Category Archives: Literature Circles

Reading Resolutions 2021! Let’s Go Genre Jumping!

What section would I find you in, in a book store? Fiction? Biography? Travel? Cook books? Children’s Section? Self help? How many books will you read this year? 1? 3? 9? It’s a new year and what better time than to set some READING GOALS for yourself and your students? Setting Reading Goals is a great opportunity to motivate your students to expand their reading interests and introduce your students to a wide range of different genres. Why not make 2021 the year you and your students go “genre jumping!” and motivate your class to explore genres they may have never read before?

The Lesson:

  • Write the word “genre” on the board. Ask students what the word means. Explain that a genre is another word for a “category”. Using genres is a way of organizing things like music, movies, and books by identifying different types or categories.
  • Brainstorm or give examples of different genres of music ( jazz, rock and roll, rap, classical) and movies (drama, comedy, thriller, documentary, romance)
  • Ask students to brainstorm with a partner different genres of books that they know. Record them on the board. Depending on what grade you have, you may or may not need to provide suggestions!
  • Show the Genre Jumping slideshow to review the different genres, showing an example of each.

Download the Genre Jumping slides HERE

  • Invite students to think about which genres they tend to read more of, favorite, etc. Discuss “favorites” of the class. You may even want to create a graph of your students’ genre preferences.

You can download a Genre Graph HERE.

  • Explain that often, once readers discover a genre they like, they tend to stick to it. Pass out the Reading Resolution template. Download HERE: 2021 Reading Resolutions – Genre Jumping template. Primary Version HERE: 2021 Reading Resolutions – Genre Jumping PRIMARY
  • Explain that: This year, I’m encouraging everyone to try to expand their reading horizons by reading some different genres. Remember: you won’t know until you try! Setting some Reading Resolutions can help motivate you to expand your reading interests.
  • Explain that the class is going “Genre Jumping” in 2021! The goal is to try to read as many different genres as you can. “How many you try is completely up to you! You are only competing with yourself!”
  • Invite students to complete the survey on the second page, selecting their “go to” genres, as well as the genres they may have never read before. Invite them to set a goal for how many genres they think they will try to read this year.
  • Explain that the sheet is for them to keep track of books they read from different genre categories. Likely, they will set their goal from now until the end of June.

Final Thoughts:

  1. This is not intended to be used as “reading homework”. I would never “make” students read books that they may not be interested in. I also am not a big fan of home reading logs (kids read – parents sign) as I don’t think they promote a love of reading.
  2. The goal is not to “FINISH” the sheet, but to set a goal and try a few new genres. There is no PRIZE for “finishing”.
  3. I ever “reward” kids for reading. The reward for reading is reading itself! Just say no to giving prizes and pizza for reading! That being said, however, if I do have a student who I feel legitimately reads a book in all 18 categories, I may quietly present them with an Indigo gift card. But not for a “prize” – but more for the “pride”.

Lesson Extensions

Genre of the Month – Depending on your grade level, “Genre Jumping” could be something that you carry on for the remainder of the year. Each month, you could have a “Genre of the Month”, set up a “table with a label” with books of that genre, discuss the specific features of that genre, and focus on this genre for your read-alouds. Now there are more genres than months left in the school year… so you may have to narrow down your monthly choices.

Book Talks – Invite students to present a book talk on one of the new books/genres they have been exploring. Link this to persuasive writing and teach them the difference between a descriptive book talk (purpose is to share story summary and highlights, favorite character, highlight, lowlight, insight, etc.) and a persuasive book talk (purpose is to try to convince others to read the book).

I found this website which has free printable of the different genres that includes a frame for a book report.

Thanks for visiting my blog! I hope you feel inspired to inspire your students to do more “genre jumping” this year. Putting the perfect book in the hands of a student is one of the most rewarding things about being a teacher. Sometimes, it just takes one book to spark a flame of book love in a child. Let’s see if we can spark a few flames this year!

I’d love to hear about your “genre jumping” experiences! Please post and use the tag #genrejumping and tag me #readingpowergear (so I will see it)

Have a great week, everyone and happy “genre jumping”!

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Filed under Genres, Literature Circles, OLLI, Reading Resolutions

GEARPICKS Holiday Book Gifting 2020 Part 2 – Book Gifting for Tweens

Last week, I posted PART 1 of my Holiday Book Gifting ideas, focusing on books for your younger readers. You can read the post HERE. This week, I am excited to share my picks for gifting those tweens in your life! I’ve tried to include books for all interests and hoping one will be a perfect match for that reader in your family!

For the Sci-Fi Fan

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Bloom by Kenneth Oppel

Kids ages ten and up will get sucked into this unputdownable science-fiction novel about a strange rain that causes alien plants to sprout. The plants climb up buildings, destroy crops, and devour animals and people. Only three teens are immune to the mysterious plants, and nobody knows why. This action-packed book is the first in an exciting new series that will keep kids up all night.

For Your Imaginative Animal Lover 

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The Elephant’s Girl by Celesta Rimington

Kids that like animal stories will likely get lost in this magical book. Lexington can speak telepathically to elephants, and they can speak to her. When the elephant Nyah sends her a mysterious message, Lex gets caught up in a spooky and magical adventure that may provide answers about her past.

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Skunk and Badger Amy Timberlake

Skunk and Badger join a list of literary “odd couples” in children’s literature, much like Frog and Toad or Elephant and Piggie. If you’re looking for an early middle-grade book to read with the kids, this is a great one. Reminiscent of the 100 Acre Wood and Wind in the Willows, and filled with quirky, memorable animal characters, this friendship story has both humour and thoughtful themes. Jon Klassen’s illustrations add to the fun.

For your Budding Environmentalist

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Music for Tigers Michelle Kadarusman

A coming-of-age story set in the dense rainforest of Tasmania. This book explores so many different themes – family, legacy, friendship, animal extinction, autism, and environmental conservation. Louisa is sent to spend some time at her Uncle Ruff’s bush camp in Tasmania when she would much rather practicing her violin for her big audition. While at the camp she meets her great-grandmother, through her journals, a new friend in Colin, and a once thought extinct Tasmanian tiger named Ellie. Ah-Mazing! Love this book and love that it incorporates Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons.

For your Historical Fiction Fan


The Blackbird Girls – Anne Blankman

This is a moving story about two girls whose friendship develops during the Chernobyl nuclear accident. Told in alternating perspectives and different periods in history, this story shows that hatred, intolerance, and oppression are no match to the power of friendship. Fascinating and innovative.

Folklore and Fairy Tale Fans

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When You Trap A Tiger – Tae Keller

Know someone that likes family legends, folklore, and fairy tales? If so, you’ll definitely want to add this middle grade novel to your shopping list. Filled with magical realism, a magical tiger, Korean folklore, challenges and deals and family ties, this novel is about finding the courage to speak up.



Wink – Rob Harrell

Ross Maloy just wants to be a normal seventh grader but with his recent diagnosis of a rare eye cancer, blending in is not an option. Based on author Rob Harrell’s real life experience, this book is packed with comic panels and incredibly personal and poignant moments. It is an unforgettable, heartbreaking, hilarious, and uplifting story of survival and finding the music, magic, and laughter in life’s weirdness.

For Fans of Realistic Fiction

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The List of Things That Will Not Change – Rebecca Stead

Rebecca Stead is known for her realistic middle grade stories and her latest book is amazing. Bea is thrilled that her Dad is going to marry his boyfriend and that she’ll finally get a sister. As the wedding draws closer, Bea learns that nothing is simple when you’re forming a new family.

For Your Adventurer

The Last Kids on Earth: June's Wild Flight by Max Brallier

The Last Kids on Earth: June’s Wild Flight – Max Brallier

It’s not hard to see why The Last Kids on Earth series is such a popular series. These action-packed books are full of monsters and adventure with black and white illustrations splashed across every page. The series has even been adapted into a Netflix show. This book, featuring June, is set between the events of The Midnight Blade and the upcoming sixth book in the series.

Fans of Survival Stories

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Red Fox Road – Frances Greenslade

A thirteen-year-old girl on a family vacation becomes stranded alone in the wilderness when the family’s GPS leads them astray. A compelling survival story for ages 10 to 14, for fans of Hatchet and The Skeleton Tree. Exquisite sensory detail!

For Graphic Novel Fans

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Doodleville – Chad Sell

Calling all artists! This magical graphic novel is for readers with a big imagination and a love of art from the creator of Cardboard Kingdom. It’s a funny, imaginative world called Doodleville created inside main character Drew’s sketchbook. The only problem is that her doodles don’t stay in the sketchbook, including a not-so-friendly monster named Levi. Full of friendship, humor, and fun, this graphic novel will be a big hit!

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Nat Enough – Maria Scrivan

Delightful graphic novel about navigating friendships in middle grades – making friends and losing them.
This is a great graphic novel for middle grade readers. It not only teaches kids what real friendship looks like, but it also teaches them to focus on who they are instead of who they aren’t. This is the first book in the Nat Enough series, but the second book in this series has just been releasedForget Me Nat

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When Stars Are Scattered – Victoria Jamison

Based on the real-life experiences of Omar Mohamed, this heartbreaking yet hopeful graphic novel gives readers insight into the life of a refugee. When Omar gets the opportunity to go to school, he is excited. He knows an education could enable him and his younger brother to get out of the refugee camp where they’ve spent most of their lives. But going to school also means leaving his brother behind to fend for himself every day. This book is a perfect example of how graphic novels can introduce important and timely issues that will resonate with readers. EXCELLENT!

For Hockey Fans

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Hockey Super Six on Thin Ice – Kevin Sylvester

Lots to love about this series! It’s not only about a group of six friends who love to play hockey, but also an evil genius, some mutant squids who form an opposing team, and a magical blue light that gives everyone some unexpected skills on the ice. It’s funny, entertaining, and also focuses on the importance of teamwork.

Thanks for stopping by! I do hope you found 1 or 2 titles that you can gift to the tween in your life.

Wishing you and your family a very happy holiday and well deserved break. Enjoy this time to recharge, reflect, and read-read-read!!!

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Filed under 2020 Releases, Animals, Art, Diversity, Fairy Tales, Friendship, Historical Fiction, Holiday books, Literature Circles, Middle Grade Novels, Novels, Refugee, Sci-Fi, social justice

Celebration Saturday


I’m happy to be joining Ruth Ayres @ ruth ayres writes and others to celebrate and appreciate the goodness of the past week.

This is my first celebration post but I have MANY things to celebrate this week!

1)  My book is FINISHED!  Nonfiction Writing Power was sent to the printers on Tuesday and is now officially DONE!  Expected release date is sometime next month!   It’s out of my head and soon to be out into the world to begin a life of its own.  It was a LOT of work in a very short time (I only started writing it in July) but I am very proud of this, my 4th book.  My editor and everyone at Pembroke publishing were AMAZING and really supported my journey to get this book finished.   And so the “power series” (which I never intended to write) is now complete.  And THAT is worth celebrating!

NFWP cover

2)  Family Literacy Day Celebration – Last Sunday, I was honored to be invited by my dear friend, Carrie Gelson, to join her family and several other Vancouver teachers who are “making a difference in literacy” in our school district to attend a Vancouver Canucks hockey game in the “Sedin Suite” – the box seats of Canuck twins Henrik and Daniel Sedin.   The Sedin families do a lot to support Family Literacy in the city so they wanted to give back to the community in some way.   We had an AMAZING time watching the game from their suite and were treated to a visit from BOTH players.  T-shirts, hand shakes and photos – it was a THRILL for all of us.  And the Canucks won the game!  Thank you Carrie and thank you Sedin families for all you are doing to support Literacy in the Vancouver.

hockey family

3) Mid Terms are FINISHED!  Both my boys have been knee deep in mid year exams this past week but we are celebrating that they are finished (with the exception of one!) and can relax and enjoy a little free time!  I am proud of how hard they both studied and got through!

4) Trip to Calgary – I had a bad stomach virus that hit me hard on Wednesday night – not much to celebrate I know – but it didn’t last long – thank goodness.  And I was still able to fly to Calgary late Thursday (although still feeling a little weak!) to give a Writing Power workshop to a wonderful group of keen teachers from several schools hosted at Huntington Hills Elementary School on Friday.  It was -17 in Calgary but my flight was on time – which is always something to celebrate when you travel in winter!  Thanks to Vice Principal Christine McCrory and the rest of the Huntington staff for having me back in their school and for the delicious chicken noodle soup and authentic key lime pie!

5) Book Club – Last week was book club and I so look forward to these monthly gatherings with this amazing group of women (many teachers) who have been meeting together for over 12 years now.  Spending the evening with great wine, great conversations about great books is always a celebration for me.  Our discussion was on our most recent read:  The Chaperone by Laura Moriarty.  There were mixed reviews – many enjoyed the time period of New York in the 1920’s and 30’s but, like me, enjoyed the first 2/3 of the book better than the end, where the author seemed to throw in too many references to important events.   This month’s book is Emancipation Day by  Canadian writer Wayne Grady which I have not yet started.  I am anticipating the pressure of being “next pick” and will be making the choice for next month’s book.  With so many on my list that I will have trouble narrowing it down to one!

The Chaperone          Emancipation Day

6) Lit Circles – I am working with a wonderful group of grade 7’s at my school this term on Literature circles.  I selected 5 books focusing on a theme of children in slavery –  all at various reading levels.  I am so enjoying the reflective and meaningful discussions the students are having around these books.  They are asking thoughtful questions and making deep connections and I’m impressed with the level in which they are demonstrating their understanding.  It is a pleasure to sit around a table with these deep thinkers!  And to think that when I first started teaching I used to assign comprehension questions for each chapter!

Here are the five books we are reading for this Lit Circle theme:

A Long Walk to Water: Based on a True Story     Iqbal    Bitter Chocolate    I Am a Taxi    The Garbage King

7) New Picture Book – My sister, Alison Gear, an Early Learning Coordinator in Haida Gwaii, B.C., got the good news that the picture book she helped to create, Taan’s Moons (Taan means bear in the Haida language),  will be published and released next fall!  This book was a 3 month art project involving Kindergarten (some mixed Grade1/2) classes of all six elementary schools on Haida Gwaii, inspired by a poem my sister wrote as one way of sharing a version of the Haida Moon cycle with Kindergarten students. The felt artwork illustrations used for the book and created by the students and local educator and artist Kiki van der Heiden will be on display at the Vancouver Art Gallery this spring.  You can see the complete amazing journey of this creative collaboration here:  (I’m very proud of my big sis!)
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It’s been an amazing week and I’m very grateful for everything.   What are you celebrating this week?


Filed under Celebration Saturday, Literature Circles

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading?


It’s Monday and I’m happy to be participating in a weekly event with a community of bloggers who post reviews of books that they have read the previous week.  Check out more IMWAYR posts here:  Teach Mentor Texts and Unleashing Readers.

This week I read several picture books – some recently released and some I somehow missed along the way.  I’ve also been busy ready a few recently released novels to share with teachers at my workshops this fall.


I am a huge fan of the Stella and Sam books by Marie Louise Gay.  Sam is the quintessential child of wonderings and Stella, his sister, does her best to provide him with the her most thoughtful responses.  In Reading Me a Story, Stella we not only get these two delightful and well-loved characters at their best, but Gay subtly imparts the importance and pleasures of reading in many different forms – humor, fiction, nonfiction or poetry.  Throw in Gay’s whimsical watercolors and yes, we have a winner!

too shy[1]

Oh, the stomach ache inducing fear of having to stand up in front of the class and share something when you are painfully shy!  In Too Shy for Show and Tell by Beth Bracken, dear little Sam (well, he seems little, despite his very long neck!) dreads the thought of having to get up in front of the class.  What if he cries or throws up?  This is a great book to help children learn to deal with their anxiety about public speaking and one many will be able to connect to. z is for moose[1]

Somehow, I must have missed this book when it came over a year ago!  But I’m very happy to have discovered it now as it is extremely clever and VERY funny.  In Z is for Moose by Kelly Bringham, Zebra is directing an Alphabet play.  It is his job to ensure that all the animals appear in alphabetical order on stage.  His problems begin when Moose keeps trying to come onto the stage out of turn and things really go badly when Zebra discovers that he isn’t actually in the play at all!  This is a perfect read aloud for younger primary children learning the alphabet but also a great read aloud-laugh aloud with older kids!


I love books clever books and Little Red Writing by Joan Holub is SO clever!  Not only is it a humorous re-telling of Little Red Riding Hood that children will recognize, but weaves in the key elements of story writing.  What could be better?   Little Red pencil is excited when her teacher, Ms. 2, tells her pencil class that it is time to write a story. Her basket of nouns help her along the way, particularly when she runs into Wolf 3000 – a pencil sharpener on a rampage!  This book is engaging, entertaining and hilarious!  Great water color illustrations with lots of details is the icing on the cake!

zoe gets ready[1]

I’m often not taken with sparkly book covers and tend to avoid them.  I’m glad I got passed the sparkles to discover the delightful story of Zoe Gets Ready by Bethanie Deeney Murguia.  It’s Saturday and Zoe is trying to decide what to wear. But her dilemma is not so much about the clothes she will wear as it is about what she wants to do that day. Will it be a pocket day? (in which case she will need a pocket to put her collections) Or maybe a twirling day? (when “twirly skirts” are essential!) or cartwheeling, or exploring kind of day. Adorable!   The surprising way she solves her problem will have children laughing!  This book got me thinking…what might one wear for a “reading day”?

fall mixed up[1]

Another book I clearly missed when it was published in 2011 is Fall Mixed Up by Bob Raczke and illustrated by Chad Cameron  It is a bright, colorful and entertaining book about the wonders of fall with an added element of fun: there are mistakes EVERYWHERE – from squirrels flying south to pumpkins growing on trees!  This book is pure entertainment – and I know my students will enjoy finding all the mixed up mistakes in both the text and illustrations.


Sophie’s Squash by Pat Zietow is a recently published book and perfect for your fall collection.  Sophie chooses a squash at the Farmer’s market but refuses to let her mom cook it for supper.  Instead, she names the squash Bernice and they become fast friends.  She takes Bernice everywhere, despite her parents’ gentle warning that Bernice may soon begin to rot.  At first, Sophie is convinced that Bernice will last forever, but eventually, she notices some soft changes!  What will she do?  A great book for predicting, problem solving and surprise endings!


Mouse with the Question Mark Tail by Richard Peck is the first of a few novels I’ve managed to read over the past few weeks.  This is a lovely story, reminiscent of Despereaux, with a main character I began routing for from the beginning. Mouse Minor lives in Buckingham Palace and is in service to the queen.  But he is unhappy and has many burdens to bare, including not knowing who his parents are, having no friends and being picked on. So he runs away from school and begins his adventures.  This dear little mouse who questions the world around him is not only brave but optimistic.  I enjoyed the setting of London and the detailed descriptions of Buckingham Palace and the Diamond Jubilee, as well as the fine illustrations.  I also loved language and wonderful phrases Peck uses including many little sayings and repeated poems.  Would make a wonderful read-aloud for upper primary and early intermediate students.  True Blue Scouts cover[1]

I had read several reviews of this book over the summer and was excited to read it.  The True Blue Scouts of Sugar Man Swamp by Kathi Appelt (The Underneath)  is another animal story starring two “boy scout” raccoons and a whole cast of interesting characters – both animal and human.  This is a tall tale about a swamp in Texas guarded by the Sugar Man. Some of the characters want to preserve this swamp and some want to make money by turning the swamp into a Theme Park.   This book is so well written.  The short chapters jump from different points of view with such ease, you hardly notice.  The story is funny and fast paced and touches on community, conservation and adventure.  This would be an excellent read-aloud for grades 3-5.  9780307977939_p0_v1_s260x420[1]

I SO enjoyed Rump: the True Story of Rumplestiltskin by Liesl Shurtliff.  It is a twisted re-telling of the classic fairy tale told from the perspective of “Rump”.  This book has everything you could want in a classroom read-aloud: humor, magic, adventure, no parents, evil people, “butt” jokes, a character that you will be cheering for and did I mention humor?  Every boy in my class will want their hands on this book after I read the first chapter.  I can’t wait to start reading it to them!


On a more serious note, Vince Vawter’s Paperboy deals with a boy with a disability –  a familiar trend in YA books since Wonder came out.  Set in Memphis in 1959, this coming of age story is about an 11 year old boy who suffers from a strong stutter.  He takes over his friend’s paper route one summer and so begins a story that ends up being so much more than about a boy with a disability.  While we do get a glimpse into the life of boy who stutters and the fears he must face when having to talk to his customers and collect money, we are also presented a piece of American history and of the racism that was so much a part of the South at this time.  The author Vince Vawter suffered through a stuttering problem in his childhood years, making this book semi-autobiographical.  This would be a great book for middle school lit. circles.


Kate DiCamillo is high on my list of favorite writers.  I cried buckets reading Edward Tulane and held off reading the last page of Despereaux for almost a week because I didn’t want it to end.  In this, her first novel in “graphic” format, I have to say she has done it again.  I must admit I was a little hesitant when I learned this book was written partly in a comic book format as I was worried it would somehow lack the extraordinary gift of words and tender tale that I have come to know from any Kate DiCamillo book.  But I should have known that she would somehow master both humor, tenderness and a tapestry of wonderful words in this new format.  Flora and Ulysses is the story of a 10 year old girl (Flora) who is devoted to superheroes and a self-proclaimed cynic.  One day she rescues a squirrel from a disaster with a vacuum cleaner.  The squirrel, whom she names Ulysses, turns out to be a poetry writing superhero squirrel and Flora suddenly finds herself in the role of “sidekick” to this squirrel.   The characters are endearing, the writing is exquisite and the story is both humorous and touching.   Kate DiCamillo has done it again.

Well.. there you have it!  The latest picture books and novels I have read and enjoyed.  What have you been reading lately?


Filed under It's Monday, What Are You Reading?, Lesson Ideas, Literature Circles, New Books, Novels, Picture Book