Margin Notes

Mind The Gap


Last week, during a professional learning session with a group of middle school teachers, we provided copies of the inspiring resource Passionate Readers by Pernille Ripp.  As we read the section “Teacher as a Reading Role Model,” one question that made us stop and think was, “What are your own book gaps?  What do you not read?” We circled around that question for quite a while, pondering how our own reading preferences may inadvertently cause us to be gate-keepers when building classroom libraries, recommending books, and presenting book talks.  We realized we all have preferences and gaps and if we don’t recognize and address them, we are unintentionally narrowing the impact we have on readers and by missing opportunities of getting the right book into the hands of a student because we are missing entire genres.

Pernille Ripp believes, and we agree, that if we don’t acknowledge our own book gaps, we become more of a genre lover than a book lover.  This is okay in our own reading lives but not as a teacher of readers.


As a team, we identified our own reading gaps and tried to address them:

Jill: I naturally gravitate toward realistic fiction and historical fiction. I love to read books, both (more…)

House Arrest by K.A. Holt


In this wonderful novel, we meet Timothy, a young man who is currently on one year house arrest for stealing a credit card.  Part of his probation requirements is that he has to write in a journal (which is the book) to show his remorse to the courts.   Timothy begrudgingly writes and starts to open up and tell his story causing the reader to quickly realize there is more to him than being a young offender.  As his story unfolds, we discover he stole the card to pay for his baby brother’s medication.  House Arrest takes the reader on an emotional journey as we experience what it is like for the working poor to try to survive and we are reminded how important it is to care and trust one another.

Timothy experiences what many of our students live out daily-having adult responsibilities and worries while they are still a child.  As teachers, it is important for us to remember that there are kids like Timothy sitting right in front of us.  Students will find his story fascinating (more…)

Book Love at Sunbury West School


Before the break, I had a wonderful morning out at Sunbury West School in Fredericton Junction watching a grade 8 class get very excited about new books for their classroom library.  English Language Arts teacher and vice-principal, Melanie Charlton, along with principal Heather Lyons, came up with the fabulous idea of purchasing books for each student, wrapping them up, then letting them choose one (or steal-there was a Yankee swap element involved, too!) that spoke to them.

To help the students decide which book they connected with the most, each package had hand written (more…)

Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds


If you haven’t read anything by Jason Reynolds yet, you need to simply because he is an amazing writer. A great place to start is with Long Way Down, his newest book.

In Long Way Down, we meet Will, a 15 year old whose brother, Shawn, was just murdered on the street.  Will has been raised to believe in 3 rules: no crying, no snitching and getting revenge.  He tucks a gun into his pants and steps into an elevator to go and find Shawn’s killer.  During the ride down, where the majority of the book takes place, Will “meets” people from his past and must decide whether to avenge his brother’s death or break the rules he has been taught to respect.

The entire book is written in verse and Reynold’s sentences are powerful and direct.  Because of this, this book is accessible to so many readers, including reluctant ones.  (more…)

The Lines We Cross by Randa Abdel-Fattah


We all remember a moment from our childhoods where we started to doubt something we had never questioned before…we also remember how disruptive it was as our minds started unraveling  and challenging what we had previously thought. In The Lines We Cross by Randa Abdel-Fattah, she illustrates this beautifully through a story involving two teenagers around divisive topics such as refugees, religion, and race.

Abdel-Fattah writes using alternating narrators-Michael, the son of educated, wealthy parents who strongly believe in preserving Australia’s dominant white, Judeo-Christian culture, and Mina, who escaped from Afghanistan and was held in a detention centre off of the shores of her new homeland before starting over again.  Their lives collide when they end up at the same high school and as sparks ensue between the two, Michael starts to question if what his parents’ believe is necessarily what he does. (more…)