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    Putting Books to Work: Bug Boy

    By Justin Stygles
     | Aug 11, 2016

    Bug Boy. Eric Luper. 2009. Farrar, Straus and Giroux

    Ages 12–18

    Summary

    Bug BoyIn 1934, The Great Depression crippled most of the United States. Except in Saratoga, NY, where fat cats gather together in the summer to celebrate the most famous thoroughbred racing season of the year. At the start we are introduced to Jack, an aspiring jockey who is working Fireside, a fast 3-year-old colt who is on a path to win the summer's biggest stakes race. Working for Pelton Stables under the careful eye of Mr. Hodge, the plot carries us through Jack's ascension from exercise rider to “bug boy,” a rider who has yet to win 40 races.

    Immediately, Jack is offered cash for rigging a race. Framed in a rare period where Saratoga permitted bookmaking, corruption runs rampant as bookmakers try to maintain a profitable edge over bettors. Jack, the newest jockey at Saratoga, working the best horse, is a fresh target for race fixing.

    Before long, Jack meets a beautiful woman, Elizabeth, who aims to capture Jack's heart. As Jack's fame grows, what is he willing to do to be the best jockey and keep his confident girl by his side?

    When the big race comes, Jack is under massive stress. Tweed, his old boss, Dad, looking to make a buck, Elizabeth, hungry for notoriety on the social scene, and Mr. Hodge, the humble trainer looking for the big win, surround Jack as he must decide what to do with Fireside.

    Cross-Curricular Connections

    Social studies, health, reading, writing

    Ideas for Classroom Use

    Ethical Decisions

    As students are reading or listening, students should focus on the value of “right and wrong” when temptations and aspirations conflict with conscience. Using reading response as well as collaborative discussions, students pinpoint the ethical dilemmas positioned in Luper's narrative.

    Once the dilemma is identified, readers can first identify how they might react in a similar situation. After considering background knowledge, readers then revisit the text to consider the context of the circumstance to alter or confirm their thinking. Students locate and organize text evidence to support their rationales. Students can openly debate discussed decisions, building interest to discover what happens next. Explaining and empathizing through writing is a great way for students to process thought and feelings, thereby coming to terms with whatever emotions are evoked by their reading.

    Interpersonal Relationships

    Jack is an example of a boy who is forced to mature faster than perhaps he should. He faces pressures and decisions that many students face in high school and college. Jack can also be a representation of what rookie football and baseball players face when entering the big leagues. Readers can look at what forces a character to change. What influences exert pressure? How does Jack deal with money, alcohol, and risky behaviors? (Note: mature content included)

    When we consider character analysis instruction, we can consider whether Jack changes for better or worse and what it really means to “come of age.” Students can engage in deep reflective writing as they evaluate the many pleasures that entice teenagers.

    Life and Times

    Saratoga is a magical city. A walk down Broadway will captivate the soul and images of the flat track will entrance visitors forever. Saratoga may not look the same today compared with 1934, but many structures still stand. Instead of packing up students for a field trip, slide shows and Google Earth can transport students to the bucolic upstate New York city laden in history. By using pictures, students can see the various locations Jack and his friend visited bring the story to life. Since horse racing is out of context for many readers, show pictures of Clair Court under the sweeping limps of oak trees, jogging horses emerging from the famous August mist that envelopes the track, or the architecture of the Gideon Putnam hotel, or even the YMCA on Broadway. Using Google Earth, readers can map out (pin) the same sights and imagine the travels Jack and Elizabeth took around the city.

    Triple Crown/Sports – Behind the Scenes

    Introducing Bug Boy in advance of one of the Triple Crown horse races invites interest in the greatest horse race of the year. Although Saratoga is a summer event, what happens at Churchill Downs on the first Saturday in May, The Kentucky Derby, has an impact on the Saratoga racing season. Even with today's media barrage, only so many things can be seen on television. Luper's narrative takes us to the backstretch, where a vivid imagination parallels the reality of sport in a way that will ignite a love for racing yet reveal the tragedy's that athletes face when aspiring to their dreams.

    The Great Depression

    Comparing and contrasting text is an important facet of the Common Core. When reading Bug Boy, we discover wealth did not evaporate in the Great Depression, unlike the pictures that portray destitution. Rather, greed and excess created dreams, even for boys who knew extreme poverty.

    Using Out of the Dust by Karen Hesse and A Long Way From Chicago by Richard Peck, readers can compare and contrast, through structured activities, three special cultures that occurred during the Great Depression.

    Additional Resources

    Sarasota Heritage Visitors Center: Take a step back in time to see pictures and places and to read more about the notoriety that made Saratoga famous.

    New York Racing Association, New York: Explore Saratoga horse racing as it is today, still the pinnacle racing meet of the year.

    Texts With Similar Themes

    A Long Way From Chicago. Richard Peck. 2000. Penguin.

    Azad's Camel. Erika Pal. 2010. Frances Lincoln Children's Books.

    Black Gold. Marguerite Henry. Ill. Wesley Dennis. 1992. Aladdin.

    Migrant Mother: How a Photograph Defined the Great Depression (Captured History Series). Don Nardo, Alexa L Sandmann, Kathleen Baxter. 2011. Compass Point.

    Out of the Dust. Karen Hesse. 2009. Great Source. Seabiscuit. Laura Hillenbrand. 2001. Random House.

    Ride of Their Lives Ride of Their Lives: The Triumphs and Turmoil of Today's Top Jockeys. Lenny Shulman. 2002. Eclipse Press.

    The Last Black King of the Kentucky Derby: The Story of Jimmy Winkfield. Crystal Hubbard. Ill. Robert McGuire. 2008. Lee & Low Books.

    Justin StylesJustin Stygles is a sixth-grade teacher and literacy specialist in Western Maine. He has taught at a variety of levels for 12 years and is currently working with Corwin Literacy about effect, emotions, and transactional reading.

     
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    Putting Books to Work: Sara Lost and Found

    By Judith Hayn and Jay Cobern
     | Apr 20, 2016

    Sara Lost and Found. Virginia Castleman. 2016. Aladdin.

    Ages 9–12

    Summary

    sara lost and foundSara Olsen is 10 years old and lives in squalor in an apartment with her older sister by two years, Anna. Their father for all practical purposes has abandoned them while he plays and sings in local bars; he is seldom sober enough to care what his daughters are doing in order to survive. Their mother left a couple of years ago and has not been seen since. Sara is fiercely independent and determinedly loyal to Anna, whose mental instability is apparent when readers meet her. Despite tremendous efforts, Sara can no longer keep their lives on track, and the sisters enter the foster home cycle again.

    Over Sara’s objections, Anna is placed in a facility for unstable children whereas Sara is placed with another foster family, the Chandlers. She begins school, is learning to read and write, makes a best friend, learns to love the Chandlers and their young son Kevin, and finds a special project to give back to the community. Just when adoption seems likely, her dad protests the process from his jail cell.

    Castleman knows the foster care system well: She was adopted when she was 6 years old from an orphanage. She wrote this story to draw attention to the flawed foster care ­­system and to give a voice to foster and adopted kids. Sara’s story will tug at heartstrings; however, readers will cheer for her to succeed, for she is a heroine in the style of The Great Gilly Hopkins—the book is a must for middle school readers.

    Cross-Curricular Connections

    English, health, art, social studies

    Ideas for Classroom Use

    Defining Family

    As a prereading activity, explain to students that there are many kinds of families. Have students brainstorm the different types of families that they can think of. If they are stumped, offer them ideas. For example, small families, grandparents, adopted children, foster care families, older age families, stepfamilies, only child, many siblings, and so forth. Beginning with students’ brainstorming ideas, create a list about anything your students know about families. This may include history, traditions, family members, and feelings.

    Using cutout figures, create Sara’s families at various periods in her life. Then guide students in creating a bulletin board on which they can pin pictures of their family. Students can share their family pictures with other students. They can also compare pictures to notice the differences among the students’ families. Be sure to send a newsletter home to students’ parents, asking them to send a couple pictures of the family to school with their child.

    Mental Illness Among the Young

    According to a recent New York City Health Department analysis of city preteens’ mental health, over 145,000 children between the ages of 6 and 12 suffer from mental illness or other emotional disorders—constituting 1 in 5 NYC children, the New York Post reports. Guide your students to research mental health issues and correct terminology. Educating the young about peers who have emotional disorders can go a long way toward building tolerance and understanding.

    Vocabulary: The following words may be introduced though research activity or class discussions.

    • mental illness, clinical depression, postpartum depression, suicide, dementia, anxiety disorder, social anxiety disorder, phobia, personality disorder, mood disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, bipolar disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, personality disorder, schizophrenia, dissociative disorder, eating disorder
    • delusion, hallucination, anxiety, compulsion, obsession
    • neurotransmitter, neurochemicals
    • psychotherapy, cognitive and behavioral therapy, group therapy, drug therapy, hospitalization
    • neurologist, psychiatrist, psychologist, psychiatric social worker
    • stigma

    Mental Health Awareness Project

    After noting Anna’s mental health issues and symptoms, have students participate in a team project where team members research a specific mental health disorder, gather reliable health information and resources, and present research findings to the class. Using the data gathered, teams will prepare and come to the next class ready to set up their posters at the beginning of the class. Create a Gallery Walk of posters and have students prepare an evaluation sheet of the effectiveness of team creations.

    Nutrition

    Guide a discussion about the sisters’ diet as the try to survive on their own in the apartment and on the run. List these on whiteboard or easel paper.

    Note that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) recommends a daily intake of approximately 1,800 calories per day for the moderately active 10-year-old boy and girl. Of these 1,800 daily calories, approximately 540 need to come from protein sources, 1,170 from carbohydrates, and the remaining 90 calories (<10%) from other sources of dietary sugars.

    Divide the class into small groups. Discuss the aforementioned daily caloric intake information with the class. Using USDA-approved food group and calorie charts, instruct each group to plan a daily menu, to include healthy snacks, which will total 1,800 calories per day. Ask each group to share their menu with the class. Have each group replace one meal of their menu with the zero calories of a paper towel. Groups will then add the number of calories in the revised menu. Ask each group to state which meal they replaced and share their findings. End with a discussion of how the loss of one meal’s worth of calories can affect nutritional health.

    Mapping My Life

    A Life Map is a graphic organizer of pictures and images that illustrate a person’s life; explain pictographs (graduation cap, heart, stick figures) as you present your own map. Use The Life Map Checklist to create your own and share with students. Then, as a group and using the same checklist (with creativity if information is not available in the book), create a Life Map for Sara. Ask students to create their own Life Maps that can be used for any autobiographical writing.  

    Resources

    Mukherjee, S. (2013, March 26) Most of the NYC preteens with behavioral problems are going untreated. Available at http://thinkprogress.org/health/2013/03/26/1774521/nyc-preteens-mental-health-treatment/

    Additional YA Texts With Similar Themes

    *Angelais, M. (2014). Breaking butterflies. 2014. Chicken House.
    Anonymous. (2006). Go ask Alice. Simon Pulse.
    Draper, Sharon M. (2012). Out of my mind. Atheneum Books for Young Readers.
    Nevin, J. (2015). All the bright places. Knopf Books for Young Readers.
    Nolan, H. (2007). Dancing on the edge. Harcourt.
    Sones, S.(2006). Stop pretending: What happened when my big sister went crazy. Harper/Teen.
    *Vizzini, N. (2007). It’s kind of a funny story. Disney-Hyperion.

    *Books recommended for mature readers.

    Judith A. Hayn is professor of Secondary Education at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. She is a member and past chair of SIGNAL, the Special Interest Group Network on Adolescent Literature of ILA, which focuses on using young adult literature in the classroom. Jay Cobern is an English Education graduate student at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock.

     
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    Putting Books to Work: Be a Friend

    By Kathy Prater
     | Mar 09, 2016

    Be a Friend. Salina Yoon. 2016. Bloomsbury.

    Ages 4–8

    Summary

    Be a FriendBe a Friend by Salina Yoon is a simple story of being different from the others around you and how that difference can make you special. The simple text has built in vocabulary opportunities and the soft illustrations add a second dimension to the story.

    Dennis is a rather regular boy who enjoyed expressing himself in an unusual way. Even when all the other children responded a certain way, Dennis kept his own methods intact. For example, when other children spoke, Dennis acted out his answer. When other children climbed trees, Dennis “became” a tree. Dennis was called “Mime Boy” because of his choice to act out events. The delightful illustrations will help to explain the art of miming to the students.  Even though Dennis is content to be himself, he sometimes would become lonely—feeling invisible and isolated. All these feelings changed when he met Joy, who caught the invisible ball that Dennis kicked. Joy understood Dennis’s emotions and actions and accepted him for who he was. This pairing of friends drew the attention of the other children, who then became interested in the actions of miming and participating in the imaginary scenes Dennis created.

    We often have children who move at their own pace or learn differently from the traditional student. Be a Friend takes a look at those differences and celebrates them by encouraging children to stay true to their passions and beliefs even when others don’t understand.

    Cross-Curricular Connections

    Art (drama), social studies, English, history

    Ideas for Classroom Use

    What Is a Mime?

    This activity builds background knowledge prior to reading the story. Miming is not a common art form practiced today. Students may be unfamiliar with the process of mimes.

    Have students brainstorm what they think the word mime means. Encourage and accept all student answers. Discuss prior knowledge and experiences for the word. If know students are familiar with the word, give a quick definition such as “acting things out without talking.” Ask about the game of charades. Create a K-W-L chart of what we know about charades/mimes and what we want to know, leaving a blank for what we learned.

    Have students watch a video showing miming such as Mime Act of Balloon Seller by Moinul Haque (D’Source, 2011) to see a mime at work. Discuss the actions as the story is unfolding. With this background information in mind, read Be a Friend and talk about how miming could have made life difficult for Dennis. How does it make Dennis special?

    Story Mimes

    This activity takes the knowledge learned about mimes and Dennis and incorporates it into familiar stories. After showing the pictures of the different actions both Dennis and the professional mime made, encourage students to try miming on their own. As students feel comfortable, have them present their favorite activity, their favorite story, and so forth. 

    Encourage students to wait until the mime is over before guessing what story or activity it is showing. As all students finish their attempts at miming, talk about how challenging it could be to tell a story without using verbal words. This can lead to an open discussion about how it can be difficult to be different within a classroom, family, or community. Refer to Dennis and the end of the story in which Joy helped him to connect with the other students. Use this opportunity to encourage all students to make new friends and accept people who may act differently from themselves.

    I Like Me…

    This activity encourages students to connect life experiences to Be a Friend in a meaningful way. Encourage students to draw themselves being different. When students talk about things they like to do, they may realize that all people have unique talents and abilities and that we can often find others with similar interests.

    As a closing activity, have students write, or dictate with a teacher to facilitate and scribe, how they are different and why they like themselves. Create a story wall outside the classroom displaying how students can connect even though they are different. Perhaps two students like dancing, while two others like sports. Other students in the school can view this story wall and begin to have conversations about accepting differences.

    Additional Resources

    Mime Videos: This page contains 12 videos showing a variety of mimes, including cartoon mimes.

    eVoc Strategies: 10 Ways to Use Technology to Build Vocabulary: This article designates 10 ways to use technology to help with vocabulary instruction. Be a Friend offers opportunities for expanding young readers’ vocabulary to include words such as extraordinary, mime, invisible, imaginary, and individuality. Building children’s vocabulary provides a key to comprehension.

    Confessions of a Former Bully: This podcast from ReadWriteThink.org touches on both friendships that can be difficult and the topic of bullying. This podcast can be used to further the discussion of Be a Friend and move into the sensitive topic of bullying at the early elementary level.

    Kathy Prater is a reading specialist working with students with dyslexia and an instructor with The Learning Center at Mississippi State University in Starkville, MS. She teaches reading and study skills courses to undergraduate students.

     
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    Putting Books to Work: Mama’s Nightingale: A Story of Immigration and Separation

    By Laren Hammonds
     | Jan 06, 2016

    Mama’s Nightingale: A Story of Immigration and Separation. Edwidge Danticat. Ill. Leslie Staub. 2015. Penguin/Dial.

    Ages 7­–18

    Summary

    pbtw mamas nightingaleEdwidge Danticat’s words and Leslie Staub’s vibrant images combine in Mama’s Nightingale: A Story of Immigration and Separation to tell the story of Saya, a young girl whose mother, a Haitian immigrant, has been imprisoned because she is undocumented. Saya’s father petitions the local mayor, congresswoman, and news outlets for support in bringing his wife home, to no avail. No one ever responds.

    During this time of separation, Saya’s mother begins recording bedtime stories and mailing them to Saya to help maintain their connection. In particular, she tells a story about a nightingale who goes on a long journey to return home to her baby, paralleling her desire to return home to her own child. One day, as Saya watches her father write yet another letter on his wife’s behalf, she decides to write her own letter to share her story. Instead of the silence Saya’s father’s letters elicited, Saya receives a response almost immediately, first from one reporter, then another. Soon after, members of the community send their own letters and make calls advocating for Saya’s family. After only one week, Saya’s mother is brought before a judge who rules that she may go home to her family while she awaits her papers.

    Cross-Curricular Connections

    English/language arts, social studies/history

    Ideas for Classroom Use

    Analyze Nonprint Texts

    The rich illustrations found in quality picture books offer opportunities for students to analyze nonprint texts. Students can examine the book’s illustrations, identifying elements that help to reveal character, underscore the author’s message, and symbolize big ideas and explaining how these elements help to convey the story. Students may also comment on visual motifs such as the key, the nightingale, and the rainbow.

    Determine Theme and Write Thematic Statements

    Picture books like this one are a great way to introduce students to the skills of identifying theme and writing thematic statements. Saya herself says, “It is our words that brought us together again.” How do the writer’s words help to convey her message?

    Write to Persuade

    Saya’s story demonstrates that every child has the power to make a difference. Individually, students can explore a cause meaningful to them, research the cause, and then write to a local leader advocating for their cause. Collectively, students might develop a campaign for a cause of their choosing.

    Research the Effects of Immigration and Separation

    The author herself grew up in a family that experienced separation caused by immigration, and the topic of immigration continues to be a part of national and international discussions. All students can learn more about the human side of immigration, and older students can examine the role immigration will play in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

    Additional Resources

    U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) website has information about the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, including data on the number of people deported, detained, or both each year.

    Edwidge Danticat’s “Stories of Haiti”TED Talk in which the author shares her wealth of knowledge about Haiti’s culture and people.

    laren hammonds headshotLaren Hammonds has been a classroom teacher since 2004, working with students in grades 7–12. She currently spends her workdays with eighth graders at Rock Quarry Middle School in Tuscaloosa, AL, and every other moment reading books and seeking out adventures with her preschool son Matthew and husband Erik. A two-time graduate of the University of Alabama, she holds a master’s degree in instructional technology and is currently pursuing National Board Certification. Her professional interests include the intersection of video games and literacy, cross-curricular collaboration in secondary schools, preservice teacher support, and the impact of classroom design on student learning. Find her on Twitter and Instagram.  

     
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    Putting Books to Work: Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out

    By Judith A. Hayn, Karina Klemmons, and Laura Langley
     | Nov 24, 2015

    Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out. Susan Kuklin. 2014. Candlewick.

    Ages 15+

    Summary

    beyond magenta 112415In Beyond Magenta, a Stonewall Honor Book,Susan Kuklin offers a “spectrum” of transgender and gender-neutral teens as told through the words and photographic images of six individuals. Whereas the first five stories in the book share experiences of coming out as trans and relationships with family, friends, guardians, and teachers, the concluding chapter, the “lifeline,” tells the story of Luke, who found compassion and acceptance in his community through theater. Luke’s story begins with poetry, the outlet that gives him the security and space to explore his identity outside of society’s constructs. 

    The first five chapters of the book articulate the individual stories of five teenagers and young adults and explain what it means to be trans; these stories depict case studies of experiences couched in sometimes brutal reality. Through interviews dispersed with her own comments, Kuklin carefully depicts each young person with authenticity, respect, and care. Beyond Magenta offers the reader, whether familiar with LGBTQ issues, a thought-provoking source to gain understanding of what it means to be transgender and provides special attention to appropriate pronoun usage, gender identification, and the process of transitioning. 

    Teachers will want to vet each chapter carefully and consider their students and their community. Some chapters are more graphic than others, but the subject is too important to ignore. For a complete discussion of the topic and education, see the chapter “‘Trans’ Young Adult Literature for Secondary English Classrooms: Authors Speak Out,” in sj miller’s forthcoming Teaching, Affirming, and Recognizing Trans and Gender Creative Youth: A Queer Literacy Framework (Palgrave Macmillan).

    Cross-Curricular Connections

    English, health, art, social studies, science

    Discussion Topics

    Identity

    How important is gender to your identity? Does your gender inform your actions or do you act independently from your gender identity?  Consider how you have been treated since you were a child. What activities interested you? What were your toys? How do you judge how boys and girls act? Briefly reflect on gender. How do you understand your gender identity? How do others expect you to act because of your gender? Imagine a world in which one element of your identity was changed (can be gender, race, socioeconomic status)—what would be different? How would you be different? How would others regard you?

    Words and Images

    How do the photographs (or lack thereof) inform the writing on each individual? What do the images add to or take away from the teens’ stories? How would this book be different without visual representations? What happens to you as a reader when you cannot visualize one teen?

    Ideas for Classroom Use

    Photo Essay

    Prewrite: If you were to put a photo essay together to express your identity, what would it look like? What artistic license would you take? What would you include or not include to represent yourself visually? Does the representation change depending on your intended audience?

    1. Storyboard your photo essay: Decide what is most important to your essay in illustrating your identity.
    2. Create photo essay: Facebook album, tumblr page, photo album
    3. After compiling the essay, reflect on the outcome: Did it meet your expectations, do you feel that it accurately represents you, what would you add/delete/change? What limitations of the photo essay did you experience? Did you learn anything about yourself, your identity, the manner in which you express your identity through this project? Discuss the public or private availability of your essay. Were you surprised by the end result? What did you find challenging while working on the essay?

    Interview a Partner

    Have students compose a list of 10 questions they would like to ask a peer in regarding his or her identity. These questions should be general and applicable to anyone. Pair students and have each conduct an interview with his or her partner. Take field notes to include exact quotes and body language. Each student will then create a short visual essay of his or her partner based on the interview. A good place to start might be in childhood, moving forward to the present time. Use Kuklin’s style as a model for good interviewing techniques.

    Diversity Challenge

    Assign a diverse aspect to each member of the class. Use index cards with identifying personas: homeless teen living in his car, boy who likes girls only as friends, Latina who just arrived from Mexico, identified lesbian, mother of a trans teen, and so forth. Writing from this point of view might be safer; guide discussion carefully to disavow stereotypes.

    Additional Scholarly Resources

    Kuklin’s website includes interviews, articles, and reviews for Beyond Magenta.

    Clemmons, K.R., Hayn, J.A., & Olvey, H. (in press). “Trans” young adult literature for
    secondary English classrooms: Authors speak out. In sj miller (Ed.), Teaching, Affirming, and Recognizing Trans and Gender Creative Youth: A Queer Literacy Framework. New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan.

    Mason, K. (2008). Creating a Space for YAL with LGBT Content in Our Personal Reading: Creating a Place for LGBT Students in Our Classrooms. The ALAN Review, 35(3). Retrieved from http://scholar.lib.vt.edu/ejournals/ALAN/v35n3/mason.html

    Additional Literary Resources

    Andrews, A. (2014). Some assembly required: The not-so-secret life of a transgender teen. Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers.

    Hill, K.R. (2014). Rethinking normal: A memoir in transition. Simon & Schuster Books for Young People.

    Katcher, B. (2009). Almost perfect. Delacorte Books for Young Readers.

    Peters, J.A. (2006). Luna. Little, Brown and Company.

    Wittlinger, E. (2011). Parrotfish. Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers.

    Judith A. Hayn is professor of Secondary Education at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. She is a member and past chair of SIGNAL, the Special Interest Group Network on Adolescent Literature of ILA, which focuses on using young adult literature in the classroom. Karina Clemmons is an associate professor of Secondary Education and Laura Langley is a master’s student at University of Arkansas at Little Rock. 

     
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