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  • THE HOUSE THAT GEORGE BUILT takes K-5 readers on an informative and fun journey back to the early days of the White House. The creation of the most famous house in America is revealed in picturesque step by step progression...
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    • Putting Books to Work

    Putting Books to Work: THE HOUSE THAT GEORGE BUILT

    by Kimberly Osko
     | Feb 14, 2014

    THE HOUSE THAT GEORGE BUILT (Charlesbridge, 2012)
    Written by Suzanne Slade
    Illustrated by Rebecca Bond
    Grades K-5

    Putting Books to Work: The House that George BuiltTHE HOUSE THAT GEORGE BUILT takes K-5 readers on an informative and fun journey back to the early days of the White House. The creation of the most famous house in America is revealed in picturesque step by step progression with beautiful watercolor illustrations by Rebecca Bond. Slade reveals how George Washington was part of building this presidential project from design to deadline.

    Readers will be delighted to observe the colonial landscape and the construction process evolve from beginning to end. It wasn’t easy, and Washington faced many challenges, the story speaks to perseverance! This Junior Library Guild selection (and 2013 Bank Street College of Education Best Book of the Year) shares two writing styles: informative historical narrative and rhyming verse in cumulative memorable prose children will love to repeat!

    The Author’s Note discloses little-known details about the White House project. From the contest Washington held to the many additions, a lot has changed to the house that George built, especially after it was set fire during the War of 1812. Readers will be surprised to learn it has received many improvements and every US president has lived in the White House except Washington himself.

    Putting Books to Work: THE HOUSE THAT GEORGE BUILTWhether teachers are looking to introduce President's Day or inquisitive students are learning about the construction process, this book is a valuable resource. THE HOUSE THAT GEORGE BUILT can help connect K-5 classrooms to the history of the White House, Washington DC, Election Day, or an American symbols and landmarks study.

    Cross-curricular connections: Science, History/Social Studies, Writing/Language Arts

    Ideas for Classroom Use:

    Building the President’s House 

    Read THE HOUSE THAT GEORGE BUILT picture book.
    Students will write a descriptive paragraph(s) which explains how the President’s House was built including the raw materials and order of construction. 

    Modification option: Teacher may specify the number of construction steps to be included in narrative (more for older grades or less for younger grades.) 

    [Addresses : CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.R.1, CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.R.2, CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.R.3, CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.W.2, CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.W.4, CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.L.1, CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.L.2]

    Changes to the President’s House

    After reading “The Changing President’s House” section in the back of the book, students will write a descriptive paragraph(s) which shares several improvements made 
    to the White House after it was built, including details of who made each and why.

    Modification option: Students will reference the White House website below and find one improvement not listed in the book to share in narrative.
    Changing White House Timeline

    [Addresses: CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.SL.4CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.W.4, CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.L.1, CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.L.2]

    The Best President’s House Improvement

    In a class discussion, ask students to answer the following question and provide reasons for their opinions—“What was the best addition/improvement made to the President’s House and why?”

    [Addresses: CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.SL.1, CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.L.1

    Student Improvement Ideas

    Students will write a narrative about their own plans for a new improvement or addition to the President’s House or grounds. Narrative will include well-chosen details about the improvement and its potential benefits (for President’s family, White House staff, visitors, or country.)

    [Addresses: CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.W.3CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.W.4, CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.L.1, CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.L.2]

    WebQuest, Research and Write Descriptive Essay

    Students in Grades 3, 4 or 5 will collaborate in groups and research past improvements to the White House, take a short video tour, and write a descriptive essay with three supporting details describing an addition or improvement from their group using this instructional WebQuest.

    [Addresses: CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.W.3CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.W.4, CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.L.1, CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.L.2]

    Additional Resources and Activities:


    The White House - Symbol of Leadership (K - 3) 
    These White House Historical Association activity sheets explore what being a “symbol” means, and describe how the White House is a symbol. They also share how the White House became white, include a printable coloring sheet of the White House, and provide an opportunity for students to draw their own plans for an expanded White House.

    Every Day is President’s Day at the White House (Grades K - 3)
    This link provides White House Historical Association activity sheets which help students imagine what it would be like to be president. Activities include writing a new law, choosing supplies for the Oval Office, and a quiz which explores the decisions presidents must make.

    The Colors and Shapes of the White House (Grades K - 3)
    These White House Historical Association activity sheets ask students to draw plans of their own homes, then compare their plans to the White House plan. Photographs of two rooms in the White House are provided so students can search for various shapes in the room.

    Building the White House (Grades 4 - 8)
    This White House Historical Association link provides activities for students to learn how the White House has expanded through the years, and instructs students to create their own expansion ideas.

    The White House Time Machine
    This website lists important historical events relating the White House from 1790, when the site for the nation’s capital was first selected, through the year 2000. Each entry in the time machine has a link to related media clips and/or additional content.

    Kimberly Osko is the children’s librarian at Lily Lake Grade School in Maple Park, IL. She recently graduated with a Library Information Technology degree from the College of DuPage and is one the first Illinois Paraprofessionals to earn the Certified Library Support Staff or CLSS, a new national program from ALA. She enjoys helping 4th and 5th graders create book trailers and has presented at the Illinois School Library Media Association conference in 2012. Kimberly is also proud to be an Illinois Monarch Award Committee Member.

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  • Sticky is a young teenager trying to find his way and make sense of a world where he feels alone. He suffers from obsessive-compulsive disorder, which embarrasses him, so he just can’t help doing certain things over and over until they “feel” right.
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    • Putting Books to Work

    Putting Books to Work: BALL DON’T LIE

    by Karina R. Clemmons, Judith A. Hayn & Heather A. Olvey
     | Jan 29, 2014

    BALL DON’T LIE (Delacorte Press, 2005)
    Written by Matt de la Peña
    Grades 9-12

    Putting Books to Work: Ball Dont LieSticky is a young teenager trying to find his way and make sense of a world where he feels alone. He suffers from obsessive-compulsive disorder, which embarrasses him, so he just can’t help doing certain things over and over until they “feel” right. He no longer answers to his given name, Travis Reichard, and his memories of his life before his mother died are distant, confusing, and not always happy.

    He has been in four foster homes since his mother died, but his home-away-from-home is a gym called Lincoln Rec where he goes every weekend to play basketball. Sticky had to earn his way to play in the Saturday games, and he is a force to contend with on the court, where he experiences every move on the court in meaningful detail. His friendships at Lincoln Rec and his girlfriend Anh-thu help him along the way, even though his path is difficult.

    BALL DON’T LIE is a moving story, rich in imagery and description. An excellent book to study with adolescents, BALL DON’T LIE offers up many topics for discussion including basketball as a passion, what it entails to become the best that one can be regardless of the obstacles, how to matter when it seems no one has your best interest at heart, working through ethical dilemmas when you have nothing, and how to proceed when finding oneself on a difficult path.

    Cross-Curricular Connections: English Language Arts, Social Studies, Health

    Ideas for Classroom Use:

    What Makes a Person?

    There are descriptions of different characters on pages 45, 76, 120, and 121, beginning with the phrase “he (or a character’s name) is:” that can be used to start a discussion of what makes up a person. Can a person change from moment to moment? How important are physical characteristics? Using these sections from the book, have students write a paragraph about who they are right now, in this moment, using the format de la Peña uses.

    To continue this lesson further, have students transform their paragraphs into a picture blog using https://jux.com. This blogging platform offers a clear, screen-sized picture with no other “clutter” on the screen unless you decide to put words there yourself. Students can decide to put the words they have written in their initial paragraphs on each picture of their presentation, or they can let the pictures speak for themselves. Students can use pictures of themselves or pictures of everyday objects they used to describe themselves.

    Figurative Language

    BALL DON’T LIE is full of powerful imagery, metaphors, and similes. As a pre-reading activity, teach a lesson on figurative language and use synectic boxes to learn about similes. Place students in groups and use the following chart with basketball terms, everyday items, or items of interest to the students. After completing the chart, have students discuss how the existing examples could be changed to create metaphors, and have students create new metaphors to share with the class. Instruct students to identify and keep notes of similes and metaphors as they read the book.

    Similes are as easy as pie!

    A freethrow is like the gym because
    Making a shot at the buzzer is like playing basketball because
    The hot soft drink was like   because
      was like   because
    The stadium was as cold as Antarctica because
    The long walk was as difficult as   because
      was as tall as   because

    Socioeconomic Status: A Race to the Wall

    Dante has a conversation with Sticky on page 228 about the injustice in life. “The laws we operate under are set up by those who have everything, in order to protect themselves from the ones who have nothing.” He goes on to make a comparison of life in America to a race to a wall in which some people have much more of a head start than others. Begin by doing a close reading of that section of the book. After reading, begin a class conversation in which students consider how one’s background, experiences, and resources can affect success.

    The Ethics of Stealing: A Moral Thief?

    There are several references and a few conversations throughout the book about stealing. Sticky thinks that stealing from an individual is wrong; however, he justifies stealing from a store as acceptable. On page 123, Chuck tells Sticky “Stealin is stealin, Stick. Don’t matter if it’s from a store or some little old lady, it’s the exact same state of condition.” As a pre-reading activity, have students read the background and the ethical questions posed on this ethics blog.

    Have students comment on their thoughts on the ethical dilemma on a private class blog (www.edublogs.com). As a post-reading activity, have the class re-visit the blog and discuss the ethics of stealing as it relates to Sticky’s situation. Is Sticky right, is Chuck correct, or is the answer more nuanced?

    Additional Texts:

    More books that deal with the themes of basketball and coming of age.

    Alexie, Sherman (2009). THE ABSOLUTELY TRUE DIARY OF A PART-TIME INDIAN. Little, Brown Books for Young Readers.
    Alphin, Elaine Marie (2011). THE PERFECT SHOT. Carolrhoda Books.
    Deuker, Carl (2009). NIGHT HOOPS. HMH Books for Young Readers.
    Deuker, Carl (2008). ON THE DEVIL’S COURT. Little, Brown Books for Young Readers.
    Fink, Mark (2011). STEPPING UP. Westside Books.
    Lupica, Mike (2007). MIRACLE ON 49TH STREET.Puffin.
    Lupica, Mike (2007). SUMMER BALL.Puffin.
    Lupica, Mike (2012). TRUE LEGEND.Puffin.
    Mackel, Kathy (2010). BOOST. Speak.
    Myers, Walter Dean (2014). HOOPS. Ember.
    Quick, Matthew (2012). BOY 21. Little, Brown Books for Young Readers.

    Additional Resources:

    Random House Readers Guide
    Random House has compiled a reader’s guide for four of de la Peña’s books. Page 6 offers many thought provoking questions about BALL DON’T LIE.

    © 2014 Karina R. Clemmons, Judith A. Hayn & Heather A. Olvey. Please do not reproduce in any form, electronic or otherwise.
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  • While living in Paris, Macdonald became intensely interested in what life was like for French Jews during WWII. She was particularly drawn to the lives and stories of Jewish children. She began reading avidly about this time period and discovered that...
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    • Putting Books to Work

    Putting Books to Work: ODETTE'S SECRETS

    by Aimee Rogers
     | Jan 21, 2014

    ODETTE’S SECRETS (Bloomsbury, 2013)
    Written by Maryann Macdonald
    Grades 5 through 8

    Putting Books to Work: Odette's SecretsWhile living in Paris, Macdonald became intensely interested in what life was like for French Jews during WWII. She was particularly drawn to the lives and stories of Jewish children. She began reading avidly about this time period and discovered that more Jewish children survived in France than in any other European country during WWII.

    She learned that many of the children escaped to the countryside and hid in plain sight by assuming the identity of a French Christian child. And in the way that fate works, it was at this point that Macdonald stumbled upon the autobiography of Odette Meyers, entitled DOORS TO MADAME MARIE, which told her story of growing up a French Jew in Paris and then fleeing to the countryside and posing as a Christian in order to survive.

    Needless to say, Macdonald was hooked on Odette’s story and learned everything she could about Odette’s life. Unfortunately, Odette passed away in 2002 so Macdonald couldn’t talk to her directly. But she contacted one of Odette’s sons who provided her with as much information as he could about his mother and her life during and after WWII.

    Macdonald went on to visit the Paris apartment that Odette grew up in as well as the two country locations where she lived for the duration of WWII. Macdonald knew that she had to tell Odette’s story for today’s children, and Odette’s son agreed, giving her rights to tell his mother’s story. At first Macdonald planned to write a biography of Odette for young readers, but she felt this was too dry and didn’t capture the essence of Odette.

    It was at this point that Macdonald began work on what would become ODETTE’S SECRETS, a free-verse historical-fiction/fictionalized biographic novel of Odette. Macdonald constructed the novel around everything she had learned about Odette and imagined what might have happened in the spaces in between. The use of free-verse poetry was a natural choice as Odette grew up to be a poet and a professor of French literature. The result is a moving and beautifully written novel in verse that captures the spirit of Odette while also providing readers, young and old, insights into life in France during WWII.

    ODETTE’S SECRETS begins with Odette’s nearly idyllic life in Paris filled with visits to the cinema and warm crepes. She lived with her mother and father in a small apartment. The thing that Odette loved best about their apartment building was Madame Marie, the building’s caretaker. Madame Marie had known and cared for Odette since she was a baby and called herself Odette’s godmother. She taught Odette how to sew and always provided her with a warm and comforting place to be. But perhaps, most importantly, she was instrumental in protecting Odette and her mother long enough for Odette to escape to the countryside.

    Once in the countryside Odette had to adapt quickly to this new life, including learning how to be a Christian. Odette eventually became comfortable with this role but it would cause her to question her own identity; who was she really? Was she Jewish or Christian? Was she a city girl or a country girl? Not only did she struggle with this identity crisis during her time in hiding, but also when she and her mother returned to Paris after France was liberated.

    Cross-Curricular Connections: Social Studies/History, Language Arts/English/ELA

    Ideas for Classroom Use:

    Assumed Identities

    Macdonald marveled at the ability of young children to assume a new identity in order to survive. Many of us have different roles or identities that we play throughout our days, but sometimes we are forced to pretend to be someone we are not in order to protect ourselves. We may not be protecting ourselves from death, but social ostracism, at certain points in our lives, can seem just as overwhelming.

    Ask students to write about a time when they felt like they had to hide who they really were or had to hide some aspect of themselves. For example, a talented female athlete may have downplayed her basketball skills when playing a one-on-one game with a guy that she likes. This writing can lead into important discussions of bullying, difference, segregation, historical events, self-acceptance and many more pressing topics.

    Map of Nazi Occupied Areas

    In order to visualize Odette’s world and the growing Nazi presence in it, construct a map of Europe that illustrates all of the Nazi occupied areas. The class could be divided into groups with each creating a map for a different period of time in order to show how the Nazis advanced across Europe and were then pushed back by the Allies. I think, and I could certainly be wrong, that many people don’t realize that Paris and France were as impacted by the Nazis as they were; we seem to be more familiar with the Nazi presence in Germany and Poland. Perhaps the creation of maps will allow students to see the full extent of the Nazi reach at its height.

    What’s Your Format?

    As mentioned above, Macdonald’s decision to write ODETTE’S SECRETS in free-verse was appropriate as it reflects Odette’s later life as a poet. Have students think about the following question: If someone were to write an autobiography about you, what format would be most appropriate? The idea of format should be broad and include such formats as a graphic novel, a playbill, a rap song or disciplinary referral form.

    Ask students to think about what format encapsulates part of who they are. In addition to deciding on a format and providing a rationale for their selection, students could also be required to write a portion of their autobiography in this format. This could be limited to a few years or a moment in their life to make the project more manageable.

    A Research Plan

    The strength of ODETTE’S SECRETS comes from the foundation Macdonald built based upon her research into Odette’s life. Research is often the most important task that writers, of all genres, need to undertake before writing, but for some it is often the most dreaded. Some students may also not understand the importance of looking beyond the Wikipedia page on a topic. In this activity, have students create a plan for how they will research a particular topic or person. For example, Macdonald started with personal experience by living in Paris and seeing the remnants of WWII. She then began reading and narrowed her reading down to a single topic and person. Finally, she reached out to Odette’s son to gather more information from a personal source.

    Students can begin by brainstorming all of the places information might be found on their chosen topic. Then, in constructing their plan, they should think about which sources to start with, which sources can provide a broad understanding, and which sources they would consult towards the end. Although this could certainly be a place to begin writing something rooted in research, I believe just the act of creating a research plan, whether or not the research is actually gathered, could be a helpful activity to teach students about the research process.

    Additional Resources and Activities:

    ODETTE'S SECRETS Book Trailer
    Book trailers are a great way to interest readers in new books. I think of them as modern day book talks. This is a nicely done book trailer for Odette’s Secrets that includes haunting music and images from the book.

    This powerful book collects poems and drawings from some of the thousands of children who passed through the Terezin Concentration Camp. These poems and drawings reveal the horrors of what the children experienced, but also highlight the courage and hope that sustained many of them. I have found that the insights of children are often the most powerful as they don’t yet have the self-consciousness of adults that limits their expression.

    I wrote a previous Engage post about this graphic biography of Anne Frank by Sid Jacobson and Ernie Colon. Odette and Anne Frank were contemporaries. Anne famously wrote about her life in hiding while she was in hiding, but she didn’t survive to tell us about her life after the war. Odette, on the other hand, did not write during the war, but rather wrote about her life after surviving the war in her autobiography, DOORS TO MADAME MARIE (published under her married name, Odette Meyers).

    RESISTANCE (Book 1), DEFIANCE (Book 2) and VICTORY (Book 3) by Carla Jablonski
    This graphic novel trilogy tells the story of a French country town during WWII and its citizens that resist, and even, subvert the Nazis. These books would make a great pairing with ODETTE’S SECRETS because the main characters are children who want to become involved in the French Resistance movement. However, they have to convince the adults that children can play an important role in the resistance. The trilogy has been well received and has earned acclaim from such sources as Bank Street College.

    Aimee Rogers is a doctoral candidate at the University of Minnesota studying children’s and adolescent literature.  Prior to her return to school, Aimee taught high school students with special needs, in a wide variety of settings, for ten years.  She misses working with adolescents but has developed a passion for working with undergraduate pre-service teachers.  She is interested in graphic novels for children and young adults and has made them the focus of her dissertation.

    © 2014 Aimee Rogers. Please do not reproduce in any form, electronic or otherwise.
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  • THE CART THAT CARRIED MARTIN is an easy to understand look at the funeral of Martin Luther King, Jr. The story follows the funeral processions of King that happened in an unusual way. A man of great principles and convictions had a humble beginning and his funeral procession mirrored this fact.
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    • Putting Books to Work

    Putting Books to Work: THE CART THAT CARRIED MARTIN

    by Kathy Prater
     | Jan 10, 2014

    THE CART THAT CARRIED MARTIN (Charlesbridge, 2013)
    Written by Eve Bunting and illustrated by Don Tate
    Pre-K through Grade 4

    The Cart that Carried Martin THE CART THAT CARRIED MARTIN is an easy to understand look at the funeral of Martin Luther King, Jr.  The story follows the funeral processions of King that happened in an unusual way. A man of great principles and convictions had a humble beginning and his funeral procession mirrored this fact. The story begins simply with a used cart that is for sale. The owner can never be found so the men wanting to purchase it for King’s funeral procession borrow it to return it. They fix it up, paint it, and use it to carry King’s body.

    Each item on the cart had a very specific meaning. They painted it green for grass after a rain because Martin liked that. The mules chosen symbolized the fact that he was “ordinary” and were a symbol of freedom for slaves. As the cart was drawn through crowds, history is recorded in the text and illustrations showing the large outpouring of people who attended his funeral at Ebenezer Baptist Church and the procession with the cart through Atlanta and to Morehouse College.

    The crowds overwhelmed the college quad and a second memorial service was held. The illustrations are soft and inviting and pull the reader into the greatness of Martin Luther King, Jr. and the great legacy left behind. The coffin was then transferred to a hearse to be taken to the cemetery. The mules were set back out to pasture and the wagon returned, to be later placed in the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site. The cart that was old and unwanted became a holder of greatness.

    This book can be used as a simple, yet moving, introduction to the life of King and his continued legacy that “could not be kept in a coffin.”

    Cross-curricular connections: Math, Art, Social Studies, English

    Ideas for Classroom Use

    Route Mapping

    The purpose of this activity is to use map and routing skills to determine the best ways to travel and study distances. This activity incorporates math skills into reading and history.

    Use old road maps or an atlas and find the route the cart could have taken when King’s funeral happened. Could he still take the same route today? What is the difference in how he was travelling for today’s route? Be sure to include stops at the church, the capital, and Morehouse College and then on to the cemetery. How many miles, feet, inches, etc. would the mules have traveled? How many miles did the hearse travel? Draw a new route and calculate the distance for King to travel today to be seen by a maximum amount of people.

    Finding Greatness

    The purpose of this activity is to expand on the influence King had in American history and culture. Adjust the story to fit the age of children in the classroom for their best grasp of the material. Find books that tell about how King changed the culture of America and how he still affects life today.

    After reading these stories, have students write a “dream” that they may have about how America can be stronger and better in the future. Have younger students dictate their story and illustrate what changes they would make for America. Share these in large groups or in classroom-made books to build exposure to print, and story processes.

    Everyone but you...

    The purpose of this activity is to encourage students to think about the difference that King made in America. Have students of certain color shirts only stand at the back of the line for a day, children with brown hair cannot use the water fountain, etc.  Discuss in large or small groups how that exclusion makes the children feel, and how things should happen instead.

    After this discussion, have students write a list of conduct rules to help everyone feel included and post it in the classroom.

    Additional Resources and Activities:

    Interactive Maps of Atlanta
    This site has several interactive maps of the Atlanta area that students can look at to determine routes and distances. The current transportation available in Atlanta is linked on this page as well.

    Martin Luther King Jr.
    This video created by Brain Pop gives a quick overview of Martin Luther King Jr.’s life. The video discusses the topics King worked to make changes for, his life, and his long term reach. The page includes links to famous quotes, laws that have changed based on his contribution to America, and many other items. A quick quiz for understanding is included on the video.

    Eve Bunting Author Study
    This page at ReadWriteThink.org is an overview of Eve Bunting’s work and biography. The page includes links to external sites giving more information including a link to Scholastic’s author study page for kids.

    Kathy Prater is a Reading Specialist who works with students with dyslexia, an Adjunct Professor at Mississippi University for Women in Columbus, Mississippi, and a full time pre-kindergarten teacher at Starkville Academy in Starkville, Mississippi. Her passions include reading, writing, tending her flock of chickens, and helping students at all levels to find motivation for lifelong reading and learning. She believes that every child can become a successful reader if given the right tools and encouragement. 

    © 2014 Kathy Prater. Please do not reproduce in any form, electronic or otherwise.
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  • Abby is a seemingly typical 14-year-old girl whose story begins as she discusses her fears about starting high school the next day with her best friend, Faith. Faith, however, is excited about this next step in their lives and she embraces high school and new friends with enthusiasm, leaving Abby to feel more and more isolated.
    • Blog Posts
    • Putting Books to Work

    Putting Books to Work: WANT TO GO PRIVATE?

    by Judith A. Hayn, Karina R. Clemmons & Heather Olvey
     | Dec 03, 2013

    WANT TO GO PRIVATE? (Scholastic, 2011)
    By Sarah Darer Littman
    Grades 7 through 12

    Putting Books to Work: Want to Go Private?Abby is a seemingly typical 14-year-old girl whose story begins as she discusses her fears about starting high school the next day with her best friend, Faith. Faith, however, is excited about this next step in their lives and she embraces high school and new friends with enthusiasm, leaving Abby to feel more and more isolated. Add to the mix parents who don’t understand and an annoying popular little sister, and you have the perfect set-up for an insecure teen to look elsewhere for validation. And look elsewhere she does. She innocently runs into an avatar in a teen chat room who tells her his name is Luke.

    Despite Faith’s warnings and her own apprehension about breaking basic Internet safety rules, she quickly reveals more and more about herself to this stranger. As Luke continually agrees with and compliments Abby, she feels closer to him, which enables her to justify doing things that she knows she shouldn’t. Thanks to Luke’s careful grooming Abby convinces herself that Luke is the only person who cares about her, and before long she is head-over-heals in love with him. Abby decides to meet Luke, thus changing her first-person narrative of the story to the points of view of other characters desperately searching for Abby when she disappears.

    In the second part of the book the readers see how those around Abby judge her actions as they come to realize that Abby is not just missing, but she voluntarily left with an Internet stranger. Since Abby is a smart girl no one can understand why she would break every common sense safety rule. Will Abby be found, and if so, will she ever feel normal again? This is a gritty and disturbing book that leaves the reader wondering why so many of Abby’s behavior changes did not cause more reaction from her parents, teachers, and friends before it got to the point of no return. Reading this book will educate teens about how critically important online privacy is. The book’s vital message also begs parents and teachers to take a more active role in teaching Internet safety to their children/students, as well as making adults aware of their roles in noticing the children around them and paying attention to dramatic changes in behavior. 

    Note: There are some scenes that are sexually explicit and may be emotionally difficult to read, so we would like to offer a word of caution for younger readers.  

    Cross-curricular Connections: English Language Arts, Health, Technology

    Ideas for Classroom Use:

    Creating Tables Outlining Abby’s Safety Risks

    Assign students to small groups of two to three. In their groups, students should discuss their individual reading notes and compile a two-column data table (template provided below). On one side of the table, students should list at least three of Abby’s safety risks in her online chats with Luke, the acquaintance she has befriended online. For each corresponding risk listed on the left side of the table, students should list possible ways Abby could avoid those risks on the right side of the table. If the computer lab has been scheduled, students can use presentation software such as Microsoft PowerPoint or Prezi (available at http://prezi.com) to create their charts to present to the class. After students have finished their charts in their groups, display all the tables for the class to see. Discuss student contributions as a class. After the class discussion, each group should add at least one more row to their charts.

    Abby’s health and safety risks in online chats with Luke Possible ways Abby could avoid the stated risk
    Abby tells Luke her real name.
    Use a non-identifying screen name only and don’t tell online contacts your real name.



    Rewriting Chat Transcripts

    Assign students to a pair. Have each pair of students choose three of the chat transcripts from Chapters 1-5 of the novel and write an alternate script in which Abby’s character would refuse Luke’s requests or negotiate a different outcome. If time in the school media center has been scheduled, students can compose and publish their alternate chat scripts to an online class wiki program such as PBWorks available at http://pbworks.com/ to leave an online reference for students to refer to in the future.
    Students should share with the class by role-playing the safer chat transcripts they have created.

    Designing Bulletin Boards

    As a pre-reading activity, guide students to think about who they were as elementary students. Have them design a bulletin board depicting their prior interests using poster board.  They can use photographs, images from magazines, or their own illustrations. The pre-reading bulletin boards can be displayed in the classroom; however, wait until the post-reading activity to have students discuss and share with one another.

    After students have finished reading the book, ask them to think about who they are now. Point out that Abby changed throughout the novel, and that Abby’s bulletin board described on page 230 in WANT TO GO PRIVATE? is probably not the same as one she would create at the end of the book. Direct students to design a new bulletin board that shows who they are now. If technology is available, students can use online software such as http://padlet.com/ to create their bulletin boards. When students present to the class, have them show their “elementary bulletin boards” as well as their “present day bulletin boards.” Students should compare and contrast the before and after bulletin boards and share specific events in their lives that have been transformative.

    Additional Resources and Activities:

    Littman has created a website based on the name of the teen chat room where Abby meets Luke in the book. Chezteen  is not only full of information on Internet safety, it also has teaching and discussion guides for educators to engage students with the content of the novel. The teaching guide has questions for discussion and vocabulary lists for each chapter of WANT TO GO PRIVATE?

    Guide to Safe Surfing
    Once adolescents become more aware of the potential dangers online after reading the book, the next step is to educate them in Internet safety. Purdue University’s Center for Education and Research in Information Assurance and Security has developed this “Guide to Safe Surfing.” It is geared toward middle school students to help them navigate the Internet. Using the theme of surfing, it is divided into three sections, “Treading Water,” “Standing Up,” and “Surfing.” The first section deals mainly with a background on the Internet and related vocabulary words. The second segment teaches students how to use the Web and email effectively, and the third section exposes students to an understanding of Internet safety issues and ethical behavior online.

    Scope and Sequence
    Common Sense Media has a program on their website called Scope and Sequence. The program is a series of lesson plans for grades K-12 that covers a myriad of topics related to Internet interaction, including cyberbullying, privacy, reputation, and safety. There are several units containing multiple lessons for grades 6-8 and 9-12.

    C3 Matrix
    The handout discusses the difference between cybersafety, cybersecurity, and cyberethics, and serves as a useful resource for teaching adolescents about being responsible citizens online.

    Additional Texts Containing Themes of Internet Interaction:

    Kilbourne, Christina (2007). DEAR JO: THE STORY OF LOSING LEAH...AND SEARCHING FOR HOPE. Lobster Press.
    Lange, Erin Jade. (2012). BUTTER. Bloomsbury.
    Myracle, Lauren (2005). TTYL (Internet Girls Series #1). Amulet Books.
    Myracle, Lauren (2007). TTFN : TA-TA FOR NOW (Internet Girls Series #2). Harry N. Abrams, Inc.
    Myracle, Lauren (2008). L8R, G8R(Internet Girls Series #3). Amulet Books.
    Peters, Julie Anne (2010). BY THE TIME YOU READ THIS, I’LL BE DEAD. Hyperion / DBG.

    © 2013 Judith A. Hayn, Karina R. Clemmons & Heather Olvey. Please do not reproduce in any form, electronic or otherwise.

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