Fox Valley Reading Council

Fall 2017 Newsletter

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Letters from our Presidents

Back to school already? The summer has almost come and gone. I have already visited my classroom a few times over the past two weeks. Like many, I always ponder over the summer on how I can make this school year better than the last. What changes can I make in my instruction? What can I bring into my classroom that would benefit my students? I brought these thoughts with this summer during our leadership retreat. The FVRC committee came together to think of what our members would like to explore this year.

I know in the beginning of the school year I like to spend time wandering through book aisles looking for the most popular books. My best references are my students. I often ask them to bring with the book they are reading during their read to self or at home. I walk into classrooms and see teachers reading aloud books such as Red Kayak and then I want to go to our school library and checking the book out myself. Soon, I start book clubs with my nieces and students at school. So what better time is there than the beginning of the year to hear about the latest books for students and adults? There came the idea of our first event of the year. Anderson’s Bookshop and Heinemann’s books will present at our first event. We will hear about children's books and professional books all in one Saturday morning. We many great ideas for our following events this year. More information soon to come! Do you have any suggestions? Feel free to send us an e-mail @

I also want to take this time to thank our FVRC board for their endless dedication! It’s what keeps making me coming back first as a president-elect, President, past president, secretary and now back again as a co-president. We have grown so much as a committee. We have new and old faces every year and lifelong friendships. We hope you join us at our back to school event. I also would like to thank our members in person for continuing to join FVRC. I look forward to seeing you and have a wonderful school year!

“Thank you!”

By Katina Kastrantas

After a restful summer we are ready to take on a new school year with a renewed enthusiasm. To our returning members, we look forward to another year of professional growth. To our new members- welcome! Your input will contribute to continued growth as an organization. As we begin our new professional development cycle, the focus remains reading, writing and technology, but we look forward, as a leadership team, to explore new avenues of delivering professional development to you our members. As a result of our membership survey, we understand the diversity of this organization in terms of discipline and years. Reading teachers, reading coaches, teachers of all levels and content areas and administrators. Fox Valley Reading Council covers every facet of education. Please join us in September as we review both classroom and professional materials with a book talk from Anderson’s Bookshop and Heinemann Publishing. This will be a free event. Grab your friends, colleagues and credit cards to fill your bookshelves with the newest books to use in your classroom immediately! Please let us know you are coming by registering when you receive the postcard or email.

By Denise Mitchell

Back to School with Anderson and Heinemann Books! Free Event!

Saturday, Sep. 16th, 8:30am-12pm

1905 East Tyler Road

St. Charles, IL

This "back to school" event is FREE so bring your friends! Kathleen March from Anderson's Bookshop will share the latest children/teen books for your classroom. And Bert Crossland will be sharing some powerful professional books and resources for you. Come and listen, connect with others and shop for all those great books! RSVP here! A continental breakfast will be available as well.

RSVPs are enabled for this event.

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Get Ready to Tweet! We are going techie!

Join us this Spring for a series of twitter chats around the book Creating Cultures of Thinking by Ron Richhart.

Creating Cultures of Thinking by Ron Richhart inspired me to consider what my dream classroom would look like and be like, if students were doing the “work” of learning. Looking beyond the collaborative learning community I tried to create each year and began to evaluate the purpose of learning, the culture of learning, making thinking visible, make thinking engaging, having students authentically collaborate on their work. Creating a classroom with excellent routines that focused on behavior, management, planning, and executing the details of instruction had always been a strength for me, yet, I hadn’t thought of exploring the idea of thinking as a routine that students need to be exposed to. That creating a culture of learning included me analyzing what Mr. Richart calls the 8 forces we must master to create a culture of thinking for our students. The 8 forces include; language, time, modeling, opportunities, routines, interactions and environment; all forces that I had looked at in isolation; not as a unified force that helped students to do the work of thinking. If you are interested in exploring CCoT please consider joining us this spring for a Twitter Chat that explores this text and allows you to dabble with the concepts presented in your classroom. More to come so stay tuned...

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Membership Spotlight

Deb Hays Member Spotlight

Fox Valley Reading Council is honoring its members this year.

It is our pleasure to highlight Deb Hayes this fall.

  1. What grade level do you teach/have you taught?

  • Third grade for 17 years

  • K-6 Title 1 for 4 years

  • K-6 literacy staff developer for 3 years

  • K-12 curriculum district administration for 8 years

  • Higher education/reading specialist preparation for 5 years

  • ROE for 2 years

  • Special projects for state and national initiatives and independent consulting for 8 years

Note: Some of these experiences were concurrent so they don’t add up to a total number of years as an educatoror else I started at age twelve.

  1. Briefly describe yourself, including personal information. I never know what to say about myself, but it seems that I’ve always been in the classroom as a student or an educator. I feel instantly “at home” in a school, (although I could also say that about a mall). I have been fortunate to have opportunities to meet and learn from people that have enhanced my life in both small and major ways throughout my career. I’m inspired by the many students and educators that have let me into their classrooms and conversations. I’ve found it rewarding to mentor others and see their impact on their students and colleagues. I don’t know that I thought much about leaving a legacy when I was in the classroom day-to-day, but it was beyond amazing to meet a former student over 20 years later and learn that she recently finished her graduate degree to become a reading specialist and is working with students and teachers to inspire and encourage them. Shout out to Rosie! IRC has also played an important part of my professional identity. I’m not sure how many years I’ve been an IRC member since it seems that I’ve always looked forward to and attended council meetings and the annual conferences. Currently, I co-chair an IRC committee dedicated to supporting professional learning and the Illinois Reading Council Professional Development Cadre. There have been, and always will be, so many initiatives that affect teachers and students. I think it is important that we look for ways to strengthen literacy learning and connections between other initiatives through sharing resources and expertise within our membership.

  2. What are you reading personally or professionally? I’m currently reading whatever audio book I have in the car. I began enjoying audio books during eight years of hour long commutes. I read digital, paperback, and hardcover texts, but audio books are my favorite companion if I’m traveling solo. I look forward to the latest releases of my favorite mystery authors. Professionally, I’ve been reading Make Just One Change: Teach Students to Ask Their Own Questions from the Right Question Institute which supports questioning in classrooms, as well as reading lots of articles and blogs for the development/facilitation of online professional learning workshops for onlineIMPACT (Close Reading a Read Aloud for K-2 and Planning a Close Reading Lesson for grades 3-6)

  3. What are some of your students’ favorite books? It’s been fun to see primary students engage with digital texts from the Formative Instructional Tasks, Wangari’s Trees of Peace, The Giant Pacific Octopus, and Me, Jane (Jane Goodall’s biography) so I think informational texts have become new favorites for the primary students I’ve been working with recently.

  4. What strategy or instructional tip do you love and why? Collaborative Conversation is a powerful interaction that is useful in primary grades through graduate education. Fisher & Frey have written articles about collaborative conversation for over four years now and you can find video demonstrations of students purposefully talking about a text or topic online. It’s not a once and done strategy, but with intentional instruction and release of responsibility, students can work and talk together to make meaning and develop effective speaking and listening habits, which both students and teachers come to value.

  5. Why is reading a passion for you? Enjoyment and advocacy are the two words that come to mind. Enjoyment, because I have always enjoyed reading and I wanted my students to be able to read for enjoyment. Advocacy, because I have always felt a sense of responsibility for helping students access text. All students deserve that passionate persistence to help them become literatewhether it be to learn something from a literary or an informational text, promote self-efficacy or empathy, or serve as a window or mirror, reading allows students to find both an identity and community.

Thank you for being an Illinois Reading Council and Fox Valley Reading Council member! We are thankful to have you!

Volunteer! It feels good!

Here at Fox Valley we are always looking for anyone interested in helping out. Are you interested in getting more involved? We need help with our community service projects- Books for Babies where we collect new and gently used books and donate them to local hospitals and The Global Pencil Project where we collect pencils and send them off to orphanages in Africa. You can volunteer as little or as much as you would like! Or maybe you would like to help us out at one of our events? Contact us below today!
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Books For Babies!

Fox Valley Reading Council partnered with Stephanie Dodson of Usborne Books and held a spring 2017 book drive, Books for Babies in Memory of Maris. We were able to donate over $1,800 worth of books and stuffed bears to Northwestern Delnor Hospital maternity ward in Geneva, IL! Dawn Stanley director of Books for Babies was thrilled to receive this windfall of books for newborns, as they were low on books. She was so appreciative of the support. We are proud to get books into parents hands and homes!

To donate, join us at our events, or contact: Bobette Dodson at 630.431.1785. Thank you to our members who generously donated to our worthwhile community project!

Got Tech?

Tech to Try by Moira Arzich

Spark Page by Adobe

Is a free online web-page builder that allows users to create beautifully designed web pages with no need for background or coding experience. Simply upload photos, add text, links or video and you will be the author of an incredibly beautiful digital story. Review the introductory video from Adobe, see the clip from a 4th grade teacher on how she has incorporated Adobe Spark into her classroom or click to see one of the samples from my 7th grade ELA classroom focusing on a Perseverance. Students were asked to create a digital newsletter incorporating specific textual structures in their writing. or

Introductory video

From a 4th grade teacher

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The Booknook

Elementary Book Review!

So, you’re about to embark on a new school year in your elementary classroom! The students are excited to meet you and you want to get to know them. Begin with some fantastic picture books to set discussions in motion. The list of favorite back-to-school read-alouds is long, but I’d like to highlight one you may not yet have read:

Mr. Peabody’s Apples by Madonna. (Yes, it’s THAT Madonna, which made me want to review it even more!)

Mr. Peabody is a well-loved teacher who gives back to his community (Happyville) by volunteering to coach youth baseball in the summer. Billy Little is always helping out his coach at the field. Mr. Peabody is always positive whether the teams wins or loses. Then one day after practice, Mr. Peabody is seen by another player, Tommy Tittlebaum, taking an apple from Mr. Funkadeli’s apple cart without paying for it. Tommy follows Mr. Peabody the next day with more players and the same thing happens. The information is shared and soon nobody comes to practice anymore, except Billy who ashamedly comes to tell Mr. Peabody what was seen. Mr. Peabody takes Billy by the store and as he takes an apple, Mr. Funkadeli mentions that Mr. Peabody is early that day. He then mentions that it’s fine to take it at any time since he pays for his week’s worth of apples every Saturday. Mr. Peabody then asks Billy to have Tommy come to his house. Tommy comes to apologize and asks what he can do to make it up to him now that the whole town thinks Mr. Peabody is a thief. Tommy is asked to meet Mr. Peabody at the ball field bleachers with a feather pillow…

This is the perfect stopping point for predictions and students will note that the page is the same as the cover. Why a feather pillow?

Mr. Peabody has Tommy rip open the pillow and send the feathers flying! He then asks Tommy to pick them up. Tommy thinks this is impossible! Mr. Peabody reminds Tommy that, like the feathers, it is also impossible to undo the damage that Tommy has done to Mr. Peabody’s reputation while spreading the rumor that he is a thief. Tommy understands and works to collect all the feathers, similarly telling all those he sees about his mistake.

This is just one example of the power of words as students learn that things are not always what they seem.

I use a toothpaste activity after reading, where negative comments which have been said to students (usually by siblings) are squeezed out onto a paper plate and, at the end, the toothpaste is not able to be put back in with toothpicks. Just another demonstration showing how difficult it is to take back words once they’ve been said. This book and activity can lead to some free writing in students’ journals about a time they have been wronged and how they felt.

Attached is a list of many other back-to-school books suggested by friends and colleagues. Have a fantastic year!

Dawn Lutz

Back-to-School Picture Book Ideas

  1. First Day Jitters by Julie Danneberg

  2. Stick and Stone by Beth Ferry and Tom Lichtenheld

  3. Every Kindness by Jacqueline Woodson

  4. A Bad Case of Tattle Tongue by Julia Cook

  5. I Don’t Want to Go Back to School by Marisabina Russo

  6. Mrs. Spitzer’s Garden by Edith Pattau

  7. The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn

  8. This School Year Will Be the Best by Kay Winters

  9. Wemberly Worried by Kevin Henkes

  10. David Goes to School by David Shannon

  11. Officer Buckle and Gloria by Peggy Rathmann

  12. Pete the Cat-Rocking in My School Shoes by Eric Litwin

  13. Scaredy Squirrel by Melanie Watt

  14. Oh the Places You’ll Go by Dr. Seuss

  15. What Do You Do With an Idea? By Kobi Yamada

  16. The Important Book by Margaret Wise Brown

  17. Let Me Finish by Minh Le

  18. Interrupting Chicken by David Ezra Stein

  19. I Hate Picture Books by Timothy Young

  20. Library Mouse by Daniel Kirk

  21. The Thing Lou Couldn’t Do by Ashley Spires

  22. Happy Dreamer by Peter H. Reynolds

  23. My Mouth is a Volcano by Julia Cook

  24. Chester the Brave by Audrey Penn

  25. One by Peter H. Reynolds

  26. Ish by Peter H. Reynolds

  27. Dot by Peter H. Reynolds

  28. Have You Filled a Bucket Today? By Carol McCloud

  29. Lacey Walker, Nonstop Talker by Christianne C. Jones

  30. Enemy Pie by Derek Munson

  31. It’s Okay to Be Different by Todd Parr

  32. Chester Raccoon and the Big Bad Bully by Audrey Penn

  33. What if Everybody Did That? By Ellen Javernick

  34. We’re All Wonders by R.J. Palacio

  35. A Fine, Fine School by Sharon Creech

  36. The Gingerbread Man Loose in the School by Laura Murray

  37. Personal Space Camp by Julia Cook

  38. Leo the Late Bloomer by Robert Kraus

  39. Ruby in Her Own Time by Jonathan Emmett

  40. Chopsticks, Spoon, and The OK Book by Amy Krouse Rosenthal

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High School Book Review!

Set in the distant future light years away from the planet Earth, The Diabolic by S.J. Kincaid follows the journey of a Diabolic named Nemesis. As a Diabolic, Nemesis was genetically engineered as a ruthless killer with the sole purpose of protecting only one person in the universe. That person is Sidonia von Impyrean, daughter of the “Great Heretic,” Senator von Impyrean. The novel follows Nemesis as she must disguise herself as Sidonia and travel to the capital of the galactic government in order to protect the young girl from the ruthless Emperor Randevald von Domitrian and the deadly court that surrounds him. Kincaid is able to create several strong characters who undergo significant development and change in just over 400 pages of story. Nemesis in particular is a strong female lead, and the novel thankfully doesn’t hang on to her gender and bring it up at every opportunity. Instead, the focus is on that she is a heartless monster incapable of feeling emotion. Readers are able to see that this is not the case, however, as Nemesis learns not only more about the politics of the galaxy she inhabits while in the capital, but also about herself and her capability to feel joy and sorrow and love and so much more.

The Diabolic was initially written to be a stand alone, one-shot story that ended after its own conflict was resolved. However, the popularity of the book means that Kincaid has decided to write a sequel, The Empress, set to release later in 2017. Perhaps the fact that this story and universe is going to expand will help with one of the shortcomings of The Diabolic. It felt like the author was trying to get through a lot of world-building and explanation about the makeup and the background of the story. As a result, sometimes the main plot felt slow for a while, and then suddenly picked up and sped through, giving the story progression a bit of a choppy feeling. With another book on the way and a series seeming likely, Kincaid can already begin to focus on the characters and their trials now that the universe has been established rather well in the first installment. The way that she ended The Diabolic is open yet conclusive at the same time, leaving readers satisfied yet still asking questions. As a result, one could read only the first novel and not have to become invested in yet another young adult series if they so choose. Personally, I plan to pick up the sequel, perhaps not on release date, and see where the character of Nemesis goes and how she develops further.

Bridgid Millette

St. Charles North


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ESL Book Review!

When I was asked to recommend a book this issue I thought of a book that was given to me by my EL director. At one of our department meetings this book, The Sandwich Shop was given to every EL elementary teacher. I knew once I read it I would have to find a way to incorporate this book into a lesson. With our first grade students we studied about cultures. We learned about my culture, Greek and all the students in the group: Russian, Spanish, Vietnamese, Polish, to name a few. At the end of the unit, we read the book The Sandwich Shop and shared jelly sandwiched with pita and hummus.

The Sandwich Swap by Rania Al Abdullah, Kelly DiPucchio, Tricia Tusa (Illustrator) is about two girls that are best friends. Lily and Salma do everything together except for what they eat for lunch. Lily always eats a peanut butter sandwich and Salma eats hummus. One day they realize this difference and saw how different they are. This is a great book that tells a story how every child is unique in a different way. And students need to accept that in order to live this world. The story is funny and serious at the same but it delivers a powerful message of acceptance. I have included pictures of when we studied about cultures and different foods. I was proud of their willingness to try new things and discover their common ground uniqueness.