with over a decade of classroom experience. She graduated from Michigan State University with a BS and MA in education and child development. For the past 10 years, Maria has been writing children’s picture books, speaking at schools across the United States, and raising her own three little readers. She is passionate about literacy, character education, and promoting positive family engagement. Find out more at or

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    • Job Functions
    • Literacy Coach
    • Book Reviews
    • Classroom Teacher
    • Literacy Education Student
    • Teacher Educator
    • Librarian
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    • Children's & YA Literature

    Celebrating Pride Month

    By Susan Knell and Carolyn Angus
     | Jun 12, 2019

    Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer (LGBTQ) Pride Month is celebrated each year in the month of June to commemorate the 1969 Stonewall riots in Manhattan—a catalyst for the modern gay rights movement in the United States. The books reviewed in this column present stories for readers of all ages about gender identity and expression, LGBTQ+ families and relationships, and the spirit of Pride.

    Ages 4–8

    It Feels Good to Be Yourself: A Book About Gender Identity. Theresa Thorn. Ill. Noah Grigni. 2019. Henry Holt/Macmillan.

    It Feels Good to be YourselfThis picture books introduces four children: Ruthie, a transgender girl; Xavier, Ruthie’s cisgender brother; and Ruthie’s friends Alex and JJ, who both identify as nonbinary (Alex identifies as “both a boy and a girl” while JJ identifies as “neither a boy nor a girl”). Theresa Thorn and Noah Grigni explore gender identity with easy-to-understand language and colorful, expressive mixed-media illustrations. “There are a never-ending number of ways to be yourself in the world. Whether you feel like a boy, a girl, both, or neither, or if you describe yourself another way that is your gender identity.” Back matter includes a glossary, a note about pronouns and how they relate to gender identities, resources (books for kids, books for adults, a documentary film, and a list of organizations and helplines), an author’s note, and an illustrator’s note. 

    Stonewall: A Building. An Uprising. A Revolution. Rob Sanders. Ill. Jamey Christoph. 2019. Random House.

    StonewallThe Stonewall Inn itself narrates this picture book about its history. The building was erected in the 1840s as two side-by-side stable houses in Greenwich Village, and after a number of transformations, became the Stonewall Inn, a bar and dance club for the gay community in the 1960s. The Stonewall Inn witnessed frequent raids by the New York City police, and in the early hours of June 28, 1969, those not arrested during a raid didn’t just quietly disappear into the darkness as was usual; they defiantly stood in the street. “Immediately the spark of anger grew into a smoldering resistance….The Stonewall Uprising had begun.” Back matter includes a history of the Stonewall Inn; an album of captioned photographs; an interview with Martin Boyce, a participant in the Stonewall Uprising and LGBTQ+ activist; a glossary; and a list of books and websites for further reading.

    When Aidan Became a Brother. Kyle Lukoff. Ill. Kaylani Juanita. 2019. Lee & Low.

    When Aidan Became a BrotherWhen Aidan was born, everyone thought he was a girl. His parents gave him a girl’s name, pretty dresses, and a room complete with a frilly, pink princess bed. As he got bigger, Aidan disliked his birth name and felt like his room belonged to someone else. Aidan knew he was really “another kind of boy.” He tells his parents what he knows about himself, and he and his parents join a supportive group of families with transgender kids. When his mother tells him she is having a baby, Aidan wants to make sure that this baby will feel understood right away. He helps his parents prepare for the baby’s arrival and knows that loving the baby is the most important part of being a big brother. The author’s note for this heartwarming and joyful story reminds young readers that “Aidan is a transgender kid, but he’s also just a kid. Like you.”

    Ages 9–11

    Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy: A Graphic Novel. Ray Terciero. Ill. Bre Indigo. 2019. Little, Brown.

    Meg, Jo, Beth, and AmyIn this modern adaptation of Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women, the four March sisters are part of a blended family living in modern-day Brooklyn. Meg and her father are African American, Jo and her mother are white, and Beth and Amy are biracial. The four March girls have distinct personalities and interests. The eldest, Meg, works as a nanny, loves fashion, and dreams of marrying a rich man; Jo, who is gay, wants to be a writer and works as a personal assistant for Aunt Cath; Beth is shy, loves singing and playing the guitar, and has leukemia; and the youngest, Amy, who is bullied at school, is feisty and artistic. How the sisters support each other while dealing with personal and family problems is revealed through full-color digital graphic panels with realistic dialogue, journal entries, and emails to their father, who is serving in the military in the Middle East. This contemporary retelling of Alcott’s classic will appeal to middle-grade readers.

    To Night Owl From Dogfish. Holly Goldberg Sloan & Meg Wolitzer. 2019. Dial/Penguin.

    To Night Owl From DogfishIn this novel told entirely in emails and letters, California surfer girl Bett and New York bookworm Avery discover that their dads have fallen in love. Having no interest in becoming part of a blended family, or even worse, becoming friends, the two girls start emailing, assuring each other that they’ll never become friends, but all the while getting to know each other online. To make matters worse, they’re both sent to a summer camp where their dads hope they will become good friends—and take to the idea of becoming sisters. The girls’ summer camp experience turns into an adventure that they never expected, and Night Owl and Dogfish (nicknames they give themselves) end up bonding in surprising and delightful ways.
    The Whispers. Greg Howard. 2019. Putnam/Penguin.

    The WhispersEleven-year-old Riley’s mother has been missing, and no one in his family wants to talk about it. Riley refers to his “condition” of wetting the bed, he also fears that his other “condition”—his interest in boys, especially one boy—may have been the reason for his mother’s disappearance. Remembering his mother’s tale about the Whispers, magical woodland creatures who will grant your heart’s desire if you leave them tributes, he ventures into the woods to hear them whispering that his mother is there. As Riley explores his identity as a gay preteen, readers discover what happened to his mother. Childhood traumatic grief is portrayed along with themes of sexual identity, family, friendship, and loss.

    Ages 12–14

    The Stonewall Riots: Coming Out in the Streets. Gayle E. Pitman. 2019. Abrams.

    The Stonewall RiotsGayle E. Pitman presents the history of the gay movement in the United States from the late 1800s to the Stonewall Riots in 1968 and their aftermath. Organized into five sections (Before the Riots, the Riots, Aftermath, Liberation, and Epilogue), brief chapter feature objects of historical importance in telling the story. Object #1 is the Jefferson Livery Stables, adjacent buildings constructed in 1843 and 1846, which eventually became the Stonewall Inn located at 52 and 53 Christopher Street in Greenwich Village. The final chapter with Object #50, The Stonewall Inn Today, ends with a powerful statement, “The Stonewall Inn is where the gay community found its voice, seized its power, and took action. It’s the birthplace of the modern LBGTQ+ movement—and once an entire community comes out of the closet, there’s no turning back.” Back matter includes a timeline; notes about each of the objects; an extensive bibliography of primary sources, books, articles, papers, websites, and broadcast; and an index.

    Ages 15+

    I Wish You All the Best. Mason Deaver. 2019. Push/Scholastic.

    I Wish You All the BestWhen 18-year-old nonbinary Ben De Backer comes out to their parents, they are promptly kicked out of the house. They find a home with their sister, Hannah, who they haven’t seen in 10 years, and her husband. Ben navigates their way through anxiety, loneliness, and rejection as they finish their senior year in a new school with new friends, a supportive art teacher, and a special friend named Nathan. As their friendship with Nathan turnsinto something more serious, Ben begins to realize a happier life is in their future and they have the opportunity to help other teenagers understand their own sexuality and find happiness.

    The Past and Other Things That Should Stay Buried. Shaun David Hutchinson. 2019. Simon Pulse/Simon & Schuster.

    The Past and Other ThingsWhen Dino’s ex-best friend, a girl named July, dies suddenly, he has conflicting feelings toward his boyfriend, Rafi, who seemingly came between him and July. Dino makes his way to the funeral home that his parents own and finds July there, but not as he is used to seeing the dead. She is partly alive and partly dead, like a zombie. Dino and July try to understand what is happening with her while also figuring out how their friendship ended. Rafi patiently waits for Dino to come to terms with July’s death, which brings them even closer. This weirdly funny “zombie-esque” novel entertains and enlightens readers while dealing with topics of friendship, grief, and love.

    The Weight of the Stars. K. Ancrum. 2019. Imprint/Macmillan.

    The Weight of the StarsRyann Bird, who has been living in a trailer park with her brother and nephew since her parents were killed in an accident, attends an affluent high school. When she is asked by her teacher to befriend new girl Alexandria, Ryann hides behind her “tough girl” exterior, and their relationship gets off to a rocky start. As Ryann and her friends learn more about Alexandria’s attempts to communicate with her mother, who volunteered for a one-way trip into space sponsored by a private company named SCOUT, they try to infiltrate SCOUT to find undelivered messages that Alexandria’s mother sent through the years. Ryann and Alexandria become close and discover that their feelings for each other run deeper than just friendship.

    Susan Knell is a professor in the department of Teaching and Leadership at Pittsburg State University in Pittsburg, Kansas, where she teaches literacy and literature courses at the undergraduate and graduate level. Carolyn Angus is former director of the George G. Stone Center for Children's Books, Claremont Graduate University, in Claremont, California.

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    • News & Events
    • ILA News

    Get to Know New Board Member-at-Large Laurie Sharp

    By Alina O'Donnell
     | Jun 11, 2019

    get-to-know-sharp-2A member since 2004, Laurie Sharp has spent 15 years in roles of increasing responsibility and visibility at ILA—she’s attended various ILA committees; held leadership positions in two special interest groups (Professors of Literacy and Teacher Education and Specialized Literacy Professionals); served as a Board member, vice president, president-elect, and chair of ILA’s Texas chapter, the Texas Association for Literacy Education; and in July, she starts a new chapter as Board member-at-large. 

    In addition to her many contributions to ILA, Sharp is a former classroom teacher, a teacher educator, and a prolific scholar, having contributed more than 80 publications to the literacy community. She recently accepted a new role as associate professor and assistant dean of undergraduate studies for first- and second-year experience at Tarleton State University in Stephenville, TX.

    We spoke to Sharp about the value of professional associations, cultivating effective partnerships, and what it really means to be a literacy leader.

    On what ILA means to her

    “I’ve been an ILA member since 2004 during my enrollment as an undergraduate preservice teacher at the University of Central Florida. Dr. Donna Camp was one of my mentor professors, and she encouraged us to become involved in a professional organization. I chose ILA and have not regretted it since.

    “Throughout my entire career, both as a classroom teacher and a teacher educator, ILA is my go-to for both evidence-based research and high-quality professional learning. I’ve gained so much from going to the professional conferences each year. But most of all, ILA has given me is a valuable network of professional colleagues. I’ve made professional and personal connections with literacy professionals from all over the world. I’m so excited to give back to an organization that has given me so much.”

    On her hopes for the future of literacy education

    “One of the areas that I’ve really become attuned to is literacy leadership. Rita Bean and Diane Kern have done quite a bit of work in this area, especially for specialized literacy professionals. In today’s schools, it’s equally important that classroom teachers are literacy leaders. Classroom teachers must be equipped to advocate for all students, high-quality literacy practices, and increased support for continuous professional learning.

    “ILA has been such a strong voice for effective literacy instruction among literacy professionals. In moving forward, I see great opportunities to invite other literacy stakeholders into the fold. Cultivating strong partnerships with administrators, policymakers, community members, parents and caregivers, and so many others is a vital step to advance literacy learning and teaching.”

    On promoting ILA’s mission of literacy for all

    “In both my practice and research, equity is always a concern at the forefront of my mind. Every learner should have access to highly qualified teachers who create culturally responsive, inclusive learning spaces. However, schools are currently experiencing teacher shortages and a lack of teacher diversity. To achieve literacy for all, it is essential to recruit, develop, and retain diverse literacy professionals of the highest caliber.

    “In terms of literacy teacher education, all things are not equal. There are great differences across teacher education programs, such as size, funding, and access to diverse school contexts. ILA is well positioned to provide literacy teacher educators with the resources and support needed in their work with preparing teachers for the world of literacy.”

    On the most valuable experience she brings to the role

    “Definitely my experience as a classroom teacher. I am a teacher at heart, and I see great value in maintaining strong connections with those who are closest to students: the teachers. I really admire that ILA has embraced practitioner-oriented research within its journal publications. Essentially, practitioners can read these articles and easily say, ‘I can implement that tomorrow.’

    “It’s about staying closest to where the magic is happening, which is in the hands of teachers.”

    What most excites you about this new opportunity?

    “Everyone I’ve interacted with through ILA and the Texas Association for Literacy Educators is so passionate about literacy and committed to excellence. Through these interactions, I have learned and grown tremendously. As a Board member, I look forward to meeting many more amazing literacy professionals from all around the world to further enhance my understandings of literacy learning and teaching.

    “I have to tell you, this is really just a surreal experience. ILA has been so good to me. To be involved in professional service as a contributor and a learner is just so exciting.”

    Alina O'Donnell is the communications strategist at ILA and the editor of Literacy Daily.

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